Friday, December 22, 2017

The Flash Season 4, Episode 9: Don't Run

Welcome to the mid-season finale of The Flash! 

So far I'm very impressed with this season, as it's been a vast improvement over the previous one. I'm liking The Thinker storyline as well, as it's much more coherent and thought out than last year's Savitar mess. Thank the Maker they didn't go with another dull speedster villain for this season's Big Bad!

All that said, this was a fair to middling episode for most of its runtime, until the final five minutes, which completely redeemed it. The Thinker's plan was absolutely brilliant, and flawless in its execution. He's managed to hurt Barry in a way no other villain ever has before. Well, with the possible exception of the Reverse Flash, I guess. The Thinker's big twist took me completely by surprise, and I can't wait to see how it plays out when the show returns next year.

On the down side, this episode saw the unnecessary return of extremely lame villain Amunet Black. I love Katee Sackhoff, and she's doing the best she can with the role, but frankly Amunet's just not that compelling a character. I have a feeling the writers think she's much more interesting than she actually is, hence her return here.

I was a bit puzzled by the Killer Frost B-plot, in which we learn that the males of Team Flash all seem to love her, and have apparently even been partying with her offscreen. It honestly felt like we skipped an important episode or two here, in which Frost played a crucial role.

For the first few episodes of the season it felt like the writers had a redemption storyline all planned out for Ralph, but if so it seems to have sputtered and died already. His attempts at becoming a nice guy in this episode felt unearned and fell flat. Honestly, I think Jerk Ralph is much more interesting than Nice Ralph.


The Plot:
Team Flash decorates STAR Labs for Xmas. Caitlin enters the Cortex and is disturbed to hear Cisco, Harry and Ralph talking about the great time they had between episodes with her villainous alter ego, Killer Frost. She leaves in a huff.

Meanwhile, Barry and Iris open their wedding gifts. Among the many gifts they receive is a single ivory handled knife in a wooden case, with no name card attached (Plot Point!). Iris notices Barry hasn't been using his superspeed much lately. He says that in the past, running was the only thing that gave him peace. Now that he's with her, he feels at peace all the time. Awwww! 

Cut to Clifford DeVoe (aka The Thinker) in his house, struggling to button his shirt as his bodily degeneration rapidly increases. His wife Marlize tells him to hang on a bit longer, as he'll soon be able to rise out of his wheelchair. He asks Marlize if she has any doubts about their plan. She says it'll take some getting used to, but she's completely on board with it. Obviously DeVoe plans on transferring his brain into a new body, but whose? Barry's perhaps?

Caitlin sits in Jitters, moping about the fact that the Gang seems to prefer Killer Frost to her. Harry enters and tries to tell her that's not true. Suddenly Amunet bursts in and approaches Caitlin. She reluctantly starts to transform into Killer Frost, but Amunet slaps a power-dampening bracelet on her wrist. She tells Caitlin she wants her, not Killer Frost, and abducts her.

Meanwhile, Barry and Iris are out returning their duplicate wedding gifts. Suddenly The Thinker appears in his floating Barc-A-Lounger and fires at them. Barry suits up and attacks him. The Think fights back with tentacles that spring from his chair. He electrocutes Barry and flies off with him.

At STAR Labs, Iris enters and says Barry's been captured. Joe comes in a second later and says Caitlin's been taken as well. Cisco tries to vibe Barry's location, but is knocked on his ass by some sort of feedback.

Meanwhile, Amunet brings Caitlin to an abandoned hospital. Doesn't it seem like there's a lot of abandoned property in Central City? Maybe everyone's fleeing the place due to the constant and dangerous superhero activity. Anyway, she tells Caitlin she acquired a new metahuman, who she "accidentally" shot with one of her metal shards. She needs Caitlin's help to remove the shard and save the metahuman's life so she can sell him to an eager customer. Caitlin says there's no way she can operate under such primitive conditions, but Amunet threatens to kill her and the patient both if she doesn't try. Caitlin reluctantly agrees to operate.

She wakes up the metahuman, whose name is Dominic Lanse (no relation to Quentin, Laurel or Sara Lance of the Arrowverse). Dominic reads Caitlin's mind, and she realizes he's a telepath. She's immediately taken with him and tells him she'll do everything in her power to save him.

