This The Flash review contains spoilers.
The Flash Season 4 Episode 16
‘sup, speedsters? Sorry I’ve been away the last few episodes, but I left you in excellent hands with Kayt, Delia, and Marc, part of my very own Team Flash. You’re just lucky I didn’t write the “Enter Flashtime” review, which would have been more riddled with typos than usual because I would have been sobbing tears of joy the entire time.
What I seriously didn’t expect was for this season to be broken up into so many distinct “acts.” The early part of the season was mostly standalone, villain-of-the-week heavy, and went super hard on the humor. I will charitably call it uneven. Then there was the “Trial” period, which we will never speak of again. But it seems that after that Winter Olympics break the show remembered what it’s supposed to be. When an episode like “Subject 9” which from afar looked as disposable as could be turned out to be a winner, that was a good omen. And then there was “Enter Flashtime” which, when the day comes for me to list the best episodes in the history of this season, will definitely be on the list. But you know what? So will “Run, Iris, Run.”
When “Run, Iris, Run” was announced, my reaction was more of an “of course” than an “I can’t wait.” Iris (and especially Candice Patton) has earned an episode like this, several times over. If all “Run, Iris, Run” ended up being was a fun Candice Patton spotlight, I would have been fine with that. It’s much more. And while not as explicitly Mike-bait as “Enter Flashtime” (gimme all the Jay Garrick screentime), this was even more important, and a better indicator of what The Flash is still capable of as a show.
This was such a good spotlight episode for, not just Iris, but the entire dynamic of Team Flash that I almost don’t know where to start, and I’m certainly gonna end up leaving something out (you can yell at me on Twitter or in the comments). For starters, the evolution of Harry that kicked off two weeks ago really gained steam here, and I love the obsessive drive that we’re getting from him now. His constant push and pull with Cisco is no longer just comic relief, either.
It’s tough for me to really process just how much story and character development they managed to pack into this one, even in something that could have been a gimmick episode with a villain of the week. But “Run, Iris, Run” isn’t really a standalone episode. It uses its villains to keep the bigger story moving, and I never felt like we were getting bogged down in a side mission.
While I have never stopped loving these characters individually, I have occasionally found WestAllen a little irritating this year, especially in the early part of the season. Not anymore. Barry’s absolute faith and trust in Iris all through this episode, and Iris’ totally selfless focus on keeping the mission going, was just a joy to behold. That moment they shared, with Barry telling Iris to “go get ’em” was exactly what I needed to see, and says far more about the real strength of their relationship than anything we’ve seen this year. Honestly, I think it meant more than all of the season three hand-wringing over saving her from Savitar. Sometimes you just have to let the chemistry of your leads do the work, and that’s exactly what they did.
Iris’ desire to put her powers to good use were an interesting contrast to Harry’s overwhelming, obsessed drive to do it. They both have something to prove to themselves, even though they have the greater good at heart. But Harry is clearly going to some dark and unhealthy places, whereas I never once got the impression that Iris’ decision to go into the field with her brand new powers was reckless or driven by vanity. Her transformation here was cathartic, and again, I can’t help but feel it’s the ultimate, final apology for the show’s early “everybody lies to Iris” days. There are so many ways this could have gone wrong, where the audience (or in my case, a critic) wouldn’t buy a compressed origin story/training/first mission sequence. Instead, it might just be the single most economical hour of storytelling we’ve seen from this show all season.
There were lots of little touches, too. The show went the extra mile to make Iris’ time as a speedster special. Whether it was the purple speed force effect (easy enough to accomplish), the cool costume (which I do hope we get to see again), or the “Iris-vision” we got when she first raced into the burning building, this wasn’t about Iris becoming Lady Flash, it was Iris becoming her own hero. And did my ears deceive me, or did Blake Neely give Iris her own hero’s theme, too? I thought I heard it when she was working on the treadmill.
I think her greatest moment came, not as a superhero, but in the closing moments with Ralph. There were plenty of things to remind us that yes, Iris has been the leader of this team for nearly a year now. But that’s not just about calling the shots on a mission, it’s about knowing when to lift up someone who’s dragging. Ralph’s callousness may have set her off earlier, but she recognized where that was really coming from, and took the time to help him get right with himself. I don’t know if I could see Barry or Cisco or anyone else handling that situation in quite the same way. I think it’s the kind of quality you only see in a real leader, and I hope they show more of this side of Iris down the line. It’s her real superpower.
But for me, the ultimate sign that Iris got it right, and that the show got it right, was in a small moment with her father after she brings down the bad guy. So I’ll just echo that here, for Iris, for Candice Patton, and for the whole team that brought this episode in: “Nice work, Flash.”
– UPDATE! I had previously rambled here about how the threat from season three implied that nobody would ever hurt Barry as badly as DeVoe. I was wrong. Thinker’s name was mentioned, but the threat was related to Savitar. Sorry, I was a little out of it when writing this last night.
OK, enough of the heavy stuff…let’s talk comics.
– The “thinking cap” was the literal, actual comic book name for the Thinker’s brain device back in the day. Of course Cisco would name it as a way to bust Harry’s balls.
– I feel like Cisco had a real Peter Venkman vibe happening when he was examining the (former) meta in the bank.
– I like that they’re keeping Matthew Kim (Leonardo Nam) around. It will be interesting to see how he fits in with the team dynamic, even temporarily.
– I absolutely share Ralph Dibny’s weakness for veggie dogs.
– We haven’t seen an issue of Noughty Bytes in a while!
– They don’t really reference the issues with speedster metabolism all that often on this show, so it was nice to see it pop up tonight.
– When Cisco tells Barry “guess your on comms,” I couldn’t help but think of when members of the Justice League (usually Plastic Man) get stuck on “monitor duty.”
– I’m pretty sure that Janet Petty isn’t from any DC Comics, but Edwin Gauss is a minor dimension-hopping character called “The Folded Man.”
So that’s three solid episodes in a row, two of which were downright excellent. We haven’t had a stretch like that yet this year. Hit me up in the comments or on Twitter if you think I missed anything important!