Saturday, May 5, 2018

The Flash Season 4, Episode 20: Therefore She Is

This week on The Flash, we get 2, count 'em two failed romances, both of which feature a heaping helping of sketchy and nonsensical motivation.

The main focus of this episode (which seemingly comes way too late in the season) is the relationship between DeVoe and Marlize, as we get a series of flashbacks showing us how they became a couple. Their affair was handled well until the very end, when an attack on a third world village suddenly fills Marlize with bloodlust, causing her to side with her mad scientist boyfriend. Her sudden 180 degree turn seemed rushed and definitely felt unearned.

On the plus side, the show's been teasing Marlize's sudden but inevitable betrayal of her husband, and it finally happened in this episode. It was an extremely satisfying moment, even if we all saw it coming from a mile off. Now the only question is whether she'll join Team Flash to take down The Thinker, or do it single handedly.

This week the writers remembered they set up the "Will Cisco Take The Job On Earth-19 To Be Near Gypsy" subplot, and finally decided to resolve it— with very mixed results. 

Apparently they decided the series wasn't big enough for two breachers, so they unceremoniously wrote Gypsy off the show. That's too bad, as I liked her quite a bit, and thought she was a good foil for Cisco. To make things even worse, her swansong was muddled and poorly executed, as they broke up because Cisco didn't like being in a long distance relationship— even though their powers meant they weren't!

The best part of the episode was definitely the teamup between Harry and Cecile. The two of them seem like the least likely pairing possible, which made their interactions all the more fun.

Lastly, the Mystery Girl makes another appearance this week, and this time we learn she's a speedster! I've been saying all along she's either Barry & Iris' daughter or grandaughter, and this would seem to confirm it.


The Plot:
We begin with a flashback to Clifford DeVoe and Marlize's first meet-cute, during a college lecture. Marlize believes mankind uses technology to better itself, citing how medical science has lengthened the human lifespan. DeVoe's much more cynical, saying technology always results in better and more efficient weapons.

In the present day, Cisco's working at STAR Labs when Gypsy sends him a message box from Earth-19. He activates it, and a hologram of her asks whether he's decided to take her dad's old job on her world. He sighs, as he's obviously not made up his mind.

Just then Harry calls Cisco to the Cortex for an experiment. He wants him to vibe blast Caitlin (!), hoping this'll cause Killer Frost to emerge from her body again. The experiment is a huge failure, partly because Harry can't seem to focus or remember any facts. Team Flash notices this, and Harry reluctantly admits his Thinking Cap damaged his brain and he's slowly losing his intelligence. Cisco notes that tests show Harry's condition is completely reversible (of course!), and everyone vows to help him.

The DeVoes breach into Vandemeer Steel, to steal Alloy 1771— 
an experimental solar panel that can absorb the sun's rays at 400% efficiency (?). DeVoe needs it for his Enlightenment machine, so he uses Dwarfstar's power to shrink the alloy and place it into a case. When a security guard tries to stop them, DeVoe uses one of his many absorbed powers (Null's, I guess?) to force the man to shoot himself in the head. This angers Marlize, who says the guard was simply doing his job.

The next day, Joe and Team Flash investigate Vandermeer. Barry uses superspeed to discover that Alloy 1771 was stolen from the lab. Barry asks Cisco to vibe the dead guard's gun, to see if DeVoe's the one who stole the alloy. Cisco's reluctant to do so, as last time he tried vibing DeVoe he was practically killed. Barry says if Cisco combines his power with Gypsy's, they'll be strong enough to resist anything DeVoe can throw at them. Cisco reluctantly agrees.

Meanwhile, Joe asks Harry to distract Cecile for him. When Harry asks why, Joe says he can't tell him, because then Cecile will read his mind and find out what he's trying to keep from her. Harry says sure, why not.

Flashback to DeVoe and Marlize's first date, as they exchange witty banter at a picnic and embrace.

In the present at STAR Labs, Gypsy breaches in. She and Cisco co-vibe the gun, and see a vision of a dock filled with shipping containers— specifically, one marked "16." Barry, Cisco and Gypsy breach to the shipping yards, hoping to beat DeVoe there. Unfortunately they're too late, and DeVoe's already got what he wanted from a different container.

Barry attacks, but DeVoe uses the Folded Man's power to teleport him to the Arctic. He then easily blasts Cisco and Gypsy off their feet and escapes. Gypsy accuses Cisco of not having his head in the game, which affected their vibe. This sets off a huge argument between the two of them. Barry somehow runs back to Central City in forty seconds, just in time to hear the two of them discussing Cisco's job offer on Earth-19.