Elsewhere, Barry wakes up in The Thinker's underground (I guess?) lair, surrounded by an invisible forcefield. The Thinker floats over to him and gloats. Barry says he obviously wants something from him, since he could have just killed him on the street. The Thinker says he has a lesson to teach him. Suddenly he's interrupted as Joe rings the doorbell somewhere above.

The Thinker— now dressed as DeVoe— appears and lets Joe into his house. Joe gets right to the point and says he knows DeVoe kidnapped Barry and he wants him back. DeVoe laughs, even as Harry appears, pointing some kind of plasma rifle at him. DeVoe encourages Joe to search his house, smugly confident he won't find anything.

Back at STAR Labs, Cisco's trying to use their satellite to locate both Barry and Caitlin, but it can't handle the strain (?). Harry tells Iris, who's apparently now the Team Leader, that she can't save both of them. He says sometimes leaders have to make tough calls, and she needs to decide which one to save.

At the hospital, Dominic uses his telepathy to try and escape with Caitlin. Wait, isn't his life supposedly threatened by a shard in his head? How's he running up and down corridors like this? Anyway, they almost make it, but are stopped at the last second by Amunet, who once again threatens Caitlin if she doesn't operate. She tells Caitlin she deliberately sought her out, because she somehow knows what a skilled and gifted surgeon she is, and if anyone can save Dom it's her. Great, now even the villains are giving characters The Patented The CW Pep Talks!

At STAR, Iris finally comes to a decision. She tells the Gang that Barry can take care of himself, and to focus their resources on finding Caitlin. She looks at Harry, who nods knowingly. Cisco's able to use the satellite to lock onto Caitlin's "latent cryokinetic signature," whatever the hell that is, and immediately locates her. He and Ralph suit up to go rescue her.

At the hospital, Caitlin reluctantly starts operating on Dominic, as Amunet looks on. She extracts the shard, but as soon as she does his vitals begin crashing. Suddenly Amunet passes out, and we realize Caitlin played her. She and Dominic wore surgical masks while she flooded the room with anesthetic, which knocked out Amunet. OK, that was pretty clever. Just then Cisco opens a breach and rescues Caitlin and Dom.

The Thinker returns to his lair, and is shocked to see Barry's no longer inside the force field. For some reason, he stupidly shuts it off, and suddenly Barry appears and escapes. Apparently Barry vibrated so fast he became invisible, which fooled The Thinker. He then runs out of the lair, as The Thinker follows closely behind. There's a big aerial battle, as The Thinker flies off and Barry holds onto the chair for dear life. 

The Thinker tries to scrape Barry off his chair by flying it against an office building. By rights this should have killed Barry, but of course it doesn't. The Thinker deploys his tentacles again, but Barry phases, causing them to go right through him and latch onto the chair, shorting it out.

Barry and The Thinker then plummet toward a river far below. Barry's suit activates its flotation mode, saving him. The Thinker crashes into the river and sinks, chair and all.

Back at STAR Labs, they use their tech to search for DeVoe and his wife, but come up with nothing. Joe says "Oh well!" and invites everyone to his house for Xmas. When the Gang arrives, they see Ralph apparently broke into Joe's house and decorated it, to make up for his recent behavior. He also apologizes to Caitlin for saying he preferred her Killer Frost persona. Caitlin invites Dominic to the party, and the Gang welcomes him with open arms.

Just then Barry gets a text saying the security alarm's gone off in his apartment. He speeds over to check it out. Once there, he gets a call from... Dominic! He begins monologing, telling Barry his master plan. Apparently The Mechanic fished DeVoe's body out of the river, and then abducted Dominic. The Thinker then used a high tech device to transfer his mind from his dying body into Dominic's young, healthy one.

DeVoe/Dominic tells Barry that he left him a gift in his apartment. Barry looks and sees DeVoe's old body lying dead on the floor, stabbed by the ivory handled knife he received as an odd wedding present! A knife which is now covered with Barry's fingerprints (told you that was a Plot Point)! Just then, Captain Singh and the CCPD start beating on the door, demanding Barry let them in. DeVoe's perfectly framed Barry for his own murder! I gotta say, that's pretty damned impressive.

Speed Force Lightning surrounds Barry, as he starts to power up and zip away. He then says, "Don't run" to himself and stops. The police break down the door and rush in, as Captain Singh cuffs Barry for the murder of Clifford DeVoe.

