This The Flash review contains spoilers.
The Flash Season 4 Episode 7
You know how for most of the first batch of episodes this season I was asking for a little balance? “Therefore I Am” is what I meant. Now, with the complete understanding that this is, perhaps, an overcorrection from the overcorrection in terms of the sheer lack of humor in this episode, I still feel like “Therefore I Am” was more like what I’ve come to expect from this show in general, and in its better moments, like this show at its best.
Now, it isn’t a perfect episode. It’s a little slow, to be honest. But it’s supposed to be. The whole theme of this season is about how Barry can’t outrun The Thinker, so it makes sense that the episode that finally centers on DeVoe moves at his pace, not at Barry’s.
And now, finally, we’re getting a sense of DeVoe. I still don’t know how high the threat level is, and it’s admittedly hard to measure it after the creepiness/personal nature of Reverse-Flash in season one, and the fact that both Zoom and Savitar were physically imposing monsters (with the voices to match). It took me seven episodes, but I’m buying DeVoe as a master manipulator. I still think they could have gotten us to that point sooner, with some less forgettable pawns in the meantime, but this does feel like one of those turning point episodes (they usually come right around now, right?), and this is on target.
It’s great to see Neil Sandilands finally do some real work as DeVoe, and I’m struck by just how likeable he is, and how naturally he and Kim Engelbrecht slip into the role of wronged couple. The occasional sidelong glance aside, you can almost believe that they really are just being hounded by an overeager cop. I think the fact that there’s so much to like about DeVoe himself, and his crack about “knowledge without love” at the end of the episode is another sign that this isn’t like our usual villains, and there’s a larger chance of redemption for him than we’ve had with other big baddies.
What I found even more interesting was that it recalled season one in so many ways…and not just through those flashbacks (which I thought used Barry, Iris, and original Wells in some clever ways). The fact that Barry needs a board again was a nice touch, for example, just a few weeks after he made it clear that he had made peace with his past and the death of his mom. The friendship that Cisco and Harry are developing has some of the prickly elements of the Cisco/not-Harry relationship from season one, too, albeit with a far more confident Cisco this time around. Also Harry’s “that wasn’t me” was pretty classic.
But while there were both tonal and thematic similarities to season one on display, I think they did a fine job of moving things forward in a way that felt a little more natural than what we’ve had (even in the episodes I’ve really enjoyed) this year so far.
In fact, Barry’s descent into paranoia this episode was the best performance I think we’ve seen from Grant Gustin all season. He didn’t overplay it, and it was a combination of his performance and the combined experience of three and change seasons of show. We’ve seen Barry screw up because of overconfidence that causes him to miss something really obvious at least one too many times in the past. It’s great to see that he’s so focused on not letting that happen again that he’s at least willing to make different mistakes this time.
They didn’t turn the clock back on Iris, either. While Candice Patton is quite funny, with the same excellent timing that everyone in the cast has, I’ve felt Iris’ character has been a little inconsistent all season and the least well served by the season’s focus on comedy. There was just too much whiplash for me between her running the show in the season premiere and some of the other situations they’ve put her in (“Girls’ Night Out” was an exception). That wasn’t the case tonight, and her “tell me you did not break into their house” in a perfect Joe West delivery was funny in all the right ways, while still spotlighting her ability to call bullshit where necessary.
So I guess my only real complaint here isn’t even necessarily the fault of this episode, but it does crystallize some of the things I’ve been complaining about since episode two. My problem has never been with the comedy or the villains of the week, but rather that they were really laying the comedy on so thick, and the villains have been so lousy even by votw standards. So now that we’re finally starting to get into the meat of this story, it’s almost jarring to have such a serious episode with so much story to get through. For example, I’ve rather enjoyed Ralph Dibny so far (I know now everyone has, and I can see why), but his absence was really noticeable here. How will The Flash reconcile these two halves of this season’s nature going forward? Or maybe those first few episodes were really just DeVoe style misdirection?
– OK, so we can put the whole “what if Thinker is really just a smokescreen and he’s actually Metron from the New Gods” thing to rest now, right?
– DeVoe’s “thinking cap” is straight out of the golden age comics version of the character. It looks like it, too! And again, the fact that DeVoe himself is such a likeable, sympathetic character, plays into how that version of the Thinker eventually ended up developing. There’s a wonderful Jay Garrick story where an elderly DeVoe is on his deathbed with brain cancer, and Jay realizes that the thinking cap could save him…and he tries, because they’ve developed a friendship. I’m not saying they’re going anywhere like that here, but there’s a little precedent for it.
– They don’t just name The Thinker in this episode, but did Blake Neely just give us a Thinker theme, as well? It usually takes me until about this time of year to notice what good work Mr. Neely does for this show, and then there’s always a moment that jumps out at me. Barry discovering the bug in the Samuroid mask was it.
– Wally “fought a giant starfish” in Blue Valley, eh? That would almost certainly be Starro the Conqueror, a key foe of the Justice League. Please tell me there will be more about this in the future!
– Aaron Kosminski is indeed a viable Jack the Ripper suspect, although not my favorite. Get a few drinks in me and we’ll talk about it. This section isn’t called Jack Facts.
– Harry and Cisco are right about Zatoichi.
– Barry’s “Spidey sense” crack needs no explanation, right? Of course not.
Mike Cecchini is considering changing his name to the Over-Thinker. Mock him, or at least convince him this is a terrible idea, on Twitter.