Sigh... let's just get this over with, shall we?
I'll be honest here: I don't care for musicals. I don't hate 'em like I do some genres, and I don't begrudge anyone else their love of them. They're just not to my taste. So if you absolutely loved this episode, I apologize in advance, because I didn't, and this review's gonna be extra snarky. And hopefully extra short.
This week on La La Flash, er, I mean The Flash, the cast goes Broadway, as we get the show's inevitable musical episode. Oy.
Musical episodes are nothing new. They've been popping up in virtually every TV series for the past twenty years (or more!). Often on shows you'd never think would do such an episode in a million years.
Here's just a partial list of some of the series that have succumbed to the dreaded Musical Episode Fever: Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Scrubs, That '70s Show, Grey's Anatomy (!), Ally McBeal, Oz (!!), How I Met Your Mother, Northern Exposure, Community, Malcolm In The Middle, Psych, It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia (twice!) and even Xena: Warrior Princess (also twice!). There was even a series back in 1990 called Cop Rock, which was very much like Law & Order, in which EVERY episode was a musical!
OK, I can see fantasy shows and sitcoms doing musical episodes, but dramas like Grey's Anatomy? And Oz?!??!? What the hell?
It's not hard to understand why this happens so much. Most actors have a background in musical theater, and love nothing more than singin' and dancin.' There's little or no call for that on TV these days though, so they end up acting in drama or comedies. After working on a series and doing the same type of episode week in and week out for several seasons, they tend to get a little bored. So the actors usually start whining to the producers to whip up a musical episode, so they can stretch their singing and dancing talents.
So I completely understand why these episodes keep happening. But understanding doesn't mean I have to like 'em.
Usually when a series does their requisite musical episode, it's a frothy little bit of fluff that has no consequences or lasting impact on the plot. If you're not a fan of singing and dancing, you can usually skip such episodes and not miss anything. Unfortunately, Duet weaves some actual plot points into its forty three minutes, which have real and lasting implications on the plots of both Supergirl and The Flash.
That means at some point in the future when I'm binge-watching The Flash, I'm gonna have to sit through this episode again. God damn you, Greg Berlanti!!!
SPOILERS, I GUESS!
This week's episode is the second half of the annual The Flash/Supergirl crossover. Oddly enough, this whole musical storyline didn't actually happen until the final two minutes of the Supergirl episode, so if you didn't catch it, don't worry about it. You didn't miss a thing.
To recap the episode very briefly: Supergirl's hanging out inside the DEO on Earth-38. Suddenly two DEO grunts bring in a prisoner who calls himself the Music Meister (oy). He tells Supergirl he's been looking for her, and hypnotizes her with a weird CGI eye effect. He then uses her dimensional transporter to open a breach to Earth-1, saying he's looking for the Flash. Supergirl passes out and wakes up in a 1920s nightclub, where she's the opening act. That's pretty much it!
OK, on with The Flash. We begin with a flashback featuring young Barry Allen and his mother Nora watching Singin' In The Rain on TV. Nora says tells Barry, "Everything's better in song. When you speak, it's just words, but when you sing, you open up your soul and let who you really are shine through." I'm pretty sure Barry's love of musicals has ever been mentioned before, so this whole scene is what you call your huge retcon.
Cut to the present, where Barry's crashing on Cisco's couch. He tries to get Barry to go out and do something, but he'd rather just curl up on the couch and watch musicals. Suddenly HR pages them, and they hurry to STAR Labs.
At STAR, they see a breach open and Mon-El and Martian Manhunter come through, carrying a comatose Supergirl. They tell the STAR Labs Gang that Supergirl was knocked out by the Music Meister, so they brought her to Earth-1 for help. I guess there's no STAR Labs equivalent on Earth-38. Suddenly an alarm sounds, and Cisco sees the Music Meister's wandering around inside the building.
Barry and Wally speed out to confront the Music Meister, but he appears to have speedster powers as well (?). He knocks out both of them easily, and Barry wakes up in the same 1920s nightclub.
He sees Supergirl, aka Kara Danvers, singing Moon River onstage. After her song's over, Barry approaches her and asks her what's going on. Kara doesn't know either, and they both realize they no longer have their powers (convenient!). They then run into Malcolm Merlyn, Arrow villain and member of the Legion Of Doom. In this reality Merlyn is really Cutter Moran, the owner of the nightclub as well as a notorious gangster. He tells them they'd better come up with a new song and dance number for that night's show, or else.
They also meet Winn Schott, Supergirl's equivalent of Cisco, who's a piano player/song writer named Grady here. And they meet Cisco, who's a waiter named Pablo, who longs to be a star (ugh...).
