‘The Flash’ 4×21 Review: “Harry and the Harrisons”

“Harry and the Harrisons,” this week’s episode of The Flash, did very little to move the main plot with DeVoe forward. However, as I think the last part of this season has been trying to course correct certain characters in anticipation of next season, it was not total filler, either. We got some movement (admittedly somewhat baffling) on the Caitlin/Killer Frost story, Iris moving ahead as a reporter, and Harry…Well, I’m still not sure what to say about Harry.

Let’s break it down.

Chasing the Past – Caitlin

The episode might have been named after Harry, but it did much more to move Caitlin’s story forward. To be honest, the result was a bit hit-and-miss. First, the good: It was confirmed that Killer Frost has always been a part of Caitlin. Thus, Caitlin may thus have more control over her than she thought. Does this mean she would have become Killer Frost without Flashpoint? Does it mean that Killer Frost isn’t a totally separate persona? Will they confirm she’s a side of Caitlin she’s never wanted to face? Only time will tell how – or if – they’ll address those questions.

But her story definitely raised some problems – beyond the fact that I still don’t understand why everyone else is so eager to help get Killer Frost back. (I don’t really understand why Caitlin is so desperate to get back the persona she tried to get rid of for over a year. But she is. Okay, fine.) Desperate to get Amunet’s help in getting Killer Frost back, Caitlin proposed a deal. She would do one job for Amunet in return for the splicer that had helped her before. This proposal is problematic, to say the least.

Although she offered some help, at the end of the day, Amunet is still a villain. She’s a criminal who has done much more than dabble in human trafficking. And that’s even supposing there’s an increment of human trafficking that isn’t one of the worst things ever. (News flash: There isn’t.)

It’s been clear from the beginning of the season that the show isn’t going to address the fact that Caitlin – not just Killer Frost – worked for Amunet over the hiatus. Presumably, she knew who Amunet was and what she was doing at the time. But let’s say she didn’t; let’s say she was just a bartender who thought her boss’s worst crime was selling contraband that fell of the back of a truck.

She certainly knows who and what Amunet is now. More, the audience can’t have forgotten who and what Amunet is. In case we did, they reminded us this episode. More than once! So it’s a bit troubling that Caitlin would volunteer to do one job – no apparent stipulations or qualifications – for a woman she knows kidnaps and sells people.

Let’s be honest, here. Amunet may not demand she help kidnap and sell a metahuman in exchange for the splicer. But Caitlin has to know that’s on the table; Amunet wasn’t remotely apologetic or ashamed of her past actions. She has to know Amunet isn’t going to ask her to help paint her living room or shampoo her carpets. Whatever she’s asked to do, it’s going to be a criminal act. It’s very likely going to hurt people. And it very well could be kidnapping and selling an innocent person. I don’t think that can be stressed enough.

Of course, I know the show wanted to establish how far Caitlin is willing to go to get Frost back. I understand they wanted to show how determined she is. But come on. This could have been handled better – and, for the sake of Caitlin’s character, it should have been. At the very least, she could have said she would do a job for Amunet, provided it wasn’t going to involve kidnapping and selling people, as the show reminded us moments before Amunet loves to do.

Perhaps even more baffling was the team’s reaction to Caitlin’s confession regarding the deal. For all the concern they showed, they might as well have said, “Okay, well, make sure you pack a lunch! Human traffickers are notoriously bad at respecting labor laws, and you might not get time to eat otherwise!” They were surprised that Caitlin hadn’t told them about the splicer before, but the actual deal she had made seemed not to faze them in the least.

It’s utterly baffling that the show would acknowledge Amunet is an unabashed human trafficker and yet treat this crime as no more serious than a person who scalps theater tickets. Caitlin should be better than this – particularly since she once took an oath to, you know, do no harm. (Pro tip: kidnapping and selling people is unquestionably a form of harm. It isn’t even a grey area.) The team should be better than this.

Yes, I know this isn’t the first morally questionable (to say the least) thing the characters have done. However, this may be the most blatant the show has been in admitting how incredibly not okay a choice is and ignoring how the that choice reflects upon the characters at the same time.

Missing the Point – Harry

I hoped to get a sense of where the show was going with Harry’s character. That didn’t happen as much as they gave Tom Cavanagh a chance to play a few more versions of himself.

Still upset about his diminishing intelligence, Harry turned to the Council of Wells for help. However, they ejected this more average Harry from the Council. Their membership standards are even higher than MENSA. So, at Cisco’s encouragement and with an entire multiverse at his disposal, he reached out to other versions of himself instead.

This new version of the Council focused more on his emotional intelligence. While it allowed for a nice moment with Cisco, it isn’t clear where they are ultimately going with his character. It also didn’t do much to drive the plot forward, save to explain why DeVoe was laying low this episode.

In that sense, this episode was fairly representative of how Cavanagh has been utilized on the show since the end of the first season. They don’t seem to really know what to do with him, so they keep throwing different versions of Wells at him, hoping one sticks.

I believe the last few episodes of this season have attempted a post-Kreisberg “soft reboot.” At the very least, there has been a clear course correction in anticipation of next season. Caitlin lost Killer Frost so that they could make the two personas one again. Hopefully, they will also clarify how much control she has over her powers and her frosty persona. Iris has returned to journalism once more, acting as the voice of the city and the bridge between the people and their hero.

While I can see where the groundwork is leading for Iris and Caitlin, I’m still at a loss as to where all of this is going for Harry. (I also hope that there are plans in store for Cisco, since the storyline about Breacher’s job offer went nowhere fast.) One can only hope that they do have plans for him next season. I understand liking the actor and wanting to keep him around. However, at some point, they do have to give his character actual purpose.

Embracing the Future – Iris

To me, Iris’s reporting subplot was the best – and most important – part of the episode. The Flash has failed to utilize Central City as a character for too long. Flash is a hero – not just for his friends and the 462 other people to whom he’s revealed his identity. He’s a hero for the city. For the thousands of nameless and faceless people who just want to go about their daily lives without being murdered by the Meta of the Week. Of course we expect his friends to care about him. We expect the occasional random extra to express appreciation when he saves their lives. But we need to see the impact the Flash has on the greater world. In fact, seeing how his choices impact more than a handful of people gives his actions more weight. His losses more gravitas. His victories more resonance.

And yet the show has failed to explore this aspect of the hero’s story for years. They could have done so through Barry’s work as a CSI, Joe’s work as a cop, or Iris’s role as a reporter. They largely failed to do so. But because this aspect of the hero’s story is so fundamental, I’m thrilled that they are finally, finally getting back to it.

Frankly, there’s no better character to act as the voice of the city than Iris. She was the first to bring news of the Flash – and other metas – to the world. She fought to bring the city hope in reporting on the Flash, even when the people she loved the most tried to dissuade her.

I can only hope that this wasn’t just a one-and-done subplot for the episode. It’s a basic tenet of the superhero story – and a great way to broaden the world of The Flash (which is too often confined to the four walls of S.T.A.R. Labs). If I’m right and this is a long-needed course correction, I can’t wait to see what next season brings.

The Flash airs Tuesdays at 8/9c on The CW.

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