Saturday, April 21, 2018

The Flash Season 4, Episode 17: Null And Annoyed

This week on The Flash, the series begins placing all the pieces on the gameboard, as it sets up the rapidly approaching season finale.

For at least the fifteenth time this season, the A-plot in this episode involves Ralph learning to be a hero. This time he's joking around and refusing to take the situation seriously. That's odd, as just last week he was so terrified that DeVoe was going to absorb his brain that he refused to even come out of his room.

Over on The Walking Dead, I've often joked that there's a "Wheel Of Motivation" in the writer's room, and they spin it each week to determine how various characters will act in each episode. I'm starting to think The Flash writers may have borrowed this wheel, or built one of their own.

Barry spends a good deal of the episode scolding Ralph for not taking the situation seriously. The episode obviously wants us to side with Ralph here, and think Barry's being an old stick-in-the-mud. 

Thing is... Barry's actually right! There's a time and place for joking, and it's definitely not when you're on a serious, life-threatening mission.

I really do wish the writers would think of something to do with Ralph besides his weekly "How To Be A Hero" lesson, that he completely forgets by the time the next episode roles around.

For weeks now we've been seeing Marlize, aka The Mechanic, begin having second thoughts about her husband Clifford DeVoe's master plan. I predicted she'd end up switching sides and joining Team Flash to take him down. I really thought that was gonna happen this week, until DeVoe drugged her and wiped her memory.

I still think she's going to end up being his downfall, but first she's gonna have to get out from under the influence of Weeper's tears.


In other big news, Breacher offers Cisco a bounty hunter job over on Earth-19. Which means we're doing the old "Will He Or Won't He Leave His Friends" storyline. Meh. No matter what happens, we know Cisco's not going anywhere, or at least not permanently. There's no doubt in my mind he'll be back next season.

The most interesting development in this episode comes at the end, when it appears that Harry's Thinking Cap is having an adverse affect on him, and may be slowly turning into Harrison Wells, aka Eobard Thawne, aka the Reverse Flash. It's traditional for the series to have a different version of Wells each season, and this is Harry's second. Is this how they're going to write him off the show, to make way for a brand new Wells in Season 5?

SPOILERS!


The Plot:
In the Danger Room, er, I mean STAR Labs, Barry and Ralph practice battling a hologram of DeVoe, aka The Thinker. Despite the fact that last week Ralph was scared crapless at the thought of DeVoe stealing his body, suddenly he's joking and clowning around. Frustrated with Ralph's antics, Barry shuts down the simulation. Iris tells Barry to chill, but he's furious with Ralph for not taking the situation seriously.

In the Cortex, Harry says he used his Thinking Cap to figure out the identities of the remaining two bus metas— Edwin Gauss and Janet Petty. Unfortunately Gauss has seemingly disappeared from the face of the Earth, and Petty is a career criminal with a long list of aliases that'll make her hard to locate.

This frustrates Harry, who punishes himself for not being smart enough to find the metas— especially after his Thinking Cap augmented his brain. He sits down hard in frustration, right on a Whoopee Cushion planted by Ralph. He hurls the cushion at Ralph in anger, as the others roll their eyes at the juvenile humor. Don't worry, this'll all become important later on.

Just then Breacher 
vibes in and grabs Cisco by the throat. As you'll recall, he's the father of Gypsy, Cisco's other-dimensional sort of girlfriend. He also has a strong hatred of Cisco, as he feels he's not good enough for his "little girl." Breacher explains he was on another Earth fighting Lord Crucifer and his horde of vampires, when his vibe blasts suddenly fizzled out. Amazingly he asks for Cisco's help, saying he's the smartest person he knows. A wary Cisco agrees to run some tests on him.


Cut to DeVoe's lair, where he and his wife Marlize discuss their evil plan. DeVoe's still in the body of Izzy Bowen, by the way. Suddenly he/she stumbles and coughs, and Marlize catches him. DeVoe says his new body's deteriorating faster than expected, and Marlize says she'll recalibrate his flying chair to prolong his life. 


She pulls up the chair schematics, and is puzzled to see the alterations are already in progress. DeVoe explains that he started without her, but needs her superior mechanical skills to finish the upgrade. Marlize is suspicious, but buys his explanation.

Sigh... we then cut to goddamned Jay and Silent Bob, who are apparently now part of the Arrowverse and work at a Central City museum. The two of them try to move a crate, but it's too heavy for them to budge. While they wander off to find a dolly, Janet Petty, who calls herself Null, wanders in. She places her hand on the crate, which causes it to float high into the air. It crashes back to the ground and splinters open. She opens a case inside, takes a priceless crown from it and scampers off.

