Thursday, February 1, 2018

The Flash Season 4, Episode 12: Honey, I Shrunk Team Flash

This week the funny continues on The Flash, as we get a 1980s parody episode, similar to Phone Home over on Legends Of Tomorrow. In fact I'm kind of wondering if this episode didn't start out as a rejected Legends script, what with all the emphasis on shrinking and dwarf star matter.

Or is it an homage to Downsizing?

Also this week, Big Sir steps into the spotlight in the story's B-plot, as Barry attempts to not only solve every problem in Central City, but inside prison as well.

The DeVoe's sit this one out, oddly enough. I guess the writers don't want the audience getting tired of them?

I really don't have any more initial thoughts about this episode, so let's get to the review!

SPOILERS!


The Plot:
We open on Joe & Cecile getting ready for work. Cecile suddenly discovers she can read Joe's thoughts, because gods forbid there be a character on this show who doesn't have powers.

Cut to STAR Labs, where Caitlin examines the pregnant Cecile, and determines the baby (a girl, by the way) is healthy and normal. Caitlin spews some technobabble stating that Cecile's pregnancy has awakened residual dark matter (from the original particle accelerator explosion four years ago) in her brain, giving her telepathy. She says the ability should fade once she has the baby.

The Gang then discusses Barry's situation, and admit they've hit a roadblock in freeing him from prison.

Meanwhile at Iron Heights, Barry's playing poker with several other inmates, including Big Sir and Anthony Bellows, the former mayor of Central City. Even though Barry's constantly telling anyone who'll listen that he's too ethical to phase out of prison, he's apparently not above using his powers to cheat at cards. Weird.

Barry discovers that his new pal Big Sir was wrongly imprisoned for killing an unarmed security guard. Supposedly he was passing by Mercury Labs when he heard shots ring out. When he rushed over to help, he saw a security guard on the ground and another man run away. He tried to save the guard, but the police arrived, assumed he was the culprit and arrested him. That was fifteen years ago, and he's been in prison ever since. Barry believes him and contacts Team Flash, asking them to reopen the case.

Elsewhere, Central City's new mayor holds a press conference to dedicate a brand new Kord Industries building. She boasts that the tower's high tech security system makes it impervious to metahuman attack. Suddenly the building begins glowing and shrinks to the size of a cigarette lighter. A bald man calmly walks over, picks it up (!) and leaves.

Sometime later Joe investigates the incident. Cisco arrives, accompanied by Cecile for some reason. Cicso scans the site and detects dark matter energy, indicating they're dealing with yet another bus meta. He pulls up security footage and sees the bald man pick up the building, then produce a full-sized 1970 Chevelle seemingly out of thin air and drive off in it. Cecile begins comically reading the minds of the citizens milling around the site, which annoys Joe.

Back at STAR, the Gang begins looking into Big Sir's case, and discover the evidence against him was sketchy and circumstantial at best. They also track the plates of the Chevelle in the security footage to a man with the unlikely name of Sylbert Rundine. Joe, Cisco and Ralph pay a visit to Rundine's apartment. Inside they find he apparently collects highly detailed miniature vehicles. Naturally Cisco gushes over Rundine's collection.

Joe spots a photo of a shirtless and buff Rundine on the wall (?), and notes he resembles Big Sir quite a bit. When Joe asks if he was ever around Mercury Labs, Rundine enlarges a tiny parachute and leaps out the window. Joe and the others search for him in the alley, but he's seemingly disappeared. Suddenly Rundine appears and fires a blast of energy from his hands, shrinking Cisco and Ralph. He then drives off and escapes.

Joe takes the two tiny men back to STAR Labs, where Harry and Caitlin examine them. The Gang discovers that Palmer Tech's supply of dwarf star alloy— which is used to shrink objects— was recently stolen. They deduce that Rundine was the culprit, and theorize the alloy plus his dark matter bus meta powers gives him shrinking powers. 


