Saturday, March 3, 2018

The Flash Season 4, Episode 14: Subject 9

The Flash is finally back, after a Winter Olympics-induced hiatus.

This week we see some slight fallout from Barry's high profile murder trial and time in prison. It seems his co-workers aren't a hundred percent convinced of his innocence, prompting Captain Singh to place him on indefinite leave.

It's not much, but hey, at least we see some consequences to this storyline, instead of the series sweeping it under the rug and acting like it never happened. Honestly if I was Barry I'd start looking for another job anyway. I wouldn't want to work with a bunch of jerks who thought I was a murderer!

The highlight of the episode was Izzy Bowen, aka The Fiddler, who turned out to be the bus meta of the week. She brought some much needed energy and passion to the proceedings, and I was truly sorry to see the character perish by the end of the episode (Oops! Spoilers!).

Actress Miranda MacDougall plays Izzy here, and does a wonderful job. Incredibly, this appears to be her first real acting gig! I'm amazed! She gives Izzy a fiery and fun personality, and is seemingly a natural on camera.

Amazingly, this week week we get a Ralph storyline that doesn't involve him either A: Learning what it means to be a hero, or B: Doubting himself and coming through for his friends in the third act. Instead we get a subplot in which he takes a real shine to Izzy, and does his best to try and protect her. 

The two of them had some genuine chemistry together, even though their storyline seemed a bit rushed. Ralph knows her for less than a day and he's practically ready to pop the question, which comes off more creepy than endearing.

Lastly, I've been saying for weeks now that The Mechanic would end up being Team Flash's ace in the hole, and would ultimately play a big role in taking down DeVoe. This week it's looking more and more like that's actually what's going to happen. She'd never betray her husband of course, but clearly DeVoe's no longer the man he once was, making her eventual change of heart all the more likely.


The Plot:
We begin with a happy and recently acquitted Barry returning to work at the CCPD. Unfortunately he's given a chilly reception. Captain Singh calls him into his office, and explains that even though Barry was found not guilty of DeVoe's murder, people are still suspicious of him. Some don't even believe the DeVoe who showed up in court is the real thing (which is true!). He puts Barry on indefinite leave until things blow over.

At STAR Labs, Barry tells the Gang the bad news. He then turns his attention to the remaining bus metas, and says they need to find them before DeVoe does. Ralph enters with the "lost & found" box from the bus in question, hoping he can find some clues in its contents. He digs around and finds a homemade CD labeled "Izzy Bowen." Csico vibes it, and discovers Izzy is a female country & western singer, who's currently playing a gig at the Busted Saddle in Central City.

Cut to DeVoe's lair. He's still inhabiting the body of Hazard, which he took over in the previous episode. Unfortunately, absorbing the minds and powers of all these metas has increased the amount of dark matter in his system, causing Hazard's body to rapidly deteriorate. He tells his wife Marlize he'll need to move into another new body soon.

Barry & Ralph show up at the Busted Saddle, where Izzy's rehearsing. They tell her DeVoe's after her, and urge her to come to STAR Labs where she'll be safe. Since she has no earthly idea who either of them are, she quite rightly refuses to go with them. When they insist, she lets loose with a sonic blast, knocking them both on their asses. When they come to, she's gone.

Harry runs into Cecile at Jitters. She complains that her newfound telepathy powers are making it tough to sleep. Harry thinks for a second and says he might be able to help. Don't worry, this becomes important later on.

Team Flash locates Izzy again, and this time Barry, Ralph and Cisco suit up in their costumes to confront her. I guess they're hoping the sight of three superheroes will convince her this time? As they speak with her, DeVoe/Hazard teleports to the scene and says he's there for Izzy. He then uses one the many powers he's absorbed to incapacitate Team Flash. As he approaches Izzy, she sonic blasts him, knocking him to the ground. The Mechanic teleports in and whisks DeVoe away.

The Gang takes Izzy back to STAR. There they explain DeVoe and his obsession with absorbing the powers and minds of the bus metas. Barry notes that Izzy's sonic blast actually hurt DeVoe, and they could use this to finally defeat him. Izzy says she ain't got time for any of this, and storms out. Ralph follows, and somehow manages to charm her into staying.

Harry visits Cecile and gives her a power dampening device to block her telepathy. She tries it on and is amazed that it actually it works. She innocently asks how it functions, and Harry says it blocks inbound brain activity, but could probably be reversed. This gives Harry another idea.

