Saturday, November 4, 2017

The Flash Season 4, Episode 4: Elongated Journey Into Night

This week The Flash gives us another pretty decent and very funny episode. Wow, two in a row now! Let's hope they can keep up the streak!

Elongated Journey Into Night (com-O-dee!) featured 2, count 'em two major guest stars, as we were introduced to both longtime DC Comic character Elongated Man, and relative newcomer Breacher. This made for slightly crowded episode, as Breacher's storyline was relegated to the B-plot. 

I have to wonder if Breacher's storyline would have had more of an impact if he'd had an entire episode devoted to him. Maybe the writers didn't think there was enough material there to fill forty two minutes, I dunno.

It was great to see Elongated Man finally make it into live action. Unfortunately, for some reason the writers made the decision to give the typically lighthearted hero a much darker origin. Why they did this I have no idea, other than to give him a cliched redemption arc.

The jury's still out on whether or not Elongated Man will be a valuable asset to the show, but I'm curious as to why the powers that be feel the need to make him a part of Team Flash. Just last week they booted Wally off the series, presumably because there wasn't enough for him to do. Now a week later they bring in a brand new character. Odd.

That said, actor Hartley Sawyer's a joy to watch as the Elongated Man, giving a wonderfully comic performance, and looking like he just stepped out of the comics.

Even better was the always great Danny Trejo as Breacher, father of Gypsy and instant thorn in Cisco's side. The scenes with Cisco and Breacher were comedy gold, and even though you could see the resolution coming from a mile away, the journey was worth it.

This week the Elongated Man also name drops Clifford DeVoe, aka The Thinker. This finally gives Barry a clue as to who's behind the creation of the dark matter metahumans, so we can get this storyline in gear.


The Plot:
Cisco and Gypsy finally manage to find time for a date. As the action heats up, he asks Gypsy her real name, but she playfully refuses to tell him. She then leaves the room to slip into something more comfortable. The second she's gone, a terrifying-looking man vibes into Cisco's bedroom. He identifies himself as Breacher, says he's Gypsy's father and announces he's going to kill Cisco. Fortunately Gypsy stops him in time.

Cut to the CCPD, where Mayor Bellows is campaigning for reelection. After the speech, Joe asks Barry if he's found any info on the busload of passengers who were exposed to dark matter a few weeks ago, which turned them all into potential evil metahumans. Barry says over nine hundred people rode that particular bus that day, meaning it'll be next to impossible to I.D. them all. Barry senses Joe's hiding something, but he denies it. Of course Joe really is keeping something to himself— the fact that he's about to be a father again!

At STAR Labs, Cisco's giving Breacher a tour of the place. Barry enters and searches through evidence found on the dark matter busdriver. He finds a business card belonging to Ralph Dibny, a former policeman who's now working freelance as a private eye. Barry hates Dibny, claiming he's a dirty cop who was thrown off the force.

Barry and Joe pay a visit to Dibny's office, to find out if he was exposed to dark matter. Dibny asks how much to info's worth to him, and Barry realizes he hasn't changed. Dibny denies having any powers, and Barry and Joe leave. Seconds later, a couple of mobsters enter the office and dangle Dibny off the roof. As he screams for them to stop, his legs begin stretching. They keep on stretching until his body's lying on the street far below (apparently this must have spooked the mobsters and they ran away?). Barry and Joe just happen to see this as they're leaving, and realize Dibny was lying about being exposed. 

Cut to STAR Labs, where Caitlin's examining Dibny, whose legs are piled all over the room. Caitlin and Harry determine the dark matter polymerized Dibnys's cells, making them elastic. He can now stretch his entire body, much like Silly Putty.

Meanwhile, Cisco, Gypsy and Breacher go to Jitters for coffee. When Gypsy leaves to get their order, Breacher says Cisco's not worthy of dating his daughter. He says he's going to hunt him for the next twenty four hours, at the end of which he'll kill him. Cisco's not quite sure if he's serious or not, until Breacher starts counting down from ten. He tells Cisco he can't use his powers to get away from him, and continues counting. Cisco hightails it out of the coffee shop and looks for a place to hide.

