‘The Flash’ 4×02 Review: ‘Mixed Signals’

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Words cannot describe how great it feels to watch The Flash this season and feel satisfied. Not just that, but to have fun watching it again. It’s something that started waning late in Season 2 and throughout Season 3. But with last week’s premiere — and The Flash’s latest hour, “Mixed Signals — I feel as if, like Barry, this show has been reborn. A new start.

The Flash has always been at its best when it’s embracing the heart and humor of the matter. No matter how dark things got on The Flash — discounting Season 3, for reasons — the show usually managed to find a way to balance it in a way that didn’t feel overwhelming. I expect darkness from a show like Arrow, which also has a nice humorous balance. But with The Flash, there’s an expectation for a lighthearted, family-friendly hour that can tackle the dramatic but also do it in a hilarious manner.

At the core of this week’s heart and humor was Barry and Iris’ couple’s counseling session, which managed to combine everything I needed and didn’t realize I needed into a few sequences. The Flash managed to capitalize on opportunities where they could take something they knew they’d address in a serious manner but also add some humor to it to balance it.

Whether it was couple’s therapy or technological malfunctions in the new Flash suit or Cisco and Gypsy, there were plenty of moments that reminded me why I fell in love with The Flash in the first place. I came to this show for the light tone, the impressive writing, and these amazing characters that just leap off the screen.

The Flash’s Season 4 premiere wasn’t a one-hit wonder. In fact, this second episode did it even better. It feels as if, with the start of a new chapter, that The Flash is becoming bigger and better while also embracing what made it a success in its freshman season. And, hell, now I remember what it feels like to look forward to Tuesday nights.

Let’s break this episode down:

They’re Barry & Iris…But Even They Have Problems

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While Barry and Iris might be “Barry & Iris,” that doesn’t mean that they’re immune to the kinds of problems that all couples in a relationship face. At the center of this week’s episode was an issue of communication, which Iris visibly appeared uncomfortable with.

Since Barry’s return last week, there’s been this newborn quality about him. Yes, he’s “The Flash Reborn,” but he’s still Barry Allen returning to a city that he hadn’t been in for the past six months. Yet Barry went about his daily routine as if nothing had changed. As if six months hadn’t changed anything. As if the people around him hadn’t changed. As if all was right with the world.

It was not.

Caitlin, noticing Iris’ discomfort, suggested couples therapy, which seemed to work for Caitlin and Ronnie when they started working together. At first, Iris dismissed it — they’re Barry & Iris, they don’t need therapy. There was that underlying stigma that comes with words like “counseling” and “therapy,” which was evident. When you throw around words like that, you start to believe that people will judge you, and not for the better, because of it. But things got to the point where Iris understood that not only was couples therapy a good suggestion, it was a necessity.

At first, the couples therapy really played up the humorous aspect of it, which I appreciated. This is The Flash, a show that lost itself last year in darkness, attempting to regain the balance between heart and humor that made it so successful in its freshman season. And it managed to do just that during this humorous couples session, which included hilarious excuses, iconic reactions, and just some really well-written dialogue that flowed so effortlessly.

But what I also appreciated about this couple’s therapy was how it wasn’t just written off as a joke. Sure, it embraced the humor where it could. But deep down, there were some serious issues that needed to be addressed. And they were.

While certainly Barry’s behavior since he returned was a cause for concern for Iris, once Barry and Iris really started talking — really started to express their feelings — we discovered that there is a deeper rooted issue at hand: Iris is angry at Barry for leaving her six months ago.

We saw in last week’s premiere that Iris was severely affected by Barry’s absence. And that was six months later! That’s six months of pent up anger, sadness, and a mix of negative emotions that had been afflicting Iris. She never dealt with those emotions. Even when Barry returned, Iris never really dealt with those emotions.

Sure, it’d be nice for things to just go back to how they used to be with Barry being back. But you can’t change how grief and pain have affected you. Even if something lost returns. Iris lived through that pain. Iris repressed that pain. And when Barry returned, it didn’t go away. It actually rose to the surface.

And while Iris might not have wanted to hurt Barry’s feelings, she was actually hurting herself and them both in the process by keeping that inside. Emotion demands to be felt. It demands to be expressed. And once Iris let it out, the healing began.

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They’re Barry and Iris. They’re epic. They’re lovely. They’re perfect. They’re iconic. But even the most iconic of couples aren’t perfect. They’re people, after all. And no one is perfect. So it was nice to see The Flash address that. It was nice to see The Flash, which could’ve easily just brushed Iris’ hidden feelings to the side, really do right by Iris by letting her express herself. By letting her express herself and her and Barry talking things through.

These are the kind of human moments that you yearn for from your OTP. You don’t want the perfect. You want the difficult. Because you know that you’re going to get evolution and growth and strength from adversity.

Barry and Iris both needed a reminder that effective communication is key. That even if they don’t think something’s a big deal, they need to express themselves. Nothing is too small or insignificant. Once you start thinking that way, emotions build up and bigger issues form.

