The Flash – Season 4 Episode 4
“Elongated Journey Into Night”
The Flash introduces another DC Comics hero as Cisco is forced to deal with the unexpected arrival of Gypsy’s disapproving father.
A character like the Elongated Man might present a problem for a TV show as he’s conceptually a ridiculous character so the possibility of an episode featuring him being a little too off the wall definitely exits. He certainly isn’t a character that would have fit in with the dreary tone that defined last season but with a lighter touch in season 4 it’s certainly the best time to give the character a go.
The approach taken to adapting the character is pretty good all things considered. Re-imagining him as a washed up police detective fired from the force for planting evidence immediately gives him a redemptive arc to follow. Ralph Dibny (Hartley Sawyer) is immediately a fun character to watch. Sawyer plays the washed up aspect of the character really well and there’s a sense of decency that eventually begins to emerge. He also clearly loves mysteries just as his comic book counterpart does.
He has an established history with Joe and Barry who had a hand in his removal from the Police Force. There is resentment on both sides and it causes Barry in particular to believe the worst of him. Caitlin confronts him on this and makes a well reasoned argument about the possibility of people having the capacity for change. It’s a subject close to home for her as she was subject to a massive personality shift that she has recovered from at least as far as Team Flash knows. The potential subtext here is that she is worried that people aren’t capable of change. It isn’t explored but would tie into her relapse back in the first episode of the season.
Barry doesn’t come across well here. He’s incredibly judgemental when it comes to Dibny and dismisses Caitlin’s counter argument as only applying to her because she was a good person in the first place. To Barry’s mind Dibny was never a good person so would definitely use any Metahuman powers for villainous pursuits. He fails to consider any complexity to the situation so adopts a black and white attitude to “good” and “evil” which is obviously limiting considering all that he has seen since becoming the Flash.
Interestingly it does become apparent that Dibny has his own standards when it comes to morality. He mentions that he planted evidence because he knew that the accused was guilty but had no way of proving it. No time is spent showing the details of that particular case but it’s entirely possible that the accused covered his tracks really well. Planting evidence to frame a guilty person isn’t a good thing and losing his job for doing that is entirely justified but it’s clear that Dibny’s heart is in the right place so Barry’s blanket stance to assume the worst of him is entirely misguided.
Barry’s attitude isn’t a flaw with the episode; it’s actually the opposite. He has been consistently written as a man who jumps to conclusions so this backs up what is already established. Flawed characters are usually infinitely more interesting so giving Barry consistent flaws that aren’t resolved within the space of a single episode makes him feel like a more rounded person.
Part of being a hero is self improvement so giving Barry these flaws to overcome makes for a neatly constructed character arc. His arc in this episode involves him seeing that there was more to Dibny than he previously assumed. This progresses in different ways such as an open discussion with Joe where Barry considered all the things they have done as a team. Locking Metahumans up without a trial in a secret prison is on the morally questionable side of things and meddling with time for selfish reasons isn’t exactly morally upright either so Barry is far from a saint in that regard. By the end of the episode he realises that Dibny has the capacity for change and that Barry misjudged him. This experience doesn’t appear to have fixed his tendency to jump to conclusions though we’re at a point where he has opened his mind to other ways of thinking which is enough as far as character development goes. Season 3 failed so profoundly because the characters consistently demonstrated an inability to learn from their mistakes despite repeated examples so this season appears to be allowing the characters to learn but not be changed entirely by a single experience. It doesn’t fix season 3 but it’s a step in the right description.
The tone of the episode was spot on for the introduction of the Elongated Man. Everything was handled with a light touch and there were some great gags thanks to his powers. Iris following his stretched limb to the point of origin was particularly amusing and Joe puking when his face stretched was hilarious. The CGI was pretty fake looking but I didn’t see that as a problem because the usage of his unique powers was so strong in service of the more comedic tone of the episode.
Cisco has to deal with the arrival of Gypsy’s father, Breacher (Danny Trejo) and the results are mixed. On one hand having Danny Trejo around is always good because he is automatically a formidable presence. The deadpan way he plays the character works really well especially as a contrast to Cisco’s goofiness.
Essentially the story boils down to Cisco trying to win over a father who doesn’t see anyone as being good enough for his daughter. It’s taken to an extreme when he decides to hunt Cisco in order for him to prove himself. If Cisco can survive 24 hours then he’ll accept the relationship. It’s completely played for laughs with especially good interplay between Cisco and Harry who encourages him to lead with his intelligence rather than being a coward. It’s all fairly predictable but enhanced by the skills of the actors.
The issue with the appearance of Breacher is that it had nothing to do with the Elongated Man plot until the very end of the episode where they were clumsily combined in a way that doesn’t work. Breacher’s decision to attack Barry and Dibny with some reference to the Plastoids was completely random and failed to build any degree of tension. It also gets in the way of the corrupt Mayor plot and makes the end of the episode feel flimsy and unfocussed.
As with each episode of the season so far there is limited progression on the Thinker story. Barry hears the name DeVoe from Dibny who was hired by him which I suspect was deliberate as everything so far has been. I’m all for a slowly revealed plan but I have my doubts about sticking the landing on this one considering how long the build-up is likely to be.
He is definitely gone and apparently forgotten which is a pity given that this episode features a West family get together as they celebrate the news that Joe is going to be a father once again. This would have been the perfect opportunity to show Wally’s personality in this musical montage but sadly he’s no longer here.
It should also be noted that Wally had to deal with nobody wanting to train him least season when Barry offers to train Dibny almost immediately.
We’d love to know your thoughts on this and anything else you might want to talk about. You can find us on Facebook and Twitter or just leave a comment in the comment section below. You’ll need an account for Disqus but it’s easy to set up.
If you want to chat to me directly then I’m on Twitter as well.