Suddenly the Music Meister appears and they demand to know what's going on. He says they're living inside a movie musical, and all they have to do is follow the "plot" and they'll appear back in their own reality. He warns them that if they die in this world, they'll die for real. For no reason, everyone in the bar then breaks into a rousing rendition of Put A Little Love In Your Heart. Sigh... Hold on, everyone. Believe it or not, we're only about ten minutes in...
After the musical number, Barry and Kara are confronted by a couple of rival gangsters, including one who looks like Professor Stein from Legends Of Tomorrow. Stein, or whoever he is in this world, knocks out Barry. He wakes up next to Kara inside a warehouse. They chat for a few minutes about their respective disastrous love lives, which seems like the best place for something like that. Suddenly a mobster named Digsy Floss, who looks just like Joe West, walks in. For some reason, he shows Barry a photo of his daughter Millie, who resembles Iris West, and says she's missing and wants the two of them to find her, or else (?).
For some reason (you're gonna hear that phrase a lot in this review), Barry and Kara think Pablo/Cisco can help them find Millie/Iris. He leads them to an apartment building, and when they barge in, they see Millie/Iris kissing Tommy Moran, aka Mon-El.
Back on Earth-1, Caitlin monitors the comatose Barry and Kara, and says their energy levels are falling. Apparently the Music Meister is somehow siphoning their powers from them. She worries that if the energy drain doesn't stop, they could die. Cisco locates the Music Meister, who for some reason is hanging out on Earth-1. Cisco opens a breach and he, Wally and Martian Manhunter confront him. There's a big, epic battle between the four of them (FINALLY, some action!) and they manage to capture the Meister.
Back in the Musical World, Barry and Kara discover that Tommy/Mon-El is the son of Cutter Moran. Millie/Iris is of course the daughter of Digsy Floss, meaning these two lovers are the children of rival gangsters. Gosh, this is just like West Side Story, only not as good! Barry tells Millie/Iris that her dad thinks she's missing, and she should visit him and tell him the truth. She says OK, because "things are always easier in musicals." Sigh... I need an aspirin.
Millie/Iris goes to see her dad Digsy. Actually she goes to see her DADS, as Digsy and Professor Stein are apparently gay fathers in this reality. She tells them she's been seeing Tommy Moran, and the two dads are understandably upset. Tommy/Mon-El tells his dad Cutter that he's been seeing Millie/Iris, and he's vexed as well.
Barry explains to the dads that Millie/Iris is a strong independent woman who should be allowed to do whatever she wants. They immediately agree, because— say it with me— "Things are always easier in musicals." There's another big song and dance number, as the gay dads and Cutter sing about their respective kids.
The minute Barry, Kara and the others leave, Digsy tells Stein they're going to war with Cutter's gang. Cutter tells his thugs they're going to war with Digsy.
On Earth-1, Music Meister's being held in the STAR Labs Secret Super Jail. The real Iris and Mon-El pay him a visit, and demand he release Barry and Kara from whatever spell they're under He says he can't do that, as the musical plot has to play out (?). He tells Iris and Mon-El that they have the power to free them. Oh god... they're going to do a "Power Of Love" plot resolution, aren't they?
Back in the Musical World, Barry and Kara sing about being "Super Friends." Oy, gevalt. Once their song's done, they hear gunfire outside, as the mob war starts up. They rush outside, and they're both accidentally shot. In the real world, Caitlin notes that Barry and Kara's vital signs are dropping.
Cisco somehow vibes the real Iris and Mon-El into the Musical World (?), where they find Barry and Kara dying in the street. Iris tells Barry she forgives him for proposing to her under false pretenses (Really! That's why she's been pissed at him for weeks!) and would do anything to have him back. Mon-El does much the same to Kara, saying he's sorry he lied to her about the whole "I'm Secretly The Prince Of Daxam" thing. They both kiss their respective dying partners, and suddenly there's a flash of light and everyone's back on Earth-1. Goddammit! I told you they were going to do the fraking "Power Of Love" plot resolution!
The Music Meister simply walks through his cell door, and congratulates everyone. When Barry and Kara ask what the hell, he says "It was to teach all of you a lesson. 'Cause I see everything, and I saw two people with two broken hearts. So the lesson was Love, Supergirl. Love is about letting yourself be saved. It's not just about saving other people. Even if you are superheroes." And with that the Music Meister gets off scot-free and vanishes.
Jesus Christ on a cracker.
That night, Barry returns to his and Iris' apartment. He sings Runnin' Home To You for what seems like forty five minutes, and proposes to her. Again. She accepts. Again. The Ever Lovin' Merciful End.
• Duet features the Music Meister, an all powerful interdimensional entity who can literally do anything he can think of.