At STAR Labs, Cisco and Caitlin run several tests on Breacher. Caitlin comes to the conclusion that he can't vibe blast anymore simply because he's old. Cisco agrees, but is reluctant to tell him, fearing he'll kill him for suggesting he doesn't have what it takes anymore.

Meanwhile, Marlize works on DeVoe's chair. She drops her mug of tea, and as she's cleaning it up she notices an odd chemical on the floor. She scoops up the substance and studies it.

Team Flash analyze the fingerprints on the museum crate and discover they belong to Null. They somehow track her to an apartment rented by Earl Cox, Ralph's sleazy acquaintance. Barry and Ralph decide to pay Earl a visit. For some reason, Ralph uses his stretchy powers to morph into a facsimile of Joe, who plays "bad cop" and interrogates Earl.

Ralph and Barry notice Earl has a bag full of jewels, and then spot Null hiding out on the ceiling. Suddenly she drops to the floor and touches Barry. He floats up and hits the ceiling, and in the confusion Null gets away.

Back at STAR, the Gang tries to figure out how to cure Barry's weightlessness. Harry uses his amplified intellect to predict the effect will wear off soon, and sure enough, a few seconds later Barry plops to the floor. He rips Ralph a new one for not taking the interrogation seriously, and benches him.

A worried Breacher asks Cisco about his test results. Cisco can't bring himself to tell Breacher that he's simply too old to vibe anymore, so he lies and gives him some antihistamine pills, saying they'll cure him.

Just then Iris gets an alert saying Null's robbing a jewelry store. Barry rushes to the scene and plants power dampening handcuffs on her writsts. She then motions toward the sky, indicating her "getaway car." Apparently she anticipated the Flash's arrival, so she levitated a car before the robbery. It's now plummeting back to Earth, with a terrified driver inside. She tells Barry he can save the citizen or capture her— it's his choice. Naturally, Barry uses his powers to save the panicked driver, allowing Null to pick the cuffs and scamper off.

Cisco finds Breacher's empty bottle of pills, and realizes he thinks he's cured. He vibes the pill bottle and sees Breacher facing off against Lord Crucifer. Breacher tries to vibe blast the vampire lord, but of course nothing happens. Just as Crucifer's about to attack, Cisco appears, grabs Breacher and they vibe back to Earth-1.

Cisco finally comes clean and explains that Breacher's powers don't work because of his age. He doesn't take it well. He tells Cisco he hates his guts and then vibes away. Caitlin says tells Cisco he did the right thing.

Marlize studies the mystery substance, and realizes DeVoe's been drugging her with Weeper's psychoactive tears. 
Appalled, she records a message to warn herself about her husband. She saves the message under a fake file name, only to find it's already been used. DeVoe then appears and tells her she always picks that same file name. Apparently he's been using Weeper and Brainstorm's powers to erase her memory for weeks, so she'll continue to help him. He then drugs her yet again. 


Iris tells Barry he should lighten up on Ralph, so he decides to unbench him. Just then there's an alert of a robbery at a museum gala. Null's there, using her powers to steal the upper crust's jewelry. Barry and Ralph arrive to stop her. Null touches the floor, sending out a wave of gravity-cancelling energy into the crowd.

Barry scoops all the party guests away from the energy wave at superspeed. Unfortunately Null sneaks up behind him and taps his shoulder, sending him flying upwards. With no roof in the way this time, he zooms up into the open sky. Team Flash tries to come up with a way to rescue Barry, but no one can think of anything— including an ever-more frustrated Harry.

Barry rises high into the stratosphere. Suddenly the effect wears off, and he plummets back to Earth. Luckily, Ralph gets an idea. He stretches his arms over to Null and places the dampening cuffs on her feet. He then forms his body into the shape of a giant Whoppee Cushion. His inflated body manages to cushion Barry's fall as he lands. See, I told you this'd pay off later!

Barry thanks Ralph, and says for once his bizarre antics saved his life. Ralph, still in the form of a Whoopee Cushion, lets the air out of his body with a massive, prolonged fart sound.

At STAR Labs, Null's placed in the Secret Super Jail. Breacher appears, dressed in leisure clothing for once. He tells Cisco he realizes he was right, and he's retiring from the interdimensional bounty hunter business. He says Gypsy'll need help, and offers him his old job. Great, a "Will He Or Won't He Quit" storyline for Cisco.

Harry sneaks off, carrying his Thinking Cap. He opens the door to the secret Time Room— the one created by his doppelganger Eobard Thawne—and enters. He places the Cap inside a wall panel, and then activates Gideon. She welcomes him, and he tells her a lot's changed since they last spoke.

Thoughts:

• What's the deal with Ralph in this episode? For the past two episodes he's been clinically depressed, worrying that any second DeVoe would appear and absorb his brain. Then suddenly this week he's constantly joking and clowning around. He's even cracking wise while fighting a hologram of the woman he was sweet on a few weeks ago! Why the sudden and jarring change?

