Thursday, November 9, 2017

The Flash 4x05 Review: "Girls Night Out" (Very Uncool) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]

"Girls Night Out"
Original Airdate: October 31, 2017 

Hey, The Flash, when I told you to drop the brooding act of last season I didn’t mean you should take up the mantle of Supergirl’s cheesy, pseudo-sociopolitical stances with all the grace of a newborn foal attempting ice skate while high on mescaline. What was all this “hashtag feminism” nonsense? I suspect the words “girl power” were edited from a draft of this episode’s script but like, a sad kind of last-minute edit that implied you had no idea why it was getting deleted but something deep down in your soul was telling you it had to go. Listen to me, okay, because this is coming from a place of love: You, The Flash, have a niche, and that niche is storylines involving man-sharks and psychic gorillas — for your own sake and to curb my secondhand embarrassment, please stay in your lane.

All that said, “Girls Night Out” wasn’t a completely terrible episode and had some good character moments, plus Drunk Barry and his deep love of chicken wings, and Felicity Smoak paying Central City a visit. But while episode didn’t completely fail at giving the female characters of the show more screen time, it didn’t exactly stick the landing, either.


First things first: Felicity is here! Yaaaay! I’ve missed seeing Felicity on my TV since I stopped watching Arrow about halfway through last season, but it’s good to see she’s as effervescently lovely as ever. She’s apparently the ringleader of the bachelorette party getting thrown for Iris, since Felicity has provided feather boas for the ladies to wear and a tiara for the bride-to-be. They manage to rope Caitlin into the shindig and Cecile joins in because there are literally only three female characters on this show, so she didn’t have a choice. The plan is to have a nice, low-key dinner, but a meta shows up to threaten Caitlin for reasons.

After ruining the ladies’ dinner by popping his false eye out and sending a grabby snake thing from his eye socket, the meta succeeds in getting Caitlin’s attention. They fight the guy off (Felicity gets to hit him with a chair) but Caitlin must go full Killer Frost to really stop him, and Caitlin as Killer Frost isn’t exactly the friendliest. The bachelorette party has turned into a minor crisis, so Iris tries to get in touch with Barry to tell him what’s up.

Too bad for Iris, because Barry had to turn his cell phone in to the bouncer at the strip club Ralph Dibny dragged everyone to, halting the low-key, brandy-and-steak-dinners bachelor party Cisco had planned for Barry. Both the parties have gone off the rails! Except that, while the women are dealing with metahumans, Barry is dealing with getting drunk off a special Cisco alcohol concoction. And Drunk Barry? Hilarious. He also shares my feelings regarding Jack and Rose and that floating door in Titanic. There was totally enough room for both on that door, Barry. You’re completely right.

Meanwhile, the bachelorette party is back at S.T.A.R Labs, where Killer Frost reveals that Caitlin’s been lying about being fully cured. When her past life and the impending strength of Killer Frost started catching up with her, Caitlin decided to skip town rather than deal with the very thing that interrupted the bachelorette party. During the six months she was missing, Caitlin loaned her Killer Frost alter-ego to a lady named Amunet, who runs some sort of underground Central City meta-drug ring and has power over metal. Now Killer Frost wants to kill Amunet because she thinks it’ll solve her problems and set her free.

Iris can’t really let Killer Frost run off to commit murder, so she plans to follow and stop her. Felicity and Cecile can come too. Things kind of escalate from there, with the group discovering that Amunet has kidnapped a metahuman whose tears have drug-like effects and Amunet wants to recruit Frost as protection detail for her future drug empire. Frost doesn’t want to work for Amunet anymore. Amunet doesn’t take “no” for an answer. And so on.

As far as stakes go, these aren’t the highest. I mean, yeah, having a metahuman drug on the market isn’t a good thing, but — and this is one of several problems with this episode — I never got the feeling that the threat was “critical.” It seems more like the writers lobbed a softball at the girls’ team because they didn’t have the resources needed to conquer anything big, which utterly defeats the purpose of having this gimmick in the first place. When you make the effort to set aside an episode in which the entire premise allows other members of a team to shine, you have to actually let them shine. “Girls Night Out” barely manages a low-level glimmer.

And you know what the biggest thing holding this episode back was? Well, other than the half-hearted attempts at “hashtag feminism,” so I guess it’s the second-biggest thing holding the episode back: The guys were still in it. A lot.

Don’t get me wrong — besides some Felicity humor and the brief moments in which Iris and Caitlin connect with each other, I probably enjoyed the guys’ part of the episode more than the ladies’. Drunk Barry alone made it worth the trouble, Harry’s peripheral snarking was wonderful, and Joe and hungover Barry having a heart-to-heart in a holding cell was a beautifully odd moment... But the focus of this episode should have been on the events of the group of women, and the reason the focus wasn’t on the group of women was because the writers didn’t provide them with a plot critical and exciting enough to warrant that kind of screen time.

What a pity, because the idea of Iris, Caitlin, Felicity, and Cecile foiling a huge, city-wide threat while the guys are offscreen doing inconsequential stuff sounds like a brilliant episode. Furthermore, if the writers had given Iris & co. a compelling adversary to triumphantly conquer, they might not have felt the need to shoehorn the word “feminism” into the episode multiple times.

Back to the story we got instead! The Killer Frost and Amunet thing goes back and forth a lot and Team Bachelorette technically wins (even though they don’t really, because Amunet gets away, which is also a problem with this episode). Let’s skip the dull details and talk about what the episode does well, which is allowing Iris and Caitlin to confront the fact that they have known each other for three years and never really became friends. They hang a lantern on that a couple times, mostly through Frost mocking the friendship-in-name-only Iris had with Caitlin, but also Caitlin herself correcting Iris’s use of “friend” to “work friend.” Since Iris and Caitlin have a few honest discussions with each other during the episode, I’m hoping it’s a hint that the writers are going to change this dynamic and work on giving the two of them more of a genuine friendship.

In the end, it’s Iris who talks Killer Frost into finding a happy medium between her identity and Caitlin’s. Some control has apparently been found, which means that Barry and the Boys return to the lab and find Killer Frost standing there, but Killer Frost shifts back to Caitlin with relative ease.

Other Things:

  • “Evil killer baby. Could happen.” “You’re right.” The solemnity with which Grant Gustin delivered that “you’re right” did so much to drive home how weird Barry’s life is.
  • HA. Felicity judging the lab’s lack of security.
  • The biggest and best mystery of the season is “This house is bitchin’.”
  • “Since when do her super powers make her a super villain?” GOOD QUESTION, FELICITY.
  • Amunet is selling off her drug-producing meta at the end, which means she’s not actually going to be running the Love Drug empire, which means recruiting Killer Frost made no sense and this episode’s lackluster plot was pointless on top of everything.
  • The show Leverage had an episode with a similar premise (in theirs, the boys had maybe five or ten minutes of screen time, tops — ahem, The Flash) but managed to get its point across without invoking hashtags or smugly correcting the use of the collective noun “guys” to “girls.” I’m just saying. It can be done without the pandering.


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