The Flash S03E11 “Dead Or Alive” REVIEW
Essential Plot Points:
- The Flash and Kid-Flash are now officially a crime-busting team and Barry is happy for Wally to have his moment in the spotlight.
- Gypsy tracks down HR to STAR Labs. She vibes in using a portal then shoots HR (but only stunning him).
- Cisco and Gypsy sense they share the same powers – there’s instantly a little frisson between them, but they still fight even as Cisco tries to ask her on a date. Gypsy is clearly the superior fighter.
- HR explains that she is a “collector” – on Earth-19 inter-dimensional travel is banned so collectors track down people who have transgressed their law. HR will now be taken back to Earth-19 and executed.
- There is one legal loophole (though you have to wonder what the lawyers who drew this one up were on at the time): Cisco challenges Gypsy to a trial by combat – the winner’s prize being possession of HR. That’s trial by combat… to the death!
- Gypsy accepts; she gives Cisco a day to prepare.
- But Cisco is a bit rubbish during training.
- Luckily, Julian, despite having the social graces of Miss Piggy and Donald Trump’s love child, has worked out Gypsy’s tactical weakness; she’s off-balance when she emerges from her portal. Yay, Julian – Oscar the Grouch with sartorial elegance.
- After an epic dimension-hopping battle, Cisco defeats Gypsy by tripping her up, basically.
- But he refuses to kill her. Because, let’s face it, there’s a BIG moral divide between tripping someone up and killing them.
- Instead all parties come to a deal – HR must never return to Earth-19, and Gypsy will pretend she’s killed him. She returns to Earth-19 laden with coffee… which is also illegal.
- Meanwhile Iris and Wally team up to find the arms dealer who’s been providing Central City’s criminals with advanced weaponry.
- Iris is nearly shot in the process but seems to believe she’s safe because she can’t die yet as she knows she dies in the future. (Has she not been paying attention to what her other half’s been up to for the past few episodes? PROVING THE FUTURE CAN BE CHANGED!)
- She tells everyone else she just wants to make her mark as a journalist before she dies.
- Barry realises that with his rate of speed gain, he’ll never be fast enough come May to save Iris from Savitar… but Wally will be.
What a great ensemble episode. The only regular character who doesn’t get a spotlight moment is poor old Caitlin, but even she gets a couple of decent lines as Julian’s assigned carer. And Joe’s main contribution is an extended comedy misunderstanding… but it is a very memorable comedy misunderstanding and Jesse L Martin milks it for everything it’s worth as Joe contemplates the possibility he might soon be called granddad.
But for everyone else, there’s some really meaty material (or nut-roasty material for vegetarians – we like to be inclusive). Iris does some investigating and displays a worrying death wish. Wally gets to play hero and reap the rewards in the popularity stakes. HR reveals the real reason he’s come to this Earth, and it’s a reason that deflates all his pomp and leaves a rather melancholy, though more human and sympathetic, individual in its place. Cisco falls in love, rediscovers his quipping mojo and becomes (pretty much) the fully-fledged Vibe. Julian proves his usefulness to the team despite insulting everyone. And Barry realises that he has to put pride on the backseat and concentrate on making Wally a better speedster than he is, so Iris can be saved.
Oh yeah, and they introduce a charismatic new recurring character in the form of the feisty Gypsy, played with a sly wit and sass by Jessica Camacho. Who likes coffee as much as HR.
How the hell did they fit all that in?
Even more amazingly, it doesn’t feel at all rushed and even finds time for a grandstanding inter-dimensional fight scene. Okay, it’s not on the level of the climax to Thor: The Dark World (whatever you think of the film as a whole you have to admit it has one of the best final fights in Marvel movie) but for TV it’s pretty damned impressive.
Plus we have the requisite moment of The Flash’s trademark cheese – you know, when the show gets all mushy and should make you cringe but somehow you end up grinning like a loon or with a quivering lip instead: that Cisco/HR bonding scene walks the emotional-tightrope expertly. Amazingly you totally buy into Cisco’s reason for laying his life on the line for this goon; it’s his way of paying back the previous Wells’s faith in him. It looks like HR may be a changed, more humble man after this episode too. After all, now Julian’s on board, HR’s no longer “man most likely to have voodoo dolls made of him”.