Back at STAR, Barry asks Cisco if he plans on taking the job, and he says he honestly doesn't know. Barry says it's up to Cisco, but guilts him by stating they'll never beat DeVoe without his help. Nice one, Barry!

Flashback to the DeVoes moving into their first home. DeVoe goes out for food, while Marlize unpacks. She notices an old journal in a box, and violates her new husband's privacy by reading it. She's appalled at his crazed rantings, which state the only way to save the world from technological destruction is by lobotomizing the entire population. DeVoe returns and she accuses him of being a madman and leaves.

Harry calls Cecile in to STAR Labs, on the pretense of updating her mental dampener. While that's going on, he 
awkwardly tries to make small talk to distract her. She reveals she knows about his condition, much to his shame. He tells her the more he thinks, the faster his mind deteriorates. He becomes frustrated when his thoughts slip away too fast for him to write them on the board. Cecile says she can hear his thoughts before they disappear, and starts writing them down for him.

Barry tries to solve the Cisco/Gypsy problem by getting them in the same room together. Barry says Gypsy's upset that Cisco's taking too long to decide, and Cisco hasn't made a decision because he doesn't want to leave the team. He says now that all that's out of the way, all they have to do is talk (!).

Just then Iris gets an update that DeVoe's robbed Boeing Labs and the Jamison Institute, killing three security guards in the process. Barry tells Cisco and Gypsy they need to try co-vibing again to find out why DeVoe's stealing tech. They try, but it doesn't work. Barry tries to fix their problems again, until Iris wisely tells him to butt out.

Flashback to Marlize in some third world village, working on a way to purify their water. She gets a satellite phone call from DeVoe, who begs her to come back to him. Before she can reply, the village is attacked by members of a militia. DeVoe sits helpless, listening to the explosions on the other end of the line.

Back at STAR Labs, Cisco & Gypsy finally talk. They both reveal they don't want him to take the Earth-19 job. Cisco says he's tired of them living on other planets  and wants more. Gypsy says she's fine with their relationship as is. So there you go.

With very little evidence to go on, Barry somehow figures out that DeVoe's creating a series of five satellites in order to trigger some sort of event (like an Enlightenment?). They realize he'd need quantum computers for that, and Cisco says Mercury Labs (who else?) just installed a series of such machines.

Cut to the DeVoes breaching into Mercury Labs. DeVoe uses Dwarfstar's power to shrink the massive quantum computers, as Marlize packs them up. Suddenly Barry, Cisco, Gypsy and Caitlin (?) breach in and attack. Team Flash actually manages to get the upper hand for once, as Barry and Gypsy pin DeVoe to the ground, and Cisco captures Marlize.

Of course their victory doesn't last long, as DeVoe counterattacks. Caitlin uses her freeze gun to encase him in ice, but he uses Izzy's power to create a sonic blast and free himself. He then uses Null's powers to pin everyone else to the ground, while he levitates Gypsy and begins Force-choking her. Marlize begs him to stop, saying she refuses to watch him kill another innocent. After an appropriately suspenseful beat, he releases Gypsy, and teleport away.

Back at STAR Labs, Harry and Cecile (!) have figured out just what DeVoe's Enlightenment is. He plans to use the satellites he's building to amplify his powers and reduce the intelligence of everyone on Earth, so he can rebuild it in his image.

Gypsy returns to Earth-19 with Cisco in tow. They decide to break up, and Cisco returns to Earth-1 (so why'd he have to go with her in the first place?).

Back on Earth-1, Joe reveals the surprise he was trying to keep from Cecile's psychic powers— he's throwing her a baby shower. Caitlin tells Iris she's getting Killer Frost back, no matter what.

Flashback to the DeVoe's one last time. Marlize wakes up in a hospital, with DeVoe by her side. He tells her the second he realized she was hurt, he traveled across the world to be with her. She seethes at the militia men who destroyed an entire village of women and children just to get their hands on her water purifier. She says he was right about humanity, and wants to help him with his Enlightenment.

Cut to the present day, inside DeVoe's interdimensional lair. Marlize, who was injured in the fight with Team Flash, recovers in The Thinker's flying Barcalounger. He orders her to prepare the satellites, but she refuses. He spins around to face her, and she announces she's leaving him. He tries to attack, but she erects an impenetrable forcefield around the chair. She says she realizes now that her husband is dead and flies off, leaving DeVoe alone in the pocket dimension.

