This The Flash review contains spoilers.
The Flash Season 4 Episode 18
The past few weeks on The Flash have been pretty entertaining but not exactly seismic when it comes to story progression. Last week, we got a fluffy but fun Cisco episode along with a look at the burgeoning friendship between Ralph Dibny and Barry Allen. While Cisco’s promotion to full-fledged Breacher isn’t explored at all this week, the bond between Flash and Elongated Man takes center stage. And yes, the DeVoe storyline certainly progresses.
Sadly it progresses due to the most tired conflict on superhero television, the ol’ should we kill the villain trope. Throughout “Lose Yourself,” Ralph and Barry debate whether they should kill DeVoe if given the chance. And indeed, this week, a Thinking Cap enhanced Harrison Wells builds the very comic book-y cosmic tuning fork to do just that: destroy DeVoe, which prompts the debate. Ralph supports cacking Davoe while Barry predictably wants to do the superhero thing and find another way to end the threat.
Listen, we know Barry Allen will never kill. And neither will Supergirl, and neither will Oliver Queen (these days, anyway…mostly). The debate has been argued, worn out, ridden raw, and hung up wet. Comic books have managed to go 80 years without wearing this debate down to the bone marrow, why does DC TV seem obsessed with it?
And this week, it makes our heroes seem like a bunch of dumbasses. “Lose Yourself” centers on one of the missing bus metas, a hippie named Edwin Gauss, aka the Folded Man. Gauss has the power to open up his own portals and has just kind of been wandering around pocket dimensions since the bus incident. Team Flash tracks down Gauss who agrees to pop them over to DeVoe’s interdimensional hidey hole.
This all takes place after the Ralph versus Barry should we kill debate. There is a sweet moment where Ralph confesses that he wants to kill DeVoe to protect his new family, Team Flash, and not to protect himself. That’s very magnanimous of Ralph and Barry convinces the stretchable sleuth to do the superhero thing and find a non-lethal solution to the DeVoe problem. So Cisco, Killer Frost, and Flash use Gauss’ power and attack DeVoe. Of course, the Thinker is a step ahead of the heroes and uses this opportunity to attack Star Labs. Joe, Iris, Ralph, and Wells are left to defend the homestead, and yeah, this leads to some truly kick ass action that includes Joe versus a Samuraoid and Ralph versus a rampaging T-Rex skeleton, but it also leads to an “Oh, c’mon” moment.
Ralph gets the better of DeVoe (who was still in the body of the Fiddler but now has taken Gauss) and has a chance to end the threat once and for all. DeVoe allows him/herself to be captured and springs his plan on Team Flash, kills all the bus metas held at Star Labs and possesses Ralph, all because Ralph did not end DeVoe when he has the chance.
Now, we know Team Flash will soon stand victorious. We know Ralph isn’t really dead and that DeVoe will be taken down with Flash still remaining the morally upright hero. So I have to ask, why make Team Flash fall, even temporarily, because of Flash’s heroic convictions? Why does the kill or not debate have to lead to the precipice of disaster? It’s tired, it’s been done almost every season on all the DC shows, and it just makes the heroes seem wide eyed and naïve. Not killing is a fundamental part of most superhero DNA and the moral ideal doesn’t need to be questioned constantly. Nor do heroes have to whine about it and suffer loses and setbacks because of it.
And suffer the heroes do. All the bus metas are seemingly dead, including Ralph. DeVoe is able to use his new pliable Ralph body to stretch into his original form (much to the delight of his wife) and Barry is left mourning his fallen friend. As if all this wasn’t bleak enough, a Harrison Wells addiction plot is shoehorned in as the brilliant Wells grows increasingly obsessed with his thinking cap. There is a rushed intervention with Cisco and Joe, but the whole subplot seems tacked on for no reason.
That’s not to say there is not stuff to love this week. Iris taking down Marlize DeVoe is a highlight, and listen, I can’t really hate on any TV series that features Elongated Man fighting a dinosaur skeleton. There is also an interesting development as Killer Frost and Caitlin seem to be growing closer, leaving each other sisterly post-its and what not, but ooops, DeVoe drains Killer Frost of dark matter, so no more Killer Frost, too. I guess the point that Barry has to really pay for his convictions has to be rammed home even harder in case the loss of the bus metas and Ralph left you wondering.
This week’s episode is action packed but really leaves a viewer wanting something more for Barry and his friends, because a hero should have to defend his convictions not suffer and be made to look like a slack jawed dope because of them.
Edwin Gauss the original Folded Man first appeared in Flash #153 (1999) and was created by Brian Augustyn, Mark Waid, and Paul Pelletier. This first Folded Man was a brilliant scientist turned criminal who invented a suit that could turn him flat, open portals, and see anything that exists in a 3D environment.
The New 52 version of Folded Man was a slave to diamond miners in Southern Africa named Xolani. When Xolani, was struck by lightning, he gained access to the Speed Force and could teleport great distances. He became an acolyte of the New 52’s Zoom. Neither comic book Folding Man was a potato chip pounding hippie.
There have been a number of powerful tuning fork like devices in DC history including the weapon of choice of Green Lantern villain Sonar and a Cosmic Tuning Tower used by the Anti-Monitor in Infinite Crisis.