The Flash is up for sale.
Warning: Full spoilers for the episode below.
This week’s Flash was really all over the place in terms of tone and focus. In other words, pretty much par for the course with Season 4. The renewed focus on Clifford DeVoe and a handful of great character moments ensured that there was more bad than good, but there’s still little sense that the writers are figuring out how to strike a lasting balance between comedy and drama this season really needs at the moment.
Barry’s prison ordeal took a darker turn this week as he found himself locked away in the metahuman wing of iron Heights and placed at the mercy of the suddenly not-so-trustworthy Warden Wolfe. That made for an interesting shift, with Barry forced to join forces with the very metahuman criminals he put away in the hope of escaping. Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before this episode began undercutting its own drama. The ease of Barry’s escape ensured that neither Wolfe nor Amunet Black presented quite the clear, immediate danger they should have.
Perhaps my biggest point of frustration this week is that the writers didn’t take advantage of the opportunities in front of them where the “bus emtas” were concerned. Most of these characters have shown potential in their previous appearances, but apart from Hazard, none have really grown into three-dimensional antagonists yet. Sadly, this episode did little to reverse that trend. Is there any real reason to paint these characters as such blatant, almost cartoonish villains? That’s especially true for Black Bison. This is a character motivated by a desire to protect ancient artifacts, not cause mayhem and destruction for the sake of it. But you wouldn’t know that from the way she was depicted here.
Then there’s Amunet Black, one of the more frustrating additions to the lineup this season. On one hand, it’s impossible not to be charmed by Katie Sackhoff. She really brings her all in each new appearance and chews scenery with extreme zest. On the other, Amunet is a very shallow, one-note character who really should have developed into something more at this point. I want to see something more substantive from her than simply the cackling crime lord.
Fortunately, at least the writers continued their good work where Hazard is concerned. Her debut appearance made it clear that Becky is less a villain than simply a battered woman overwhelmed by the almost limitless scope of her new abilities. She went through a condensed but very strong character arc this week as Barry urged her to embrace her potential and be better than circumstance has demanded of her. The fact that Becky’s arc ended on such a tragic note, with her will and very body being stolen by DeVoe, only lent an added touch of tragedy to her journey.
On that note, it was fascinating to see DeVoe’s role as the master villain evolve this week. Clearly, he’s consumed by a newfound sense of arrogance after his recent victories over Team Flash, and that arrogance is beginning to cloud his judgment in significant ways. It’s certainly taking its toll on his marriage. Marlize is a more compelling character than ever. She’s easily the most sympathetic of the major Flash villains to date. And especially given how profoundly she was betrayed by her husband this week, I’m hoping all the more that she eventually overthrows DeVoe and claims the spotlight for herself in the climax of Season 4. For now though, I’m entertained at the thought of actress Sugar Lyn Beard taking on such a dramatically different role going forward.
As usual, the goofy Team Flash scenes struggled to mesh with the relatively darker tone of Barry’s struggles. That material seemed especially off-kilter this week because so little of it mattered in the end. Nothing Team Flash did had any real impact on Barry’s attempted escape or the outcome of DeVoe’s latest chess play. Not to mention that it’s strange to end one episode with Wells vowing to outsmart the Thinker and then immediately follow up with “Harry is on Earth-2.”
Ralph’s arc felt a little forced and over the top, as well. We’ve already seen him wrestle with a lack of self confidence before, so this just felt like more of the same. I also wasn’t keen on the way Caitlin was employed this week. I’m growing tired of seeing her Killer Frost side being used as a punchline or a convenient plot device. Her descent into supervillainy was such a big part of Season 3, but this year treated it’s more like a running gag. She deserves better.
All that being said, it was nice to see Ralph pull himself together and singlehandedly save Barry from his terrible fate. Yes, that resulted in a very abrupt end to the prison storyline, but it’s not clear how much more mileage the writers really could have gotten out of that plot thread. With Barry out of Iron Heights and DeVoe growing more and more ambitious, it feels like we’re finally getting to the meat of this conflict. It’ll be very interesting to see what a villain with the mind of the Thinker and the power of Hazard can accomplish.