Izzy begins training inside STAR Labs, using her fiddle to focus her blasts. She does well at first, but eventually loses focus as she tires. Barry insists on pushing her though, saying she's not taking the threat of DeVoe seriously. She finally says she's had enough and leaves. Ralph tries to stop her again, but she blasts him unconscious. Then because the plot needs to happen, she decides to take on DeVoe herself (?).

Harry enters the Cortex and says based on Cecile's comment, he's come up with a device that can block DeVoe's powers. All they need to do is stick it to his forehead, which seems like something he'd probably notice and remove. Harry calls the device a "cerebral inhibitor." Barry realizes this is the same device that Savitar, his future self, told him about last season.

Izzy enters a building in Central City's vast abandoned warehouse district, looking for DeVoe. Just how she knew he'd show up here is anyone's guess. Right on cue though, DeVoe teleports in. Izzy uses her fiddle to blast him, but he uses the bad luck powers he absorbed from Hazard to cause her strings to break. D'oh!

Back at STAR, Ralph wakes up and tells the Gang that Izzy's gone. Cisco vibes her location, but DeVoe senses his mental presence. He blasts him with some sort of mental wave, knocking him out. Barry and Ralph race to the warehouse to save Izzy.

They arrive at the warehouse and battle DeVoe. He incapacitates Barry by simulating a cerebral hemorrhage (not sure who's ability he used to do that!) and uses Dwarfstar's power to enlarge a dumpster and drop it on Ralph. As he gloats, Izzy sneaks up behind him and suddenly plants the cerebral inhibitor on his forehead.

Unfortunately, DeVoe uses Kilg%re's power to short it out. He then traps Izzy inside a forcefield. Barry and Ralph come to, and watch helplessly as DeVoe teleports his flying Barcalounger to the scene. He then uses it to absorb Izzy's powers and mind, as Ralph watches in horror. DeVoe, now in Izzy's body, then teleports away.

Back at STAR, the Gang licks their wounds after their latest defeat. Cisco theorizes the reason they can't find DeVoe's hideout is because it's located inside a pocket dimension. Harry admits to Cecile that he's been extra moody lately because his daughter Jesse's too busy for him. She urges him to call her (I smell a guest appearance coming up!). Ralph, who'd taken quite a shine to Izzy, listens to her CD and sobs. Barry arrives to comfort him, and Ralph offers him a job at his private investigator firm (I bet THAT pays a lot!).

• When Barry first enters the CCPD, a policewoman tells him Captain Singh wants to see him. It sounds for all the world like she says, "I think you should talk to Kat." Kat? Who the hell's Kat? 

She's actually saying "Cap" here, as in Captain Singh, but I swear I had to listen to her line three times before I actually heard her correctly.

• Captain Singh mentions to Barry that DeVoe has been very cooperative since he "reappeared," agreeing to come to the police station and answer questions.

As Team Flash and the audience knows, DeVoe's original body is dead. So I guess this means Ralph is continuing to morph his body and pose as DeVoe for these interviews.

• Central City's unnamed new Mayor first appeared a couple weeks ago in Honey, I Shrunk Team Flash. She finally gets a name this week— Mayor Van Buren. Maybe before the end of the season she'll gain a first name.

• Harry returns to Earth-1 this week, and wears his "disguise" to Jitters. As usual, this cunning masquerade consists of a jacket with the collar turned up, a baseball cap and... well, that's pretty much it. 

How has no one noticed that he looks exactly like mass murderer Eobard Thawne and contacted the authorities? Or is that a concern for him? Maybe someone has reported him in the past, but his pal Joe simply dismissed the claims, knowing that Harry's not Thawne.

Maybe Harry's not worried about being arrested, but just wears the disguise so he's not tarred and feathered by angry citizens.

Whatever the reason for it, my point still stands that it's a pretty poor disguise.

• Last week I wondered why DeVoe jumped into Hazard's body, when Dom's still seemed perfectly fine. This week it was finally explained. It seems Dom's body was not perfectly fine. As The Mechanic explains to DeVoe, 
"The additional dark matter in your system from each of your new powers is wearing down your host." So he's wearing out his bodies almost as fast as he can jump into them.

It would've been nice if they'd actually explained that last week.

• The meta of the week in this episode is Izzy Bowen, aka the Fiddler. Get it? BOWen? Fiddler? Com-O-Dee! 

Due to exposure to dark matter, Izzy has the power to generate sonic blasts from her body,. But it appears she can also somehow channel them through her violin as well. I think? Actually it's not quite clear what purpose the fiddle plays here. Early in the episode we clearly see the blasts emanating from her chest (!). But later when she trains with Team Flash, she plays a note on her violin, which somehow conjures up a wave of destructive sonic energy. Obviously doesn't really need the fiddle, so why does she use it? Other than because her comic book counterpart does, of course.

