Friday, May 18, 2018

The Flash 4x22 Review: "Think Fast" (Blinded by the Enlightenment) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]

"Think Fast"
Original Airdate: May 15, 2018 

The penultimate episode of The Flash’s fourth season is here, and boy does that feel true. Not only because this season has dragged out so long I’ve pondered drafting a “half-seasons ain’t so bad, guys!” think piece in the vain hope that it might inspire the producers to dial it the heck back a little — but also, stuff happens! You know it’s close to finale time when stuff happens. And I do love when stuff happens on The Flash, because it’s usually sparkly.


Our episode opens with Diggle trying to get into an ARGUS base. It’s been a while since I’ve watched Arrow, but even I recognized that Diggle wasn’t acting like Diggle. So, it’s really no surprise when the Diggle we see turns out to be DeVoe in a Diggle disguise. Once past most of the security he needs to pass, DeVoe turns back into himself and proceeds to lay down some incredibly cool villainy on all the ARGUS personnel on site. Seriously, the entire opening sequence of DeVoe entering the base where they’re keeping Fallout (the nuclear metahuman) is probably one of the coolest sequences the show has ever done.

So much happens that I can’t really give a play-by-play description, but here’s a basic summary: it’s all set to Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus” (the start of some religious/god themes surrounding DeVoe throughout the episode) and I’m pretty sure DeVoe uses all his stolen powers at least once. Cleverly, this “Hallelujah” hallway fight includes DeVoe briefly cutting out the diegetic sound just as the chorus sings, “And he shall reign forever and ever,” further hinting at The Thinker’s god complex. Fun trivia that’s probably not intentional but my brain makes odd connections: Rodin’s The Thinker statue, which DeVoe’s villain moniker probably alludes to, is part of a sculpted tableau inspired by Dante’s The Divine Comedy and is called The Gates of Hell. So basically, The Thinker sits at the entryway to damnation — i.e., his not-so-enlightening Enlightenment. Yay, religiously inspired metaphor!

At S.T.A.R. Labs, Team Flash is assessing their status re: DeVoe. It is not good. Everyone is inconveniently busy (Joe and Cecile worrying about the baby, Caitlin preoccupied by Killer Frost) or inconveniently stupid (Harry), and all they have is knowledge of DeVoe’s five Enlightenment satellites plus one Amunet metal bomb. Things only get worse when Iris receives a comment on her DeVoe blog post signifying that The Thinker is going after Fallout.

Cue: Real John Diggle! Barry zips over to Star City to retrieve Team Flash’s most accessible associate of ARGUS. Dig immediately vomits into a trash can Cisco has at the ready, and no I don’t think I’ll ever stop being amused by Diggle’s negative reaction to Barry’s super speed. Anyway, he tells Team Flash where ARGUS is keeping Fallout, then logs into the system and discovers that “he” checked into the facility six hours ago. From there, everyone realizes that “Diggle” was DeVoe, Fallout is going nuclear, and DeVoe is going to use the energy from Fallout to power his Enlightenment device.

To add more problems onto their already heaping helping of problems, heat signatures indicate there are six ARGUS agents still inside the building as hostages. Barry can probably get to DeVoe and his portal, but he can’t do that and save six people.

The solution Cisco and Caitlin come up with is for Barry to bring them along with him when he enters Flash Time. Cisco and Caitlin theorize that Barry’s ability isn’t just tapping into the Speed Force, it’s generating a Speed Force “aura” around himself. He thought he had to touch people to bring them into Flash Time, but Caitlin thinks it’s just a method of focus and Barry can let go, allowing her and Cisco to save the hostages while Barry gets DeVoe.

Although scaffolded by absolute technobabble, the Barry/Caitlin/Cisco plot of the episode explores a lot of fun Flash sci-fi while giving us decent character moments — especially when Barry starts waffling on whether he can drag his best friends into a dangerous situation and Cisco tells him to take his “gotta do it alone” self-sacrificing mindset and shove it. Also, Caitlin gets to work through some stuff thanks to this plot, and it leads to the most interesting Caitlin story of the whole season: a suppressed memory reveals that Caitlin was Killer Frost even as a child — which means metahumans did not begin with the particle accelerator explosion.

While Barry, Cisco, and Caitlin practice making breaches and using freeze guns in Flash Time, Iris and Harry have teamed up to hunt down Marlize. Harry thinks there must be some good in Marlize, but Iris is holding an understandable grudge on account of the woman once attacking her with a katana. Iris just wants Marlize contained, since Iris thinks (also understandably) Marlize is just as bad as The Thinker himself.

Again, the Iris and Harry plot works well in this episode, from a character standpoint. Iris starts off pretty patient with Harry’s dwindling intelligence, but you see that patience wear thinner and thinner until it finally snaps when Harry brings up turning Marlize over to their side. Since Iris starts off the episode with optimism for how the readers of her blog could help Team Flash, the bitterness she has toward Marlize is especially vibrant — and then everything flows back to optimism again when Iris confronts Marlize with one of Marlize’s own quotes: “Pessimism isn’t smarter than optimism. In this life, the bravest thing you can be is optimistic.”

Iris ends her big speech to Marlize by saying she believes in her — despite all her previous, pessimistic expectations of Marlize being confirmed when Mrs. DeVoe laments that her husband had been right and humanity corrupts everything it touches, so it should be Enlightened. This subplot is all a rather wonderfully twisty knot of pessimism vs. optimism, and it’s not entirely clear whether Iris genuinely believes in what she says to Marlize, or if she’s saying it because she knows having Marlize on their side makes for a better chance of stopping DeVoe. As much as I love Iris giving a grand, heroic, hopeful monologue, I think I like the ambiguity even more.

But alas, it seems it’s all for naught. Despite being able to save the ARGUS hostages, following DeVoe, and shooting down one of the five satellites with the Amunet bomb, DeVoe is unperturbed. Even when Barry sasses him about quoting Nietzsche, DeVoe just goes on and on about how kids these days need to put down their phones and listen to him. Is this all a latent resentment from his experience as a professor? Too many students had phones go off while he was lecturing, so now he wants to eradicate Google? And emotion, too, I guess, even though he’s clearly fond of curiosity and I’ve always thought that was an emotion.

The team realizes that shooting down the satellite wasn’t the win they thought it’d be when DeVoe sneaks into S.T.A.R. Labs and uses the Gideon computer in Wells’s secret room to launch the Enlightenment for realsies, by shooting a giant laser into the sky. One of these days, I’d really like for a supervillain to enact his plan for world domination with something other than shooting a laser into the sky. Maybe a gentle, rolling fog of evil? A death mist? A sinister glitter bomb?

After a few more biblical quotes from DeVoe, the Enlightenment has officially begun.

(It’s very purple.)

Other Things:
  • Cisco name-drops the Super Friends, and... what... The Flash has been IN the Super Friends! Stop breaking reality, Cisco!
  • “Boom! Mic drop!” “Hold onto that mic.” “It’s imaginary.” I’m glad Iris and Harry got to team up in this episode.
  • Dr. Finkel directly associates Caitlin’s past trauma with her childhood trauma, which implies that it’s documented somewhere... right?
  • “Everyone I’ve tried to teach has ended up worse than when I found them.” You’re just a bad teacher, Barry. I’ve been saying this.
  • Kudos to the show for Iris’s katana wound continuity. Hope it sticks around.
  • DeVoe’s big speech to Barry gave me some serious BBC Sherlock vibes. Did some of the writers do a binge-watch?


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