‘The Flash’ 4×14 Review: “Subject 9”

The Olympics are over, but the race is still on. Only there aren’t medals involved. It’s life and death and a lot of metahumans.
The Flash returned with a country twang and a foreign feeling — a feeling that involved liking Ralph Dibney and actually feeling sorry for the guy. Shocking, I know. Am I still on a Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir high or is The Flash actually handling this character the way he should’ve been handled from the beginning?
As we head into the final 10 episodes of this season, the focus shifts 100 percent to Barry Allen and Team Flash’s fight against Clifford DeVoe, who is body swapping more than a Freaky Friday movie.
DeVoe’s latest target — Subject 9, Izzy Brown — was a country singer that caught the non-country fan Ralph by surprise. He was totally smitten. And it brought out a bearable side of him. Too bad they yanked Izzy away from us and, presumably, Ralph’s likeability.
Let’s discuss “Subject 9,” including how The Flash did the impossible and made me like Ralph Dibney, how heroes aren’t made overnight, and the flaw in DeVoe’s armor.

Heroes Aren’t Made Overnight

The Flash — “Subject 9” — Image Number: FLA414b_0372b.jpg — Pictured: Miranda MacDougall as Izzy — Photo: Jack Rowand/The CW — © 2018 The CW Network, LLC. All rights reserved

Not everyone is meant to be a hero. Not everyone needs to be a hero. It’s something that can get lost in the shuffle of metahuman abilities and being surrounded by a throng of heroes. But just because you have superpowers and aren’t hellbent on destroying the world doesn’t mean you’re destined to be a hero. Nor does it mean you’re required to be. Some people are just trying to survive.
That was the case with Izzy Brown, our latest metahuman from the bus (Subject 9), a country singer with an affinity for sound waves. Basically, her music was her weapon. Kind of sick in an awesome way.
Izzy didn’t ask for any of this. She didn’t ask for metahuman abilities. She didn’t ask to be the target of a terrifying, body-jumping man determined to bring a new age of enlightenment to the world.
And yet it happened. Because that’s life. That’s how it’s been for all of these people that were turned into metahumans because of DeVoe. None of them asked for it. But they all have to deal with it. And all but Ralph have taken a dark turn and/or ended up the victim of DeVoe.
It’s an interesting issue that’s always raised on these superhero shows: What makes a hero?
A hero isn’t created by metahuman abilities. A hero isn’t created by a super suit. A hero isn’t created simply because one wants to be a hero. A hero’s reputation is one that is earned. It’s earned through a lot of selflessness, courage, and dedication. It’s something that is bestowed upon you, not something you bestow upon yourself.
Izzy Brown, while she was training to use her powers, didn’t desire to be a hero. All she wanted to do was be a famous country singer. That was her dream. And just because she was a good person, it didn’t mean she had to be a hero. Just because she developed a bond with Ralph didn’t mean she was supposed to follow in his footsteps (footsteps he’s continuing to work through because he’s certainly not a hero yet.)
While Izzy served as the ninth person on that metahuman bus, she also served the purpose of reminding us that heroes aren’t the norm. You don’t find heroes — well, costumed, powered heroes — everywhere in this world. And that’s kind of the novelty of heroes, isn’t it? That there are only a certain amount of true heroes that are selfless in nature, action, and dedication.

For One Episode, Ralph Dibney Wasn’t That Bad

The Flash — “Subject 9Ó — Image Number: FLA414a_0284b.jpg — Pictured (L-R): Miranda MacDougall as Izzy, Hartley Sawyer as Dibney and Grant Gustin as The Flash — Photo: Bettina Strauss/The CW — © 2018 The CW Network, LLC. All rights reserved

