The Flash – Season 4 Episode 21
“Harry and the Harrisons”
The Flash has the team seek the help of a dangerous ally who will be immune to DeVoe’s abilities as the threat of his satellites continues to grow.
This episode was always going to be fighting uphill for me because it features Amunet Black; an insufferably annoying character that wastes the talents of Katee Sackhoff and continues to show up despite having very little to offer. I acknowledge that this reaction to the character might be unique to me and if she has a devoted fanbase out there who want to see more of her then more power to you but I find her intolerable.
Pretty much everything involving her this week is painfully predictable and slows the overall season arc to a complete halt with a pointless fetch quest to find a stockpile of the metal shards she uses. There’s some bickering about morality, banter that’s supposed to be funny and the inevitable reveal that she had no intention of helping Team Flash. It’s all nonsense, makes the team out to be complete idiots and basically wastes an episode doing absolutely nothing of value other than getting a hold of a single shot weapon capable of bringing down a satellite assuming some way to get it into space can be found. If only they knew perhaps a team of people who have a vessel capable of space travel or perhaps someone from another universe with access to such technology who could help solve this problem. Even if those easy solutions aren’t possible then it deserves to at least be brought up.
The main action sequence in this episode was especially weak though had one or two cool moments. Caitlin using the cold gun to create a giant icicle to drop on attackers was a nice touch and I enjoyed the metallic whirlwind but there was a noticeable lack of threat level to the sequence. Barry was incapacitated by something he should have easily seen coming and avoided so that Amunet and Caitlin could be responsible for the win. It isn’t a bad thing to want to vary the action and give other characters time in the spotlight but this just wasn’t good.
It’s another one of those set pieces that could easily be resolved by Barry before anyone has a clue what even happened. Nobody involved was any threat to him because they should be unable to combat his speed. Certainly a villain who has a snake in his eye is no match for The Flash and having Iris be the one to tell Barry how to get rid of the poison he blundered into only makes him look like he’s too stupid to use his powers effectively. Once again jeopardy is manufactured by forgetting that Barry should be an experienced hero and allowing him to make stupid decisions.
Faring particularly badly this week is Caitlin who has a hidden agenda when suggesting that Amunet might be their best bet against DeVoe. What she actually wants to do is get a hold of technology that helped her separate from Killer Frost in an effort to bring her back. Everything Caitlin does at the moment is in service of reawakening her alter ego because apparently she has lost something fundamental and wants it back. If that’s the case then fair enough but it has in no way been earned through the characterisation of Caitlin in any episode this season. All that happened was that the the post-it communication method was introduced along with Caitlin telling others that she and Killer Frost had come to some sort of understanding. This could have been interesting if it had played out organically throughout the season but introducing it in the episode that Killer Frost was lost is a cheap and transparent attempt to manufacture drama and it doesn’t work. The split personality gimmick has never worked terribly well either but that’s a separate issue.
My issue with Caitlin in this episode is that her actions are completely selfish when there are bigger things at stake. There’s a possibility that Amunet might help the team but it’s not likely so Caitlin takes it upon herself to lie to the team and use their resources on a personal errand. That’s not a problem in itself because part of the charm of this collection of characters is that they are willing to put themselves on the line to help each other but it’s the fact that Caitlin lies about it and frames it as something that could help stop DeVoe that really irks me about it. The lie isn’t even the worst part; she agrees to commit a crime as Killer Frost if Amunet helps her without knowing what that crime will be or if harm will come to anyone as a result of it. There was an episode of Angel where a similar thing happened and the end result was the death of a beloved main character. In that show the man responsible was held accountable by one of the characters while having the knowledge of what he did tear him up inside for the rest of the series.
Caitlin’s behaviour in this episode is simply inexcusable and at no point is she held accountable for it. She admits that she lied and tells the team about what she agreed to do but nobody calls her out on what a stupid decision this is and she goes unpunished for it. Everyone understands, accepts, forgives and they move on despite the fact that there are very real implications to this. The lack of opposition means that we as an audience are supposed to be on Caitlin’s side with this one and there’s no way I can be given the background of it. This could have been a very different and interesting episode if Caitlin’s dishonesty had been condemned but the team continued with the plan because they were in too deep to stop at the point the truth became known.
Another issue with Caitlin’s narrative in this episode is that there is no pay-off or resolution. She ends the episode as she began except with knowledge that the device she wanted didn’t actually do anything which means that her problem was more psychological than scientific despite it being well documented that Killer Frost vanished because all Dark Matter was removed from Caitlin’s body. The lack of forward momentum is incredibly frustrating and, as I’ve said Caitlin’s decision being unchallenged by anyone makes the whole thing feel disposable. I can’t believe that this show used to be defined by relatable and compelling character drama because what it has become feels like a parody of that. Actions don’t have consequences, decisions are rarely questioned and there’s a distinct lack of character development because most of the characters have a pathological aversion to learning meaningful lessons that would move them forward as people.