The Fiddler first appeared in All-Flash #32, way back in 1948. In the comics he was a male named Isaac Bowin (again with the bow pun). This version of the Fiddler didn't fire sonic blasts— instead he had the power to hypnotize people and control their minds through the power of his music.

Since this is the 2010s, naturally it was necessary to change virtually everything about the character. Not only did they change him from villain to hero, but they gender-flipped him as well. Because women can play lame characters just as well as any old man, you misogynist! 

Actually I don't mind the alterations they made to the character for once. The show took an old and forgotten character and updated them in a way that felt natural, and not the least bit forced. Izzy was a fun character while she lasted, and making her a country music hopeful made perfect sense. What other occupation would a music based villain have?

Best of all they upgraded her abilities too, as "musical hypnosis" was a bit too vague for a superpower.

Changing the character to a woman also gave Ralph a love interest, and the two had some pretty good chemistry going. For a while. I honestly hated to see Izzy go at the end of the episode.

By the way, you may be wondering if there's any difference between a violin and a fiddle. Eh, yes and no. According to the internet, a violin is a fiddle, but a fiddle is not necessarily a violin. A fiddle is a slang term for ANY bowed, stringed instrument. Hence the term "bass fiddle."

• Inside STAR Labs, Team Flash tries to explain how Izzy's power works:

Iris: (looking at a medical scan of Barry's ear drums) "Okay, well, it looks like billions of tiny shrapnel ripped through this."
Cisco: "Exactly. Sound is just the force of billions of tiny gas molecules colliding into one another."
Barry: "So if you can harness and amplify kinetic energy, you get..."
Caitlin: "Molecular shrapnel."

Ehhhhhhh. The official definition of sound is "a vibration that typically propagates as an audible wave of pressure, through a transmission medium such as a gas, liquid or solid." I guess technically Cisco's "gas molecules colliding" explanation is correct, but it's a very awkward way of phasing it.

And I don't know what to make of the "molecular shrapnel" line.

• At one point Team Flash tries to find Izzy in order to protect her. Barry zooms back into STAR Labs after searching Central City at superspeed. We then have the following exchange between him and Iris.

Barry: (panting) "I checked the city. I can't find her."
Iris: (incredulously) "Babe, you checked the whole city?"
Barry: "Yeah."

Did... did Iris just forget that she's married to a speedster? One who can run so fast that normal people look like they're frozen in time? Jesus Christ, he's searched the entire city for bombs and such at least ten times before in the past four seasons.

• This week on The Flash we get yet another reference to classic DC Comics villain Starro The Conquerer!

When Team Flash is trying to locate Izzy, Ralph suggests checking her website. Iris pulls up the site and checks the posts on Izzy's page. There's one for February 1, which reads, "Howdy, y'all. My Blue Valley show has been cancelled due to some sorta' starfish situation. You best know I'll re-schedule as soon as I can!"

This is the third reference so far to Blue Valley, and the second oblique one to Starro. Back in Luck Be A Lady, Wally announced he was leaving the show and going off to stay with a friend in Blue Valley (which is where the character's from in the comics). 

He returned briefly in Therefore I Am, explaining his appearance by saying, "Self reflection and a battle with a starfish from outer space give you perspective."

Apparently the residents of Blue Valley had quite the encounter with Starro a few months back! In the comics, Starro's an alien creature who resembles an Earth starfish, who can make copies of himself. These copies attach to the heads of his victims, and he can control the actions of entire populations through them.

Wouldn't it be cool to actually see a flashback to this battle someday? Maybe we'll actually get to see it over on Legends Of Tomorrow, when Wally joins that series.

And by the way Izzy, only a Philistine uses two spaces after a period.

We also get a glimpse of Izzy's tour schedule on her site, and it's chock full of references to cities in both the Arrowverse and DC Comics. The list reads Central City (home of the Flash, of course), Keystone City (home of the Jay Garrick Flash in the comics), Austin (I guess the Arrowverse has an Austin as well!), Coast City (home of Green Lantern), Star City (home of Arrow) and Bludhaven (home of Nightwing in the comics).

There's a final city on the list that starts with an "N," but the rest of it's obscured by Iris' thumb. I have no idea what that one could be. The only "N" city I know in the Arrowverse or the comics is "National City," which is home to Supergirl. I don't think that's what it says though, as there's not room under her thumb to spell out "National City." Also, Supergirl lives on Earth-38, so unless Izzy can travel through the multiverse, it's unlikely she has a gig there.

