The Flash – Season 4 Episode 19
The Flash takes a step back to consider the loss of Ralph Dibny while enlisting the help of an alternate universe ally to help Team Flash with a very particular problem.
No matter how bad The Flash gets there’s one thing that is always true; Leonard Snart is great. No matter what incarnation of the characters appears on screen he always brings something extra to the table that elevates an episode. Much of this has to do with Wentworth Miller’s unique delivery of his lines. He’s campy and over the top in a really deliberate way that never ceases to be entertaining. The Earth-X version of Snart -better known as Leo- is even campier than the original Snart which brings a fresh take on the character and justifies having a different version.
His narrative purpose in the episode is to be the backup of a plan involving the transport of Neil Borman aka Fallout when it becomes clear that DeVoe wants him for something. Bringing him in is a clever idea as it’s obvious from DeVoe’s actions that moving Neil is exactly what he wants them to do so trying to find something else that he hasn’t considered is a great strategy. Using someone from another earth is also very smart as it is less likely that DeVoe would have considered that.
Leo’s narrative purpose isn’t as interesting as his real purpose which is to act as an emotional buffer for Barry who is refusing to deal with the death of Ralph by bottling up his feelings. It’s surprising that Snart’s campy delivery works when giving Barry pep talks but it does and is actually preferable to Barry having endless circular conversations with Iris before finally admitting his feelings. Leo has the ability to cut right to the heart of the matter and constantly challenges Barry to confront his feelings because he can’t be an effective leader unless he does that. The attempt to transport Neil proves that as he hesitates as soon as DeVoe shows up which results in two members of the team being captured.
I’ve repeatedly mentioned that “Enter Flashtime” is an episode that breaks the show by confirming that Barry is fast enough to overcome pretty much any problem but I was wrong to a certain extent. One thing his speed can’t combat is his feelings and the effect they have on his ability to be a hero though he could process his grief in Flashtime and have it take far less than a second making his insistence that he doesn’t have time to grieve amusingly pointless.. Ralph’s death is an open wound and Barry’s refusal to deal with it is lessening his effectiveness in really crippling ways. Leo constantly encourages him to deal with it resulting in two excellent key scenes. The first is when Barry gives a speech about the team taking a hit but remaining focused on the task at hand and dealing DeVoe a crippling blow. Leo wants to ensure that Barry actually heard his own speech rather than simply give it. It’s an important distinction as if he doesn’t really believe what he’s saying then the words are meaningless. Leo does a great job of constantly pushing Barry to get a reaction out of him.
The second key scene comes when Leo tries to force Barry to deal with his grief so that he’s not distracted at critical moments. This scene is where Leo really pushes through and starts to get to the root of the issue when Barry admits that he refuses to grieve over Ralph’s death because this loss is different to every other loss he has experienced. Leo simply asks him why and leaves him to think about it which makes for a quietly powerful moment. Barry’s general mood in this episode is an effective reminder that Team Flash is made up of people who can’t simply weather loss and move on immediately. If you away all of the super powers, technology and alternate universes then you’re left with a group of young people who could be considered to be in way over their heads. It’s important to remember that once in a while and take stock of events that will change them as people. This episode is better than many others for that very reason.
Barry’s emotional arc culminates in acceptance of the fact that Ralph is dead as well as admitting why he has so much trouble mourning this loss. Every other loss Barry has experienced has been someone close to him but the key difference with Ralph is that Barry felt responsible for him. He took it upon himself to train Ralph, encourage his better nature and make him a better person while also letting him join the team and help out in the fight against DeVoe. As far as Barry is concerned he helped but Ralph in DeVoe’s sights so feels that his death is entirely his fault. Of course it isn’t as he kept Ralph alive longer than he would have otherwise while shaping him into the best version of himself which allowed him to die a heroic death but the important thing is that Barry believes that it’s his fault and whether it’s fair for him to punish himself or not he has to deal with it. Once again this is a very Human reaction that resonates and makes for a really powerful episode.
By all accounts this is the final contractual appearance of Wentworth Miller in the Arrowverse. If that’s the case then it’s a real shame because he effortlessly elevated what would otherwise have been a fairly grim episode. His ability to lighten even the most sombre moods is definitely an asset and he will be missed if not seen again. Of course the door is open for future appearances and he gets a happy ending of sorts by revealing that the Nazi regime on Earth-X has fallen and he is due to marry Ray so as closure goes it’s definitely not bad.
Leo isn’t the only visitor from Earth-X to cross over to Earth-1. Tagging along is Katie Cassidy’s Siren-X, the last of the Nazi regime. There was absolutely no need for her in this episode and almost no effort was made to distinguish her from the Earth-2 version of Laurel Lance currently at large over on Arrow. I don’t understand the motivation behind blowing up the C.C.P.D. headquarters as revenge for the death of Earth-X’s Oliver Queen nor did I appreciate the exposition from Leo to quickly establish this Laurel’s back story. Seeing Team Flash attempt to explain the complicated history of the Lance sisters made for an amusing moment though. I also liked the enhancements to the Canary power set allowing Siren-X to eavesdrop over long distances as well as hear Barry coming.