At the baby shower, Cecile answers a knock at the door. We see the Mystery Girl, who's popped up several times this season, with a delivery for her. She says it's a gift from "someone who wanted you both to know how special you are." She then leaves before anyone can ask any questions. Iris looks out in the hall for the girl, who hides around the corner. Suddenly she zips away, revealing— to no one's surprise— that she's a speedster.

• So let me see if I have DeVoe's motivation right. He feels technology is bad, because the human race uses it to create better and more efficient ways to kill itself. He then acquires a menu of superpowers, and plans to build a series of satellites to lobotomize the human race
by using technology. Got it.

• A few weeks ago in Null And Annoyed, Breacher decided to retire, and offered Cisco his job on Earth-19. I said that meant we'd be getting the old "Will He Or Won't He Leave His Friends For A New Job" plotline for Cisco.

I was beginning to think the writers had forgotten about it, but they finally brought it up again this week, with some very mixed results.

First of all, Cisco whines about the fact that they live on separate Earths in different dimensions is too inconvenient. He also says he wants someone he can wake up next to each morning.

So what's the big deal? They're not like a normal couple in a long distance relationship! It's not like he's in America and she lives in China, and it would take thirty hours of air travel to see each other. They're both breachers! Each of them can literally travel to the other's world as easily as walking across a room!

And if Cisco wants to wake up next to Gypsy, then do it! Breach to her world, spend the night, wake up and then breach back to his home dimension. I honestly don't get why the writers are trying to turn this into a problem.

Both Cisco and Gypsy's reasons for backing out of the relationship seemed pretty weak and half-baked. It's like the writers realized they made a mistake having two people with the same power on the show, so they wrote her off as quickly and as clumsily as they possibly could. Much like the way they realized they didn't need two speedsters, and shipped Wally off to Legends Of Tomorrow as fast as they could.

• One last thing about the Cisco/Gypsy relationship. Cisco says, "We've been doing this back-and-forth thing for almost a year, negotiating who gets to go to whose Earth and when, just to see each other, and on the off-chance we do get to see each other, there's, like, a countdown until one of us has to leave, and I'm tired of it!"

What countdown is he talking about? At first I thought maybe he meant that each of them could only spend a limited amount of time in the other's dimension before they became physically ill or died or disappeared or something.

But that can't be right, because last year HR, who's from Earth-19 just like Gypsy, spent the entire season on Earth-1 with no apparent problems. 

So I guess Cisco's talking about a figurative countdown here, and not a literal one. I think he's saying there's a countdown until one of them has to go back to their homeworld to deal with their regular lives and jobs. Confusing! Surely there was a better way for the writers to phrase this.

• If you're like me, ever since this season began you've probably been wondering just what the hell Marlize ever saw in a stodgy old goon like Clifford DeVoe. This episode attempts to answer that question in a series of less than successful flashbacks. 

We see them "meet cute" during a lecture, go on romantic picnics and even move in together. The problem here is that DeVoe comes off about as charismatic and passionate as the average dish rag.

In fact none of the flashbacks ring true until Marlize discovers his insane manifesto on world domination, and immediately walks out of his life.

The final flashback tries to explain how and why Marlize came back to him, and why she's suddenly on board with his nutty plan. While volunteering in a third world country, Marlize is injured by insurgents. DeVoe then flies around the world to be at her side. She then hisses that he was right about humanity, and wants in on his whole world domination agenda.

Her sudden change of heart felt very abrupt, poorly thought out and completely unearned.

• This week Harry reveals to Team Flash that his dark matter-powered Thinking Cap damaged his brain, and he's rapidly losing his intellect. Cisco says the good news is that "the regression seems to be reversible."

What exactly is Cisco saying here? Does he mean that any info Harry forgets can be restored? That's mighty convenient! And quite a trick too. If the dark matter's erasing the contents of his brain, I don't see any way that could be undone. Except through comic book science, of course.

• DeVoe uses Ralph's pliable body to pick a lock at Vandermeer Steel. This scene just hammers home the fact that Elongated Man's powers are downright gross and off-putting.

• Barry and Cisco investigate the robbery at Vandermeer Steel. Unfortunately the owners won't tell them what was stolen, saying it's classified. Barry then uses his superspeed to check the contents of the lab with the computer inventory, and finds the answer in less than a second.

I always laugh whenever they show Barry using everyday objects— like a computer— at superspeed. In the scene in question, he opens dozens of windows on the computer screen and scrolls through them faster than the eye can even see. Eh, I don't think so.

Sure, Barry can move thousands of times faster than normal, but the computer can't. It's still gonna putter along at its regular processor speed. It can't suddenly become exponentially faster.

