Thursday, January 18, 2018

The Flash Season 4, Episode 10: The Trial Of The Flash

The Flash is back from its winter break!

I have to say, so far Season 4's been a big improvement over the messy and unruly dumpster fire that was Season 3. Let's hope the writers can keep up the good work, and not screw up the back half of the season.

I'm really enjoying The Thinker as this season's big bad. He's so much more interesting than the endless parade of evil speedsters the show's given us the past three years. The Thinker's plan is pretty damned impressive and clever— he basically killed himself in order to frame Barry for his own murder— a scheme that could only happen on a comic book show!

He's succeeded in destroying Barry in a way no other villain has been able to do, and even though I have no doubt everything will come out in the wash, things are looking pretty bad for the Flash right now. His reputation's been ruined, he's been sentenced to life in prison just days after finally marrying Iris, and to top it all off, he's been locked up in the same prison cell he dad inhabited for decades! Ouch!

This week DeVoe's wife Marlize began showing a slight glimmer of doubt (or was it regret?) regarding his master plan, which could turn out to be a good thing for Barry. I have a feeling she may end up helping Team Flash prove Barry's innocence before the end of the season.

Amazingly Ralph even got a bit of character growth this week, after being relegated to comic relief status the past few months. This episode proved that Ralph actually has some potential, so let's hope the writers figure out what to do with him soon.

I'm puzzled as to why the writers thought this episode needed a supervillain subplot. The scenes with Fallout felt completely superfluous and only served to take the focus off the trial.

My main complaint about this episode is that the trial went by WAY too quickly. I certainly didn't expect a beat-for-beat recreation of The Trial Of The Flash storyline from the comic— which went on for literally TWO YEARS— but would it have hurt them to devote two, maybe three episodes to the trial? It went by so fast it didn't get the gravity and importance it deserves. 

SPOILERS!

The Plot:
Barry's arrested for the murder of Clifford DeVoe and taken to the CCPD. There he gets his mugshot taken, and is interrogated by Captain Singh.

Later he's placed on house arrest (!), but Cisco hacks his ankle monitor so he can meet with the Gang at STAR Labs. 
Cisco notes that when Barry first came out of the Speed Force in The Flash Reborn, he kept saying "I didn't kill anyone!" They all chalked it up as gibberish or disorientation, but Cisco says it might be a clue. 
.
The rest of them discuss the case, trying to come up with ways for Barry to avoid prison. He refuses their ideas, insisting on going through the judicial process for plot complication reasons. Joe pulls Ralph aside and says he needs his "sleazy private investigator" help.

In The Thinker's lair, Clifford DeVoe, now in the body of Dominic Lanse, talks with his wife Marlize. She's having trouble adjusting to the fact that the stranger she sees before her is her husband. DeVoe assures her that even though he looks different, he's still her husband on the inside.

Meanwhile, a man opens a savings account at a Central City bank. As he leaves his skin glows green, and everyone in the bank passes out.

Amazingly, Barry's trial then begins! That was fast! Cecile is defending Barry, which seems like a bad idea to me, but whatever. Prosecutor Anton Slater begins the trial by showing the jury the restraining order that DeVoe filed against Barry. He also displays the knife Barry allegedly used to kill DeVoe, which he received as a wedding gift. Cecile groans, as none of this looks good for Barry and his case.

Joe receives a metahuman alert and he, Cisco and Caitlin leave the trial to check out the disturbance. They meet at the bank, where Cisco detects a high concentration of dark matter energy, indicating another bus meta. Captain Singh is there as well, and sheepishly tells Joe he's been called as a witness against Barry. Joe says he understands.

Back at the trial, Slater questions Captain Singh. He tries to paint Barry in a positive light, but Slater destroys his testimony. Meanwhile, Joe and Ralph stake out DeVoe's house, where they see Marlize smooching with Dominic. Ralph takes photos of the two as evidence.

During a break in the trial, Cecile tells Barry that things aren't looking good for him. She says his only hope is to admit in court that he's the Flash. Not sure how that would prove he didn't kill DeVoe, but let's just roll with it. Barry refuses, saying he's innocent and has faith in the justice system or something.

