The Flash – Season 4 Episode 12
“Honey, I Shrunk Team Flash”
The Flash keeps Barry in prison as Team Flash have to deal with the problem of a Metahuman who has the power to shrink anything.
Tone has been a big problem for The Flash this season. It’s commendable that there was an appetite to change from the dreary and depressing tone of last season in favour of something lighter along the lines of season 1. As I’ve pointed out in various reviews of this season so far the success rate on actually achieving this has been mixed. Yes the tone is far lighter and yes there is less of a tendency to focus on angst but much of it has felt forced in contrast to the natural and effortless tone set in the first season.
This episode is the first to properly break with that trend. An episode where two of the characters are miniaturised to a few inches tall is never one to be taken seriously and it’s something that should be embraced as the silly concept it is. It should also inform the characters in some way while that fun is being had and this episode succeeds on both counts. It’s a silly adventure that develops the characters.
More specifically it develops Harry as a character. He has been very much in the background this season because it hasn’t felt like there was a place for him beyond “token Harrison Wells”. This episode focuses on his value to the team both in practical terms as well as how he sees himself. Harry has always prided himself on being the smartest guy in the room and DeVoe serves as a constant reminder of that not being the case. As such Harry has devoted a lot of mental energy to figuring out how to outsmart him which is something he can’t do. The shrinking problem exemplifies his feelings of inadequacy because it’s something that he feels that should be well within his ability to solve yet he can’t.
The reason for this is that he’s far too preoccupied by the bigger picture problem in the form of DeVoe and the incarcerated Barry so smaller problems -pun intended- becomes much harder to solve because Harry badly needs to clear his head and focus on something else. It’s clear that no amount of sticking things to a white board will solve the problem. This is a realisation he comes to during this episode and it does allow him to find a solution to the situation at hand. It’s almost as if Harry was compartmentalising his problems and giving all of his attention to the bigger issues where the day to day was just as important. This realisation helps him accept the fact that DeVoe has concocted a meticulous plan and he has no idea what it is. The mention of there being no coincidences along with the examples of everything that appears to be a coincidence shows this clearly.
Cisco and Ralph being reduced to a few inches tall is where some of the comedy comes from. There isn’t much to this part of the plot other than two characters are a lot smaller than they should be but it works because the cast make good use of the opportunity to bounce off one another and make the scenario a funny one. Iris stepping on Ralph as if he was a piece of discarded chewing gum was brilliantly played and Cisco’s general frustrated reaction to the entire situation made good use of Carlos Valdes’ natural comic timing.
It also allowed for some really well crafted visuals showing the difference in size between the characters. Having Ralph and Cisco hang around on the LEGO recreation of the setting of Iris’ death looked great and was a creative continuity nod as well as taking advantage of the situation in a creatively logical way.
Of course there was no jeopardy even when it was revealed that they were slowly being killed by Harry’s attempt to embiggen them. Naturally the show won’t use an episode like this to kill off two major characters so all it really does is manufacture urgency by creating a ticking clock to remind the audience that everything has to work towards some form of resolution.
Once again this was an episode where the Flash didn’t show up to save the day so Team Flash had to muddle through on their own. Cisco and Ralph were effectively taken out of the game thanks to their condition which meant that Team Flash was almost completely lacking in super powers. Caitlin still has hers and no explanation is given for why Killer Frost isn’t called on for backup in the final confrontation but maybe she finds the situation too hilarious for the change to happen.
More comedy comes from Cecile randomly gaining the power to read minds because of some latent Metahuman potential triggered by her unborn child. As explanations go it’s no better or worse than anything else this show has come up with but I can’t help but wonder what the point in this plot was other than bringing about an understanding between her and Joe that could be achieved easily through simple conversation.
That’s not to say the plot was unwelcome; it was actually very funny and made good use of Danielle Nicolet’s previously unused comedic talents. Her reaction to the thoughts she hears is perfectly played and the various characters dealing with the issue only enhances that.
