The Flash 3×17 Review: ‘Duet’ (An Ode to Westallen & Karamel)

Typically when you hear about musical episodes you prepare for the cheesiness. Not that it’s necessarily a bad thing. It can be a good thing. Because it’s something that’s humorous, lighthearted, and enjoyable.
But The Flash and Supergirl musical was bigger than a typical musical.
“Duet” had it all. It had the adorable cheesiness that you’d expect it to have with these two super puppies. But it also had all of the heart and emotion that you live for with shows like these, with characters like these. Simply put, it was super.
I’ll be honest, my expectations weren’t high for this SuperFlash musical crossover if only because I assumed it would be cheesy in all of the right ways and funny enough just to please me. I never anticipated that it would be so emotionally gratifying in the way that it was, for which I applaud the writers.
I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed an episode of The Flash as much as I did “Duet” because it was just genius execution from top to bottom. It was disguised as a musical with all of the emotional implications of two incredible couples from two super shows that really delivered home the important theme of love and forgiveness.

Not to mention, Grant Gustin and Melissa Benoist have a sensational chemistry that just breathes off the screen. They have this playfulness, this lightheartedness, this comedic timing that works so perfectly with how in sync they always appear to be. Anytime Gustin and Benoist are together it’s magic.
“Duet” could’ve gotten away with playing up the humor and the musicality of it all. But it didn’t. This could’ve been an episode that wasted an hour of story. But it wasn’t.
This episode succeeded with the musical bit because it focused on the elements of these shows that make us, as an audience, connect. It made it not so much about the musical of it all but about the characters that were in the musical. Basically, it’s like an ordinary episode of television. You don’t let the plot drive the characters, you let the characters drive the plot.
“Duet,” as the name implies, was centered around our two heroes and their broken hearts. It was poetic, really. When situations like this happen (not that musical dreamlike states happen too much, or at all) you expect it to be the workings of a super villain. Which is what Music Meister appeared to be. He sauntered into Kara’s world and stole a device that allowed him to cross into Barry’s world all while trapping Kara and Barry in this musical alternate reality.
And he was draining – using – Barry and Kara’s powers in the process. How were we supposed to assume that he was anything but evil?
So it was surprising and satisfying to learn that Music Meister wasn’t this evil metahuman we believed he was. He was just a hopeless romantic who wanted two of his favorite ships back together again. (Hey, Music Mesiter, any chance you can visit Olicity and Captain Canary next?)
Life is all about moments. Moments that change things. And “Duet” was filled with moments that certainly changed things for Barry and Kara with their significant others.
This episode was nothing what I was expecting. I had anticipated the humor, the fun, the music, the beauty. But I didn’t expect this episode to be centered around love – specifically, Barry & Iris and Kara & Mon-El. But it was. And it was executed flawlessly.
When the producers had teased that they had put Barry and Kara at similar romantic crossroads, I assumed that was so that they had something to briefly chat about. I didn’t think that it was because this was why this musical happened in the first place. This was Music Meister fighting for his ships to reunite.
Barry and Kara each had their own unique romantic tension. Barry had pushed away Iris in order to try to save her, while also feeling guilty. And Kara had broken up with Mon-El because she didn’t understand how Mon-El could lie to her.
Let’s take a look at the two emotional arcs for the crossover that have our shipper hearts fluttering, singing, racing, and stopping all at once.