Back at STAR, Team Flash debates what to do with Dibny. Barry doesn't trust him, and suggests tossing him in the Secret Super Jail. Caitlin disagrees, saying she took an oath to help people, no matter what they might have done in the past. She says if they had a sample of Dibny's non-mutated DNA, she might be able to fix him.

Barry goes back to Dibny's office to check it for DNA, taking Iris along for some reason. Iris asks Barry why he hates Dibny so much. He explains that one of his first cases as a CSI involved a woman named Judy Gimlin, who was stabbed to death. Her husband Reagan was the prime suspect, but they had no evidence to convict him. Dibny miraculously found a knife covered with the husband's fingerprints, that tied him to the crime scene. Reagan was then tried and convicted. Barry wanted to be sure though, so he examined the knife and found the blade didn't match Judy's wound, meaning Dibny planted the knife, then lied about it under oath. Barry ratted him out and got him fired, which explains why they hate each other.

Iris says people can change, but Barry doesn't believe it. Iris finds a hairbrush containing Dibny's skin cells. For some reason, she continues searching after this, opening a desk drawer and seeing a bomb inside. Luckily Barry grabs her and vibrates the two of them through the floor before the bomb explodes.

Back at STAR Labs, Iris gives Caitlin the DNA-laden brush. Joe says he checked Dibny's phone, and found records of fifteen calls between him and Mayor Bellows, which seems suspicious. Cisco crawls through a vent near Harry, who suggests he set a trap for Breacher instead of trying to avoid him.

Caitlin synthesizes a serum that'll stabilize Dibny's body. He drinks it, and his legs retract to normal length. She tells him it's like muscle memory, and if he thinks of a shape his body will take it. Of course Dibny immediately gives himself a six pack.

Barry and Joe visit Mayor Bellows to find out why Dibny's been calling him. The Mayor reluctantly reveals he cheated on his wife, and Dibny somehow got photos and has been blackmailing him. Barry tells the Mayor not to worry about it, as he'll take care of Dibny. After they leave, the Mayor summons the two goons we saw earlier, and tells them to kill Dibny— and any cops who get in their way (!).

Barry returns to STAR and demands Dibny stop blackmailing the Mayor. This escalates into a huge argument, as Dibny says Barry caused him to lose everything, and the Mayor can afford to lose a little bit of money. Barry accuses Dibny of being a dirty cop, saying he got what he deserved. Barry even goes so far as to punch Dibny, getting his hand stuck in his pliable face. Dibny untangles himself from Barry and leaves in a huff.

Meanwhile, Cisco lures Breacher into a lab. When Breacher arrives, Cisco springs his trap, enclosing him in some sort of cubical force field. Breacher's undeterred, as he pulls out a huge knife (some might even call it a machete) he took from an Earth-48 bounty hunter and somehow slices his way out of the field. Cisco's horrified, and runs off again.

Later Joe shows up at Barry's place with beer. He tells Barry he thinks he should cut Dibny some slack (HAW!) and give him a second chance. Just then there's a knock at the door, and when Barry answers it, the Mayor's goons open fire. Barry knocks out the goons, then plucks the bullets out of the air before they hit him or Joe. Barry realizes the Mayor will send someone after Dibny next.

Dibney meets with the Mayor in an alley. The Mayor hands him a case filled with $200,000, and demands the incriminating photos. Dibny gives Bellows the photos, then apparently takes Barry's barbs to heart and tells him to keep the money. The Mayor's confused, not sure what just happened. He then pulls out a gun and shoots Dibny in the head. Fortunately for him, the bullets bounce off his rubbery face.