Iris relays this info to Barry, and he tells Big Sir they found the real killer of the security guard. He and prematurely tells Big Sir that he'll be out of prison in no time, needlessly getting his hopes up.

Meanwhile, Iris notices some tension between Joe and Cecile, and suggests they see her marriage counselor Dr. Finkle. Sure, why not? It's not like anything else is going on right now! They meet with her, and Joe admits to Cecile that she needs to stop reading his thoughts and get out of his mind.

Harry cobbles together an "embiggening" ray to restore Cisco and Ralph. He blasts them with it, but nothing happens. For some reason, Caitlin examines their blood and discovers their cells are exploding (!). She says they only have about ten hours left to live. Feeling guilty, Harry tries to find a cure. Cisco dubs Rundine "Dwarfstar."

At Iron Heights, Barry asks Big Sir what he plans to do when he gets out of prison. He says he'd like to go to Jiaju, a small, secluded village in China populated by Tibetan monks. Warden Wolfe notices Barry becoming chummy with Big Sir and doesn't like it. He takes Barry aside and tells him a story of an inmate who tried to help another, and was killed when he failed. He warns Barry not to get involved with Big Sir's case.

Cisco realizes he and Ralph are dying, and Harry confesses he feels stupid because he hasn't been able to help ANYONE lately. Cisco gives him a Patented The CW Pep Talk™, which helps trigger an idea. Harry says the only way to reverse their shrinkitude is to get Dwarfstar to blast them again. Of course! The old "Get The Donkey To Kick The Amnesia Patient In The Head Again" cure!

Meanwhile, Dwarfstar tours the Central City Weather Services Agency, and spots a large blimp that strikes his fancy. He shrinks it and stuffs it in his pocket. Team Flash tracks Dwarfstar to the Agency and speeds there to meet him. Once there, Cisco and Ralph fly a drone toward him (?), trying to get him to blast them again.

Dwarfstar figures out what they're doing, and refuses to shoot 'em again. Harry then gets an idea. He confronts Dwarfstar, practically pleading to be shrunk. Dwarfstar blasts him, but we see that Cisco secretly breached himself and Ralph under Harry's shirt (!). The blast hits them instead of Harry, causing them to grow back to normal size with only seconds to spare. Iris fires some sort of power-dampening collar at Dwarfstar, and Joe arrests him.

Joe tells Dwarfstar if he confesses to killing the Mercury Labs security guard, he'll cut him a deal. Dwarfstar refuses and tells them to get lost. Uh-oh! Without his confession, Big Sir can't be freed. Joe calls Barry and tells him the bad news. Barry's afraid Big Sir will pound him when he finds out, but he actually thanks him, saying he forgot what hope felt like.

Caitlin examines Cisco and Ralph, saying their cells have stabilized and are no longer in danger of exploding. Yeah, we know that, since the deadline expired an hour ago! Cecille and Joe talk about her new power. He tells her he's afraid she won't love him after reading his innermost thoughts. She tells him several of her own embarrassing thoughts to make things even, and says she'll always love him, no matter what.

Barry sits in his cell, clearly upset that he couldn't help Big Sir. Suddenly he has an idea. He then waits until the security camera points away from him, and phases through the bars of his cell. He then runs Big Sir across the world and deposits him in Jiaju (!). So... Barry's such an upstanding cop that he insists on serving time for a crime he didn't commit, but he just broke another inmate out of prison. I guess we're supposed to be OK with this?

The next day Warden Wolfe pays Barry a visit. For some reason he had a second secret camera installed outside Barry's cell. He shows him a printout from this camera, showing a streak of Speed Force lightning zipping out of the cell. He tells Barry he knows he's the Flash. Barry stumbles and collapses, as he realizes the Warden poisoned his prison pudding.

Barry's taken to a high tech, escape-proof cell somewhere deep inside Iron Heights. Warden Wolfe then calls Amunet Black, telling him he has a new metahuman to sell her.

Thoughts:
• So Cecile now has temporary superpowers, and word on the street is that an upcoming episode features Iris wearing some sort of superhero costume. Jesus Christ, does EVERYONE on The Flash have to be a meta?

