Review: The Flash 4×14 – “Subject 9”

[Editor’s Note: This review contain spoilers]

Director: Ralph Hemecker

Writers: Mike Abler and Gabe Snyder

Starring: Grant Gustin, Candice Patton, Carlos Valdes, Danielle Panabaker, Jesse L. Martin, Tom Cavanaugh, Sugar Lyn Beard, Hartley Sawyer, Kim Engelbrecht, Miranda McDougall, Bailey Corneal

 

Synopsis

While Barry and Ralph try to convince another Bus Meta – a sassy fiddler – to join his fight against DeVoe, Wells returns with an aid for Cecile which could be utilized in the Thinker’s downfall.

Positives

In this episode, we see Ralph on the level of someone who’s recently learned to drive trying to teach someone that doesn’t want to learn. But before we get to that, the complaints I had about the last episode – the exoneration of Barry – are addressed in a logical manner. He was tried and convicted, and in a town renowned for metahuman occurrences, there is skepticism about “DeVoe’s” return and pressure from the Mayor’s clean up efforts after the Bellows scandal. Of course he wouldn’t be allowed to waltz on in to work without any leftover consequences. So kudos to the writers for avoiding the “All is forgiven” route with Allen’s release. DeVoe tarnished his reputation and it will take a while for Barry to earn it back.

It’s good seeing Harry back and contributing in what turns out to be a very big way. His portrayal this week is classic Harry, and that works in contrast to the calm-yet-bugged Cecile with reading Joe’s dreams at night. His consistent mentioning of Jesse implies a possible cameo, but given she’s billed to appear alongside Wally in DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, I’m thinking 50/50 on that one. Sugar Lyn Beard’s portrayal of Becky-faced DeVoe shows a genuine effort to evoke the heel turn for one of the nicest villains this year. The sweet voice is laced with venom in her dialogue. You also see a difference in temperament towards Marlize, who is oddly subservient. Could she still be under the influence of the Weeper’s tears DeVoe laced her drink with?

The writers’ decision to keep up with the body-snatching gag and explain it as a necessity rather than choice is believable. The Thinker cannot take all of those metahuman abilities into one body without there being a risk of burning out the host. The only question is what is the end game, and for that matter, when does it stop? Better question, can he stop? He’s not even a person anymore; Clifford DeVoe is a metahuman parasite staying alive by leaping from body to body and apparently aided by an Einstein-level teleportation hover chair.

With regards to laughs, the humor definitely came from metahuman Izzy Bowin, played by Miranda McDougal. Sexy and sassy, this metahuman with sound wave abilities – which is a bit of a combination between Marvel Comics’ Banshee and Havok of X-Men – provided much-needed insults for DeVoe’s new look. To Ralph, she’s at the same starting point that he was at, and tries to apply the same methods Team Flash have imparted on him to sway her from loner status. The inclusion of Izzy also shows a desperation on Barry’s part to end this swiftly and soundly. Grant underplays Barry’s desire to make full use of Izzy as a potential asset in this fight. Making a fighter out of a victim is not always successful.

The tragedy of the loss of Izzy right in front of Ralph’s eyes is felt, as is DeVoe – now occupying Izzy’s body – mocking him by calling him “Ralphie” with the same accent. That’s something else revealed in the body-snatching process; DeVoe apparently cannot lose the accents or quirks of those he inhabits. The toll it takes on Ralph seems to remove another layer of the sleaze he used to be and keenly determined to be both a team player – making Barry a fellow P.I. is a big step for someone who hated his guts – and take down The Thinker. However, him saying HE will take DeVoe down hints at a possible problem. While infatuation, Ralph just experienced a similar tragedy that Barry experienced both with the loss of Becky and two years prior the loss of his dad to Zoom. He promised Izzy she’d be safe and he’d have her back, but failed.

What also works in this episode is the lingering red herring answer – the neural inhibitor – as the key weapon to use against DeVoe. Devoted fans have been asking for months when that will be brought up in the conversation. Savitar may have indicated it was to be used against Thinker, but didn’t indicate it would work. That is a brilliant way of saving the grand finale as a surprise.

Negatives

Izzy’s arc seemed a little rushed. Becky’s loss was felt more because she’d already appeared in the series and wasn’t genuinely bad. Call me crazy, but the show could’ve utilized Izzy in a few more episodes as a love interest for Ralph; Sue is light years away from him. Characters like Chloe Sullivan or Felicity Smoak didn’t appear in the comics but were made to work in spite of fans’ initial distaste for them. Besides that, I was expecting a follow-up to “Date rape night” in the DeVoe household from last episode.

As for Harry, he seemed a little displaced in certain areas in the episode. He’s too good a character to take a backseat. His arc in season two was a hell of a lot stronger than this season. I’d have expected him to throw in how he doubted himself because he couldn’t provide proof to free Barry from jail without Ralph’s help.

And speaking of Ralph, why couldn’t we see one of his stints as the real DeVoe answering these questions to authorities? Further, the synopsis is very deceptive; it indicates that the revelation that he could be another of DeVoe’s targets compels him to step away from heroics. Although he mentions it to Izzy, we don’t get one hint of it. I was expecting that to happen in the last act at least when he’s mourning Izzy. While I like the growth, it’s false advertising on the CW’s part. If it’s because we’ve seen him step back THREE TIMES ALREADY, the least they could’ve done was change the synopsis instead of hinting at a repetition we didn’t even see. And where the hell was Joe?! If his dreams were driving Cecile up the wall, it would’ve been fun seeing her slap him with details of his intimate imagery at night.

 

Verdict

I dislike the waste of a potentially good, sexy, funny character in Izzy and lack of an ability to figure out how to use Harry Wells effectively. Plus I detest false advertising on the CW’s part. I’m just glad the next episode looks a lot more intense and brings back fan-favorite Jay Garrick and Jesse Quick (SURPRISE!!!). See you next week.

 

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Jay

I'm an Ontario-based news writer, as well as graphic illustrator with his own commission business. I've been a comic collector since I was ten and have enjoyed the lore of these larger than life figures ever since. I graduated with an HBA from the University of Toronto in Humanities and have worked for both local and online news outlets.