Just then Barry zooms in, takes the gun from Mayor Bellows and tells him he's under arrest. Suddenly Breacher vibes in, sees Dibny and thinks he's a Plastoid (an alien species that decimated his Earth). He fires several vibe blasts at Dibny, who dodges them and causes Barry to get hit. Joe arrives, and in the confusion the Mayor takes him hostage and flies off in a chopper.

Breacher's about to kill Dibny when Cisco vibes in. He says his mistake helped create Dibny, and bravely says he's not about to let Breacher kill him. Breacher stands down. Barry realizes Joe's been kidnapped, but says he's too weak from Breacher's blast to catch the chopper. Cisco says he can't vibe up to it either, as "the event horizon would tear it apart." (?).

Barry and Cisco look at Dibny and say it's up to him to save Joe. Dibny says he's no hero, but Barry gives him a Patented The CW Pep Talk® and says he knows he has it in him. And just to prove it, he takes off his mask to reveal his secret identity (of course). Dibny can't believe the man who destroyed his life is really the Flash, but says he'll try.

Dibny stretches his arm and reaches for the chopper. He manages to grab hold of it, and somehow he's not pulled off the ground when he does. Barry then runs up Dibny's arm (!), and into the chopper, where he grabs the Mayor's gun and captures him. Joe, in shock, chooses that moment to blurt out that Cecile's pregnant. Barry says he knew he was hiding something!

Back at STAR Labs, the gang celebrates Joe's news with cigars. Breacher tells Cisco he still hates him, but he respects him for standing up to him and has decided not to kill him. He then calls Gypsy by her real name of Cynthia, saying it's time to go. He also reveals his real name is "Josh." Cisco laughs it up at this reveal, until the two bounty hunters glare at him.

That night Caitlin goes home and sees the words "We Miss You, Come Back Soon" scratched into her apartment door. I'm assuming this has something to do with her time working in the dive bar as Killer Frost a few episodes back.

Barry fixes up Dibny's office and says he forgives him, going so far as to offer him a spot on Team Flash. As a show of good faith, Dibny tells Barry that he didn't make all the calls to the Mayor. They came from someone named DeVoe. Barry recognizes the name from last season, but doesn't know who he is. Dibny says he smells a mystery, implying he's on the case...

 Wally's still briefly visible in the opening narration. I'm betting that means he's not gone for good.

• Gypsy's a bounty hunter who tracks down people who violate her world's "No Traveling Between Dimensions" law. Once again, apparently this rule doesn't apply to members of her profession, since she freely visits Earth-1 just to go on a date! And her dad also appears just to check up on her!

• I'm amazed that in our currently overly sensitive, politically correct society, no SWJs have complained about a character named "Gypsy."

• At his press conference, Mayor Bellows says, "You know, some of you may not realize, but before I was mayor, I was a cop in this very precinct."

Actor Vito D'Ambrosio, who plays the Mayor, also starred as Officer Anthony Bellows on the 1990 Flash TV series. Apparently Bellows was a cop in the Arrowverse as well, and went on to become Mayor.

John Wesley Shipp, Amanda Pays and Alex Desert, who starred in the 1990 series, have also guest starred on the modern Flash as well. Pays and Desert even play characters with the same names as the ones on the original show. I'm assuming this means the old series took place on Earth-90 or something.

• The other guest star in this episode is long-running DC Comics character the Elongated Man. This unfortunately named metahuman comes from a long line of stretchable superheroes, including DC's Plastic Man (yes, they have two characters with elastic powers) and Marvel's Mr. Fantastic.

In the comics, the Elongated Man, aka Ralph Dibny, was one of the first of DC's Silver Age superheroes. As a child, Dibny was fascinated by contortionists, and discovered they all drank a popular soda called Gingold, which contained an extract of the "gingo" plant. He created his own super-concentrated version of it, which when drank would give him stretching powers.

There's even a shoutout to this original origin in the episode, as we catch a quick glimpse of a bottle of Gingold in Dibny's desk drawer! Cool!