Sometimes when I watch this show I imagine Oprah standing in the middle of the Cortex, pointing and yelling, "YOU get a power! And YOU get a power! And YOU get a power!"

How's that for a dated reference!

• Joe takes Cecile to STAR Labs, to find out if their unborn child is a meta as well. Caitlin examines the fetus, and says it's perfectly normal, complete with a heart rate of 170 beats per minute! 

Holy crap! That sounds awful high! The normal adult heart rate is only 100 BPM. I looked it up though, and fetal heart rates really are quite fast, often 170 BPM at ten weeks. The rate gradually decreases as the fetus grows larger. So good job, Flash writers!

• Team Flash tries to figure out how Cecile suddenly developed metahuman powers. She uses her telepathy to answer all their unspoken questions, saying, "
Nope, I wasn't on the bus. No, I was not abducted by aliens. No, I didn't inherit a mystic totem from my grandma!"

That last statement was a reference to Legends Of Tomorrow character Vixen, who did indeed gain her animal powers from a mystic totem gifted to her from her granny.

• At the end of Elongated Journey Into Night, Central City's Mayor Bellows was arrested for kidnapping, attempted murder and other assorted crimes. This week we see him in Iron Heights, playing poker with Barry and Big Sir.

I get that this is a comic book world, but it's extremely unlikely that a former mayor (even one as corrupt as Bellows) would be placed in the general prison population. He'd have way too many enemies to last very long without special protection.

• When Barry discovers Big Sir's innocent, he promises to do everything he can to free him. Big Sir tells him not to bother, 
as there's no such thing as hope in the big house, and he doesn't want to be disappointed yet again. Naturally, Barry doesn't listen and keeps making promise after promise, eventually getting Big Sir all worked up at the thought of getting out. Of course it doesn't work out, and Big Sir's hopes are crushed once more.


There was a very simple way to avoid all this. All Barry had to do was simply keep his mouth shut and not say anything to Big Sir until his release was a done deal.


• At one point the new Mayor of Central City (unnamed at this point) dedicates a brand new building, touting it as being completely metahuman proof. She says, "Which is why I'm proud to unveil Kord Industries' newest advanced reseach facility, designed to be the most secure building of its kind, complete with super-speed motion detectors, sonic vibration defenses, and laser beams that don't freeze."


This is a callback to the Season 2 episode Family Of Rogues, in which Captain Cold and his dad robbed a high tech facility. In one scene, the duo are confronted by a hallway protected by crisscrossing laser beams. The good Captain simply takes out his cold gun, sprays the beams and freezes them solid (!). He then walks through the beams as they shatter into a million pieces and fall to the floor (!!!). 

It was one of the most preposterous thing I've seen in a series that's filled with ridiculous comic book "science," and I'm betting the writers took a lot of crap for it (although from what I've read, the idea of freezing light is unlikely, but not entirely impossible). This scene was obviously a little nod that episode.


I loved the Mayor's reaction after the building seemingly disappears, seconds after she boasts it's completely secure. She bitterly looks at the now empty lot, sighs and utters a resigned, "I hate this city."

• Is it just a coincidence that this episode aired the same day that Marvel's new Ant-Man & The Wasp trailer premiered?

Even more odd is both the episode and the trailer feature the exact same scene! In Honey I Shrunk Team Flash, Dwarfstar uses his power to shrink the entire Kord Building. He then casually strolls over to it, picks up the now tiny building and stuffs it into his pocket!

In the Ant-Man & The Wasp trailer, Hank Pym uses his power to shrink an entire building as well (presumably one he owns). He then pulls a handle out of the roof of the shrunken building (?) and carries it off like a piece of wheeled luggage!

• When discussing how Dwarfstar's power works, Team Flash says, "So, Rundine's power must be able to shrink the space between atomic bonds."

Sigh... I really wish comic book movies and shows would stop trying to explain how shrinking powers work, as they ALWAYS get it wrong. 

