The Flash – Season 4 Episode 5
“Girls Night Out”
The Flash brings the female characters into focus as the budding newly-weds go on their bachelor/bachelorette parties.
This show has always had a bit of a woman problem in terms of how the female characters are handled and this episode highlights this while attempting to address it. Iris’ Bachelorette party is hilariously under-attended as it uses only characters from the show. Apparently the only other women she has in her life are Caitlin, Felicity and Cecile which only serves to highlight just how poorly handled Iris has been as a character. Based on the attendees of her last night of freedom it seems that she just doesn’t have any friends. Caitlin is someone she works with as a result of her involvement in Team Flash and Felicity is an extension of that rather than a friend. I certainly wouldn’t say that the characters were close enough for Felicity to make the trip from Star City and if they are then neither show has bothered to show that.
All of this presents questions over what Iris did with her time when she wasn’t a part of Team Flash. At some point she had a job as a reporter that was apparently going well if the dialogue was to be believed so it stands to reason that she would have made friends through work at the very least. It hasn’t even been specifically stated that she doesn’t work there any more. Even if not then she’s a bubbly outgoing person so making friends likely wouldn’t be that difficult for her. I get the concept of narrative economy and conservation of characters. It would have been a very busy episode if a legion of Iris’ friends were in tow without ever having seen them before and it would have got in the way of the actual plot. Maybe she’s just one of those people who is consumed by a relationship and cuts ties with everyone once she’s in one. Anything goes considering how ill developed Iris is.
Despite that this episode is one of the strongest showings the character has ever had. It’s the first episode that I can think of where Barry doesn’t suit up as the Flash; it’s certainly the first where he wasn’t otherwise replaced by another Speedster so crafting a story around Barry not saving the day counts as ambitious by this show’s current standards.
All of the agency belongs to Iris who motivates her small group of able bodied women to save the day and it’s good to see. I’ve always said that this show should focus on the secondary characters more and here I sort of get my wish. Candice Patton always does a good job when she gets to play Iris as more assertive, resourceful, intelligent and courageous. It’s good to see the entitled princess disappear for a while and the way she handles the situation is believable enough. Conversely there’s no real point in Felicity being here considering how little she adds but the minor crossover is at least fun some of the time.
The A Plot of the episode hinges around Caitlin’s relapse into being Killer Frost. We’re back to the split personality scenario and it is made clear that there is a war going on internally between the two sides of Caitlin’s personality. Felicity compares it to The Incredible Hulk which confirms that Marvel exists in some form in this universe. Danielle Panabaker excellently plays the two distinct personalities and clearly enjoys hamming it up as Killer Frost. Unfortunately the conflict follows the same beats we’ve had before and basically amounts to various characters telling her that they believe there is still good in her. It’s contrived, repetitive and really predictable.
I did like the slight twist that was brought to it by playing on the friendship that Iris and Caitlin don’t have. Iris clearly regrets not being closer to Caitlin considering how much time they spend together and it’s a regret that Caitlin also has. This fuels Iris’ attempts to snap Caitlin out of her internal conflict and it feels a little different though not different enough to truly become interesting. At least the episode ends with Caitlin coming clean about everything that has been going on with her which hopefully ends another repetitive trend of characters keeping secrets from one another. The whole thing feels like an unnecessary callback to what has come before with Caitlin specifically and it’s clear there’s nothing new to explore there so something really needs to change.
The villain of the piece was a lot of fun Katee Sackhoff’s Amunet Black aka Blacksmith was an engaging presence even if she never felt all that threatening. Sackhoff takes every opportunity to chew the scenery in a way that would make Wentworth Miller proud. Her powers were visually impressive but she only felt like a challenge because Barry wasn’t around. Not to downplay the skills of the girls but none of them outside of Caitlin have any powers so they are in more danger than they would be if Barry was dealing with the situation. If she returns and has to deal with Barry it’ll be difficult to justify why he should be concerned.
I found her defeat to be clumsily handled as she was simply allowed to run away rather than being put in prison. Her crimes were definitely severe enough to warrant imprisonment so it’s confusing as to why more of an effort wasn’t made by the girls to make sure she was locked up. Still it was good to see Iris, Caitlin, Felicity and Cecile bringing down a villain on their own with no help from the men in their life. As clumsy as it was it’s something new for this show and represents a desire to do more with the underdeveloped characters in the future.
Barry’s Bachelor party mainly exists to give a reason for him to be out of the way so that the girls can’t call him for backup. He isn’t reachable because the strip club Dibney -or Disney as Harry calls him- drags them to makes them hand in their phones. He’s also really drunk thanks to a concoction made by Cisco to let him experience the buzz that his powers deprive him of.
This whole subplot is fairly inconsequential but fun nonetheless. Grant Gustin does a great job playing drunk Barry and having him yell that he’s the Flash while seemingly unable to use his powers. As with all TV Bachelor parties the situation escalates to the point of being ridiculous thanks to Dibney who isn’t content with the sedate plan of watching home movies and badgers them until they go out for a debaucherous night on the time. What we see is about as far from debauchery as you can get but it’s still fun and further establishes Dibney as a complete sleaze who is punished by being banned from his favourite strip club.
I couldn’t help feel that these scenes were missing key people. Barry’s social circle has always been a small one but I would have expected Oliver Queen, John Diggle and Ray Palmer at a minimum to attend. Naturally the budget wouldn’t allow for all of these guest stars in a non big budget crossover episode but their absence does stand out and an opportunity seems missed.
Barry’s scenes do allow for some character beats such as Joe admitting that he’s scared of becoming a father again mostly because of all the energy it will take to raise another child. Since he is nearly 50 he doesn’t know if he has what it takes any more which causes Barry to deliver the expected pep talk. The scene features some fine acting from Jesse L. Martin who comes across as truly dumbstruck by another bout of fatherhood. His ability to parent isn’t in doubt thanks to his open conversation with Joanie (Riley Jade) after discovering she works at a strip club for reasons of feminism. He makes the case for her to make an effort with her mother and genuinely gets through to her. The lesson here is that Joe’s still got it! As a final point I have to question how Harry is able to walk into a police station to bail out his friends when Harrison Wells is still a wanted fugitive. Whatever happened to continuity?
He is mentioned by Joe when listing his other children but apparently not invited to Barry’s Bachelor party nor is there mention of him sending his apologies for not being able to make it. Wally is gone and apparently almost forgotten.
A fun if disposable episode that allows the women of the show to be the focal point while Barry is taken out of commission. The Bachelor/Bachelorette party conceit is a good excuse to split the cast up but only serves to remind the audience of how underdeveloped Iris is. The attendees consist of Caitlin, Cecile and Felicity; none of whom I’d say were especially close to Iris so I’m left wondering what she did with her time before being associated with Team Flash. Does she work any more? Did she make friends through there? It doesn’t seem to be something the show is interested in addressing. Despite that Candice Patton always does a great job when Iris is given a sense of purpose and she leads the A Plot nicely. Felicity’s appearance is mostly pointless but it was a fun crossover.
Caitlin’s relapse into Killer Frost is well acted but feels repetitive though the twist involving Iris not really knowing her that well does actually work even if it largely boils down to conversations about seeing the good in her once again. There does seem to be something of a resolution -or at least a change- to this when Caitlin comes clean to the team. Barry’s Bachelor party largely existed to get him out of the way by getting him drunk and removing access to his phone. These scenes were fun though lacking notable guest stars from other shows. His heart to heart with Joe was well acted and the reveal that Joe was scared of being a parent again at his age was nicely acted but fairly predictable also.
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