It's been like this ever since Ralph appeared. Every week he acts like a jerk, learns a valuable After School Special lesson about being a hero, and becomes a better person. Then the next week it happens all over again. It's like there's a giant red reset button on his chest. I've honestly never seen anything quite like it on a series before.


• Apparently STAR Labs has its very own Danger Room, that can conjure up solid holographic enemies for Team Flash to practice fighting. That's new!

• It's always a treat to see the awesome Danny Trejo on the show! I hope this retirement storyline doesn't mean we've seen the end of him on The Flash!

• As part of Ralph's jokery in this episode, he plants a Whoopee Cushion in Harry's chair, and of course it makes an embarrassing fart sound when he sits down hard on it. An enraged Harry then hurls the Cushion at Ralph, who catches it and cries, "That was expensive!"

I dunno how things are in the Arrowverse, but here on our Earth you can buy a Whoopee Cushion at the dollar store!


• It's no secret that I am NOT a fan of Kevin Smith's films. I'm sure he's probably a nice guy and all, but I find his films overly talky, poorly filmed and extremely self indulgent. That's why I was less than enthused when I saw these words appear on screen during the opening credits.

Despite his involvement, the episode turned out reasonably well. That may be due to the fact that Smith didn't have anything to do with the script. Maybe he works better when he's directing someone else's work.


• Since Kevin Smith directed this episode, it's inevitable that we'd get a cameo from Jay and Silent Bob. Sigh... I guess that means they're now part of the Arrowverse? What next, finding out that The Flash is part of the Tommy Westphall Universe?

• Jay and Silent Bob crank up the "hilarity" as they sweat and strain, trying to budge a large crate from the museum loading dock. Eventually they give up and search for a dolly in order to move it.


After Null destroys the crate, Joe investigates the crime scene. He tells Barry and Ralph that the reinforced crate weighed two hundred pounds.


Seriously? Two hundred pounds? That's it? So two full-grown men couldn't budge a crate weighing that much? Jesus Christ, you'd think at the least they could have "walked" it into the museum by twisting it back and forth.


• Joe also notes that the crate contained the family crown of the Kahndaq Dynasty. Kahndaq is a fictional Middle Eastern country that's shown up several times over on Arrow. It also appears in various DC comics.


• So Breacher can no longer fire off vibe blasts because of his age, yet he can still freely use his power to open portals to other Earths. Wha...? I guess they're two completely different powers then? That seems... unlikely. 


The vibe blasts and the portal-opening energy seem like they're the same power. He shoots 'em both out of his hands and they look identical as well. Seems like if one aspect of his power was on the fritz, they'd both be.


Of course if his powers failed altogether, then he wouldn't have been able to visit Earth-1 and ask for help, or teleport off to Lord Crucifer's Earth, so... there's the answer.

• At one point Cisco runs a series of tests on Breacher, who then announces he's hungry. Cisco says, "Um, there's donuts in the downstairs break room. Help yourself. It's a huge selection. Yeah. Try the pineapple fritters. And don't forget to try the nacho donuts. Those are really good."


Wondering why Cisco's describing the donut spread in such minute detail? Welp, that's because it's a shameless plug. See, Danny Trejo owns his own Coffee & Donuts chain in California. And yes, they serve pineapple fritters and nacho donuts, among many others. I wonder... was this bit of product placement one of Trejo's conditions for appearing on the show?

• I appreciate the level of detail that went into creating all of Null's many aliases. The production crew went to a lot of trouble to dress up actress Bethany Brown in a variety of wigs and costumes, all for a scene that lasted just a couple of seconds. Kudos!

• Team Flash tracks down Null to an apartment at the corner of Orchard & Broome. As we all know by now, The Flash lovvvvves tossing in references to DC comic book creators. I don't know if anyone named Orchard ever worked on the book, but John Broome was a prolific Flash writer back in the Silver Age.


• Null's a VERY obscure character from DC comics, who first appeared in the 1980s Hawkworld series (which, as you might have guessed, starred Hawkman and Hawkgirl).

As is typical for The Flash, the live action version looks absolutely NOTHING like the source material. The character's been race-swapped, gender-flipped and pretty much anything else you can think of.

For once I'm not gonna complain, as this live-action version of Null is a vast improvement over the faux Tom Petty-looking goon that graced the comic book pages.

• Null appears to be a fan of the Superhero Landing.

• I've brought this up several times over the season, but it's still a fair point. Whenever DeVoe transfers his mind into a new body, he then speaks in
their natural accent. For example, for the past few week's he's been occupying the body of Izzy Bowen, so he speaks in her characteristic Southern drawl.