Dibny's powers allow him to stretch his extremities to ridiculous lengths, become flat enough to slip under a door, or use his finger to pick locks. He can also disguise himself by rearranging the features of his pliable face. The one thing he can't do though is form his body into objects, like his counterpart Plastic Man can.

Comic book Dibny often teamed up with other superheroes, including the Flash, and eventually joined the Justice League. Dibny was one of the first superheroes to reveal his secret identity to the public, and one of the few to ever marry. He and his wife Sue had a perfect marriage, and often solved crimes together, like a comic book Nick and Nora Charles. Unlike most comics, Elongated Man's stories always involved mysteries, and invited the reader to play along and try to guess the culprit.

The 2000s were not kind to Elongated Man (or any character, for that matter). In the Identity Crisis miniseries, Sue Dibny is brutally murdered— while pregnant! Aren't modern comics fun, kids? The loss of his beloved wife threw Ralph into a tailspin of depression, causing him to contemplate suicide. He was eventually killed in The New 52, and reuinited with Sue in the afterlife. The two now solve crimes as ghostly detectives. I swear I'm not making up any of that.

Since this is a CW show, of course the live action version of Elongated Man has a completely different origin as a dirty cop turned down on his luck private detective. This new backstory does nothing but paint Dibny in a decidedly unpleasant and sleazy light. I'm assuming the writers did this so they can give the character a standard TV redemption arc.

Actually his origin's closer to that of Plastic Man, who, if I'm not mistaken, actually started out as a criminal and ended up becoming a hero. Barry even name drops Plas in this episode.

I'm not sure how much we'll be seeing of him on The Flash this season, but I can pretty much guarantee this version of the Elongated Man won't be wearing his costume. I'm also betting entire episodes will go by without seeing him use his powers, and those CGI stretching effects are no doubt too costly to include on a weekly basis.

• Actor Hartley Sawyer plays Elongated Man, and kudos to whoever made the decision to cast him.

With his rubbery features, expressive eyes and jutting chin, Sawyer looks exactly like the Elongated Man. Seriously, he looks like as if he just stepped off the printed page.

Sawyer give a very Jim Carrey-esque manic performance in the episode. He even looks and sounds a bit like a Young Carrey, which was no doubt another factor that led to his hiring.

I'm seeing elements of another actor in him though. In certain scenes, Sawyer looks a lot like Dick York, the original Darin on Bewitched! Especially around the eyes, and that chin! If anyone ever decides to do another remake of that series, they could do worse than to hire Hartley Sawyer!

• Speaking of actors, Danny Trejo as Breacher may be the most perfect instance of casting in the history of television! I can't think of anyone better suited to play a terrifying interdimentional bounty hunter. Or the angry father of a girlfriend. What man wouldn't be scared poopless by a potential father in law who looked like Danny Trejo?

In the comics Breacher really is Gypsy's dad, but there his real name is Quell Mordeth and not "Josh." But Gypsy's real name is Cynthia in the comics though!

Can you believe Trejo is currently seventy three? He doesn't look it, and I have no doubt he could still easily kick my ass.

By the way, if you don't know anything about Trejo's past, look it up sometime. He's had a pretty interesting life!

• Last week Team Flash discovered that twelve passengers on a Central City bus were exposed to dark matter and became metahumans. At the time I wondered if the bus driver was one of them. Nope! Apparently he drowned in his own bathtub, which I'm sure was somehow orchestrated by The Thinker.

While we're on the topic of this bus, Joe asks Barry if he has any leads on the exposed passengers. Barry says no, as over NINE HUNDRED people rode that particular bus on the day in question. Holy crap! That sounds really high. Either Central City only has one bus in operation, or they have an amazingly vital and popular mass transit system! Must be all those hipsters and millennials who're so engrossed in their phones that they'd rather ride the bus than bother with driving.

• When we first see Dibny, he's meeting with a distraught client named Mrs. Broome. 

Comic book writer John Broome created the Elongated Man back in 1960. Broome also wrote on many Silver Age Flash comics. His name should be familiar to fans of the show, as they often use it in street addresses and such.