• DeVoe's Master Plan is to transfer his mind from his old, ailing body into a young, healthy one. At one point he asks his wife Marlize if she's having any doubts about their Plan. 
She admits it'll take some getting used to, but she's OK with it.

I'll bet! Let's face it, DeVoe ain't exactly easy to look at. He's owlish, sickly and a lot older than Marlize. In just a few hours though, he'll have a brand new handsome, healthy and young body. What woman wouldn't go for that?

• I don't care what anyone says, I like Cisco's Xmas tree! I wish I had one like it!

• Since Harry has the exact same face as known multiple-murdered Harrison Wells, aka Eobard Thawne, he has to be careful when he goes out in public.

Check out the amazing way he hides his identity when he meets Caitlin at Jitters. This cunning disguise consists of a baseball hat and... um... well, that's it. A hat. Brilliant!

At least the writers remembered it this week, I guess.

• There's some fun attention to detail in the scene in which Barry and Iris open their wedding gifts. Like all newlyweds, they received a crap-ton of duplicate gifts. I see at least four toaster ovens on the coffee table, and at the right is a stack of a stack of at least seven four-slice toasters! Nice work by the prop department!

By the way, did you notice Iris throwing some serious shade at Felicity in this scene?

Barry: "Okay, from Oliver and Felicity. We have an espresso machine. All right."
Iris: "Okay. Not on the registry, but I guess getting married during our wedding wasn't on the registry, either. So, yeah, sure. I'm not bitter."

Yikes! Sounds like someone's upset about the fact that Felicity and Oliver horned in her wedding day and made it a double ceremony!

I kind of wondered about that when it happened last week in Crisis On Earth-X Part 4, but Iris didn't seem to mind at the time, so I assumed she was OK with it. Apparently not! I've never been a bride, so I guess I can never fully understand, but it didn't seem like that big a deal to me. They got married on the spur of the moment in a park, for corn's sake. It's not like Felicity & Ollie interrupted an expensive church wedding!

• If Dominic needs to see people to read their minds, how does he sense the guards coming around the corner when he and Caitlin are trying to escape the hospital?

At one point he does tell Caitlin that his telepathy "only works when I'm close enough to see someone." Maybe that's the answer here. He doesn't need to see someone to read their mind, he just needs to be within visual range. That's a pretty confusing way to put it though.

• So let's see if I've got this right. Amunet loses her temper and shoots a shard into Dominic's head. This threatens his life, so she abducts Caitlin to remove the shard. Dominic wakes up, and he and Caitlin immediately start running around the hospital trying to escape.

So is Dom's life in danger from the shard or not?

• At one point the abandoned hospital where Caitlin's being held is named as St. Andrew's. Later on Cisco says he's located her in St. Alexander's. Whoops!

• Sigh... Amunet's still carrying her metallic shards around in her stupid bucket.

By the way, when we last saw her in Girl's Night Out, her shards had been ripped away from her by a powerful electromagnet, right before she ran away. I guess she must have either got them back somehow. Or maybe she went to the junkyard and got some more shards.

• Joe shows up at DeVoe's house and confronts him directly, saying he knows he's holding Barry and demands he return him immediately. The two then have the following conversation:

DeVoe: "Well, it has occurred to me that there is an amusing irony at play. You being a detective and all, yet you fail to acknowledge the most basic result, in missing children cases."

Joe: "And what would that be?"
DeVoe: "Well, perhaps your son just ran away."

Wha...? Barry's not a trouble teenager. He's a grown-ass man with a wife and his own apartment. How the hell would he "run away from home?"

• DeVoe captures Barry and puts him inside an inescapable forcefield. He eventually escapes it by... well, see for yourself.

The Thinker: "We built that cell so you couldn't run your way out."

Barry: "I didn't run. Just stood still. Really fast."
The Thinker: "You vibrated faster...than the eye can process."

So Barry vibrated his body until it became invisible, which caused The Thinker to shut off the forcefield. In essence he escaped by "standing still really fast."

That almost makes sense! Not quite, but almost.

• Separated At Birth? Apparently The Thinker's played by the late Rance Howard!

• Just when Caitlin and Dom think they've escape Amunet's clutches, she pops up and fires several of her shards at them. Fortunately they're saved by the timely intervention of Ralph and Cisco. 