At STAR Labs, Caitlin determines the bank tellers collapsed due to radiation poisoning from a metahuman. Cisco dubs the meta "Fallout," and they begin scanning the city for radiation in order to catch him.

At the trial, Marlize takes the stand and delivers quite a performance, telling the court how Barry terrorized her and her frail, disabled husband. Just then Joe and Ralph enter and hand their photos to Cecile. A smile spreads across her face, as the incriminating photos are just the thing to discredit Marlize.


Cecile passes out the photos to the court and to Marlize, who looks stricken. Cecile asks her to explain why she's in the arms of "another man," just days after her husband was murdered. Marlize composes herself and tells a whopper of a story, saying she met Dominic at an ALS benefit and befriended him. When her ailing husband Clifford could no longer satisfy her "needs," he insisted she find comfort in the arms of Dominic. Amazingly the jury buys this load of snake oil, much to Cecile's chagrin.

Iris follows Marlize out of the courtroom and asks her why they're framing Barry. She says they have a master plan, which they'll reveal during Sweeps Week. Feeling she has no other choice, Iris walks back into court and starts to announce that Barry's the Flash. He realizes what she's doing and zips over to her faster than the human eye can see. Somehow he accelerates her body as well, so they both become invisible. He convinces her that if the world knows he's the Flash, none of his friends or family will ever be safe again. She realizes he's right, and he zips back to his seat.

At STAR Labs, Caitlin detects a radiation spike. Cisco and Harry vibe to the location, but are disappointed when they see it's just a truck hauling nuclear waste. Seconds after they return to the Lab, we see Fallout's the one driving the truck.

Joe and Ralph then pay an unauthorized visit to the DeVoe home. Joe reveals he's planning to plant evidence inside the house to frame Marlize for her husband's murder. Ralph is appalled, which honestly takes some doing. He reminds Joe that he once planted evidence to incriminate a perp, and it ended up destroying his life. He uses his powers to unlock the door, tells Joe to do what he thinks is best and leaves. Joe stares at the open door for a few seconds, then closes it.

Fallout then walks down the street, his skin glowing brighter than ever. He knocks out everyone he passes, and begins wondering what's wrong with him. The more agitated he becomes, the more radiation he puts out.

Back at the courthouse, the two sides rest their cases, in what has to be the shortest murder trial on record. Suddenly Barry gets a call from STAR Labs, and tells the judge he has to leave on an emergency (!!!). The Judge sputters and can't believe Barry's skipping out on his own murder trial, but Cecile says there's no law prohibiting it (um... what about the fact that he's supposed to be on house arrest?). The Judge reluctantly agrees, and Barry rushes out of the courtroom.

Barry changes into the Flash and confronts Fallout. Unfortunately he can't get close enough to the radioactive meta to capture him. Cisco convinces Caitlin to change into Killer Frost in order to help. She unwillingly transforms, and Cisco vibes her to the scene. Killer Frost encases Fallout in ice, but he melts it and breaks out in seconds, knocking her out.

Fallout's radiation begins reaching critical levels, and Cisco says it's only a matter of seconds before he explodes and takes out Central City. Barry begins running circles around Fallout to funnel his radiation into the sky. Cisco then vibes it to Earth-15, which Harry assures him is a dead world (how much do you want to bet this isn't the last we hear of this radiation?). Barry collapses, his entire body covered by radiation burns.

Back at STAR, Caitlin examines Barry and says his speedster metabolism will heal the radiation damage. That was convenient! Meanwhile at the courthouse, the jury finds Barry guilty of first degree murder.

Barry returns to the courtroom for sentencing. He sees The Thinker/Dom duck into an empty courtroom and confronts him, saying he'll prove his innocence one day, and when he does he's coming for him. In the courtroom, the Judge sentences Barry to life in prison.

Barry's then taken to Iron Heights prison and tossed into a cell. He sees a message carved into the wall that reads, "Henry Allen was here." He realizes he's in the same cell his father was, back when he was also wrongly imprisoned for murder.

