This The Flash review contains spoilers.
The Flash Season 4 Episode 17
Well, “Null and Annoyed” is something of an apt title. It’s not surprising that there would be a bit of a regression after The Flash turned in its two best episodes of the season (and two of its best ever, if I’m being honest) with “Enter Flashtime” and “Run, Iris, Run.” It’s just a shame that all of the flaws of The Flash Season 4 had to come to the foreground in such a pronounced way in an episode directed by Kevin Smith.
Smith, of course, knows and loves his DC Comics lore, and he has directed several episodes of both The Flash and Supergirl now. But what has always struck me about Smith’s Flash episodes in particular is how they’re rarely your typical superhero throwdowns. My two favorites remain his stint with Barry in the speed force in season two (one of the few highlights of that season) and last year’s exploration of Killer Frost. There’s always been this match of director and material, that has let his love for this world shine through.
Unfortunately, there’s not much to work with in “Null and Annoyed.” It’s another villain-of-the-week episode and not even Smith’s touch can elevate it. While the second half of this season has been a dramatic improvement over its early episodes, we’re stuck with the fact that The Thinker isn’t a terribly interesting villain, and our inability to develop a connection with him is only amplified by his recent body hopping. The Fiddler was a surprisingly fun one-off character, but her turn as “DeVoe” is woefully inadequate. Our title villain is completely disposable, too, and this show really needs to find a way to stop scraping the bottom of the DC barrel as regularly as it does. And when they do use them, we need someone to punch up their dialogue, as they shouldn’t be spouting stuff that sounds like it would have been at home on the Super Friends cartoon.
It’s a shame that the b-story is the good one. Cisco trying to help Breacher (the always delightful Danny Trejo) is tremendous fun, and I would have much rather have watched the two of them fight vampires in another dimension than watch Barry and Ralph bicker over a villain as inconsequential as Null. Cisco’s “holistic” methods of trying to “heal” Breacher were genuinely funny, and Danny Trejo and Carlos Valdes have an easy chemistry together, and I could have watched them for a solid hour. I just hope that Breacher’s offer isn’t something that Cisco is actually thinking of accepting. This show would be measurably diminished without him.
Ralph is a real problem again, though. I haven’t had the blazing hatred for the character that I see around the internet (although I do understand some of it), and I do think Hartley Sawyer is a fun presence with great timing. The problem is that, as written, Ralph is completely insufferable, and they can’t keep doing these two steps forward/two steps back angles with him. Ralph’s explanation of why he is the way he is just felt like an apology to the audience rather than anything genuine, and I’m not buying it. I feel like the way this show is going, next week we’ll have Ralph being fun and reasonable again, and then he’ll be irritating us all again the following week.
It’s all saved somewhat by Harry’s mysterious trip into the secret Gideon room, though. We’ve all suspected his obsession with outthinking DeVoe would be his undoing this year, and it looks more and more like that’s the case. It was a great scene, and like Cisco/Breacher, I would have preferred to spend the majority of the episode following this story than the one we got.
Maybe my expectations were set too high after “Enter Flashtime” and “Run, Iris, Run.” The problems on display in “Null and Annoyed” are the same problems we’ve seen all year long: inconsistency in tone, stakes that feel too low, and brutally dull villains. I know this show can be better, but they’re running out of opportunities this year.
– Null is quite different in the comics, notably his gender, origin story, mode of dress, etc. Really, it’s barely the same character. This season of The Flash has been digging deep for obscure villains as cannon fodder for the Thinker’s plan, and Null is no exception.
Still, the original Null was created by the great Jon Ostrander (of Suicide Squad fame) and Jan Duursema, in the pages of Hawkworld. Hawkworld was DC’s late ’80s reboot of the Hawkman mythos, which has kind of been lost to time and paved over by countless, increasingly confusing Hawkman reboots, but if you can track it down, especially the original limited series with gorgeous Tim Truman art, it’s totally worth your time.
– “the DC Comics?” Really, Ralph? Really?
– I wasn’t aware that there was a dragon farm on Earth-47. That’s where Prez lives, though.
– Yes, even though they aren’t actually called that, it would appear that Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes are Jay and Silent Bob in the DC Universe, as well. Although Smith isn’t wearing his trademark jorts.
– Do I really need to catalog the annoying, rapid-fire pop culture references Ralph was making, like “Doc Ock,” “Master Splinter,” and his Darth Vader quote? No? Good. Cisco is better at that stuff anyway.