Things continue to heat up in Central City, and bodies continue to drop, as the impending final battle with The Thinker draws ever closer for Barry and the rest of Team Flash.
Writers: Greg Berlanti
Director: Ralph Hemecker
What You Need To Know:
Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) is finally free from prison, having been cleared of all charges in the last installment. Now free, Barry continues his search for the 12 metahumans created on Bus 405 when Barry was freed from the speed force. It’s a race against time, as The Flash’s arch nemesis du jour, Clifford DeVoe (aka The Thinker) continues his search and destroy/assimilate mission for the same individuals, each making DeVoe stronger than the last. Who will be the next Bus Meta to emerge, and will Barry and the team be able to protect them from the nefarious DeVoe, or will DeVoe’s plan continue virtually unimpeded until he becomes too strong to overcome? Find out in “Subject 9”!
What You Will Find Out:
Barry returns to CCPD after his incarceration, but the welcoming committee will have to wait as Captain Singh promptly places Barry on an indefinite leave of absence, citing the notion that Central City, home to so many metahumans they require meta-wings in their prison, is (rightfully) wary to believe that DeVoe is alive and Barry is innocent. As is common on many CW shows, and Flash, in particular, we see Singh consciously evoke “fake news”, “social media”, and “taking allegations as fact”, but more on that later.
Meanwhile, back at STAR Labs, the team prepares to continue their search for the bus metas, providing a convenient checklist of the eight metas they have encountered so far and their current statuses. Most of them are dead or possessed, excluding Fallout (safe with Tracy) and The Weeper (currently MIA). After a short sequence establishing how gross Ralph (The Elongated Man, and one of the remaining bus metas) is, Team Flash finds the name and location of the ninth meta: Izzy Bowen, aspiring country music singer. Barry and Ralph are on the case!
As the team mobilizes, the audience (hey, that’s us!) is drug through what I found to be one of the most excruciatingly painful sequences I’ve seen on this show to date. We join Clifford (who now possesses the body of Becky “Hazard” Sharpe, his latest conquered bus meta) and his wife Marlize in their secret lair. Full disclosure: I have thoroughly enjoyed Sugar Lyn Beard’s portrayal of Hazard—until today. As the pair spy on Bowen from afar and evaluating her talent, Beard’s attempt to mimic DeVoe’s speech patterns and inflection is, for lack of a better term, a train wreck. Adding to this already deteriorating situation, it is revealed that the reason DeVoe is switching bodies is that the bodies he inhabits are being drained and also deteriorating, prompting DeVoe to accelerate his plans, a move highly uncharacteristic of The Thinker, the man who is always 12 steps ahead. It is also becoming increasingly clear that, whatever the solution to the Thinker problem will be for Team Flash, Marlize will likely play a key role, as her displeasure at the current circumstances seems to increase from week to week.
Barry and Ralph head to the local saloon to meet up with Izzy after her gig to offer her protection from DeVoe, and are met with the predictable results; she doesn’t want it and uses her sonic powers to knock the boys out and take off on her own. Stereotypical country musician origin story (daddy bailed, and soon after, so did mama) and over-the-top country accent aside, this scene and the following explanation of how her powers work provides a glimpse at a character with quite a bit of potential.
Oh, Harry Wells is back from Earth 2 (after a brief trip to visit his daughter, Jesse Quick, who is apparently pretty pissed at him for a reason I honestly do not remember, nor does it feel particularly important), and runs into DA Cecille Horton, who is currently having trouble sleeping thanks to her barely explained manifestation of telepathy. The two have a really awkward conversation, and Harry offers to try and invent something to help, because Harry does that sort of thing for literally every character in this show, and almost never gets thanked for it. #defendharrywells
The team locates Izzy’s current whereabouts using her website (another call-out to social media), and this time, Barry, Cisco, and Ralph suit up (as they should have the first time) and go to offer protection one more time. Only this time, DeVoe also shows up. DeVoe uses Hazard’s “jinx” powers against the team, incapacitating them all except for Izzy, who gives him a sonic blast that apparently wounds him before Marlize arrives to teleport DeVoe away. The look of confusion and hope on Barry’s face when he sees the potential to cause further harm to DeVoe is exactly the look that has made countless fans fall in love with Gustin as Flash.
As Izzy is brought up to speed, subtle camera work shifting between Izzy’s impassioned speech about finally having her dreams within her grasp and Ralph’s face imply a potential infatuation growing on Ralph’s part. If this clever narrative device seems somewhat accelerated, there’s an impending reason for that, but nonetheless, I thought it noteworthy of the care that is often taken in the art of the story-telling on The Flash. After the speech, however, Barry gets to the heart of the matter. He intends on training Izzy to use her powers to fight DeVoe. For some reason, everybody in the room is surprised. Highs and lows in this episode, folks. Highs and lows. Speaking of lows, Barry reveals himself and the entire team to Izzy, because CW superheroes are TERRIBLE at secret identities (dating back to Smallville). Izzy once again tries to take off, but Ralph of all people gives her the heartfelt talk about the integrity of the team and the sense of family Team Flash tries to foster. The sexual tension between Izzy and Ralph continues to mount as Ralph promises Team Flash will keep her safe (be wary of promises you aren’t sure if you can keep, Ralphie).
Back in the lab with DeVoe and Marlize, Beard’s performance continues to infuriate. This time around, it’s so awful that Marlize starts to outwardly question whether DeVoe’s constant transference is leading to a deterioration of, not only the bodies but DeVoe’s mind as well.
Izzy begins training using a fiddle to focus her energy, and Harry and Cecile fight over Harry having invented a device that blocks out thoughts out of thin air, but it’s uncomfortable, so Cecille is pissed. Poor Harry. Post-Thawne Syndrome is real.
