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Wednesday, 18 October 2017

The Flash S4E2: Mixed Signals

The Flash
Series 4, Episode 2
Mixed Signals.

With all the guff about getting Barry out of the Speed Force and the speed madness and such out of the way, this episode -- a forty-two minute long comedy about relationships, communication, and technology -- is the first real test of The Flash's writing staff insistence that this series will be much lighter and fluffier than the two preceding it. It's the point where they have to prove that not only can they do that, but that they can do it well

When Kilg%re, a metahuman with the power to control technology via a bio-digital computer virus, starts killing off wealthy tech moguls, Barry and Iris are given their first chance to test out the new Team Flash dynamic. Barry's over-enthusiasm and his unwillingness to listen to Iris, either on the job or in their relationship, swiftly causes problems, however, resulting in Iris insisting on taking Barry to several awkward sessions of couples counselling. Meanwhile, Cisco, wrapped up in figuring out a way to stop Kilg%re, misses a date with Gypsy, earning her ire -- since on Earth-19, the day is 111 Day, their equivalent of Valentine's Day.

This episode is actually legitimately pretty hilarious. It's not exactly retreading any new ground -- 'two characters go to couples therapy' is a comedic set-up that's been being used since the early nineties, after all -- but it manages to wring an impressive amount of humour out of it, with such highlights as Barry and Iris listing all the people who died in the show, at torturous length, in a moment of absurd black comedy; and the two of them repeatedly letting slip that people's lives are in danger, only to turn to the therapist and flatly add 'metaphorically' on.

You know, I could go for a Wally and Cisco focused episode.

The show doesn't really dwell on the couples therapy angle, either -- we have two short scenes of it, but the comedy is spread around a bunch of different set-ups: Barry's suit going wrong and Cisco's subsequent meltdown, Cisco trying to convince Gypsy to talk to him, Wally's general amusement at everything that's going on, and so on.

Cisco is rather the comedic highlight of this episode, especially during the climactic battle scene, where he responds to each one of Barry's tech malfunction by shrilly trying to justify his inclusion of some seemingly useless (and now actively hostile) technology. But, honestly, the comedic timing of all the cast members is spot on: Even Caitlin gets a few excellent comedic moments, even though she's mostly in the background for this episode.

My biggest bugbear is that Wally seems to be being rather shoved to the background. You could count his scenes in this episode on the fingers of one hand, and even when he is around, he often ends up sidelined -- such as in the final fight, where he's knocked into a wall and apparently just stays there until the battle's over. Odd though this is to say, in a way Arrow and even Supergirl do a much better job of handling teams, and giving each character something meaningful to do (usually), while The Flash seems to struggle with it a lot.

Cisco and Gypsy do make a cute couple.

(Other odd things: This episode initially describes the Kilg%re program as an app, and then later describes it as malware. Those are not two things that have a tremendous amount of overlap, you know?)

As far as our villains go, while he doesn't have much colour to him as far as his personality goes, he does, at least, have an entertaining and interesting power, and I look forward to seeing his inevitable return as a semi-regular member of Barry's rogues gallery. We also have the reveal that he (and eleven other people) were given powers by the Thinker, who at this point in the series is still relegated to ominous scenes at the ends of episodes.

D'aw, Wally.

Next week, it looks like we're getting the return of Harry Wells (and it's definitely Harry, not Harrison, HR, or some other variant) for at least one episode, and a problem involving a woman with a luck field, which increases her own good luck while forcing bad luck on other people. That's an interesting concept for an episode, at least, and it looks like it'll have an even more comedic bent than this one.

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