Note that Ralph actually saves the two by stretching his body in front of them and taking the shards in the chest. Um... shouldn't that hurt him? Yeah, I get that his body's super pliable and all that, but that doesn't mean it's impervious to pain. Even if the shards don't break the skin, it seems like they'd still hurt like hell.

• In the third act, Barry and The Thinker have an aerial battle above downtown Central City. Barry clings to The Thinker's flying chair as he tries to shake him off. Eventually The Thinker deploys a couple of tentacles from his chair, intending to grab and electrocute Barry with them. Barry then phases, so the tentacles go through his body, clutch the chair and short it out.

Wait a minute if Barry's phased, that means things go through him, right? That should also mean he goes through objects too. So he shouldn't be able to hold on to the top of The Thinker's chair! Whoops!

Maybe he has pinpoint control over this ability, so he was able to phase everything but his hand? But then his hand would come off, wouldn't it?

• Boy, will I be glad when these goddamned Microsoft Edge ads run their course. At least once per episode they have various cast members appear in character in these little sketches. At first it they seem like deleted scenes or something, but they're actually ads about how versatile the Microsoft Edge tablet is. 

It's only a matter of time before we start getting commercials within the show, as the characters stop what they're doing, hold up various products and look directly into the camera as they deliver a spiel.

• When Joe and the others arrive at the West house, they find Ralph's decorated it for Xmas as a gift to the Gang. Strike that, they find that Ralph straight up broke into Joe's house and decorated it. Oddly enough, no one ever brings this up.

• I usually don't point out continuity errors, but this one's a doozy.

When the Gang arrives at Joe's house, Ralph explains that the decorations are his gift to them. Note that in this scene, Caitlin's wearing an ugly pink coat.

We then cut to a shot of Ralph that lasts for exactly two seconds.

When we cut back to the Gang, suddenly Caitlin's sans coat, as we see it folded over the chair in front of her! Whoops!

There's no way in hell she could have ripped that coat off and neatly folded it in the two seconds the camera wasn't on her.

• We got another "This House Is Bitchin'" reference this week. When Dominic shows up at Joe's Xmas party, he says the following:

Dom: "This house is..."

Cisco: "Bitchin'?
Dom: "...festive." 

I still have no idea what this line means. Hopefully we'll find out before the season finale.

• Cisco dubs Dominic Lanse "Brain Storm." For a little while at least.

There was actually a Brain Storm in the comics, who wore a fabulously outrageous helmet. Back in 1964 in Justice League Of America #32, a man named Axel Storm invented a helmet that absorbed stellar energy, giving him the power to create anything he could imagine (so, much like a Green Lantern power ring then?). 

Later on in the New 52, a different Brain Storm debuted. His name was Dominic Lanse (!), and he developed a technique to transfer intellects into his own brain (which is pretty much what The Thinker does here).

OK, I get that the producers are using the actual name from the comics here, so kudos to them for that. Unfortunately unless you're watching the show with the closed captioning on, you can't tell that Dom's last name is actually spelled Lanse. It sounds exactly like Lance, which is a VERY common name in the Arrowverse. I would have been OK with them changing Dom's name here, just to avoid confusion. 

• If DeVoe's brain was so powerful it fed on his body and gave him ALS or some similar disease, won't the same thing eventually happen to Dominic? Is DeVoe planning on going through body after body forever

• When DeVoe (in Dom's body) calls Barry on the phone, he sounds exactly like Dominic. Shouldn't he sound a bit more like DeVoe, with the South African accent and all?

• This is probably some heavy duty nitpicking, but whatever. At the end of the episode, DeVoe frames Barry for his murder, just as Captain Singh and the CCPD enter.

Why would Captain Singh be the one to bust down Barry's door and arrest him? I get it— he's a side character and the show needs something for him to do, plus it makes it more dramatic if the arresting officer is someone he knows. But realistically, I don't think a Captain would bother going on a call like that. They generally sit behind desks and do lots of paperwork.

• I'm betting that in the final scene, the vast majority of the audience was screaming at Barry to use his superspeed to eliminate all the evidence from his apartment and dispose of DeVoe's body at the bottom of Lake Central City. I know I was. I'm honestly not sure why he didn't do this, other than because the script said so. I guess that as a member of the CCPD, he's hoping the law will be on his side or the truth will set him free or something like that.

• Of course this alarming development means the show's setting up The Trial Of The Flash, one of the most famous storylines in the history of the comic. The story lasted for a whopping TWENTY SEVEN issues, which might explain why the series was canceled when the trail finally ended!