Back to the training, we see Izzy being trained into the ground by an almost manically obsessed Barry, which ends badly for all involved. Barry’s desperation for hope to cling to in this seemingly hopeless battle against DeVoe leads him to push Izzy so hard that she quits, heralding the obvious impending showdown with DeVoe for this episode. Finally, rounding out this sequence is a nice conversation between Iris and Barry about the ruthless drive of DeVoe and the differentiation between DeVoe’s drive and Barry’s. It’s a storybook “good versus evil” discussion, that while uplifting in theory, has the feel of something that will bear bitter fruit in the future.
Jump-cut to Harry showing up at Cecille and Joe’s house with a much smaller device capable of blocking out thoughts and a desperate desire to have friends his own age. It’s a cute scene, but more importantly, it leads to a major discovery that the Team is already aware of. Finally, the Savitar sequence where Future Scarred Up Barry tells Our Barry about the Cerebral Inhibitor that the team used against DeVoe, an enemy Our Barry had never heard of at the time. A seemingly simple device designed originally to block incoming thoughts, but when reversed, would block outgoing thoughts, in theory preventing DeVoe from body jumping again. Now to just get it on his head and game over, right? Right? Wrong.
It’s time to commence the final battle. The Thinker displays an interesting power right off the bat, as he expels Cisco from vibing in on the location where DeVoe and Izzy are. Whether this power is a result of Brainstorm’s telepathic powers or are inherent to The Thinker’s inherent enhanced perceptions is unclear, but it seems worth tracking moving forward. This development leads to Barry and Ralph leaving Cisco behind to try and save DeVoe and rescue Izzy (why do they consistently leave Caitlin behind when facing DeVoe? Seems like she’d be an asset).
One of the highlights of this episode is the opportunity to see DeVoe begin to reveal why the bus metas’ powers are so crucial. **sidenote: DeVoe gives Izzy the moniker The Fiddler, a shout out to a Flash villain that dates all the way back to 1948. Originally a Jay Garrick/Flash villain, the Fiddler has appeared in numerous forms over the years, but other than a similar name and the use of a Fiddle, the resemblances stop there. Yet another instance where this show seems to be adept at drawing out some of the most obscure Flash villains imaginable, something I truly commend them for** DeVoe uses Hazard’s power to break the strings in the fiddle, Brainstorm’s power to affect Barry’s mind, Dwarfstar’s power to drop a dumpster on Ralph, and Kilg&re’s power to hack the Cerebral Inhibitor. A pattern is beginning to emerge, as we can see that the majority of the powers are used defensively. DeVoe does not use Black Bison’s effigy power, but as previously noted, Caitlin is not there, so perhaps that is the reason? If I’m right here, that certainly raises big questions as to who the remaining metas are, and whose powers they are meant to defend against. For the time being, though, Izzy is trapped with DeVoe, with Ralph and Barry outside DeVoe’s forcefield, watching helplessly as they fail to protect yet another bus meta. And just like that, any potential for the Fiddler as a character, a foil, or a love interest is gone in a… flash.
Epilogue: First, semantics. Savitar never said “the cerebral inhibitor we used to stop DeVoe,”– just that they used it against him. Red herring at its finest. Cisco manages to finally figure out what most comics fans have known all along—that DeVoe’s lair exists outside of our dimension. Harry misses Jesse and wants her to come to Earth 1 for an unknown reason. DeVoe prepares his new body for the search for the final three metas. Ralph wallows in his pain over the loss of Izzy with Miranda Lambert songs, a situation that warrants empathy from even the harshest of his critics. But in spite of his sadness, he invites Barry to be a private investigator alongside him and even has business cards made up. It’s a Truman Show scene from our favorite Ace Ventura-esque superhero.
What Just Happened?:
We were introduced to, and robbed of, a character (The Fiddler) with a fair amount of potential, but that’s nothing new this season. The Savitar red herring is resolved, and we are left with DeVoe possessing seven sets of powers and three bus metas still on the loose. Barry has shown moments of Savitar-esque mania, although Iris seems more than capable of helping him stay balanced and on the hero track. Cecille is still a telepath, albeit a telepath with the ability to turn it off.
The most important major development, though, may lie in Barry’s indefinite suspension. First off, Barry’s role as a CSI is an integral part of his integrity, as noted by Ralph in this episode. From a young age, Barry set his sights on being a CSI to clear his father of a false murder imprisonment. This was his drive for the majority of his formative years. The loss of that career, even though he has already managed to use it to accomplish his goal of freeing his father, will have major ramifications on who Barry is, and who Barry will become. That is unless it is all swept under the rug as if nothing happened, but I have faith in the story-telling capability of the writers to not overlook this major moment in the identity politics of Barry Allen.
As promised, there is also the increasing presence of social media, fake news, and allegations that have been popping up with increasing frequency this season. I believe comics (and by extension, comics shows) have a reciprocal relationship with social structures, so when we start seeing hot-button topics invading our superhero universes, it is rarely by accident. Between the introduction of Killg&re and the speech by Singh, I fully expect the media in Central City to come under fire, much like it has in the United States presently, from Hollywood sexual assault/harassment to biased media reporting. These topics are broiling to the surface in the Arrow-verse, and it is only a matter of time before they start bearing the fruit of major ramifications.
This episode lacked the gravitas of the previous episode (excepting the death/possession of Izzy and Ralph’s journey), but it also didn’t descend into the frivolousness of the Rundine/Dwarfstar episode (with the exception of Goldberg’s journey). “Subject 9” managed to further the narrative in a productive way, and although there were some bumps along the way, it was an enjoyable episode in an interesting arc in a fabulous show.
The Flash airs on the CW Network on Tuesday nights. Check your local listings for times.
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