Thursday, May 24, 2018

The Flash 4x23 Review: "We Are the Flash" (A Series of Uninspiring Events) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]

"We Are the Flash"
Original Airdate: May 22, 2018 

It’s here! The Flash’s fourth season finale! And it’s... exactly the finale I expected from as season that started out strong but has been slowly losing steam since around the midpoint. “We Are the Flash” is predictable, lacking in emotional oomph, and sub-par on the special effects because they burned all the money on the 22 previous episodes and I’m going to say this again, The Flash: Shorten. Your. Seasons. There would be so many benefits to doing so — better storytelling, more in the budget for CGI that doesn’t make your humans look like plastic action figures, and you’ve already hit those sweet, sweet syndication numbers, so what are you holding out for?


The most lackluster season finale in the history of The Flash season finales begins with the Enlightenment, which starts in Central City but is calculated to cover the entire globe by the end of the episode.

That Enlightenment prediction comes from Marlize, newly arrived at S.T.A.R. Labs with Iris. Marlize is also the person who provides the plot for the first half of the episode: With the help of Cecile’s pregnancy powers, Barry is going to link up with DeVoe’s mind via the hoverchair and search for the good that Marlize still believes is hidden in DeVoe, somewhere. It’s a desperate plan, and everyone knows it. Barry mentions enlisting the help of his super pals instead, but Marlize tells him DeVoe’s powers were “specifically” chosen to oppose anyone Team Flash called to help. Uh... none of DeVoe’s powers include kryptonite radiation, so I still think Kara would be a good choice, but okay.

Barry goes into DeVoe’s brain with the assumption that DeVoe wouldn’t detect him, but there’s still a hoverchair Thinker lurking about. Ducking inside the bus meta bus in DeVoe’s memories allows a moment for Barry to catch the team up on being in someone else’s mind. Marlize directs Barry to the DeVoe household, which is symbolically empty — right down to blank photographs — of anything associated with DeVoe’s humanity.

In the real world, Harry is deteriorating and wants to use the Thinking Cap. Cisco resists the idea for like, a second, and once it’s on Harry’s head, Harry gives Cisco the idea to send Barry to the place where DeVoe and Marlize first fell in love. Then he hugs Cisco, providing the only real moment of genuine emotion in the episode. When the cap is powered down and removed, Harry starts muttering things, including “Nora shouldn’t be here,” which is one of the sentences Barry said during his post-Speed Force bout of crazy. We do figure out which “Nora” shouldn’t be where she is later, but get no clarification for why Enlightened Harry was channeling Barry with the Speed Force crazies.

Back in DeVoe’s brain, Ralph Dibny is there. Evil DeVoe is there. But good DeVoe is not. Where is good DeVoe? He’s dead! Yeah, of course he is. I seriously doubt DeVoe’s goodness was ever as strong as Marlize believed it to be.

DeVoe shows up where Team Flash and Marlize are and threatens them with the plan of using Barry’s presence in his mind to spread the Enlightenment all through time and space, thanks to Barry’s connection to the Speed Force. Marlize zaps everyone to DeVoe’s pocket dimension to hide out.

Since the good in DeVoe is dead, Barry gets the idea that the “good” is actually Dibny, not any version of DeVoe himself. Barry’s idea: get Dibny to the nexus in DeVoe’s mind, get him out, and let him take over his own body again. Confusingly, rather than simply speeding Ralph to that nexus, Barry stops down the road and must fight through a series of duplicated DeVoes, Matrix style. It’s all for the sake of a fight sequence that, thanks to really shotty CGI, was… not worth it.

Dibny gets out. DeVoe is gone. Then he comes back as a hologram, pointlessly, and gets killed again — I guess so Marlize could take action and be the one to finalize his death? — and that’s the halfway mark of the episode. Yeah, for real. The villain is defeated at the halfway mark. I did mention this finale was lackluster, right?

The third climactic event of the episode is Team Flash dealing with the aftermath of Enlightenment’s shutdown, including falling satellite parts that must be dealt with before they destroy the city. Barry zooms around to build up energy to punch the largest satellite part. Then he… reverses, and does it again, except there’s purple speed lightning and someone else lands a second punch. I know who it was (Nora) but… what actually happened? Did Barry die the first time around and Nora reversed it to save him? That sounds like a paradox waiting to happen.

Crisis averted, though. The city cheers! Cecile has had her baby! Everyone is happy! Dibny is alive! ... I am slightly less happy.

Marlize leaves Team Flash to go do Marlize things — real, pre-DeVoe Marlize things, like helping feed people and stuff. I wish the would-be villainess luck in her endeavors. Before she leaves, though, she gives Team Flash something that should help get Harry back to normal. It seems to work when Cisco tries it out, but Harry is too normal. His personality has certainly improved, and he seems okay with his lot in life, but he’s no longer a genius. After hugs and goodbyes, he shuffles off to his own Earth to be with his daughter.

Speaking of daughters: at the welcome home party for Cecile and the new baby (Jenna Marie West, and if that has comic book significance I haven’t figured it out yet) Mystery Girl shows up. Everyone realizes they’ve all interacted with her, and she’s wearing Iris’s jacket, and finally drops, “This house is bitchin’”! But more importantly, she announces that her name is Nora... Barry and Iris’s daughter from the future. And she made a big, big mistake.

Weird, but as a way to tie up loose ends, this finale was perfect. In terms of laying out plot points and foreshadowing, this entire season was perfect! The existence of the bus metas was planted early and each one of them served a purpose, even beyond being metahumans of the week. Barry’s post-Speed Force ramblings (dropping the line from his trial, mentioning Nora, scribbling out the ever-important “This house is bitchin’”) turned up again, adding to the mystery of what he was seeing/thinking when hyped up on Speed Force. Cecile’s powers weren’t just convenient for one episode and forgotten; she’s critical to this finale. Marlize’s turn from her husband, the revelation of emotion and goodness being utterly gone from DeVoe, even the stuff surrounding Ralph Dibny, his evolution from a selfish jerk to the “good part” of DeVoe — all of it was set up with a precision that should be incredibly clever.

So what went wrong? Personally, I’m still blaming the number of episodes the writers had to fill. It’s the only explanation that makes sense to me. It doesn’t matter how great your ingredients are and how skilled you are as a chef — if you’ve got enough food for four people but have to make a stew that serves thirty, things are going to get watered down. The Flash’s fourth season, in the end, is gourmet, watered-down stew. And that’s unfortunate.

But I’ll just hope for better next time. Here’s to season five!

Other Things:
  • Barry has his job back, according to Captain Singh, and I am very surprised that this episode doesn’t end with Barry somehow losing it again. The Flash really has it out for Barry’s CSI career.
  • So how many people who were on life support when the Enlightenment shut off all electronics ended up dying? Everything’s all happy at the end but... yeah. People done died, dudes.
  • Was Cecile channeling Caitlin’s subconscious Killer Frost when she says, “I found Thomas. He’s been this way all the time”? The effect on her voice reminded me of the hissy-echo they put over Killer Frost’s.
  • Joe being able to turn a gun on DeVoe despite DeVoe’s attempts to control him. That’s some willpower right there.
  • I giggled after Cisco and Harry quote Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Iris turns to Barry and says, knowingly, “Star Wars.” Barry’s expression was so worried!
  • Other cute Barry/Iris moment: Barry panicking about Iris mentioning having kids.


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