The Flash Season 4 Episode 2 Review: Mixed Signals

"Mixed Signals" gets by on charm, but not much else, and we expect better from The Flash.

This The Flash review contains spoilers.

The Flash Season 4 Episode 2

I don’t know about this one, folks. I know that “Mixed Signals” was supposed to serve as the true reset after the understandable weirdness of getting Barry out of the Speed Force in the season premiere. And I get that the showrunners want to send a message loud and clear about this season’s new, lighter tone to help kind of wash away any lingering negativity from how intense season three was (disclosure: I didn’t have a problem with it). But was it me, or did “Mixed Signals” just feel really forced?

I don’t want to be the one pissing in the punch bowl, and to be sure, I did get quite a few laughs out of the episode. But I feel like this isn’t the kind of thing you need to do two episodes in. As weird as it sounds when we’re talking about a cast that has earned so much goodwill over the last three years, but considering how much they rushed Barry’s return to normal last week, it didn’t feel like they had exactly earned an episode this light yet. 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating a return to the dark, melodramatic elements of last season, nor do I think they need to dive right into another endlessly serialized storyline this early into season four. But after rushing Barry’s return and sweeping most of the potential consequences under the rug one week, going full Legends of Tomorrow (which I love, so there’s nothing inherently wrong with that) might not have been the best move. If some of these other issues had been dealt with, or if this was a quick break after two or three episodes of reset, things would have unfolded a little more naturally.

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I get that the whole “couples therapy” thing had been teased early on, and I gotta say, I got my biggest laugh out of the Doctor telling a superhero that “there’s no right or wrong.” But again, did this really do Iris as a character any favors? Iris had a long road over the last two seasons, and it was so good to see her grow out of “the girlfriend” or “the one who everybody lies to” but to have her pushing Barry, who has been out of the Speed Force a whole week, into therapy in order for her to do the whole “you left me” thing feels like a huge regression, especially since she’s been the one running the operation the last few months. They could have gotten away with this, and that moment would have meant much more, if everyone had a few weeks to process Barry’s return and his new attitude.

And that’s the other thing, we need to talk about Barry’s attitude. It’s great that he has finally come to terms with his past, and left much of the emotional baggage of the last three seasons in the Speed Force. It’s the natural outcome of his decision at the end of last season. But history tells us that any time Barry is this happy-go-lucky, bad things are on the horizon, and we already know that the mysterious DeVoe is going to do serious personal harm to Barry in ways we don’t yet understand. Still, Barry’s over-the-top easygoing routine feels like something we’ve seen before, and they’re just telegraphing a big fall later on.

Added to all of this was the only moderately inventive use of Kilg%re as the villain of the week over a story that, if you took the superheroics and living techno-virus aspect out of it would have played out like a CBS procedural. While historically, this would have been fine when you’re using the larger part of the episode to make a point (in this case, the emphasis on humor, the show’s new tone, etc), this time it just added to the uneven feeling of the episode.

I’m sure lots of you will feel differently, and I won’t say I wasn’t entertained. But “Mixed Signals” coasts by on charm and little else, and I have come to expect a little bit more from The Flash.

Flash Facts!

– I’m sorry, but the Risky Business homage was insufferable.

– Kinda cool that they used Kilg%re on TV, although he doesn’t really resemble his comics version. Kilg%re was created by Mike Baron and Jackson Guice, back during their incredibly underrated run as creative team during Wally West’s early days as The Flash in 1987. Seriously, track these comics down because they’re really great and ahead of their time.

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Anyway, in the comics Kilg%re is from space and became a much bigger threat than what we got here, which is kinda Kilg%re in name only. I’m pretty sure the names of his creators here have nothing to do with the comics, too, but my memory is failing me in my rapidly approaching old age. It does look like there’s bigger plans for him down the road with the Thinker.

– One last time, I swear: this new Flash suit is so killer and it is immediately the best TV superhero costume out there. BUT…we had better never see that “pulse cannon” nonsense ever again. Stop turning every superhero into Iron Man/Batman.

– The “Babel Protocol” embedded in the suit’s tech could be a reference to the JLA story “Tower of Babel” in which Batman famously had kept files on how to take down every member of the League in the event they went bad…and of course those files were exploited. Cisco makes a roundabout reference to that with his crack about the “evil version of Barry” he was worried about having to take down.

– Cisco is fawning over an issue of Noughty Bytes. That’s not a DC Comics reference or anything, it’s just a genuinely hilarious title.

– The Thinker is looking for 12 more “subjects” with techno-powers? 12 disciples, perhaps?

See anything I missed, Flash fans? That’s what the comments are for! Or you can hit me up on Twitter!

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2.5 out of 5