[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Director: Hanelle M. Culpepper
Writers: Jonathan Butler and Gabriel Garza
Starring: Grant Gustin, Candice Patton, Carlos Valdes, Danielle Panabaker, Tom Cavanaugh, Jesse L. Martin, Hartley Sawyer, Neil Sandilands, Kim Engelbrecht, Miranda McDougall, Arturo de Puerto, Bethany Brown, Leonardo Nam, Morena Baccarin (voice)
As Team Flash attempts to track down the last Bus Meta, Ralph contemplates a final solution for DeVoe while Joe grows concerned over Harry’s erratic behavior.
This episode hit all the right high notes, focusing specifically on the main threat as well as internal problems on Team Flash. Surprisingly, the only duo that were working in tandem for once were Caitlin and Killer Frost. But more on them later. For now, once again, we focus on Ralph Dibny’s education as a superhero. While his self-serving, opportunistic nature as a slimeball P.I. has slowly eroded, there still remains the parts that fail to understand the line between hero and vigilante. Yes, the easy answer to the Thinker is to kill him, but how does that make Ralph any different than the guy who has been body snatching just to live? The writers pulled off a great move by establishing that it’s an altruistic motive as opposed to self-preservation. Ralph has a real family in Team Flash, and, unlike the deterioration of his parents’ marriage as a boy, he can and is willing to go the extra mile to keep them safe. This puts him in direct conflict with Barry, who has gone down that path before with both Thawne and Zolomon with abysmal collateral. Once again they butt heads, but this time it’s a difference in ideology rather than their past animosity. Great CGI in this standoff, by the way.
Another subplot that deserved resolution is Harry’s new addiction to his Thinking Cap, which Joe can recognize from his own experiences with his late wife’s alchoholism. An addict doesn’t know they are an addict until they hit rock bottom. Harry has developed a dependency on the very technology that turned a history professor into a psychotic madman and has lost confidence in his own brilliant mind. Tom portrays the actions of an addict perfectly. The scene in which his desperation to find his missing Cap escalates into his willingness to harm Cisco to get it shows the depth of his obsession with it. What also works is that when the S.T.A.R. Labs raid happens, Wells caves in to his addiction as opposed to fighting it off. It’s too soon a revelation, and based on his brain being jumbled by exceeding the power output despite warnings from Gideon, he hasn’t hit rock bottom yet. His addiction even gives their adversary the upper hand, both during the raid and in the epilogue. Now, like the title suggests, Harry is losing himself to this Thinking Cap much like DeVoe has.
The raid is perfectly written, as DeVoe demonstrates both his mastery at misdirection and his ruthlessness in claiming both Null’s and Folded Man’s powers and bodies before taking Ralph’s. The brawl between Marlize and Iris was good, and feels tragic considering Marlize is not in control of her faculties. The loss of Ralph Dibny is a shocker, given the character isn’t a throwaway like the other schlubs on the bus. He has a real history in the comics with Barry, and an amazing story arc in Brad Meltzer’s Identity Crisis. His last words give the feels; Barry had done his job and had saved his soul when he would’ve gone lower without his help. The taking of Dibny’s body for DeVoe allows him to morph into his original form, thus bringing Neil Sandilands back to the stage. What is also surprising in the climax is the depowering – or De-Frosting – of Caitlin Snow. From last season till now, she has had an amazing character arc learning to accept her darker personality. Now that it’s gone, Danielle’s performance conveys a genuine sense of loss. She believes that Killer Frost has redeeming qualities, but is similar to a child trying to figure out how to convey them. DeVoe essentially raped her and robbed her of that opportunity. Her reaction shows how far she’s come, whereas before she would have seen this as a mercy.
Barry’s reaction is also very realistic and poignant. Grant’s restrained sorrow and guilt is felt. For once, he doesn’t want to rely on “We are The Flash” with Iris to get him through this. He’s playing it from strength. He’s the rock of the team and has to act like it. The final scene in Ralph’s office and that shot of Gingold feels very noir-like and remorseful. Like Killer Frost did with Caitlin, Ralph left his mark on Barry. A character who started as the bane of Allen’s existence had become a student and close friend, and he feels like he failed to protect him.
Speaking of schlubs from the bus, the only weak point is The Folding Man and the hippie angle. I think I was with everyone that shared the same reaction to the first shot of him: “You’ve gotta be kidding me!” Maybe that was the point. Besides Melting Point, he was a meta not out to cash in on his powers like Roulette or Null or the others this past season. I think he was the highest throwaway this year because outside of being a low-level version of Vibe or Breacher, where was the use for him? Although de Puerto delivered a great performance as a DeVoe-possessed Edwin, the characterization was a man out of time. He was way too “far out.”
Also, I really wish that Barry would put a halt on the idea of revealing his secret to new metahumans. There’s no reason why he can’t just let on The Flash is working with S.T.A.R. Labs on this case. Eventually, the case will be closed, and these people will know the true face of The Fastest Man Alive. Also, Marlize as a martial arts assassin isn’t believable, although this is the wife-to-wife throwdown that some fans have been waiting for since the trial. This episode should have shown further brainwashing; the fans know she is being victimized by her husband for his own ends, but throwing in a scene of her being drugged prior to this would have made the tragedy more evident.
Flaws aside, this was a game-changer. Two members of Team Flash are down for the count, The Thinker has nearly all of the bus metas and has stabilized his condition, and Wells’ mind is unknowingly jumbled. I look forward to how this will resolve itself in the coming final episodes this year.