Thursday, May 3, 2018

The Flash 4x20 Review: "Therefore She Is" (Bye Bye Love) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]

"Therefore She Is"
Original Airdate: May 1, 2018 

Relationships! Tough things, relationships. Despite what the song says, love is not all you need. Sometimes the stars don’t align with that special someone and it feels like fate is against you. For example, you might fall in love with a person who’s from another version of Earth and doesn’t like the travel, or you could fall in love with someone who keeps a megalomaniacal master plan for humanity in a journal and might eventually try to rule the world. Ah, the everyday struggles of being in love.

Yeah, this week’s episode theme is relationships, I guess.


First up: The DeVoes. We get a flashback to when Marlize and Clifford DeVoe met. It turns out DeVoe wasn’t just a nice professor who loved macaroni and cheese before his dark matter helmet turned him into a jerk — he was always a jerk! His introduction to Marlize is shooting down her optimistic view of humanity’s relationship with technology, in public, during a panel discussion at Oxford eight years ago. DeVoe’s theory: “The best ideas by the smartest of men often have a way of becoming corrupted.” Oooh, significant!

Marlize and Clifford seem to have a pretty charming courtship despite their rocky start. They go on picnics and dance in the park. Then they move in together and Marlize discovers Clifford’s outrageous villain manifesto in one of his boxes, in which he outlines ideas on how technology endangers humanity because breakthroughs will inevitably be used to hurt people. Clifford wants to “reset” humanity back to a simplistic consciousness, then re-teach them without technology as a crutch.

Wait. Clifford, you want to reduce 7.4 billion people to the intelligence of infants and then re-teach them? All of them? You realize that regular teachers struggle with just a couple dozen students, and you want to take on 7.4 billion?

This is The Thinker’s grand plan, the thing the whole season has been leading up to, and it’s just... I have so many questions and half of them are “What?” I don’t think there’s any follow-up for how DeVoe will teach 7.4 billion people! He wants to reset humanity to how they were before technology happened, but he doesn’t say what he’s going to do with all the technology that exists on the planet at the time of his big “Enlightenment.” People baby-proof houses for a reason, Clifford, and that reason is because humanity is naturally curious. A whole lot of people are going to start pressing a whole lot of buttons the second their brains get turned into mush, and some of those people will be working at nuclear power plants and missile launch sites — like, there are so many ways this can go spectacularly wrong.

Oh, jeez. Moving on: Flashback-Marlize leaves Clifford, which turns him into an absolute wreck because he might have no compassion for humanity at large, but he’s deeply in love with Marlize. She’s working on creating a water purifier in another country and Clifford calls her (how’d he get her number?) to beg for her to come home, just before a militia group attacks the camp she’s at. When Marlize wakes up, Clifford is by her side and she suddenly agrees that humans are trash and need to be taken down a few pegs, since the attack was because the militia group wanted Marlize’s water purifying technology.

This insight on the DeVoe couple before they became villains doesn’t really sit well with me because it shows DeVoe being nearly as unemotional and lacking in empathy when he was a regular human as he is when he’s The Thinker. The draw of the DeVoe/Thinker character was that he was a kind-hearted, intelligent man with good intentions whose quest for improvement drives him to sociopathy, to the horror of his loving wife. Now he’s just a sociopath who turned into a smarter sociopath, which lacks the poetic, comic book tragedy of the original concept. And Marlize being on board with his evil plan is just... confusing. Her arc is less an arc and more a random squiggle.


Our second star-crossed relationship of the episode is between Cisco and Cynthia/Gypsy. Both of them are fretting over the prospect of Cisco taking Breacher’s place as Cynthia’s partner in the Collections business. They’re both avoiding the issue, but Cynthia gets called over from Earth-19 to partner up with Cisco, in the hopes that two metas with vibing powers might be able to sneak up on The Thinker. Unfortunately, they have to be completely in sync with each other, and that’s not happening while the partnership issue hangs over their heads. Enter: Barry.

Barry's problem is that he wants to control everything around him, but he is sorely unequipped to control anything. Barry’s tasked with training new meta heroes? He’s actually a terrible teacher. Barry can travel through time? He has poor judgement; screws up the timeline. This episode, Barry seems to think he’d make a good couples’ therapist, but he lacks patience. And perspective. Listen: Barry got supremely lucky when he found out his childhood sweetheart was his soulmate. His advice to Cisco and Cynthia is for them to just talk it out and be honest because honesty is all he had to master to get the love of his life. The dude’s sheltered.

Naturally, all Barry’s pushing backfires. Sure, Cisco and Cynthia gather bits and pieces of info on DeVoe for the team (he’s stealing tech to build a system that will spread his “Enlightenment” around the globe; the irony that he requires technology in order to enact his technology-free utopia is not lost) but it’s mostly a wild goose chase punctuated by poor Cisco and Cynthia getting blasted across rooms every time they co-vibe. I will give Team Flash some credit: They manage to get closer than ever to stopping DeVoe by tag-teaming an attack. He gets the upper hand in the end, though, and nearly chokes Cynthia to death in the process. Only Marlize calling him out on killing innocent people makes him stop, which is confusing because he’s supposed to be emotionless now.

After the fight, Harry and Cecile (who were hanging out because Joe needed to distract Cecile from a surprise baby shower) reveal that Cecile can read Harry’s disappearing thoughts and write them down before they’re gone. This means they know DeVoe’s plans, which we already went over in the first half of the review.

Sigh. In the end, Cisco and Cynthia break up. It’s incredibly sad, but also maybe my favorite scene in the episode, since the two actors do a fantastic job with it. Honestly, Carlos Valdes is a real MVP throughout this whole subplot, from his anxious avoidance of the issues in his relationship to the way his voice breaks when he tells Cynthia he loves her to the little smile he gives her after they kiss goodbye. Cisco is so often a comedic relief character, it’s nice when we get to see that the actor behind him is just as capable of some wonderful, emotional work as well.

At Cecile’s baby shower, Barry — again, with good intentions but poor execution — tries to comfort Cisco over the breakup. Doesn’t go well. Oh, and speaking of breakups: elsewhere, Marlize has come to her senses and decided to leave The Thinker! Unfortunately, she doesn’t seem to be going off to join the side of good, but instead becoming a rival villain to her husband. Um... well, that subverted my expectations.

Other Things:
  • I find it very charming how Harry calls Cecile “DA Cecile Horton” every time he addresses her.
  • I might be underwhelmed by the turn in the DeVoes’ storyline, but Marlize’s parting words to her husband (“Oh, Clifford. You are nothing without me.”) were pretty great.
  • Mystery Girl Who Could Be Dawn shows up again, this time to deliver a gift at Cecile’s shower. Nothing about this girl’s behavior makes any sense, which is probably intentional so that anything the writers throw at us could be retroactively plausible. She’s a speedster, though, FYI.

1 comment:

  1. Stray thought: How did Clifford manage to carry that box of books in without them falling over and covering the strategically placed "manifesto"? He is really not an efficient packer.