It does allow for a profound step forward in Joe’s relationship with Cecile. Throughout the episode he’s terrified by the prospect of her reading his thoughts because there are things that he wants to keep private and is entitled to do so. Cecile’s entry into his mind is unwelcome and Joe struggles to accept that. Her ability isn’t something she can control and she is very caught up in the excitement of having it but isn’t ignorant to the intrusive nature of it. She manages to reassure Joe by pointing out that there’s absolutely nothing he could think that would change the way she feels about him. She retains her established intelligence and finds a way to rationalise what this ability means to her. Joe won’t ever be comfortable with it but at least he knows he has nothing to worry about. The scene where she returns the favour by telling Joe her vulnerable thoughts was a nice touch that goes some way towards levelling the playing field. Once again all of this could have been achieved without mind reading but this way there was an amusing subplot.
The villain of the week was engaging enough when compared to other villains on this show. Sylbert Rundin aka Dwarfstar (Derek Mears) has a visually impressive power and enough screen presence to stick in the mind for long enough after the episode ends. He is mostly characterised by not being a very nice person and taking pleasure in the suffering of others which is shallow yet clear. It looks like he’ll be back and I would certainly welcome that.
Barry’s friendship with Dave is the focus of the prison plot this week. It turns out that Dave was framed for a crime he didn’t commit and Barry is confident that the evidence against him is flimsy enough to find a way to prove his innocence. He tasks Team Flash with that while spending all of their scenes together proving that there’s always some sense of hope.
Dave has been in prison so long that he has given up hope on ever seeing the outside again and sees it as something so dangerous that it should be avoided. Barry uses the example of his father’s killer confessing after 17 years as a reason not to give up. He’s full of wisdom like this throughout such as using his marriage to Iris to show Dave that sometimes there are happy endings like in the movies. Barry’s attitude can be read two ways depending on your point of view. One interpretation is that he’s the eternal optimist who believes that everything will work out for the best in the end. The other is that he’s insufferably naive and arrogant. There are strong arguments for both so it’s entirely down to the viewer to decide which of the two he is. I’m inclined to think the latter though it’s good that the main character of this show is inclined to hope for the best even in a seemingly hopeless situation. This episode pushed it a bit too far for me as I felt that many of his examples to Dave were arrogant and condescending.
I like how Dave was handled here. He’s a man resigned to his fate even though he didn’t actually do anything wrong and has come to understand that the system isn’t set up to benefit him despite his innocence. Through the course of the episode he allows himself to hope and starts imagining what life will be like once he is set free. He confesses that he wants to go to a monastery in China there there are monks who have taken a vow of silence which is definitely a surprising desire but definitely works.
The fact that Team Flash fail to clear his name shows how unfair life can be and would have been a solid conclusion to Dave’s arc in this episode. Even though the outcome isn’t positive he enjoyed experiencing hope again and it’s enough to make him feel good. It was a decent resolution that draws a connection between Barry and Dave being wrongfully imprisoned while serving as a reminder that the system isn’t always fair.
After this things fall apart in a really big way as Barry takes Dave to China and leaves him there before returning to prison. Barry is voluntarily in prison to uphold the principles that go hand in hand with accepting the decisions made by the law. Freeing Dave completely spits in the face of that motivation and makes Barry’s entire reason for staying in prison feel completely flawed. Fair enough Dave is innocent and Barry wants to give an innocent man the freedom he deserves but he’s also an innocent man so the same logic should surely apply. The gesture itself isn’t a bad thing but the inconsistency that accompanies it certainly is.
Of course this only exists so the Warden Wolfe (Richard Brooks) can find out Barry’s secret and throw him in a Metahuman cell before offering to sell him to Amunet. The reveal that the Warden set up extra cameras to confirm his suspicions about Barry is surprising enough but also flags another failure of the writers to follow the power levels that they have set. Barry is able to cheat at Poker earlier in the episode without anyone being aware that anything has happened and is able to whisk Dave off to China in what appears to be a matter of seconds so he should surely be moving fast enough to not be detected by a camera. It’s very clear what the scene is meant to achieve but the fact that Barry’s powers are largely neutered to make that happen is disappointing.
An entertaining episode that offers much needed character development for Harry and delivers a tone that feels more natural in its approach to comedy rather than as forced as it has felt this season so far. The shrinking plot provides plenty of entertainment as does Cecile’s mind reading power which also allows her and Joe to take an important step forward in their relationship.
Barry’s friendship with Dave is also well handled though Barry does come across as insufferably arrogant and his decision to break Dave out of prison is inconsistent with his own reasons for staying. Having this reveal his identity to a corrupt Warden made for a solid reveal though the approach to his speed being detected is once again ignoring his powers for the sake of the plot.
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