Review: The Flash 4×17 – “Null and Annoyed”

[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]

Director: Kevin Smith

Writers: Lauren Certo and Kristen Kim

Starring: Grant Gustin, Candice Patton, Carlos Valdes, Danielle Pannabaker, Jesse L. Martin, Tom Cavanaugh, Hartley Sawyer, Miranda McDougall, Kim Engelbrect, Danny Trejo, Bethany Brown

 

Summary

Barry finds fault with Ralph’s humorous approach as a hero, while Cisco is approached by Breacher who is having problems with his abilities.

Positives

Before we start with the review, I just want to give a shout out to returning director Kevin Smith and send well wishes his way in light of his recent heart attack. And I enjoyed the cameo of Jay and Silent Bob, however diluted.

Okay, on to the strongest points of the episode, which deal with both more character development and plot twists. Let’s start with the plot involving Marlize and DeVoe. Having Marlize stuck in a “Groundhog Day” type of cycle with her realization of her husband drugging her enhances The Thinker’s threat level. He truly has lost his humanity given he is perfectly at ease with consistently drugging his wife to make her more submissive and has simultaneously lost respect for her. “I love you, but you’re nothing without me.” Even though it’s said through Izzy’s body and not Clifford himself, you can feel the inhumanity and cruelty of both those words and the repetition of Marlize’s actions.

And once again we return to the development of Ralph Dibny’s character, this time with more depth revealed. Barry’s no-nonsense attitude is once again challenged by Ralph’s wisecracking, which is a little hypocritical given his rookie days. Ralph’s motivations behind using humor as a way of dealing with fear is not that much of a stretch. Being abandoned by his father explains a lot of Ralph’s insecurities and character flaws, but throwing in his way of telling jokes and pulling gags to put a smile on his mother’s face shows integrity. Once again, it’s Iris to the rescue to point out the obvious to Barry: Ralph is his own hero, and will never be the same as Barry. And it’s only Ralph’s humor that ultimately saves Barry’s life.

The final highlight of last night’s episode for me, however, was Harry. Ever since donning that Thinking Cap of his own design, Harry’s behavior has become more erratic and aggravated. His activation of Gideon from Season One, for one minute, made me think that Harry was secretly Eobard Thawne, returned from the last crossover. But then I realized that he’s pretending to Gideon that he’s the Reverse Flash in order to access Gideon’s future files as a means to both boost his Thinking Cap’s capabilities as well as gain more information on DeVoe. But the fact he’s unfamiliar with this technology and hasn’t informed Team Flash shows a potentially volatile situation developing. Personally, I think it’s a good way of demonstrating how desperate Wells has become to take down The Thinker and to have some sense of relevance on the team. Also, kudos to keeping Morena Baccarin accessible for guest spots in spite of her commitment to Gotham.

 

Negatives

The metahuman threat of the week bordered on the humorous, but it felt forced in order to parallel Ralph’s joking around. I truly don’t see what use DeVoe would have for a metahuman ability to destabilize gravity or turn someone into a living balloon. The way the gang deals with Barry’s weightlessness – Iris holding him with a string like an actual balloon – is reaching for comedic purposes. It’s like they went for the absurd in order to dissuade the questions as to how Ralph managed to get Barry back to S.T.A.R. Labs inconspicuously. Did Cisco breach them back?

Then there’s the subplot with Danny Trejo, which feels like filler. While I have respect for Trejo as an actor, this overacting is beneath him. There are laughs, yeah, and it gives viewers an idea of how long Vibe can use his own abilities, but it just seems shoehorned in, a trend that’s become tiresome for the past few months. The only relevancy is that Cisco is offered the chance to be with Gypsy full-time as Breacher’s replacement. I just expected more from this.

Another thing is when Barry is in freefall. After seeing what he’s able to do, why did he need Ralph to save him when he could have spun his arms in cyclone mode to cushion his landing? The writers deliberately made Barry have a brainfreeze to give Ralph a spotlight. Caitlin also feels underused in this episode. As a biochemist you’d think she’d offer more than just “he’s getting old” with regards to Breacher’s inability to use his powers. Lastly, while it was cool seeing Mewes and Smith onscreen as a quasi-Jay and Silent Bob, their inability to be themselves with the coarse language and vulgar humor made the slapstick, again, forced.

 

Verdict

While I like the plot twists and cliffhanger, the writers aim at the humorous only works when it’s subtle and not in your face every two minutes. It’s a lighter season than last year, but what made season two and three work was that the humor didn’t always take center stage. The midseason finale worked best because the threat level was the focal point. The insecurities of Ralph Dibny holding him back only to have a pep talk pick him up is becoming an overused plot device. Barry and Iris’s heart-to-hearts on his direction need to be a little less frequent; Barry’s done this a lot longer and should know what he’s doing by now. And what happened to Iris becoming a reporter again? I just feel that a lot didn’t work in this episode.

I understand Kevin Smith had to push himself to be involved in the directorial duties, but “Killer Frost” and “Runaway Dinosaur” were much better episodes under his control than this. I know it’s the writing that’s the problem and it’s not his fault. I don’t blame Kevin for the lackluster quality of this episode, so if he reads this, it’s not you, dude. They just fed you a bad script to work with. For the most part what needed to work did, like The Thinker scenes. I’m just hoping that next week’s focus on Harry’s latest antics raise the verdict to a strong 4.5 at least.

 

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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.