That just doesn't seem right to me. I don't think your body's physically constrained to a particular accent. Normally I speak like the Southern Indiana hillbilly that I am, but if I had to I could do a passable British, German or French accent. It's my brain that drives how I sound, not my body.


The same applies to DeVoe. The minute he enters another person's body, we should see them speaking with his South African accent.


• Jesse L. Martin does an AWESOME job in this episode, as he plays Ralph pretending to be Joe. Somehow Martin convinced me he WAS Ralph in this scene. It was pretty amazing to watch.

This is the second time this season that Ralph's used his stretching powers to morph into a black man. I get that his powers allow him to change the shape of his face, but how's he changing his skin tone?


• Cisco discovers Breacher's powers are fading simply because of his age. He's afraid to tell him this though, so he lies and gives him some blue antihistamine pills, saying they'll balance out his stamina and restore his powers.

Did you catch that? He gives Breacher little blue pills to restore his stamina. Eh? EH? Get it?


• OK, now I want an episode in which Team Flash joins forces with Breacher and fights Lord Crucifer and his Tenth Circle.

• In a nice little callback to the beginning of the episode, late in the third act Ralph forms his body into a giant Whoopee Cushion in order to break Barry's fall and save his life.

I... I don't want to know what part of Ralph's body formed the Cushion's valve stem though.

The twelve year old in me appreciated the fact that Ralph's Whoopee Cushion-shaped body deflated with a drawn out fart sound.

• I liked Breacher's retirement clothes. Something tells me that outfit's probably pretty close to what Danny Trejo wears on a daily basis.

• According to Breacher, Earth-48 contains a dragon farm.

• This is some heavy duty nitpicking, but whatever. t the end of the episode, Harry enters the secret Time Vault that was created by his futuristic doppelganger, Eobard Thawne.

If you zoom in and look at the above image, you can see that all the wall panels in the corridor are perfectly smooth, except for the one hiding the Time Vault. For some reason, it's covered in a rough, stucco texture. 


Why would anyone make the invisible doorway to their secret room stand out like that? Wouldn't it make more sense for it to look exactly like all the other panels?


• When Harry enters the secret Time Vault, he activates Gideon, the STAR Labs sentient computer. Gideon apparently doesn't realize that Harry's from Earth-2, and thinks he's actually Dr. Harrison Wells, aka Eobard Thawne (I guess?). The two of them then have the following conversation: 

Gideon: "Good evening, Dr. Wells. It's been 1,078 days since we last spoke. How can I be of service?"

Harry: "Hello, Gideon. A lot has changed since then."

That 1,078 day figure sounds suspiciously specific. I wonder... is it accurate?


The last time Harrison Wells/Thawne spoke to Gideon was in the Season 1 episode The Trap, which aired on Tuesday, April 28, 2015. This episode aired on Tuesday, April 10, 2018. There are exactly 1,057 days between those two events! Amazing!


• By the way, speaking of this particular version of Gideon, we were told back in Season 1 that Barry invented her at some point in the future. We never find out exactly when, but most fans are convinced he does it sometime before 2024. That's only six short years from now.


No offense to Barry, but he doesn't seem like he has the skill or know-how to cobble together a conventional computer, much less a SENTIENT one! He'd better start studying computer science STAT!


This Week's Best Lines: 
Ralph: "I still think it's a pretty good plan. I hide my face, I save my ass."

Ralph: "We'd make a fortune. An improv group made up of superheroes? We can take it to Washington. We'd be the DC Comics."
(GROAN!)

Ralph: "Can pigs fly?"
Barry: "No."
Ralph: "They can if you put them on an airplane."
(I didn't include this line because it was good, but because it was so BAD. It's almost as bad as Storm's "Do you know what happens when a toad gets struck by lightning" line from the very first X-Men movie)

Barry: "I just want to get down from here as soon as possible."
Ralph: "Maybe you should try to burp yourself down. Like Charlie Bucket."

Caitlin: "Well, as best I can tell, Null's powers effect the density of his cells. It's like you've been filled with helium."
Barry: "Terrific."
Ralph: "Always knew you were a lightweight."
Barry: "I swear Ralph"

Barry: "Out of the twelve bus metas we've found, DeVoe is in control of seven of them. If he gets Null, it'll be eight. If he gets control of her powers, we're talking about your life here."
Ralph: "Sorry, I was just thinking about the end of LOST. I mean, were they in purgatory? What did Kate really see in Jack?"
Barry: "Ralph!"

Breacher: "You said your antimatter-histamine would cure me!"

Breacher: "I went back to my earth. Saw my reflection in my knife. I saw an older man."
Cisco: "I'm curious. Have you never looked in a mirror before?"
Breacher: "I'm not a teenage girl!"
Cisco: "Okay, you're not a teenage girl!"

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