The only way this scene could work is if Barry sped up the computer by somehow dragging it into Flashtime, like he did to Cisco and Caitlin a few weeks ago in Enter Flashtime.

• At one point Joe meets with Harry at Jitters. Note that once again, Harry's wearing his foolproof "disguise" out in public. I guess whenever anyone sees him, they have the following conversation:

Martha: "John, look over there! That man looks exactly like known serial killer Eobard Thawne!"

John: "Hmm. He does bear a striking resemblance to him, but it can't be Thawne! That man has a hat, and Thawne doesn't!"
Martha: "Oh, thank goodness!"

I kid, I kid! I appreciate the fact that the writers remember Harry needs a disguise, even if it's less than worthless.

For some reason, this episode's director does his best to make the DeVoe flashbacks look like they're happening in the 1960s. The DeVoes bring an honest to god phonograph on their picnic, there's a weird, ancient-looking car parked in the background, and everything's bathed in an over saturated Polaroid-esque light.

If you think about it for even two seconds though, it's obvious the flashbacks can't be happening more than ten years ago. For one thing, the DeVoes look pretty much like they do now, meaning they're probably taking place in 2000 at the most. Heck, Marlize even pulls out a cell phone in one of the flashbacks!

• DeVoe spends most of the episode robbing tech companies of components to build his Enlightenment satellites. At one point he breaks into a shipping container in Central City's harbor district and steals what appears to be a cocktail umbrella! 

The Flash's prop department generally does an awesome job on the show, but they definitely dropped the ball here!

• The Flash's speed has always been pretty vague, fluctuating from week to week based on the needs of the script. We've been told time and again that he typically runs around Mach 2, which is about 1,520 miles per hour (it varies with air pressure and altitude). Most of the time though it's obvious that he's moving much, MUCH faster (as in Enter Flashtime). 

For example, in this episode DeVoe deflects Barry's attack by opening a portal and teleporting him to the Arctic. Despite this major setback, Barry somehow manages to run back to Central City in about forty seconds (yes, I counted). So how fast would he have had to run to accomplish that?

We don't know where Central City's located, but it seems to be somewhere in the Midwest. We also have no idea exactly where DeVoe teleported him. But we can make some educated guesses to come up with an approximate speed. 

Let's assume Barry was teleported from the Kansas City area to the North Pole. That's a distance of 3,521 miles. To make it back in forty seconds, Barry would have had to run at an astonishing 316,890 mph, which is just a wee bit faster than Mach 2!

• Now that DeVoe has the powers of eleven of the twelve bus metas, it's fun to try and figure out which one he's using in a particular scene. I usually don't have any trouble identifying his powers, but not so this week. 

For example, in the aforementioned shipyard scene, DeVoe claps his hands together and sends out a powerful shockwave that knocks Cisco and Gypsy on their collective asses. 

Whose power was THAT? DeVoe's shockwave looks like a series of smoke rings, which is usually how the show illustrates sonic powers. The only bus meta with powers like that was Izzy Bowen, but I don't remember her clapping her hands together to generate a sonic blast. By process of elimination, it pretty much has to be her power though. Maybe DeVoe just decided to get theatrical here with the clapping.

DeVoe uses another mystery power later in the episode, when he's inside Mercury Labs. This time he fires a blast of sparkling white energy shards at Barry. Again, I have no idea whose power this is supposed to be. 

My first thought would be Izzy's power again, but it doesn't look like any manifestation of it that we've ever seen. Could it be some sort of Killer Frost ice blast? He absorbed her powers a couple weeks ago too. Again though, we've never seen her power look quite like this.

I honestly don't know what's supposed to be happening in this scene.

• Since it premiered, The Flash series has had a habit of naming the various streets and buildings in Central City after comic book writers and artists. In this episode, Team Flash gets robbery alerts from Boeing Labs and the Jamison Institute.

I couldn't find any info on anyone named Boeing, but there's an Allen Jamison who's a cover artist for the various Flash comics.

• The DeVoes infiltrate Mercury Labs to steal their brand new quantum computers. DeVoe uses Dwarfstar's powers to shrink the massive computers down to a manageable size.

Note that after they shrink, there're no outlets or network lines visible anywhere on the floor. Apparently these giant computers require absolutely no external connections. Even their power supplies must be self-contained! I guess they're all like enormous laptops?

• I am continually fascinated by how tiny Cecile is! When she's standing next to Harry she almost looks like she's sitting down!

Speaking of Cecile, at the end of the episode, the Mystery Girl appears and says, "Wow, you're super pregnant! Looks like you're due about twenty one days from tonight, I'd say."