Thoughts:

• Man, this episode sets a new record for "World's Fastest Murder Trial." Barry's arrested, booked, interrogated, arraigned, placed on house arrest, tried, convicted and sentenced, all in the space of what appears to be two or three days.

This is patently ridiculous of course. It takes weeks, if not months, for lawyers to prepare for real murder cases. And the trials themselves often take months as well.

What the hell was the hurry here? It's like the writers set up this trial storyline, then couldn't wait to get rid of it, wrapping it up in just one episode. I didn't want to see the trial dragged out for the rest of the season, but I think it deserved at least two or three episodes, to give it the gravity it deserved.

There is a possible explanation here. Don't Run, the previous episode, aired on December 9, 2017. This week's episode aired on January 16, 2018. If the world of The Flash is moving along at real time, then there was a little over a month for Barry to be arraigned and for the two sides to prepare their cases. That's still lightning fast, but a little better than the day or two that seemingly passed between the two episodes.

• This episode was very loosely based on The Trial Of The Flash, one of the most famous storylines in the history of the comic. The story arc began in 1983 in The Flash #323 and ran for a whopping TWENTY SEVEN issues, ending in issue #350 in 1985! 

There were a few major differences in the comic though. There it wasn't Barry Allen who was on trial, but the Flash himself. He'd been charged with the murder of his arch nemesis Eobard Thawne, aka the Reverse Flash (!).

The TV version does share a couple of similarities with the comic though. In the comic, Cecile Horton is the Flash's defense lawyer. And Anton Slater was the prosecuting attorney in the comic as well, although there he was a much more flamboyant, showboating type. Neither character had ever appeared in the comic before, and were created specifically for the Trial storyline.

• No one expects a TV trial to be one hundred percent accurate, but this episode sets a new bar for unrealistic courtroom antics. In addition to the aforementioned and unbelievable speed at which the trial zooms along, there are several other incidents that are real howlers.

First up: At one point Cecile confronts Marlize with incriminating photos of her and Dom. Cecile then begins badgering Marlize, concocting a wildly imaginative tale. She says, "So it appears to me that perhaps your marriage was not quite as perfect as you've portrayed. Maybe you were ready for a life without your husband. So you ran into the arms of another man, another man you convinced to kill your husband!"

Seriously? I'm on Barry's side, but even I was yelling "OBJECTION!" during that little tirade! You can't accuse a witness of something like that! There's no way in hell Slater would NOT have objected to Cecile's wildly inappropriate questioning, and the Judge would have probably thrown her out of court!

Secondly, while Cecile's wrapping up her defense, Barry gets a "Flash" call from STAR Labs and walks out on his own murder trial! Amazingly the Judge lets him go, since there's apparently no law saying the defendant has to be present during closing arguments.

This is beyond preposterous. Even if there's no law saying a defendant can't leave his own trial (which I doubt), think about how such a thing would play to the jury! They're not gonna look very favorably on a murder suspect who can't be bothered to stick around for his own hearing!

Cecile tries to smooth things over by reminding the Judge that Barry's free on bail. That may be, but isn't he supposed to be on house arrest? That means he's only supposed to be at home or in court— and nowhere else! I guess the Judge forgot about that?

I know what you're thinking. You're saying, "But Bob, this is a show about a guy who can run so fast he goes back in time! Why are you so worked up about courtroom inaccuracies?" And you might have a point there.

On the other hand, the more ridiculous and outlandish a TV show or movie is, the more it needs to be grounded in other areas. Suspension of disbelief is a fragile and tricky thing. So the Flash can run faster than sound? Fine. Not possible, but I'll go ahead and accept it. He can also vibrate his body so fast he can run through brick walls? Eh... that's pushing it, but I'll allow that as well. He's accused of murder and walks out of his own trial, and the Judge lets him? SNAP! My suspension of disbelief was just stretched to its breaking point.

• When I first saw that Cecile was Barry's lawyer, I wondered if such a thing was even legal. After all, she's about to become his foster stepmom or something like that. Wouldn't her representing him be some sort of conflict of interest?