Barry and Iris really took a positive step forward in this episode. They not only admitted that they needed to communicate better, but they actually put their words into action. We saw — in a time of crisis — where Barry and Iris needed to be a team.

After all, marriage is about being a team. It’s about tackling the world together. And when it comes to be being a team, nothing is more important than honesty and communication.

A New Love Story?

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If there’s been something over the past couple of seasons that I’ve had an issue with, it’s been the treatment — or lack thereof — of one Cisco Ramon. Cisco, who has been a staple from the start of the series, has usually been delegated to comedic relief until he finally embraced his hero persona, Vibe.

But even with Vibe there was something missing. Romance.

Not that a person needs a love interest to make them interesting, but through television it’s getting to know these characters through their relationships with others that really defines them. We’ve seen Cisco the friend. We’ve seen Cisco the genius. We even got a small glimpse at Cisco the brother. But we haven’t gotten to see Cisco the boyfriend.

Enter Gypsy.

I’m almost cautious at this point because I don’t want to ruin a good thing. I don’t want to invest in a ship if things aren’t going to work out. But Cisco and Gypsy are one hell of a pair. They’re so different yet so similar and they jive off each other so well.

And while, yes, usually that has involved a lot of humor, Cisco’s specialty, “Mixed Signals” actually allowed Cisco to embrace his sensitive, romantic side, which opened up a new window into who Cisco Ramon the person is.

When Gypsy came to Earth-1 for a date, Cisco and Team Flash found themselves dealing with a metahuman with impressive hacking abilities. Cisco continued to push Gypsy off, claiming “work emergency.” And he wasn’t lying. But at the same time, if Cisco and Gyspy are going to give this relationship a try, they’re going to have to really try.

That means that an ordinary, psychotic meta — a weekly norm — can’t always be an excuse for brushing off plans and your significant other. And that’s exactly what Cisco learned in this episode. He not only apologized for his actions, but he showed Gypsy just how much she means to him as he recreated her Earth’s 1-1-1 day, an equivalent to Valentine’s Day.

I loved that we got to see Cisco as more than just the genius or the techie or the funny guy. In this episode, we got to see that Cisco is a hottie. He’s a romantic. He’s a charmer. He’s someone that’s deserving of love and just as willing to give it back tenfold. I love that we got to know Cisco a little bit better tonight.

But, as I said, I’m cautious when it comes to shipping Cisco and Gypsy because I don’t want to invest in a good thing only for it to be taken from me. Please, don’t take it from me. Or, even more important, don’t take it from Cisco.

New Metas. New Problems.

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Well, it wouldn’t be a new season of The Flash without a Big Bad plotting some evil shit. Only this villain is different from the others we’ve seen in the past. This Big Bad isn’t a speedster. This Big Bad is intelligent. Like super intelligent. Because, duh, intelligence is a superpower. Just ask Cisco, Caitlin, and Felicity Smoak.

In “Mixed Signals,” we met a new metahuman that seemed to be like a super enhanced hacker. Like all the other metas Team Flash has encountered, we assumed he was made as a result of the Particle Accelerator. Only that wasn’t the case.

So then how did he become a metahuman?

Turns out the answer begins with our new friend, The Thinker, who it appears has created a new group of metahumans for whatever diabolical purpose he’s yet to set into motion. All we know is that there are plenty more out there. And they’re coming. And things are only going to get worse.

6 Things About “Mixed Signals”

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  1. The Flash has made an obvious effort to return to its lighthearted tone that defined it as such an enjoyable hour of television back in its freshman season. You could just feel it. The Flash is back. And it wasn’t a one-hit wonder after last week’s premiere. This is why I watch The Flash. Well, that’s one thing among many reasons.
  2. That Barry & Iris couples counseling sequence was the stuff of epicness. It managed to bring a sense of humor — organic humor where the actors thrive off each other and everything just seems to fall into place. But it also didn’t just brush it off as a joke. The therapy helped get to the root of the problem: Iris’ anger towards Barry for leaving her six months ago. That breakthrough allowed them to grow closer and stronger than they were before.
  3. Yeah, Flash, we saw that nod to Caitlin’s struggle to fend off Killer Frost. I’m still wondering exactly what’s going on there. I don’t know if we’re back to Caitlin holding off Killer Frost — albeit on her own accord, this time — or if it’s something else entirely. I need to know more. And The Flash knows that. Those bastards are smart.
  4. I am so down for this Cisco-Gypsy love story because these are two people that couldn’t be more different but also couldn’t be more the same. They have such an amazing chemistry, an amazing connection, and there’s a genuine care there. Please bring me more Gypsy this season.
  5. Still laughing over that entire sequence where the many technological functions of Barry’s new suit — designed by Cisco — began malfunctioning. It was the perfect example of how this show needs to continue to capitalize on moments like this and infuse comedy into them. Well done.
  6. So there are new metahumans? And The Thinker is behind it? What’s his agenda? Where the hell are these other metas? Are they different types of metas? This guy is seriously creeping me out, which I assume is the intention.

The Flash airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on The CW.

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