• This week we find out that Barry Allen and Ralph Dibny are former colleagues who had a bitter falling out and can't stand one another. Funny how in the past four years, Barry's never mentioned Dibny even once, despite the fact he loathes him.

This is what you call your basic retcon. Actually Dibny's entire appearance here is a huge retcon. Way back in the Season 1 episode Power Outage, Harrison Wells mentions the names of the people who died in the particle accelerator explosion. With the exception of villain of the week Blackout's friends Jake and Darya, the names are all those of various DC superheroes, including Al Rothstein (Atom Smasher), Grant Emerson (Damage), Will Everett (Amazing Man), Bea DaCosta (Fire), Ronnie Raymond (one half of Firestorm) and lastly, Ralph Dibny.

Huh? So how's Dibny still alive if he died way back in Season 1? I'm assuming he was brought back to life as a result of Barry dicking around with time and creating Flashpoint.

Ironically Dibny blames Barry for all his problems, but without him he'd be dead!

• Twice during this episode, Dibny says, "I smell a mystery." That's his catchphrase from the comic, which is always accompanied by his nose stretching and wiggling. The second time he says it, his nose indeed stretches a bit and wiggles.

• Caitlin wins this week's Scientific Accuracy Award.

Caitlin sedates Dibny after he starts freaking out about his condition. She says, "I finally calmed him down. Amazing what 50 milligrams of Lorazepam can do when you get it in aerosol form."

I checked, and Lorazepam is a real drug that's used to treat seizure disorders, such as epilepsy. It can also be used before surgery to relieve anxiety. Well done, writers!
Later she figures out a way to control Dibny's stretching power:

Dibny: (drinking the cure Caitlin hands him) "Ugh! What was that?"
Caitlin: "It's a serum of sulfur, zinc oxide and steric acid to cross-link your polymerized cells."
Dibny: "In English."
Caitlin: "It's gonna fix you."
(Dibny's legs contract to normal length)
Dibny: "Oh. You did it. I'm cured!"
Caitlin: "Well, not cured. All I did was introduce a stabilizing enzyme to reset your body to default shape through vulcanization."

Turns out that sulfur, zinc oxide and steric acid really are used in vulcanization! Kudos to the writers for looking that up!

• Joe says, "I pulled the 'LUDS' on Dibney's phone." I had no idea what that meant, so Google to the rescue. Apparently LUDS stands for "Local Usage Data." Now I know. And so do you!

• Barry actually admits in this episode that in the past Team Flash has locked up metahumans without a trial. Um... yeah, that's illegal. About as illegal as it gets.

This is called lampshading, and it's an old trick used in TV shows and movies. It's a cheap way for the writers to acknowledge something they know doesn't make any sense before the audience can point it out, and then not actually do anything about it.

• There's at least one, and possibly two Machete jokes in this episode, no doubt in honor of Danny Trejo. The first occurs when Cisco's talking to Harry while packing weapons to use against Breacher. He picks up several items and holds them up one by one to Harry, who nods his approval. Cisco then picks up a large Machete and shows it to Harry, who glances at it and says, "Too much."

The second one may be a Machete reference, but I'm not sure. Cisco generates a force cube trap around Breacher, who pulls out a large knife he took off an Earth-48 bounty hunter and cuts his way out of it. It's not quite a machete, but it's a damned big knife, so it's close enough. I'm gonna go ahead and count it.

Earth-19 Watch:
Apparently at some point in the past, Earth-19 was invaded by Plastoids, which were apparently some kind of alien shapeshifters. They decimated the planet, going so far as to destroy all of Earth-19's entire coffee crops. Breacher says he'll never drink coffee again, to remind him of how much he loathes the Plastoids.

Later he mistakes Dibny for a Plastoid, implying they must be humanoids who can stretch their limbs.

• Once again, Barry immediately reveals his secret identity to someone he just met. Is there anyone left on the show at this point who doesn't know he's the Flash?

