Friday, November 3, 2017

The Flash 4x04 Review: "Elongated Journey Into Night" (A Bit of a Stretch) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]

"Elongated Journey Into Night"
Original Airdate: October 31, 2017 

I keep using the word “fun” to describe a lot of what’s going on with The Flash this season, and I swear it’s not just because of my severely limited vocabulary. There was very little fun to be had last season, so I think I’m just basking in the return to this show’s former lighthearted glory. I used to like The Flash specifically because it lacked the brooding, moody gloom that every show thinks it needs to be taken seriously — and I don’t just mean other comic book shows, but other shows in general. It’s okay to have levity in entertainment! It’s okay to make your hero kind of goofy, optimistic, and good-hearted! Not every hero needs a deep, dark past or, if they do have one of those, it’s fine if they cope in ways other than steadfastly refusing to feel anything resembling joy.

But it’s not just a factor of personal taste — I think season four’s return to its roots actually helps the season’s narrative and works to clarify some of its more serious plot threads. “Elongated Journey Into Night” (is that a Eugene O'Neill reference? Deep cut for a CW comic book show) continues this season’s apparent emphasis on fun over needless drama and shines for it. Developments that would have been mediocre, such as a potential connection between The Thinker and Barry’s life, stand out amongst Cisco-running-from-Breacher hijinks and Ralph Dibny’s nauseating metahuman abilities. While last season’s Savitar mystery was bogged down by peripheral angst and despair that made me apathetic to its conclusion, this season’s mystery is contrasted against a lighter tone that it gives it room to really settle into the viewer’s awareness.


This week’s episode has a metahuman of the week, but not a metahuman villain of the week. While attempting to track down more of the twelve people on that bus that got exposed to dark matter, Team Flash find a business card for a P.I. named Ralph Dibny. Since Barry seriously hates this guy and Barry’s a puppy again, we’re predisposed to dislike him as well — and, frankly, Dibny’s introduction isn’t the best in the first place, even before we learn that Barry caught him falsifying evidence during a murder case. So, it’s easy to assume that Dibny is the villain of the week, but no! He’s actually kind of the victim, which is a rare twist on the usual formula and a good way to show the audience that Barry’s judgement still isn’t the best. Like, he’s new and improved and happy-go-lucky, but still. Don’t trust Barry Allen to make wise decisions.

After a trip to Dibny’s office (they get nothing out of him, because the hatred Barry has for Dibny is returned tenfold) Joe and Barry are walking out of the building but lo, out of the corner of the eye: Ralph Dibny being held from the roof by his legs, which have stretched multiple stories so that his torso is on terra firma while threatening goons still hold his ankles. Well that’s weird! Better cart that guy off to STAR Labs.

I don’t really understand the technobabble that ensues at the lab, but suffice to say that Dibny’s cells are a bit wonky. The man sneezes his own face off, for heaven’s sake. While Barry fights tooth and nail against helping Dibny, the rest of the team — and Caitlin in particular — insist on getting him back onto his non-stretched feet. Barry distracts himself by investigating what Dibny’s been up to, which includes blackmailing the mayor and being hated enough to almost get Barry and Iris blown up while they’re snooping around in Dibny’s office.

This seems to just be more fuel for the “Dibny’s the worst” fire burning in Barry’s soul, but it turns out the mayor is the one who planted the bomb! And also, the mayor is perfectly okay with sending hitmen to kill Joe and Barry, so he’s just all-around a bad dude. I’d be more shocked, but I never even thought about Central City even having a mayor until this episode so it’s just a big ol’ shrug from me. Central City has corrupt politicians? Eh.

Caitlin manages to stabilize Dibny’s cells enough to give him control over his stretchy powers and, after an attempt to stop his blackmail plan by blackmailing the mayor into not being blackmailed (this show is goofy and I adore it) Dibny ends up caught in the middle of a climactic hero fight. A helicopter swoops down to pick up the mayor and Joe as collateral, and it’s up to Dibny to help Barry save the day by reaching up to catch the helicopter and allowing Barry to speed along his arms. Of course, this occurs after a heroic pep talk about how Barry was wrong all along (Dibny did plant evidence, but he was certain the guy he framed actually did the murdering) and an unmasking on Barry’s part. Does just, everyone in this city know Barry is the Flash by now?

Barry gets into the helicopter and swipes the mayor’s gun, smiling smugly. Then Joe, fresh from being held hostage, turns to Barry and deadpans that Cecile is pregnant. With top-notch timing and delivery, it’s probably a comedy moment more perfect and genuine to The Flash than any of the slapstick gags they’ve been throwing out this season.

At the end of the episode, Barry asks Dibny to join the merry band of superheroes at STAR Labs. He accepts. Barry also asks him why he started investigating the mayor in the first place. Turns out it was a client who did everything over the phone and only gave his last name: DeVoe. A name which Barry has heard several times before, mostly in the context of archrivals.


The B-story for this week’s episode involved Cisco meeting Gypsy’s father, Breacher, who is played by Danny Trejo and is exactly as intimidating as every character played by Danny Trejo — which is to say, “lots intimidating.” Apparently, it’s a thing in the family for Breacher to hunt down his daughter’s boyfriends in order to prove their worth. Some of the boyfriends, by Breacher’s admission, do not survive.

Cisco’s plot is entirely comic relief, but works with the rest of the episode because, I emphasize this again, having a lighter tone actually allows for a lot more freedom in a show like The Flash. This B-plot is also worth mentioning because it gives some extra screen time to Cisco and Gypsy. The relationship between the two — and, in fact, all the relationships on the show right now, including Barry/Iris and Joe/Cecile — is happy and light and full of genuine regard. It’s bereft of the tragedy shows think all relationships require to be interesting, and that’s what makes it wonderful to watch. (But with that said, I don’t entirely trust this show not to mess these carefree relationships up. Especially since Joe and Cecile are having a baby and that just opens all the doors for potential tragedy.)

Basically, Breacher’s battle against Cisco is the usual “gotta prove yourself” sort and, because Cisco is Cisco, he does prove himself in the end by facing against Breacher to protect Dibny and Barry during the episode climax. Breacher still hates Cisco, but he trusts him to protect Gypsy (not that she’d ever really need protecting) and respects his ability to stand up to his foes, no matter how much they outmatch him. Cisco’s prize is learning Gypsy’s real name (it’s Cynthia, which I swear we’ve heard on the show before but I’m probably wrong). Breacher’s name is Josh, by the way. Hee.

Other Things:
  • "You look like someone I once sent my daughter to kill." "I get that a lot." There was so much terrific stuff in the Cisco vs. Breacher plot. Everyone’s reaction to Breacher was A+.
  • I like how the show has just dropped any negative effects of speedsters moving non-speedsters at superspeed. The first season, Barry set his clothes on fire because physics. This season? He can phase Iris through a floor and she’s just dandy.
  • But I (non-sarcastically) like that the next scene was just Iris going, “And that’s what it feels like to vibrate through solid matter.”
  • Cisco’s superhero disguise is literally sunglasses.


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