Hopefully the show won't drag out the trail for two years the way the comic did!

By the way, please take a moment to appreciate the Flash's lovingly-rendered ass cheeks in that image above!

• Way back in the Season 1 finale Fast Enough, Barry ran so fast he somehow broke the time barrier. As he raced through time, he saw glimpses of the past, as well as several possible futures.

He saw his younger self being adopted by Joe, a glimpse of the future as Killer Frost attacked, the Central City Flash museum, which will likely be built some day, and a vision of the Legends Of Tomorrow fighting a giant robot.

The most interesting vision he sees is an image of him as an inmate of Iron Heights prison! At the time this episode aired, for some reason I assumed this was a glimpse of a dark and terrible alternate timeline. It never dawned on me that it was actually from Barry's future! Unfortunately it looks like that's the case.

I wonder... was this just a look at a possible future? Or did the writers really have this storyline planned out all the way back in Season 1? If so, then kudos to them!

This Week's Best Lines:
Cisco: "I'll tell you what's terrible."

Harry: "What?"
Cisco: "Your Scrooge to Grinch ratio is terrible."
Harry: "You're a mean one. I wouldn't touch you with a thirty nine and a half foot pole."
Cisco: "Haven't heard that one before."

Ralph: "Yikes. Did, uh, Rudolph just diarrhea all over your tree?
Cisco: "Cool, cool. 
Two humbugs. It's a Festivus miracle."
Ralph: "No, don't get me wrong. Ralphie loves Christmas. I ring in every holiday season with my nana. She never remembers me, but I am getting that inheritance!"
(Wow. Did the writers try to see how many Xmas references they could cram into one scene here?)

Marlize: "How fitting. You'll share a birthday with the Messiah."
DeVoe: "The Nazarene wasn't born until spring. You can check the constellation patterns to verify that."
(Haw! Even The Thinker knows all our Xmas tradition and lore is bullish*t!)

Caitlin: "Everybody keeps saying, 'Killer Frost is so funny,' 'Killer Frost is so badass.' I spent so long worried that she was gonna hurt people, but now, turns out people would rather hang out with my villainous alter ego."

Iris: "This is, like, a lifetime supply of store credit. Why would Rory think that we needed 40 toasters?"
Barry: "He said that there was some kind of fire sale."
Iris: "He stole them."
Barry: "He definitely stole them."
Iris: "Yeah."
(I dunno why, but the idea of Heat Wave giving out wedding presents strikes me as really funny)

Amunet: (to Harry, as she abducts Caitlin) "Ooh! I blocked your glock!"
(Thanks a lot, The CW, for almost bringing the phrase "cock block" to primetime)

Barry: "Whatever he has planned, you don't have to help him."
The Mechanic: "A helper? Is that what you think I am? A mindless minion carrying out her master's bidding? Some sort of evil secretary?"

Cisco: (as the satellite shorts out and shocks him) "Sark me!!
(sounds like Cisco's also a TRON fan)

Amunet: "Caity, do you know what I was doing before I became the successful entrepreneur you see before you today?"
Caitlin: "Mean British nanny?"
Amunet: "Hmm. No. I was a stewardess. You see, unlike you, I did not have fancy scientists for parents. I did not collect scholarships or attend fine institutions. My career options were limited. So I spent my days in a quaint little skirt in there serving coffee to handsy pilots, powerless to stop them. But then the particle accelerator exploded. And I was powerless no more.  I showed those pilots the error of their ways!"
(well THIS line's certainly acquired more relevance in the past few weeks!)

Ralph: "Well, that's what you get when you rely on machines rather than a master private eye. I've had a ton of missing person cases. There was this wife once. Turns out she faked her own death. She was just living in Arizona."
Cisco: "Are you saying Barry faked his own death and moved to Arizona?"

Cisco: (to Amunet) "Are you a time traveler? 'Cause those white girl dreads came straight from the '90s."

Cisco: "Great. We got evil Mary Poppins collecting metas too."

(Cisco receives a "Naughty Cube" as an Xmas present from Gypsy. As he activates it, an R-rated hologram of her begins writhing and cooing provocatively)
Gypsy: "Cisco, somebody told me you've been a very naughty boy this year. Why don't you come over and jingle my bells, huh?"
Cisco: "Sweet baby Jesus."

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