Barry & Iris

Barry and Iris have been put through the emotional ringer just this season alone. Not only did they have to contend with Flashpoint and the threat of Savitar killing Iris in the future, but the previous weeks dealt an emotional blow in the breaking off of their engagement. It was like we had it all, and then it was all taken from us.
But as fans of comic book television shows, I know better. I know that the writers live to make us suffer. I know that the writers never intend to interfere with their destined endgame. Even if that does mean some unexpected and traumatizing bumps along the way.
The past couple of weeks have been interesting for Barry and Iris. After being happily engaged – albeit with the threat of Savitar looming – Iris broke off their engagement when she learned of Barry’s true intentions when proposing to her. He didn’t propose because he was ready, he propsed because he felt it was a way to save her from a gruesome fate at the hands of Savitar.
Sure, his intentions were noble. But love is about more than just ensuring one’s physical safety. It’s about ensuring one’s emotional safety. And Iris just felt like their relationship was tainted after that reveal.
Things certainly took a 180 the following week as nearly losing Barry made Iris realize that she couldn’t harbor a grudge when the world is all about the moments in life – however many there are. It’s all about living like there’s no tomorrow. So Iris was willing to forgive Barry because she loved him.
Only Barry had different plans. Barry decided to push Iris away as a means to ensure her safety. Guess he took a page out of his friend Oliver’s book. That, and Barry felt guilty about the way he had proposed without the proper intentions.
But given the breakup, there were never this intention of either of them giving up on each other. The way I looked at it was that it was a temporary obstacle for them to overcome. Relationships are all about hardships. More than that, they’re about facing hardships together. Especially with marriage, which is what Barry and Iris were getting into.
Sometimes two people just need to be apart in order to collect their thoughts and get their head on straight before finding their way back to each other. Some take a little longer than you’d like – whether that’s because of the relationship or the way it’s written *cough* Olicity *cough* — but ultimately if you love each other and decide that love is worth fighting for then you’ll find your way back to each other.
Westallen’s reunion wasn’t immediate but it wasn’t long either. Barry and Iris had gone back in forth in regards to their position when it came to being together. But all it took was this moment – this musical episode – for Barry to learn that he can’t push Iris away no matter how afraid he is.
Love is worth fighting for even when obstacles are in the way.
Now, let’s get to the proposal. Because, man, what a difference it was the second time around. No doubt this was one of the most romantic proposals on television (he freaking serenaded her for crying out loud!) But it was so much more than that. This was about the meaning behind the proposal.
The first time Barry proposed it was out of fear. But this time, Barry proposed out of pure love.
That right there, my friends, is the difference. That’s why Barry and Iris needed to call off their first engagement. Like Iris said, it was tainted by Barry’s intent. It was a chance to take a step back and really examine if this was something they both wanted right now. So that’s what they did.
Barry and Iris had two weeks to sort through their feelings. Iris came to the realization the previous week that even despite the intent behind the first proposal that she knew with all of her heart that she wanted to be Barry’s wife. She decided right there that she was ready. But Barry wasn’t ready. Or he wasn’t sure he was ready.
“Duet” really allowed Barry to examine things. Getting trapped in a mystical musical. Almost dying. Kissing the love of his life. Things being put into perspective. That was what Barry needed to come to his decision.
He was ready. And he proposed in a cheesy but incredibly romantic way that still has my heart fluttering.

The lesson here? The lesson, as Music Meister said, was love.

Kara & Mon-El

It’s incredible how much can change between 24 hours and one episode of television. But then again, it all has to do with the moments that happen in our lives. Sometimes life just happens to give us the answers we seek. Sometimes life just happens to open our eyes to a subject to which we were previously blind. Sometimes life just gives us what we want. Sometimes life just happens.
That was certainly the case for Kara and Mon-El, who just 24 hours prior to this episode were broken up after Kara decided that she couldn’t forgive Mon-El for keeping a secret from her. There were tears, there was a confession of love, there was a sinking feeling of hopelessness.
So what changed?
Perspective. That’s what changed.
Looking back at Supergirl’s “Star-Crossed,” Kara was presented with a situation that she did her very best to handle in a way that she deemed best for herself. Kara couldn’t understand why a man who claimed to love her could lie to her like he did. But I think a lot of us looked at the lie, at the situation and saw that this wasn’t something worth ending a relationship over. Especially one that was in the beginning stages. But I certainly respected Kara for making the decision that she felt was right for her in the moment.
I can’t help but compare this whole Mon-El lying to Kara situation with the situation of another one of my favorite ships, Arrow’s Oliver and Felicity, who have been cut down by cheap drama that continues to plague them.
I fully understand and support why Felicity decided to end her engagement with Oliver last year. Oliver had lied to her about having a son – an incredibly important secret that Oliver decided to never reveal – and she couldn’t marry someone who didn’t understand what it meant to be a team in marriage.
Now, Kara’s situation with Mon-El is completely different. Sure, Mon-El lied about who he really was. But then again he didn’t. He chose to keep his past secret because he didn’t want it to affect how Kara looked and felt about him. The old Mon-El, Prince of Daxam, has absolutely nothing to do with the Mon-El that Kara has gotten to know and has fallen for. They’re two incredibly different people. Mon-El has never lied about the person that Kara has gotten to know. The real Mon-El.
But the situation is very different from Oliver and Felicity’s situation because Kara and Mon-El are only in the beginning of their relationship. This lie isn’t a lie that ends a relationship. It’s a lie that tests a relationship. It’s a lie that the couple works through and strengthens as a result. Now, if the two had been dating for a long time and were engaged, perhaps we’d be looking at this differently.
So back to the matter of what changed: Perspective.
Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in your own issues to the point where you can’t view it objectively. Basically, emotions are flowing, you’re living in the moment, and it’s hard to really look at the situation from an objective point of view.
Sometimes, you need to see it for yourself. To view it from the sideline. Which is ultimately what Kara did and what was ultimately the gamechanger.
After Barry and Kara met Iris and Mon-El’s dopplegangers of sorts (who were lost in a star-crossed romance of their own), Barry and Kara inspired them to come clean to their fathers. So they did. Kara stood behind Mon-El and watched as he opened up to his father. She watched as Mon-El came clean out his secret – about loving a woman viewed as an enemy – and she watched as his father nearly disowned him from it.
Kara defended Mon-El’s decision to keep the lie a secret because surely he had good reasons for doing it. And as soon as she said that, a light bulb went off in her head and suddenly there was clarity.