Something strange happened in The Flash’s latest episode. Dare I say that I actually may have liked Ralph Dibney. (TRUST ME, NO ONE IS MORE SHOCKED THAN ME.)
Now, I don’t expect this to be a feeling that’ll last longer than a single episode, but in “Subject 9” The Flash proved that it’s capable of writing this character in a way where he comes off as sympathetic, and dare I say, relatable. Not that I trust these writers to deliver on that in a consistent manner. His sexist shenanigans — until proven otherwise — are a reminder of the Ralph Dibney we were introduced to and expected to embrace. Not so fast, buddy.
But for one episode, Ralph Dibney wasn’t so bad. Just like warm chocolate milk isn’t so bad. Or light traffic isn’t so bad. Or having to wait in line for Starbucks so bad.
I can’t help but have this image of Ralph in my mind from the beginning — when he was a sexist pig that did absolutely nothing for this show. But in this episode, we got to see the potential that these writers have/had with this character. Not that he can’t be redeemed or fixed, but it’s going to take more than a couple of episodes to do it.
One of Ralph’s trademarks is his humor, no doubt. Only in the early episodes, it was gross (and had AK’s hands all over it.) But even if this episode, Ralph was funny. His one-liners
worked. His comedic timing flowed nicely with the other characters. It makes you wonder where was this from the beginning?
I know, I know. Character journey. But your character doesn’t have to be pretty much completely unlikeable to start. Flaws are fine. But red flags are not. And there were a ton of red flags with Ralph in the beginning.
There was something that was present in this episode that I didn’t really feel up to this point, which was a sense of genuineness with Ralph. Even when they tried to make him feel genuine when he was taking a step to becoming a “hero,” it didn’t feel as genuine as this did.
But I feel like with Izzy Brown and Ralph’s bond with her that we got to see a different side to him. A side that was more endearing. A side that was actually pleasing to the eyes and ears. The pep talk he gave her didn’t feel manufactured or unearned. He was speaking from experience and coming from a real place. He’s found a family with Team Flash. This is a family that will protect him. And he’s realized that he’ll do a lot to protect them, as well.
We saw that in Ralph’s desire to help Izzy. We saw that in Ralph’s heartbreak when Izzy was taken from him. We saw that in Ralph reaching out to help Barry after Barry was ousted (pretty much) from CCPD.
We saw that, deep down, there just might be a good person inside Ralph.
There’s potential there. But don’t think for a second I trust these writers with this character. Because this character has been written inconsistently this season. I wanted to like him, but there was never anything of substance there. But maybe we’ll get there. In time.
“You like me. You really like me.”
Unlike Barry, I’m not totally convinced. Not yet. But, please, do try.

DeVoe’s Weakness?

The Flash — “Subject 9” — Image Number: FLA414b_0116b.jpg — Pictured (L-R): Danielle Panabaker as Caitlin Snow, Grant Gustin as Barry Allen, Candice Patton as Iris West and Carlos Valdes as Cisco Ramon — Photo: Jack Rowand/The CW — © 2018 The CW Network, LLC. All rights reserved

When you’re dealing with a Big Bad that isn’t a speedster — a Big Bad that you can’t merely outrun — there’s a lot more room to play with ways to defeat him. There are only so many ways you can try to defeat a speedster. The end game is to be faster than him. But DeVoe presents a different kind of challenge. And we’re getting to see all of Team Flash participate in the fight.
The key to defeating DeVoe is finding his weakness. Is that weakness physical? Is that weakness mental? Is that weakness someone close to him? Whatever it is, Team Flash is frantically working to uncover it.
I remained convinced that Marlize is going to play some kind of role in DeVoe’s downfall. There have been too many signs of Marlize’s doubting of DeVoe’s intentions, his new faces, and his overall mental state. You can see more and more that she doesn’t think he’s in the right state of mind for this. Eventually, she’s going to realize that the best thing to do — to save her husband — is to put him out of his misery.
But if it’s all Marlize’s doing, what fun would that be? I want to see Team Flash — a group with plenty of brilliant minds — band together to take this guy out. This isn’t a speedster. This isn’t a villain only Barry can defeat. This is someone that everyone can defeat. We’re getting a better sense that this is a team effort. This isn’t just about The Flash anymore. It’s about the members of Team Flash.
The problem that DeVoe faces right now is that the new bodies he inhabits are deteriorating quickly. He’s transferring his conscience into these new minds in a way to absorb their powers, yes, but also to keep himself going. So what happens when he runs out of bus metas to possess? Will his plan have been met by then? Is his plan to inhabit The Flash at the end? Or will their Enlightenment come to pass?
DeVoe has a weakness. Somewhere. I don’t know exactly what it is right now. But Team Flash will uncover it. In approximately nine episodes.

More Thoughts

-Iris knows exactly the right things to say to Barry. And we couldn’t love her more for it.
-Why does this show make me care about random metas only to take them from me?
-Totally serious, I could’ve really liked Ralph and Izzy. Just saying.
-Can Ralph be written this way on a consistent basis? I might actually like him for real.
-When the hell is Marlize going to realize that she needs to put her husband out of his misery? Oh, yeah, the season finale. Duh.
-That was a nice call back to last season when Harry told Barry about the cerebral inhibitor. The one Savitar reminisced about them discussing.
-Gotta admit, I really enjoy Barry and Ralph moments. They have a nice rapport and play off each other nicely.
-More Iris, please!
-More Caitlin, please!
-More Cisco, please!
-Where the hell was Joe?
The Flash airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on the CW.

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