It also interesting that a) both HR and Iris are desperate to make their mark by doing something worthwhile with their lives but b) the writers don’t make that link at all explicit.
Of course it’s creaky in places; with this much going on the strain will show. While making Iris all nihilistic might seem edgy it actually comes across as a little laboured, and it’s odd that she seems to have a different concept of how the future works to everybody else on the show. Gypsy’s “I won’t tell if you won’t” deal with HR seems fraught with potential danger (not to mention future plot opportunities). And there seems to be whole swathes of exposition missing about the gun-running plot, as if the writers aren’t really that interested in it.
But The Flash is currently going through a consistently impressive period, crackling with invention, ideas and sparky character work. Let’s hope it doesn’t ultimately vanish up its own temporal paradox like it did in the final few episodes last season.
- Cisco, after a near-half season of grumpiness and angst following his brother’s death, is back to his usual pop-culture referencing perkiness. Plus, his flirting with Gypsy is so cute.
- The dimension-hopping scrap between Cisco and Vibe is massive fun, especially the Earth-38 cameo.
- Surly old Julian is a perfect addition to the team. We hope Caitlin’s efforts to make him more socially aware aren’t too successful because he comes up with some of the best lines of the episode…
Julian: “Caitlin, why don’t you get the medical bay prepared in the meantime?”
Cisco: “What? Why does… why does she need to set up the… the medical bay?”
Julian: “For when you… beat her. When you beat her, she’s gonna… she’s gonna need medical attention. ’Cause you will beat her, I have every faith that you’re going to beat her.”
Caitlin: “We need to work on your interpersonal skills.”
Julian: “I was really trying.”
- Wally’s cocky “Kid-Flash flaming calling card” is great (you can see Barry thinking, “Why didn’t I think of that?”).
- It’s good to see Iris actually doing some journalism.
- HR overcompensating with his vortex gun.
- LEGO strategising!
- Julian truly becoming part of the team by explaining something using a marker pen on the see-through wipe board (although he still hasn’t quite got the hang of it; his diagram made sense).
- Joe’s expression when he thinks he’s going to be a dad…
- Could anybody actually work out what Barry and Wally were doing to take down the Electric Gang? We agree with Julian: there must have a load more ways they could have done the job more efficiently. Maybe Wally was just showing off for the cheerleaders…? But hang on…? Where did the cheerleaders come from and what did Wally save them from, exactly? It was all a bit muddled. (It may make sense to you but we’ve watched it four times now… maybe we’re just thick.)
- The line, “Everyone’s gotta go sometime, right? And I am pretty sure today just… isn’t my day,” suggests that Iris seems to think that because she’s going to die in the future she can’t die earlier than that. Good theory, except the rest of Team Flash has proven that the future can change which kinda just makes her look a bit thick.
- Okay, so after we moaned in the previous review that nobody seemed concerned about where Plunder got his super-advanced rifle from, this week Iris addresses that. But the same question remains; where is the dealer getting these weapons from? And why is no one on Team Flash pondering this question?
And The Random:
- The gang of crooks that the Flash and Kid-Flash are chasing at the start of the show are referred to as the Electric Gang. There was actually a gang of crooks called the Electric Gang in The Flash #242 (1976) though the only real similarities seem to be the name – the guys in the show certainly don’t come across like Team Electro.
- Keystone Bridge is a reference to Keystone City, which in the DC universe is home to the original Flash Jay Garrick and the third Flash Wally West. It’s where (injoke alert) Detective Tom Patterson said he wished Kid-Flash would relocate to in the previous episode. (Of course, we should have pointed that out in our review of “Borrowing Problems From The Future” but there was so much going on we missed it in the wash.)
- We know you know, but just for the sake of completeness we feel honour-bound to point out that Supergirl’s Eve Teschmacher (played by Andrea Brooks) makes a cameo in the Earth-38 scene in the CatCo offices.
- Cisco’s Vibe costume is a very close facsimile of the costume Vibe wore in his short-lived New 52 comic series in 2013.
- So Cisco and Gypsy definitely visit Earth-2 and Earth-38 during their fight, but what was the other place? Well, we’re surprised Cisco didn’t make some quip about it being Mustafar, but the smart money is on it being Apokalips, home of Darkseid, a hell planet which exists between dimensions. But that could just be wishful thinking, hoping that Darkseid might be coming to the Arrowverse.