This Laurel’s appearance is especially pointless when you consider the story on Arrow. On that show the Earth-2 Laurel Lance is trying to convince the public that she is the Earth-1 Laurel Lance so the appearance of another version of her in Central City is more than a little problematic as far as that plot is concerned. Too many people saw her for this not to make the news in some way so it’ll be interesting to see if this is dealt with in Arrow in some way. Being in the same universe I suspect there will be a throwaway reference that will push the problem aside.
The consequences of Harry trying to boost his intelligence recklessly last week are revealed. It turns out that his efforts have had the opposite effect and he now stands to lose everything he knows. Harry’s contribution to this episode is an attempt to dissuade Cisco from making the same mistake he did after coming up with the idea of building a second Thinking Cap to boost his intelligence and allow them to work on the DeVoe problem together. It’s a solid plan as having two members of the team with temporarily enhanced intelligence is more than likely better than one. Harry’s current affliction has caused him to realise that he was addicted to the Thinking Cap and wants to prevent the same from happening to Cisco.
This plot is better in concept than in execution because it basically boils down to Harry behaving erratically for a while before confessing the truth to Cisco who promises to help him and gives him a pep talk about having more value to the team than his intelligence. He uses the example of Jesse and points out how well she turned out because she had a father who was there for her which means more to her than how intelligent he is. It’s a good point well made and reminds Harry that he has people around him that can help. Unfortunately everything prior to this felt like a waste of time for the most part and it looks like all that will happen here is that Harry will go back to his starting point rather than go down the corruption route that was previously suggested. This will ultimately render the entire Thinking Cap arc meaningless as Harry’s regular intelligence could have brought the same benefit to the team.
Caitlin is dealing with the loss of Killer Frost. For the most part she gets on with things but isn’t afraid to admit that she misses her alter ego. Part of the point of her contribution to this episode is to prove her value to the team without becoming Killer Frost. She handles the biological aspect of the plan by monitoring Neil and using her expertise to make the plan go as smoothly as possible. When in the field she also fearlessly handles the second cold gun to cool him down so Caitlin has proven herself to be a useful addition to both the team and the show. There is a hint that Killer Frost is still within her with Caitlin needing to figure out how to get her back so I suspect her duality won’t be missing for long.
DeVoe and Marlize’s contribution to the episode is to contrast the emotionally driven Team Flash story with the intelligence driven villain story. After DeVoe’s attack on the truck he can’t understand why Barry froze when seeing him. Marlize understands this perfectly because it’s a very natural emotional reaction to confronting the cause of a recent loss. DeVoe has lost all touch with emotion and sees it as nothing more than a weakness which suggests he no longer values his marriage to Marlize. This is reinforced by his lack of reaction to his favourite dress. As far as DeVoe is concerned she is “The Mechanic” to his “Thinker” and that’s all their relationship is to him because he is only able to see the intellectual side of things. This pretty much cements Marlize’s inevitable betrayal because we are now at the point where she feels that the man who was her husband is now gone.
The theme of emotion as an oppositional force to intelligence is in theory a strong one as it gives Team Flash what they’ve been looking for; an angle that DeVoe has failed to consider. It’s unclear how they can weaponise their feelings against him so it depends what is done with this idea but I like that they have drawn a line between those two concepts as a way to suggest which one is more powerful. This unfortunately adds credence to my theory that Iris will brag about Team Flash achieving victory because her marriage is stronger than theirs.
A strong episode that makes great use of Wentworth Miller’s Leo Snart who acts as a much needed emotional buffer to Barry when he refuses to deal with the loss of Ralph as well as being entertaining and insightful in his own right. Barry’s feelings create a justifiable reason for him to be less than effective as his inability to deal with his feelings means that his leadership suffers through distraction. Leo helps him cut through this by encouraging him to question why Ralph’s death is different to the others he has experienced which culminates in the admission that he feels responsible for it because he handled Ralph’s training. The appearance of Siren-X was fairly pointless as her motivations were really flimsy and she added very little to the episode.
The reveal that Harry is losing his intelligence as a consequence of his actions last week doesn’t really go anywhere interesting. He does admit that he was addicted and tries to stop the same thing from happening to Cisco but outside of a good pep talk from Cisco about how great Jesse turned out thanks to Harry’s parenting it seems that this plot only exists to manufacture drama for a little while before returning Harry back to where he started. Caitlin dealing with the loss of Killer Frost is handled really well as her contribution to the episode concentrates on her value to the team without awakening her alter ego. There is a strong hint that Killer Frost will return so this loss won’t be for long. The main purpose to DeVoe and Marlize in this episode is to confirm that DeVoe has lost touch with his Humanity and now sees emotion as a waste of time. This confirms to Marlize that her husband has been lost to her and all but confirms her inevitable betrayal. It does set up the interesting theme of emotion vs. intelligence and hints at the thing DeVoe has missed that Team Flash have been looking for.
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