• Does Dibny have super strength as well as stretching powers? Late in the third act, he reaches up and grabs hold of Mayor Bellows' rapidly fleeing chopper. Sure, why not? 
But instead of being instantly yanked off his feet as should have happened, he stands his ground and holds the chopper in place as it tries to fly off.

He doesn't even brace himself with his other arm, or wrap his feet around anything. He just stands normally as the helicopter struggles to get away. Yeah, no. That can't happen. Yes, I get that this is a comic book world that features impossible physics on a weekly basis, but c'mon. If you're going to ask me to believe in a man who can stretch his arms, then you've got to give me a small amount of reality somewhere else.

• This Week's Best Lines:
Breacher: (walking unchallenged into STAR Labs) "This facility is poorly guarded."
Barry: "Clearly."
(See? Even Breacher thinks it's ridiculous that anyone off the street can walk into the place!)

Harry: (discussing Breacher with Cisco) "What is wrong with you?"
Cisco: "Have you seen his face? The guy's killed people with that face. I'm not even joking. Gypsy said that literally happened!"

Harry: "Just take him for coffee, okay? Go for coffee, get to know him a little bit better. I bet that you'll be pleasantly surprised at how much you have in common, right? You both have the same powers. You're breachers. You have ridiculous hair. He has ridiculous hair."
Cisco: "Okay, but..."
Harry: "And you both love Gypsy."
Cisco: "Are you actually giving me decent relationship advice right now?"

Breacher: "I don't wanna be here anymore!"

Caitlin: (as Breacher passes her at STAR Labs) "Why is the scariest person I've ever seen roaming our halls?"

Breacher: (to Cisco, after telling him he's going to hunt him) "I have hunted some of the worst breach criminals in history. Marla the Dark Lord. Soolunga of Sheerdra. The Sand People of Scar.You will be easy prey."

Cisco: "Do you do this with all her boyfriends?"
Breacher: "I hunted her last one, yes."
Cisco: "Where is he now?"
Breacher: "I don't know."
Cisco: "He got away?"
Breacher: "I don't know where you go when you die."

Barry: "What's your business with Mayor Bellows?"
Dibny: "Nothing. Just calling to tell him what a swell job I think he's doing."
Barry: "15 times?"
Dibny: "12 of those were butt dials."

Breacher: (as he hunts Cisco) "Say good-bye, my little enemy."
(obviously Scarface exists on Earth-19)

Mayor Bellows:
"Since killing you didn't work out, what we agreed upon. 200K. Let me have the photographs."
Dibny: "Here's the pictures. Keep the money."
Bellows: "What?"
Dibny: "I take it back."
Bellows: "Take it back?"
Dibny: "I take my blackmail back."
Bellows: "Is this some kind of a trick?"
Dibny: "I'm not dirty. And I don't want any part of this anymore. And don't you forget, I can tie you to that bomb you had your goons plant in my office, so if you don't walk away, I will go to the cops."
Bellows: "That's still blackmail."
Dibny: "No, it's not."
Bellows: "Yes, it is. You're telling me if I don't give you this money, you won't go to the cops."
Dibny: "Okay, fine. I am blackmailing you into not being blackmailed."
Bellows: "So, we're good, then."
Dibny: "Yeah, we're good."

Dibny: (as Barry reveals his secret identity to yet another person) "Dude, are you kidding me? You're the Flash? Everyone else gets struck by lightning and dies, and you get super powers?"

Breacher: (after Cisco tries one last time to bond with him) "I hate you."
Cisco: "Wow. Really thought that one would work."
Breacher: "But I respect you. You're a steadfast warrior who would fight the fiercest of enemies to protect your friend and the only person I love."
Cisco: "With my dying breath, sir."
Breacher: "I know that, but I still hate you."
Gypsy: "I have never seen him gush like that."
Cisco: "That's gushing? I'm terrified to experience him loving me."

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