The Flash sped into season four with just one mission, be the fun & light & silly but still dramatic and relevant series that it was in season one. Just four episodes in, that’s a mission so far accomplished. Much like the previous two episodes Barry & team are dealing with a new meta-human created in the moment that Barry returned from the speed force at the beginning of the season. The difference this time is that the meta-human not only isn’t using their powers for personal gain/harming others but the guy has a history with Barry Allen. Bit by bit The CW shows are taking time to bring in altered versions of DC Comics characters to each of the shows, diving deep into the wealth of characters the comic book publisher has created over the decade. This week herald’s the entrance of private investigator Ralph Dibny, otherwise known as the Elongated Man!
A disgraced dirty cop, Dibny in this world is a sleazy private eye who finds out he has powers after the Mayor’s goons try to kill him because he was blackmailing the Mayor. Not exactly the heroic character that fans know from the comics but he starts to move towards that path before things wrapped up. The interplay between him and Barry showed a lot about Barry and his feelings about the rules, but also brought about a moment where he realized how much Team Flash itself skirts the rules and laws a ton to do what they do to save people. Something Dibny claimed he was doing when he originally broke the law which led to Barry getting him kicked off the force. Caitlin’s pleas and words about people like her and Barry being changed and freaking out and needing a second chance really worked and offered some insight into what she is going through right now. With the finale showing someone writing on her door it looks like the mystery of what is going on with Caitlin might finally be answered soon.
The slow building of the Thinker and his plans is a nice move for the season, because it’s pushing Barry and his team to do more thinking and detective work rather than just getting faster to prepare for another typical speedster villain. Thinker didn’t appear at all this episode but his fingerprints were everywhere and by the end with Dibny a crucial step was uncovered as the familiar last name DeVoe was brought up, tied to bread crumbs the writers dropped into a couple places last season. Since next week is about bachelor and bachelorette parties it seems unlikely that the DeVoe finding will lead to anything quickly but most likely will lead to some sort of confrontation or puzzle piece uncovered by the time the mid-season finale arrives.
While the blackmail issue with Dibny and how it ties to the overall season plan was fun, but the most fun of the episode had to do with Cisco and his relationship with Gypsy and the surprise appearance of her father. It’s hard to deny that Cisco and Gypsy have a pretty cute relationship, and the addition of Danny Trejo playing her stern and clearly psychotic father was a nice way to play with that relationship more. Even though Breacher was definitely out to kill Cisco their moments were funny as they bounced off one another. It also gave Cisco and Harry time to really talk and remind us what a bond the team had with this version of Wells, where he might be stern and a bit of a jerk but in the end he’s always there with words of wisdom to help out.
It’s a shame that Dibny is going to be taking over the role of Barry’s understudy/trainee just right after Wally was sent off into character limbo for the time being. The cast slimming that occurred was a good idea last episode, but the fact that Wally has to be cast aside because two speedsters is hard to juggle & the special effects budget now needs to include a stretching man does suck. At the end of the day this is Barry’s show and it’s his story, but the other characters need to have room to shine and do things in order to be a solid supporting cast otherwise there ins’t much point having them around. Wally fell into that spot where they couldn’t do much with him as a Flash without it upstaging or pushing Barry out of the way, so he had to go. Dibny offers a way for Barry to train someone that is flawed and can’t really outshine him because he just stretches. Hopefully we see Wally back soon and they find something to do with him.
Overall the series is doing a great job of trying to recapture that season one glory, as much as it can. There is a lot that can’t be recaptured of course because the characters have all evolved a ton since that first season and the cast size is far bigger than it once was. The balance of silly/light with still dramatic moments is working so far and hopefully won’t begin to go to heavily in one direction or the other. Silly & fun is good but just like the overly dramatic that bogged things down last season, too much lightness would do the same thing in the other direction. There has to be stakes for these characters and if things were too fun it would not feel that way. With the perfect balance you get to have a lot more fun than the grimmer Arrow but also can hit those character beats that Arrow does. That balance is one that DC’s Legends of Tomorrow seemed to perfect last season with things still being dire and meaningful but the heroes still bonded and had fun and where a family (a dysfunctional one mostly). Right now The Flash is managing to maintain that balancing act and things are looking up for Central City’s hero & his friends.
Score: 9 out of 10