Twenty one days from the date this episode originally aired would be May 22nd. Coincidentally, that's also the date of the Season 4 finale! It'll be horribly dated in a few years, but for now I love the fact that The Flash is playing out in real time!

• For weeks now I've been predicting that Marlize would eventually become fed up with her megalomaniacal husband and turn on him. Welp, this week it finally happened!

It was extremely satisfying to see her calmly turn the tables on him and gain the upper hand for once. Especially after the revelation that he's been periodically wiping her memory to keep her docile.

• Wow, this week The Flash acknowledged the fact that Wally West was once a character on the show! During the baby shower, Joe mentions that Wally sent them a bassinet, which, because time travel, actually belonged to Moses!

I'm amazed that the show actually mentioned Wally here. Based on the way he was so rudely shown the door, it's obvious that the writers had absolutely no idea what to do with him, and wanted him out of the picture as quickly as possible. There's been no mention of him since, until this week.

• This week we finally get another appearance from Mystery Girl, who we haven't seen in months. She pops up at Cecile's baby shower, posing as a delivery girl.

She first showed up as a waitress at Barry & Iris' wedding back in Crisis On Earth-X Part 1, and has made a couple more appearances since. Most fans are convinced she's either Barry & Iris' future daughter Dawn Allen, who lives in the 30th Century and is a member of the Legion Of Superheroes. Or she's Barry & Iris; grandaughter Jenni Ognats, who also lives in the future and is a member of the Legion.

Some fans are starting to believe she's really Joe & Cecile's future daughter, who's come back to the past for some reason. There's definitely a case for that in this episode, as she delivers a diaper bag to Joe & Cecile and says, "It looks like it's a gift from someone who wanted you both to know how special you are."

The end of this episode gives us a new clue as to her possible identity. When Mystery Girl hears Iris approaching, she runs around the corner and hides. She then zips away, revealing she's a speedster! Note that as she runs, she leaves behind a trail of both yellow and purple Speed Force lightning. Those just happen to be the lightning colors of Barry and Iris (when she was temporarily a speedster a few episodes back). 

To me that pretty much seals the deal that she's the offspring of Barry & Iris! They'd be the two characters most likely to spawn another speedster, right?

This Week's Best Lines:
Marlize: Since the age of Enlightenment, when reason, debate, and the search for truth flourished, the world has improved by nearly every measure in human advancement, and continues to do so. There is no doubt in my mind that as technology continues to bloom, so will all of humanity.
DeVoe: (chuckles)
Moderator: "Professor DeVoe? You disagree?"
DeVoe: "Well, uh, yes, I guess. Just, I have a more realistic view of humanity whenever technology is concerned." 
Marlize: "What do you mean?"
DeVoe: "Well, you spoke of the Enlightenment. One only has to look at history to find the answers."
Marlize: "Okay, let's. Life expectancy over the past two centuries has increased from thirty years to nearly seventy years."
DeVoe: "And... and we should assume that's a good thing? Each new day, we have to share very limited resources with anything up to 200,000 newborn babies, most of whom will end up living in abject poverty and famine."
Marlize: "Well, thank you very much, Professor Doom and Gloom. Remind me never to take one of your history classes."
DeVoe: "Perhaps you should. There's much I could teach you. The Taoists, in pursuit of immortality, discovered gunpowder. Alfred Nobel created the Nobel Prize so he wouldn't be remembered as the man who invented dynamite. History has shown us time and time again that whenever a technological advancement can be used to hurt humanity, it will be."
Marlize: "You can't blame technology for the way men choose to use it, Professor."
DeVoe: "You can't ignore that the best of ideas by the smartest of men often have a way of becoming corrupted."
(This whole exchange between DeVoe and Marlize is very well written and performed. Kudos!)

Gypsy: (to Cisco, via message cube) "Uh, it's me. Just checking in. For my dad. He really wants to know your answer about taking the Breacher job. I think his exact words were: 'That little son of a Breach better tell me, or they will never find the body."

Gypsy: (to Barry, after he carries her to STAR Labs at superspeed) "Don't ever "whoosh" me again, all right?"

Cisco?: "Separate satellites working together for a single purpose? So this guy really is a Bond villain."

Cecile: "What is this?"
Joe: "It's your baby shower, baby!"
Cecile: "This is why you were singing The Girl From Ipanema in your head all day!"

DeVoe: "You dare orchestrate an exodus on the eve of humanity's greatest reckoning? You made a vow."
Marlize: "To my husband! But my husband is dead. The Thinker's first victim!"

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