Apparently not. According to the interwebs, there's no law against an attorney defending a family member, and it actually happens quite often. It still feels wrong to me somehow.

• In a related matter, at the beginning of the episode we see Barry's wearing an ankle monitor. Um... is that something that routinely happens? Can MURDER suspects really get released on house arrest? 

Again, I poked around the internet a bit and amazingly it's a thing! It's rare, and it's usually only granted to minors, but adults accused of murder are occasionally granted house arrest too. Maybe in this case Joe pulled a few strings so Barry could spend a few days at home.

• If you're like me, you were probably thinking that even if Barry was found guilty, there's no jail that could possibly hold him. All he'd have to do is phase through the bars, zip away faster than the eye could see and he'd be free!

This obviously occurred to the writers as well, so they had to think of some way to keep him in prison. So what'd they come up with? Welp, they went with the worst and lamest excuse possible— Barry's too noble and principled to escape prison. Sigh...

Yep, that's right! It's the return of Martyr Barry, who I hoped we'd seen the last of in Season 3. The Barry who treats his powers like a burden and grimly does his duty because it's expected of him, not because it's the right thing to do. Feh.

• This week I realized there was something awfully familiar about DeVoe's master plan. In the previous episode, he transferred his mind from his old, frail white body and uploaded it into a young, healthy black one. 

Does that sound familiar? It should— it's the exact same plot as seen in Get Out, one of 2017's better movies! I guess DeVoe must be a big fan of the film!

• I still think Dominic Lanse should have DeVoe's South African accent when he speaks.

Or would he? It's an interesting question. Is an accent a physical or mental phenomenon? Does the accent lie within the tongue or the brain?

PLOT HOLE ALERT! DeVoe's master plan to frame Barry for his own murder was pretty darned clever. That said, there's a fatal error in the scheme that should have caused the entire thing to come crashing down, allowing Barry to go free.

At the end of Don't Run, we see Barry and the entire cast enjoying a nice Xmas get-together at Joe's house. Barry gets a text alert from his apartment's security system, and zips over to check it out. He then discovers DeVoe's dead and discarded body lying on the floor, seconds before the police burst in and arrest him for murder.

It's the perfect setup, except for one little flaw: Barry was nowhere near his apartment when DeVoe was "murdered." Think about it— it likely took quite a while for DeVoe— now in Dom's body— to drag his old, lifeless corpse into Barry's building, disable the alarm, enter his apartment, toss the corpse on the floor, stab it a couple times and set up a grisly crime scene, enable the alarm and then leave. 

ALL that HAD to have been done while Barry was whoopin' it up at Joe's house. He had an ironclad alibi! Every single person at the party could have testified he was right in front of them while the "murder" took place!

The CCPD coroner should have been able to determine DeVoe's time of death, which would have been sometime while Barry was out of his apartment. For some reason (because the plot needs to happen), none of the cast ever thinks to bring this up any of this evidence to the police.

• When Cecile sees that the trial's not going well, she urges Barry to tell the court that he's really the Flash. She says this is the only way they can win. A couple things here.

First of all... is there really anyone who doesn't know he's the Flash by this point? It's probably the worst kept secret in Central City!

Secondly, even if he did admit his secret identity to the court... so what? So he's really the Flash. How would that prove he didn't murder DeVoe? Does the public automatically think a superhero can't be a murderer? Apparently no one in Central City saw Man Of Steel.

Lastly, Barry refuses to reveal his secret because he's afraid if he did, all his enemies would come gunnin' for his loved ones. Um... hasn't that already happened? Several times? Heck, most of last season involved Savitar— a future version of Barry himself— trying to kill Iris. The Reverse Flash was from the future as well, and as such knew all of Barry's secrets. Everyone's still alive after all that. So what's the big deal?

• After Marlize's Oscar-worthy testimony, Iris follows her out of the courtroom and asks her why she's doing this. Marlize says it's all part of her husband's master plan.

Gosh, it's too bad that Iris— who used to be a reporter— didn't think to record this little exchange between the tow of them, to use as evidence in the trial.