Kara recognized that this mirrored her situation with Mon-El where he had kept the truth about his past a secret from her because he had good reasons. After watching the same situation play out in front of her as a spectator, she realized that she was as wrong as Mon-El’s father in this scenario had been. She realized that Mon-El probably had a good reason for not telling her about his past. She realized that she hadn’t even given Mon-El the chance to tell her his reasons why.
When all was said and done – after Mon-El woke Kara with true love’s kiss – Music Meister explained the lesson that he was trying to teach Kara individually.

“Love is about letting yourself be saved, not just about saving other people.”

Just because Kara is a superhero, just because she’s an incredibly capable woman that doesn’t need anyone to save her. The same doesn’t apply to love. Love is about opening yourself up to your partner and being incredibly vulnerable in a way you usually aren’t. It’s risky. It’s scary. But it’s worth it.
So Kara and Mon-El are officially an item again. Probably the shortest breakup in TV history – 24 hours. Thank God for that. I don’t know if I could’ve handled any longer.

Nine Things…

  1. Since musicals cure all, can Olicity and Captain Canary participate next? I know Stephen Amell refuses to do a musical episode. But he did say he would never don the goatee he did on Legends of Tomorrow. And look how that turned out. Just saying. I need an Arrow and Legends musical next!
  2. Joe and Stein were everything that I didn’t know that I wanted and needed! Gangsters. Lovers. Fathers. Singers. The alternate versions of Joe West and Martin Stein was single handedly the greatest thing to happen in this episode. It was something I never imagined. But also something I could never not imagine being canon now. The only complaint? I needed more.
  3. Barry throwing shade at himself while belting out “Super Friends” will have me laughing for days, weeks, months, forever. Single handedly the best line out of all of these songs. It’s so true. Also, glad to know that Barry has learned his lesson when it comes to that. Well, let’s hope he has.
  4. Kara and Barry’s reactions to seeing Mon-El and Iris in love was as painful as it was satisfying. Like I laughed. Then I cried. Then I got the case of major Karamel and Westallen feels. It all worked out, but seeing Barry and Kara react was perfection.
  5. When Malcolm’s alter ego called out to his son (Mon-El), “Tommy!” I legit screamed and then sobbed. FOREVER SCARRED BY THE DEATH OF TOMMY MERLYN. Like Mon-El had already said his name was Tommy (I think), but it didn’t register until the name came out of Malcolm’s mouth. I WAS NOT PREPARED.
  6. That tease of Cisco and Winn being buds – I’m going to need that in the real world now. No but seriously I just need an episode called “Super Genius Heroes” featuring Felicity Smoak, Cisco Ramon, Caitlin Snow, Winn Schott, and Ray Palmer. Because these are the real heroes people. Also, it’d be the most entertaining hour of television to grace this Arrowverse.
  7. I so wanted Jeremy Jordan to break out singing “Santa Fe” during this musical. I can’t help it. Jeremy Jordan will always be Jack Kelly to me. But also his voice is so astounding. And “Santa Fe” is one of my favorite songs.
  8. This musical was so wonderfully executed because it focused on the heart of these characters. This episode could’ve simply played up the humor and musicality, but it didn’t. It chose to make this about our heroes’ emotional state. And not just address it, but fix it. Wonderfully done.
  9. TRUE LOVES KISS SAVED BARRY AND KARA. Like this is the kind of stuff you imagine only on Once Upon a Time. But BARRY AND KARA WERE SAVED BECAUSE THEIR TRUE LOVES KISSED THEM AWAKE.

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

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