The episode continues to waste everyone’s time in it’s approach to dealing with the problem of Harry’s diminishing intelligence. Cisco suggests approaching the Council of Wells to see if they can help with the problem because we really needed to revisit that unfunny collection of one note caricatures. It was mildly entertaining last time but with all the hammy acting in this episode it was just too much. The plan fails because they aren’t interested in talking to an unintelligent version of themselves so they banish him without even considering helping him.
Cisco has another idea involving a different collection of one note caricatures with the Council of Harrisons; a group of doppelgängers more in touch with their emotions and not gifted with a genius level intellect in an attempt to prove to Harry that he has more to offer to the team than his intelligence. The theory isn’t bad but the execution is terrible because the scenes featuring these caricatures are fairly painful to watch. Tom Cavanagh is a talented actor and clearly has a good time playing different versions of Harrison Wells but this grouping lack any real depth so fail to make an impression. This concept can definitely be entertaining in small doses and thankfully the doses aren’t large but it piles onto other insufferable things in the episode to create an overall unpleasant experience.
It does affect Harry positively as he ends the episode more in touch with his emotions than before. There’s a real clarity to him thinking differently and figuring out that DeVoe hasn’t taken any recent action because Marlize has left him. It’s a theory that we know to be true because of last week and it certainly gives Team Flash something different to focus on while supplying some degree of hope in their continued battle against DeVoe. This does further the idea that emotion trumps science in the case of this season so it’s clear that defeating DeVoe will involve exploiting emotional weakness in some way.
There was one thing I liked; Iris’ idea to write an article telling the people of Central City -and by extension the World- about DeVoe and what he has planned for them raises an interesting debate about accountability. Team Flash routinely save the city but do so largely in secret with the people having no idea as to what really goes on. Iris wants to publish her article to increase awareness of DeVoe and use the people to help find him. In theory getting the word out would give them eyes everywhere and remove an important advantage from DeVoe. It’s a good idea in theory though there would be a lot of attention grabbing false alarms given how the internet works in our world.
The debate raised is one the show strangely decides not to have. Do the people have a right to know when some supervillain is planning to end the world? There are strong arguments either way such as people being able to react to the danger that could very well come their way. One of the major cons is that it could cause mass panic and make the situation worse as a result. It’s a debate worth having but the episode chooses to go down the route of Barry thinking it’s too dangerous for all concerned to reveal that information to the public. There is no real reason for Barry to think this but he’s opposed to the idea so that it takes an entire episode before it happens while Iris makes really compelling arguments about arming the citizens of the city with knowledge that can be used to help bring down DeVoe. Ultimately Barry comes round to the idea after being encouraged to put his faith in the people of the city and the article idea pays off almost immediately. I’m sure that nobody is posting false comments because they think it might be funny either, that’s just not how the internet works.
Despite the ropey handling of this idea I was really drawn to this idea because it potentially opens up further opportunities for storytelling while giving Iris a more defined role on Team Flash. Season 5 could have Barry handle the saves as Iris reports the facts and makes people aware of everything The Flash does for them. In effect it could turn The Flash into a man of the people who gives them hope and that would be a significant enough shift in Barry’s role as a hero to make some aspects of the show feel fresh.
A terrible episode that does almost nothing right in terms of furthering the main story, delivering entertainment or creating engaging characterisation. The return of Amunet is the beginning of my frustrations as I find the character to be insufferable and a complete waste of Katee Sackhoff’s talents. Caitlin is really badly handled through her making questionable decisions that she is never held accountable for while furthering the nonsensical notion that she is grieving the loss of a big part of herself despite the show not earning that. Some of the visuals are well done but they come as part of an action sequence that once again has Barry blunder into being incapacitated and having to be told how his abilities work.
The Council of Harrisons is an infuriating idea that might have been fine in another episode in small doses but it adds to the combined nonsense that makes this a painful viewing experience. Furthering the idea of emotion trumping science in the fight against DeVoe is all well and good but how the show is approaching that is painfully misguided. Iris writing an article to arm the citizens of Central City with knowledge is a good idea and opens up an interesting debate about the accountability held by Team Flash. Do the people have a right to know if there’s a doomsday scenario in the near future or are they better of not knowing? There are arguments for both but the episode sadly doesn’t have that debate as it favours Iris and Barry arguing over how dangerous DeVoe is as a reason to stop the article. Eventually Barry comes around to the idea and the potential for an interesting dynamic involving Barry saving the city while Iris reports on it. It could turn The Flash into a hero of the people as they become aware of how much he does for them.
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