With The Flash Behind Bars Elongated Man Has to Step Up

first_img The last couple episodes of The Flash have been downers. The Thinker has been outsmarting Barry at ever turn, and not even in a particularly interesting way. Now, he’s behind bars and there’s surprisingly no easy solution to get him out. Team Flash is having to keep the city safe without The Flash. For once, the show is letting that happen. It’s allowing its roster of side-heroes to develop. For that to happen though, it needed to make Dibny into a hero you’d actually want to watch. Well, it took an entire episode, but they got there.The opening moments of this week’s The Flash were equal parts heartbreaking and hilario… well, pretty funny. Barry is having a hard time in prison, with other inmates trying to pick fights and riots breaking out. Even inside, he still can’t resist being the hero. When nobody’s looking, he uses his superspeed to put every inmate back in their cells. Outside, Central City is doing the best it can without The Flash. Ralph/ Dibny is filling in, and not doing to bad a job, though Cisco hasn’t thought of a name for him just yet. He dispatches a comically incompetent bank robber (who asked for a Prius as a getaway car… good luck with that, buddy) by using his stretchy body to absorb the blast of his bomb. He even makes sure to sneak the hostages to safety first. The only downside: He’s kind of annoying about the whole thing.Grant Gustin as Barry Allen (Photo: Shane Harvey/The CW)The scenes where Joe and Iris visit Barry are surprisingly heartfelt. The emotional beats are often the weakest parts of The Flash, but the show seems to have figured out how to do them well. That’s probably because they no longer involve Barry stubbornly keeping everyone else in the dark. Instead, everyone acknowledges the problem, that Barry has been wrongly convicted, and is working together to solve it. The show is just better when Barry and Iris act like partners. These scenes get some mileage out of the fact that Barry and his family aren’t allowed to touch. Barry and Iris are separated by glass, and when Joe is investigating a prison escape, he’s sad that he can’t even comfort Barry with a hug. These are small moments, but they hit pretty hard. It makes it even worse when Iris gets caught up in dealing with the supervillains of the week.And yes, there are two villains. While Barry’s locked up, Dibny faces his first real challenge: The Trickster. Remember him? Not James Jesse (Mark Hamill’s been a little busy lately), Axel Walker. After a brief encounter with Barry in Iron Heights, Walker starts to feel sick. It turns out his mother, Prank from the old 1990 series, put something in the pudding so she could bust him out of prison. And yes, Prank is played by the same actress. I love how this show embraces every bit of The Flash’s history. Axel wants to make a name for himself in Central City as The Trickster in the hopes that it’ll make his dad want to see him. You’d almost feel sorry for the guy if it wasn’t for all the attempted murder. And by himself, he makes a formidable foe for Dibny. He’s managed to mix up his own form of acid (called Axid… yes, it’s stupid, but this episode is all about embracing the stupid and I’m here for that). At this point, it’s the only thing that can actually hurt Dibny. Even with his polymerized skin, he barely escapes the fight thanks to Vibe. And he’s out of action for a short time with a nasty burn.Devon Graye as Axel Walker/Trickster, Corinne Bohrer as Zoey Clark/Prank, Danielle Panabaker as Caitlin Snow/Killer Frost and Carlos Valdes as Cisco Ramon/Vibe (Photo: Katie Yu/The CW)That’s enough to scare him off hero work for a bit. He tries to break Barry out of prison, convinced that he’ll never be the hero type, and Barry gives him a speech about bravery and heroism. It’s a moment that easily could have dragged, but I like Barry as the mentor. And if Dibny is ever going to work as a superhero, he needs to have an episode like this that makes him earn it. The only problem with this being such a Dibny-focused episode is that everyone else gets sidelined. Vibe and Killer Frost try to fight Trickster and Prank in Dibny’s stead, but they’re immediately captured and their powers nullified. What’s the point of having Caitlin be able to bring Frost out at will if this is all you’re going to do with her? Then, Dibny walks in and decides to be a hero, just when Iris declares she’s coming to save her friends and grabs a massive gun. Hey show? How about you don’t tease us with something infinitely cooler than what actually ends up happening? It doesn’t make us feel too good. Then there’s the show’s odd lack of Wally. With Barry in jail, it’d be the perfect time for Kid Flash to come back, and it’s never brought up. I’m guessing this isn’t entirely the show’s fault though. When these episodes were written, they probably thought that Legends of Tomorrow would be airing at the same time. That’s most likely where Wally is, but since that show’s premiere was pushed to next month, we’re left without an explanation.At least it ended with Dibny finally getting to act like a hero. He gets the Elongated Man costume, stands up to Trickster and Prank, and even nearly sacrifices himself to save Vibe and Caitlin. Fortunately, Harry’s able to neutralize the Axid (still funny) and everyone is saved. It’s a little light on the action, but for a comedy episode, this wasn’t half bad. And Dibny finally gets his superhero name in the dumbest way possible. He argues to a reporter that he does more than stretch, he elongates, man. It’s a lame gag, but it fits the tone of the episode. After the dour Thinker-focused episodes we have been getting, it’s nice to see the show having some fun. It’s not the most compelling hour of TV, but it’s enjoyable as long as you don’t take The Flash too seriously. And at this point, it might be better if you don’t.Bill Goldberg as Big Sir and Grant Gustin as Barry Allen (Photo: Shane Harvey/The CW)Barry’s story with special guest star Goldberg, who plays Big Sir, is just OK. In the comics, Big Sir is generally a villain, but it doesn’t look like the show is going to go that route. At least not yet. Here, he’s been an inmate since Barry’s dad was locked up. Barry’s dad saved his life back in the day, so now he looks after Barry. The story doesn’t really develop beyond that, and while it’ll probably go further next week, all we get is a so-so fight scene at the end. One prison gang is beating up Big Sir for helping Barry, and Barry steps in to fight. He redirects their punches and swings so they end up taking themselves out. As a whole, this episode was light on action, but I do enjoy when The Flash does that.We’re two weeks into the second half of the season, and it’s going to take some serious work to get us back to Season Two level Flash. It’s hard to say whether the show is still capable of reaching those highs, but for now, I’m OK with what we got last night. It’s always interesting to see how Team Flash manages to operate without the fastest man alive, and this show finally seems to be taking some time with the premise. When Barry’s disappeared before, we barely got half an episode before the show brought him back. Now, it looks like we’re in for multiple episodes of the team figuring out how to get by without him. There’s a ton of interesting things they could do with that, especially now that Dibny’s acting like a real hero. We’d better see Iris use that big gun before too long though. 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