They all seem to use the same old "removing the space between atoms" explanation. The problem with that is it would only affect size, not mass or weight. So when Sylbert Rundine shrinks an entire skyscraper to the size of a Pez dispenser, it's still gonna weigh tens of thousands of tons. He's not gonna be able to just pick it up and plop it in his pocket, unless he's also got super strength (for the record, Hank Pym used the same explanation in Ant-Man).

I know, I know, I'm doing it again— trying to apply real world science and logic to a comic book world. The show already features a man who can run so fast he goes back in time. If I'm OK with that, then why can't I accept their shrinking explanation?

Because suspension of disbelief is a fragile thing. Stretch it too far and it snaps like a rubber band. You want me to believe Barry Allen can run a thousand miles an hour (or faster)? Fine. You want me to accept the existence of numerous parallel Earths, and tell me his pal Cisco can effortlessly travel between them? Sure, why not? But then you also want me to buy the fact that an entire skyscraper can be compressed to six inches high, and can be picked up by a human? SNAP! You've gone too far. 

The Flash writers brought this all on themselves. By trying to explain the shrinking process with ridiculous pseudoscience, they're providing the audience with ammo and practically begging to be mocked. Better they should have used a vague explanation, like saying the shrinking process somehow involves quantum mechanics. That'd be harder for the audience to refute. Even better, just have the characters say they simply don't know how shrinking works— only that it does!


• Derek Mears plays Sylbert Rundine, aka Dwarstar. He's been popping up on a lot of genre shows a lot lately.

He's played a Kree captain in Season 5 of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., a Bruidian ambassador over on The Orville, as well as guest starring on Midnight, Texas and Season 3 of Twin Peaks. I'm assuming he gets a lot of work because of his large build and malevolent looks.

• Dwarfstar made his comic book debut in 2008's All New Atom #2. As you might imagine by now, the comic version looked absolutely nothing like the one we got on the show. At least he didn't wear black leather, I guess!

It makes sense that a character with the power to shrink objects would be an Atom villain. So why wasn't Ray Palmer, aka the Atom, in this episode? Good question! 

I'm assuming Brandon Routh is busy filming Legends Of Tomorrow, and didn't have time to make a cameo appearance here. We get a half-hearted explanation for his absence here, as Iris says, "So, I wasn't able to pin Ray Palmer or the Waverider, but I was able to reach Felicity."

• When Joe, Cisco and Ralph pay a visit to Dwarfstar's apartment, they find he has quite a collection of miniature vehicles (which are actually real, but shrunken in size!). When Cisco begins geeking out on the display, Dwarfstar proclaims he likes to collect "figurines."

WRONG!!! No self-respecting action figure or vehicle collector EVER uses the word "figurines." That's a surefire sign of a newbie, or someone who doesn't know what they're talking about. "Figurines" is a word generally reserved for things like Hummels.

• Is it weird that Dwarfstar has a buff, shirtless photo of himself hanging in his own living room?

• In the past, whenever a TV show or movie featured shrunken characters, they'd just place them on a large set with oversized props (think The Incredible Shrinking Man and Honey, I Shrunk The Kids). The effect never quite worked, as the props inevitably didn't have properly scaled textures, and the lighting just didn't react the same way it would on a small object. It was always obvious the audience was watching full-sized actors.

The Flash tries a new tactic here, by greenscreening Cisco and Ralph directly into a shot of a normal-sized table strewn with small objects. Even though the effect appears a bit fake at first glance, this is exactly how the scene would look in real life! The objects on the table actually look small, just as they should. Congrats to the FX team for getting this right!

Note that the recent film Downsizing did this same thing with their shrinking effects.

• Caitlin asks the shrunken Ralph if he can stretch himself back to normal size. He tries, actually stretching a bit, but ultimately fails for some reason. Note that Ralph's street clothes don't stretch along with his body, which is exactly as it should be. Kudos, writers!

• Boy, it's a good thing Iris stepped on Ralph instead of Cisco! I don't think Cisco would've survived such a squishing.

