The penultimate episode of The Flash’s season four – titled ‘Think Fast’ – wrapped up a few loose threads. And left a good number dangling.
A Bad Man’s Bad Plan
Unsurprisingly, this season’s Big Bad, DeVoe, had a great deal of focus this episode. Using his Gumby powers to impersonate John Diggle, DeVoe broke into ARGUS to further his evil plot. Barry had to take Cisco and Caitlin into Flashtime, knowing they would only be able to last there a second in real time, to try to stop him and save the hostages. This week’s episode had some great conflict between Barry and Cisco, who finally got a few things off his chest. Unfortunately, however, it also really highlighted the flaws in the villain’s story this season.
As excited as I was at the prospect of a non-speedster villain – and as much as I’ve enjoyed Neil Sandilands as DeVoe – the reality failed to live up to expectations. DeVoe’s grand plan was unveiled only a couple of episodes ago. It has also been ultimately underwhelming. His threat is largely theoretical, has no emotional stakes for the audience, and doesn’t really seem like that much of a threat at all.
Is there anyone who thinks that Barry won’t stop DeVoe next episode? And, unlike in seasons past, is there any real concern that he might fail to the point of suffering meaningful or even tragic consequences? There’s no way they’re taking science out of S.T.A.R. Labs next year. So not only is there no great cause for concern that Barry won’t ultimately be successful. There’s no reason to fear that he won’t be entirely successful, either.
Thanks to using dark matter in his helmet, Harry has been slowly losing his intelligence for the last few episodes. This arc (if one could call it that) offered plenty of opportunity to see Tom Cavanagh portray frustration and pathos. It is ultimately through his character that the show is trying to put some emotional stakes on this plot. “This is what will happen if Barry fails.” But there’s absolutely no chance he’ll fail to any measurable degree. So while Harry may be serving as a cautionary tale, does his story really succeed at creating those stakes?
Frankly, while I’ve never wanted to hug Harry more, I don’t think it does. The Flash has a habit of waiting a little too long for the big reveal. While the reveal is usually the villain’s identity, this season’s mystery revolved around his plan. He had Barry arrested and was kidnapping bus metas, but we didn’t know why until a few episodes ago. Unfortunately, his plan – destroying all technology and regressing the world’s intelligence – is more of a baffling struggle to care than a gripping threat.
An Unlikely Partnership
While Harry’s arc might be currently lacking, he did have some good scenes this week. He had some lovely moments with Iris after she invited him to join her investigation, recognizing his desire to be useful. He even brought just the right balance of humor and drama, which is something the show has struggled to find this year.
DeVoe’s story is lurching towards its ultimate conclusion; the subplot with Marlize provides the only real emotional stakes to the conflict. Her faith and devotion to him is thanks largely to her ignorance of his actions, and personally, I’m still hoping for her to get some revenge for his manipulation and cruelty earlier this season. However, it was wonderful to see Iris get through to her, to remind her of the person she had been before she joined her husband on his dark path.
It seemed only fitting that Harry and Iris should get through to Marlize, convincing her to join them in their fight. Iris’s role as reporter and voice of the people has grown more pronounced over the last couple of episodes, hopefully a sign of things to come next year. The faceoff between Marlize and Iris in this episode was a reminder of their standoff in court, when Marlize asked what Iris would be willing to do for her husband. This time, Iris asked what Marlize would do to save the world. It was a perfect reminder once again that these people are heroes because they fight for that which is greater than themselves.
The main plot of the episode was about the threat posed by DeVoe. However, the remaining plots were all about family. They touched on family when Iris acknowledged that her home with Barry is where she feels safe. This helped her to work out where Marlize was hiding so they could find her to either get her help or take her out of the equation. They touched on family when Marlize expressed her love for the man who long since stopped deserving her.
The subject was explored more in-depth with Joe and Cecile. Yes, their plot seemed a little bit of a diversion from the main events of the episode. However, it was hardly an unwelcome one. Jesse L. Martin has been almost criminally underutilized this season, so it was fun to see him on screen. And Danielle Nicolet has probably never had more fun on the show as she tried her hand at playing a surfer-boy type, Caitlin Snow, and Joe West himself.
And family was a plot in the confirmation that Killer Frost has been part of Caitlin all along. The show hinted as much a few episodes ago. However, this episode made it unequivocally clear. With Cisco’s help, Caitlin revisited a memory she’d suppressed from her childhood. In it, she remembered Killer Frost manifesting when she was a young girl. Killer Frost has always been a part of her.
With this now firmly established, some questions remain. How did she have powers before the particle accelerator explosion? This episode reminded the audience of her dad’s illness. She talked about her relationship with him in therapy. And he was a figure in Caitlin’s suppressed memory. Is that foreshadowing that he is linked to Frost’s existence? And what will this revelation mean for the future? If Killer Frost has always been a part of Caitlin, she likely not a separate persona. They hinted as much in her conversation with the therapist. She is likely just the “darker” side of Caitlin herself. The side that is allowed to act on those thoughts and urges that she would otherwise suppress and ignore.
If this is true, will this lead to any accountability for Killer Frost’s actions last year? The show has swept that entire mess under the rug all season, so I’m assuming not. But what is the point of establishing that the two are the same person if the show isn’t going to give Caitlin an arc and character growth that stems from being accountable for what were apparently her own actions?
One thing is for sure: this finale is going to be packed. It is finally time for season-long teases to pay off. In particular, people have been waiting for “This house is bitchin'” and “We’re going to need more diapers” to come around again. Frost may be making her return. Cecile and Joe will have their baby. Mystery Girl must reveal her identity and purpose. The writers have to lay the groundwork for next year’s story. And, of course, Barry still has to take down DeVoe.
Will they manage to give an uneven season a satisfying conclusion? Only time will tell.
The Flash airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on the CW.