• Where the hell is Wally during his foster brother's murder trial? Still trying to "find himself?" Still battling alien starfishes in Blue Valley?

• This episode certainly didn't do Joe any favors. At one point he's fully willing to plant incriminating evidence in DeVoe's house, to incriminate Marlize! Jesus Christ! If not for a timely (and surprising) scolding by Ralph, he'd have gone through with it too!

I get that he's upset and distraught that his foster son's on trial for murder. But there's no way in hell Joe would have ever even conceived of doing something like that. Screw you, writers!

• Unfortunately, Fallout turned out to be one of the series' lamer villains— visually as well as thematically. Seriously, The Flash FX Team, I've seen more convincing effects on Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers!

Fallout's actually from the comics, and first appeared in The Flash: Iron Heights special back in 2001. For once the TV version actually somewhat resembled the source material. Sort of.

• After Fallout's captured, Barry asks what'll happen to him. Cisco says, "He's unstable, but we sent him to Tracy's lab. 
She's gonna analyze his DNA, see if it's the same as the other bus metas and then we'll be able to neutralize him."

To refresh your memory, Tracy is Tracy Brand, who became part of Team Flash in Season 3. She was HR's girlfriend before he sacrificed himself to save Iris from Savitar. She left the team after that incident, but occasionally consults with them (offscreen).

• In this episode, Cisco reviews video of Barry taken right after he exited the Speed Force in The Flash Reborn. At that time, Barry was clearly out of his head as he constantly spewed a string of gibberish. In particular he said, "Your Honor, I'm innocent. I didn't do this. I didn't kill anyone."

Team Flash then realizes maybe he wasn't spouting nonsense after all, and was somehow foreshadowing future events. Cisco says he'll look at everything Barry said after returning from the Speed Force.

Among the things he said in The Flash Reborn:

"Nora shouldn't be here."

"Can you hear the stars singing? Rhyming, chiming, timing every hour, every minute. 
You said the city was safe, that there was no residual danger, but that's not true. 
What really happened that night?"
 
"Stars melting like ice cream, dream, gleam. 
Nothing seems... Nora shouldn't be here."

"It's a whole new way of looking at physics. It will change the way that we think about everything, from a single atom to an entire galaxy. God! Stars so loud. Loud, cloud, proud."

"Dad and I are both okay. We're gonna be fine. I'm just not sure I'm like you, Oliver."

Not sure if any of that really means anything, but who knows? His "Your Honor, I'm innocent" comment turned out to be relevant, so any of that other stuff could as well, and some of it sounds pretty... ominous. And what's up with the Oliver reference? Is that from the future, or was it a line from one of their previous teamups?

Apparently a lot of fans believe Barry never actually left the Speed Force, and is still trapped inside it. Which means everything that's happened so far in Season 4 has been one big Speed Force hallucination.

I honestly hope that's not true, but I wouldn't put it past the writers at this point.

This Week's Best Lines:
There weren't a lot of them this week, as much of it was just courtroom jargon and theatrics.

Barry: "Okay, guys, but remember, I mean, considering all the evidence they have against me, this trial is not even gonna last very long."
(THAT'S the understatement of the year!)

Barry: "How you doing?"
Iris: "They say the first year of marriage is always the hardest, but I never thought my husband being on trial for murder would be one of the challenges."

Dom: "My hand still feels foreign upon your flesh. And you don't care for it.
Marlize: "No, I do."
Dom: "As I said, I inherited my host's ability to read thoughts. We have never lied to each other before. Let's not begin now."

Cisco: (referring to Fallout) "We need to cool him down. Killer Frost!"
Caitlin: "Great."
Cisco: "Well, go, turn!"
Caitlin: "Well, that's not how it works. I can't just snap my fingers and make her appear. It only happens when I'm scared or angry."
Cisco and Harry: "Oh, good Lord, Caitlin!"
Cisco: "The city's about to explode! Everyone, everything you know and love, the birds, the trees, the fish, the puppies! The puppies are going down because you didn't want to...
Cisco and Harry: "...show up for work!"
(Caitlin transforms into Killer Frost)
Caitlin: "Thanks."

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