• At one point Cisco breaches himself across the room to talk to Team Flash. When he arrives he's painfully out of breath and gasps, "Oh, God.Oh, it takes a long time to breach here!"

Granted, at his current small size he breached an equivalent distance of a city block or two. Still... he's physically exhausted after teleporting a thousand feet, but he's fine after breaching to another Earth. Got it.

• This week it's confirmed that Big Sir's real name is David P. Ratchet. If you read my review of the previous episode, you'd know that in the comics his name is actually DUFUS P. Ratchet. Probably a good idea to change that.

A couple more things about this screen. First of all, it displays Big Sir's driver's license info, which is fifteen years out of date (the length of time he's been out of prison). Note that it appears they actually used a younger photo of actor Bill Goldberg here (one with no gray hair) to illustrate it's old info. Nice attention to detail!

Also note that just like last week, the show's Canadian roots are still showing. Once again they spelled "license" as "licence."


• I was sure the entire reason Cecile became a meta this week was so her newfound telepathy would be used to wrangle a confession from Dwarfstar. Nope! That didn't happen. So... what was the point of giving her powers then? To cause trouble between her and Joe so they'd have something to do in this episode?

Speaking of Cecile, man is she tiny! Check out the massive six inch heels she's wearing in this shot, which still only raises her to around Joe's chest level!

• When Barry asks Big Sir what he wants to do when he gets out of prison, he says he'd like to live in Jiaju, China. Believe it or not, there really is a Jiaju! It's a small Tibetan village nestled in the mountains of China, and is renowned for its beauty.

So how does Big Sir feel about this? Sure, he's finally achieved his dream, but at what cost? For fifteen years he's been a wrongly accused, innocent prisoner. Not anymore! Suddenly he's a fugitive from justice, courtesy of Barry Allen. 

Did Barry ask Big Sir if he even wanted sprung from prison? It doesn't seem likely, as he just took it upon himself to whisk him away to China at superspeed. Big Sir never had a say in it one way or the other. What if Big Sir didn't WANT to go? What if he was content to serve his sentence and get out the legal way? Too late to worry about that now!

• At the end of the episode, Warden Wolfe displays a security camera photo that shows a stream of Speed Force Lightning trailing after Barry. Wait, what?

I was under the impression that when Barry really gets going, he moves faster than the human eye can see. In order to do that, his lightning trail would have to be invisible as well. Otherwise when he runs past a crowd, they'd all spot it and say, "Why is there yellow lightning everywhere?" This is supported over and over by dozens of episodes.

Now we're suddenly finding out that his lightning is visible after all— at least to the "eye" of a security camera, that likely sees at thirty frames per second. Researchers believe the human eye can see up to 250 frames per second... and possibly more!

That means if a camera can see Barry's Speed Force lightning, then the human eye certainly can. And the notion of him being able to move so fast he's invisible is impossible.

• We need to talk about Barry's fluid and slippery-slope morality in this episode. When Ralph first got his powers back in Elongated Journey Into Night, Barry was the only member of Team Flash who refused to help him. His reasoning? Because Ralph had been a dirty cop, who planted evidence on a guilty perp after the courts had set him free.


Then a couple of episodes ago Barry was sentenced to prison for the murder of Clifford DeVoe. Even though he was innocent, he insisted on going to prison and serving his time, even though his powers made it easy to escape any time he wanted.

In both cases, his rigid, personal code of ethics made him blindly follow the rules of society at all costs.

Welp, all that's out the window as of this episode. Here we see Barry using his superspeed to cheat at poker, ensuring that Big Sir beat Ex-Mayor Bellows. And then he goes even further by spiriting Big Sir out of prison and into his dream village in China. 

Yes, Big Sir was innocent and wrongly imprisoned. That doesn't matter! He's still a convicted felon in the eyes of the law! And now he's a FUGITIVE convict, thanks to Barry.