A couple weeks ago on Supergirl, she met Mr. Mxyzptlk, an all powerful, interdimensional entity who can literally do anything he can think of.
They're the same damned character! Exactly the same! Same powers, same M.O., and the Arrowverse versions even look the same! Why the hell would they air these episodes two or three weeks apart? At least put five or six months between 'em, so the similarities between the two characters weren't quite as obvious.
The Music Meister isn't from the comics, but first appeared in an episode of the animated series The Batman: The Brave And The Bold in 2009. He was voiced by Neil Patrick Harris, which makes perfect sense. I wonder why they didn't get Harris to play him in this episode? Too expensive for The CW?
The animated version of the Music Meister was quite flamboyant and had a distinctive costume. Because this is an Arrowverse show and their costume designers love to vex me, the TV version of the Meister is as bland and unimaginative as possible. He appears as a standard white male in a generic black suit. In a rare flourish of creativity, he sports a bright red handkerchief in his pocket!
Jesus Christ, guys! Is this really the best you could do? He looks EXACTLY like one of the bland, vapid hunks from the The Vampire Diaries who accidentally wandered onto the set of The Flash!
• Since this was a musical episode, let's talk about the music. Melissa Benoist, aka Kara Danvers, aka Supergirl, has a pretty darned good voice (if that was indeed her actually singing)! In fact, of the various actors, I think she fared the best in the episode.
She definitely rang rings around Grant Gustin, aka Barry Allen. He spent most of the episode sort of talking along to the music instead of singing. It wasn't until the final couple of minutes that he cut loose and actually sang, during the Runnin' Home To You number.
That said, he seemed like a pretty good dancer, so there's that, I guess.
Jesse L. Martin as Joe West has a pretty good voice too. Fans of The Flash got a taste of it last year in Welcome To Earth-2.
Ever since Victor Garber, aka Professor Stein, joined the cast of Legends Of Tomorrow, all I've been hearing about is his musical theater background and what a wonderful singer he is. With his odd, strangled warbly voice, I thought he was hands down the weakest part of the episode.
I freely admit I am probably not the best person to be judging musical talent. I definitely have a tin ear, and a good seventy five percent of the music I hear on a daily basis sounds horribly off-key to me.
Lastly, this is going to sound horribly contradictory of me, since I've already said I don't like musicals, but here goes— for an episode that was ostensibly a musical, there wasn't all that much music in it. I assumed it was going to be wall to wall music, but the majority of the episode consisted of the characters standing around talking. In all there were only six songs in this "musical" episode. As I said, I ain't a fan of musicals, but if you're gonna do one, why not go all out?
Even worse, of the six songs, only two of them— Meet The Music Meister and Super Friend— were original, written just for this episode! The rest— Moon River, Put A Little Love In Your Heart, More I Cannot Wish You and Runnin' Home To You— were old standards or preexisting songs.
Jeez, after all the hype this episode received, you'd think the least the writers could have done is to have come up with an original score!
• This episode featured selected actors from ALL the various Arrowverse shows. Isn't it odd that the ones who appear almost seem as if they were hand picked, based on their musical theater experience? Actors with musical backgrounds like John Barrowman, Victor Garber and Jeremy Jordan. Funny how that just happened to work out, eh?
• Speaking of actors with musical experience, Grant Gustin, Melissa Benoist and Darren Criss (who played the Music Meister) all appeared on the TV series Glee.
• Gay Panic Alert! At the beginning of the episode, we get a flashback to when Barry was a child, and see him sharing a happy moment with his mom as they watch Singin' In The Rain together.
As I mentioned earlier, this is a big retcon, as he's never expressed any interest in the genre before. I'm betting the writers also included this scene to help explain why a heterosexual male has such a rabid interest in musical theater! Can't have the audience thinkin' Barry's queer now, can we?
• When Barry sees that Tommy/Mon-El and Millie/Iris are in, he likens their relationship to West Side Story. Kara says it's more like The Fantasticks. Both musicals concern young lovers from rival gangs/families.
I'm ashamed of myself for knowing that without having to look it up.
• So at the end of the episode, everyone's kissed and made up. Barry & Iris are back together, and Kara forgives Mon-El for lying to her. The Music Meister says that was his plan all along, as he saw "two people with broken hearts" and decided to use his powers to fix the situation, and then pops off to wherever he's from.
That's it? That's all the resolution we get? He just disappears and that's the end of it?
First of all, why does he say he say two broken hearts? Shouldn't there have been four? Did Iris and Mon-El just not care all that much that their respective relationships ended?
Secondly, is the Music Meister supposed to be Cupid or something? What the hell does he care if two people out of the entire multiverse are feeling sad? I don't get it.
• This Week's Best Lines:
Eh... I think I'm done here.