• In order to convince Izzy to let the Gang help her, the Flash removes his mask and reveals his secret identity to her. So what? She has no idea who Barry Allen is. Why would telling her that make any possible difference to her?

After Barry reveals his identity, Ralph decides to do the same, for no good reason (as Izzy doesn't know who he is either). His unmasking scene is truly a thing of nitpicking beauty.

As Ralph ponders whether to expose his identity, we get a tight closeup of him. It's quite obvious that his "mask" is actually a pair of tight fitting Harry Carry-style glasses without any lenses in them. In order to simulate the look of a mask, the vast amount of exposed skin around each of his eyes is painted black. Hmm...

Cut to a wide shot, as Ralph reaches up and grabs his "mask." Note that his hands are obscuring the gigantic eye holes in the glasses.

He then removes the "mask" and reveals his true identity. Curiously, he doesn't look like a raccoon, as the huge black areas around his eyes have magically disappeared! Amazing! It's like a magic trick!

Similar scenes have happened over and over in superhero movies and TV shows. The earliest instance of it that I can remember was in 1992's Batman Returns. There, Batman decided to gain Catwoman's trust by showing her his true identity (hey, just like Barry and Ralph do here!). We can clearly see the area around his eyes is painted black.

The camera cuts to Catwoman for a second, and when it returns to Batman, we can see the space around his eyes is now flesh colored!

He then tears off the top of his rubber cowl, exposing his real face. And once again, no raccoon eyes! 
• When Harry runs into Cecile in Jitters, she mentions she needs a coffee fix to help wake up. Harry asks if that's a good idea, since pregnant women aren't supposed to have caffeine. Cecile barks at him to mind his own business, as her doctor told her she can safely ingest one cup a day.

A quick check of google shows she's right! There are conflicting studies, but for now the March Of Dimes states that pregnant women should limit their caffeine intake to 200 mg per day, which works out to one cup of coffee. Well done, writers!

• Harry enters STAR Labs and shows off his latest invention, which triggers a memory in Barry. He explains that Savitar— who was a future version of himself— mentioned how they would invent and use a cerebral inhibitor to attack DeVoe (which happened in Finish Line).

Here's how that scene played out last season:

Savitar: "Strange being back here."
Barry: "You remember STAR Labs?"
Savitar: "I remember everything. This is where we came up with the cerebral inhibitor to use against DeVoe."
Barry: "Who?"
Savitar: "You haven't gotten there yet."

As you can see, at that time Barry had no idea what Savitar was talking about, but it all makes sense to him now. So... 
did the writers really have this season planned out that long ago? Apparently so, since it's too perfect to be a coincidence.

On the other hand, if they knew The Thinker was gonna be the Big Bad in Season 4, using a "cerebral inhibitor" against him doesn't seem like that big of a stretch. Still, kudos to the writers for foreshadowing!

• At the end of the episode, Barry mentions to Iris that he's now an unemployed speedster. She assures him it'll be OK. Will it? How are they gonna live on nothing? She doesn't have a job anymore does she? 
We've not seen her at the newspaper in months, and she seems to spend all her time sitting on her ass in the STAR Labs Cortex. Does that pay anything? I guess maybe it has to pay something, since Cisco and Caitlin have been hanging around in there for four years now.

This Week's Best Lines:
Cisco: "Ralph, I love you. But you sleep on a futon."
Catlin: "Futon's not that bad."
Cisco: "It is when it's damp."
Iris: "Why is it damp?"
Ralph: "I sweat a lot when I sleep."
Iris: "You nasty."

Ralph: "Ugh, country. Music's tone deaf stepchild." 

Ralph: (to Izzy, who's waiting by the STAR Labs elevator) "I'd watch out if I were you. Sometimes killer robots come out of there."
Izzy: "Keep walking, Stretch. I don't talk to creeps in dark hallways dressed in purple leather."
Ralph: "It's actually, uh, more of a mauve. And, uh, I'm not a creep."
(I beg to differ. It's CLEARLY been established in previous episodes that he is indeed a creep. Remember the strip club episode?)

Ralph: "Cisco, you need to use your ESPN and find out where she is."

Cisco: "Check this out. Space. The final frontier. Now you see it. Now you don't."
Barry: "That's exactly what it looks like when DeVoe disappears."
Cisco: "That is the warping signature of someone moving into a pocket dimension."
Iris: "Does someone wanna explain what that means?"
Caitlin: "Einstein postulated that it was theoretically possible for a region-specific fold in the space time to exist between the four dimensions that we typically think of."
Iris: "Yeah, that doesn't help."

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