So which is it, Barry? Is the rule of law the most important thing in the world, or is it OK to flaunt it in order to do the "right thing?" You can't have it both ways.

Maybe the writers are trying to show us that being on the other side of the prison bars has changed Barry, forcing him to soften his position on the law. If that's what they're trying to do, they need to clarify it a bit. As shown, it looks like Barry's belief system changes to accommodate the story, which is just plain sloppy writing.

• I'm in the camp who believes the Mystery Girl who's popped up twice now (in Crisis On Earth-X Part 1 and The Elongated Knight Rises) is actually Barry & Iris' daughter from the future.


After this episode, a lot of fans believe the Mystery Girl is really Joe & Cecile's daughter— which would make her Barry & Iris' sister (!). Hmm. That honestly makes quite a bit of sense, especially since Cecile gained surprise superpowers this week. I'm still going with her being Barry & Iris' kid though.

• Next week on The Flash: The Gang travels to Earth-HB, where they meet Harrison Wells-Smith, the ranger of Jellystone Park!

This Week's Best Lines:
Harry: "As a former prisoner, I can tell you..."

Cisco: "No, that was gorilla prison."
Harry: "Gorilla prison is worse. They throw their scat at you."

Bellows: "You know, there's something fishy about you, Allen."
Barry: "I'm fishy? You tried to murder me & Joe."
Bellows: "Well, if you can't play cards with somebody who tried to murder you, you'll never play cards in here."

Mayor: (after the allegedly super-secure Kord building disappears before the crowd's eyes) "I hate this city."

Cisco: "Uh, never trust a mustache, I always say."
Joe: "I have a mustache."
Cisco: "No, you have a sexy goatee. (indicating onlooker) He has a creeper mustache."

Joe: "It's registered to a perp who has multiple breaking and entering priors... Sylbert Rundine."
Iris: "Why does every villain in this city have a name that sounds like it came out of a comic book?"
(Com-O-Dee!)

Big Sir: "I've been in here long enough to understand that in prison, hope is the most dangerous thing."
Barry: "Wait, did you get that from Shawshank?"
Big Sir: "No. I got that from being in prison."
(the actual line from The Shawshank Redemption is "Hope is a good thing")

Ralph: (after Iris steps on him and he sticks to her sole) "I'm a gum-shoe! Not gum on a shoe!"

Cecile: "Harry this is not your fault."
Harry: "Yeah, but it kinda is... don't read my mind, okay? What am I thinking now?"
Cecile: (horrified, after reading his mind) "Oh, God."

Ralph: "For the record, this is awesome, but why do you guys have a giant LEGO set anyway?"
Iris: (matter-of-factly) "It is a three-dimensional model of the place where I was predestined to be brutally murdered by a twisted future version of Barry."

Cecile: "So, if it's okay with you, I just was wondering if I could talk to you about Joe."
Iris: "Um, yeah. Of course it's okay."
Cecile: (reading her mind) "Oh, no, honey, it's it's not about that! We have zero problems in that department, as you can tell!" 
Iris: "Okay. TMI, but okay."

Ralph: "Guys?"
Harry: "What?"
Ralph: "Guys?"
Harry: "Yeah?"
Ralph: "Guys!"
Harry: "WHAT?"
Ralph: "Little Ralphie needs to use little boys room."
Cisco: "Didn't you just go?"
Ralph: "My bladder is literally the size of a hummingbird's right now. Come on, Caitlin. Help a wee fellow take a wee-wee?"
Harry: (to Caitlin) :"Can you..."
Caitlin: "Me?"
Harry: "Well, I'm not touching him."
Caitlin: "Fine, I'll take you there, but you have to find your own way out."
Ralph: "Thank you."
Harry: "Could've just gone in the bushes."
Caitlin: "Gross."

Cisco: "The embiggening bazooka made us unstable, didn't it?"
Harry: "Yeah. NO! What? No! Wh... why would you say that?"
Cisco: I can see it all over your face."
Harry: "What?"
Cisco: "Your face is huge. I'm watching your emotions on IMAX."

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