This The Flash review contains spoilers.
The Flash Season 4 Episode 10
I’m going to start with what I liked about “Trial of the Flash” lest I lose myself and my readers too quickly. We finally got some genuine character development out of Ralph Dibny in way that felt completely earned, and it’s something that I hope will be built on in future episodes. Candice Patton was absolutely brilliant in this episode, whether Iris was required to sit quietly in a courtroom or to confront a supervillain and call her out on her bullshit, she absolutely killed. And while we’re at it, Kim Engelbrecht turned in a great performance, too, and one that makes me wonder whether we’ve had our eyes on the right DeVoe the entire time as the real villain of this season.
And after all my grousing early in the season about how the show was leaning too hard on villain-of-the-week, overly jokey, low-stakes stories, it’s been refreshing to see how The Flash has course corrected over the last few episodes, without turning into the relentlessly grim race against time that defined so much of season three. These are all very good things.
But everything else? Hoo-boy.
See, I have a problem. I didn’t like “Trial of the Flash” very much. Ordinarily, this isn’t an issue, as I’m sure you’re all used to me being cranky about this show from time to time.
But the problem stems from the fact that if you read me regularly, you’ll know that from the very first episode of season one, I’ve talked about how a certain comic book story called “Trial of the Flash” is one of my favorite Flash stories, even one of my favorite comic book stories of all time. So before you accuse me of coming into this episode with a chip on my shoulder, let me promise you I didn’t.
Because I already knew that this wasn’t that story, and it was never intended to be that story. Despite the title and the fact that Barry Allen is indeed on trial, this is NOT “The Trial of The Flash” from the comics. It’s A trial of the Flash, but it’s not THE trial. Or at least not THAT trial. I knew that going in, and I was fine with it. Need evidence? If I thought this was gonna be that story, don’t you think I’d have written some rambling 2,000 word explainer on this site during the midseason break? Of course I would have!
So with all that out of the way, I think I can safely find “Trial of the Flash” guilty of being a pretty dopey hour of TV completely on its own merits, and not because I brought any baggage with me to tonight’s viewing. And holy moley, this was dopey.
At this point, we need to pass a law forbidding the entire Arrowverse from ever venturing into courtroom drama of any kind ever again. It never goes well. I really thought The Flash would have learned from the multiple mistakes we’ve seen on Arrow, where it seems that everyone who sets foot in a courtroom immediately loses several IQ points and where no decision anyone makes has any kind of logic to it whatsoever. Oh, and let’s also not forget that all trials, even sensational ones of public citizens are completely forgotten by the public within days of their completion, never to be mentioned again. But it’s such a bummer to see that the Central City court system is just as ridiculous as that of Starling’s.
Can you imagine any murder suspect, bail or no bail, let alone one who couldn’t even be bothered to mount a real defense, being allowed to stroll out of a courtroom because he got a text message? I’m pretty sure you’re not allowed to bring phones into courtrooms for cases like this. I can buy a city full of metahumans, time travel, an entire multiverse, but I’m sorry, this stuff bugs me. And what happens when Barry is inevitably cleared? Does someone who was convicted of murder, even wrongfully, stroll right back into their job at the Central City PD?
You’ll notice I haven’t mentioned this week’s villain. That’s because everything related to this week’s b-plot is beneath notice. They could have saved those budgetary dollars and spent the extra time on crafting a coherent narrative and better reasoning for Barry to not lift a finger in his own defense. This was Barry Allen at his most infuriating, nailing himself to a cross of self-righteous self-pity, where despite his good intentions, his refusal to listen to reason and inability to think things through end up making the situation far worse. I honestly thought we left that guy behind in season two. I haven’t missed him.
But I’ll confess, I was moved and concerned after sentencing, watching Barry get led into Iron Heights in chains. But the “Henry Allen was here” graffiti was a cheap shot, almost unintentionally funny in its heavy-handedness, and it robbed the moment of whatever drama it had.
Nothing will ever match the utter misery of “State v. Queen” from Arrow‘s otherwise excellent second season, but for a few minutes there, it felt like this episode was going to give it the ol’ college try. It has been an uneven season so far as it is, and “Trial of the Flash” just officially landed The Flash Season 4 on probation.
– The comic book “Trial of the Flash” is arguably the greatest Barry Allen story ever told, and it ran for over two years in the comics of the early 1980s, written by Cary Bates with art primarily by Flash co-creator and all-time legend Carmine Infantino. That particular trial wasn’t Barry Allen on the stand, but Flash himself, for the (probably justifiable and certainly accidental) death of a different one of his foes: Eobard Thawne.
– Despite the fact that this isn’t that story, there are still plenty of similarities. For one thing, it was indeed Cecile Horton (who was created in the comics specifically for that story) defending Barry in that trial, although she wasn’t the friendly character we know from the show.
– And yes, Anton Slater was the prosecutor. In the comics, Anton was a flamboyant, Melvin Belli type, and I feel like TV Anton’s loud-ish suits are a nod to that.
– “Fallout” first appeared in The Flash: Iron Heights special in 2001 by the excellent creative team of Geoff Johns and Ethan Van Sciver. Now let’s never speak of him again.
Feel free to tell Mike Cecchini what a hater he is on Twitter.