Airing Tuesdays at 8pm on Sky 1
Writers: Jonathan Butler & Gabriel Garza
Director: Hanelle Culpepper
Essential Plot Points:
- Barry and Ralph go back to basics; the bus. They use new tech designed by Cisco to try and find evidence of the last meta. Ralph jokes, in a non-joking way, about killing DeVoe. Barry explains that they never have to kill and that there’s always another way.
- And there’s our sense of dread, right there.
- Barry finds something. Ralph remembers the guy; he paid his bus fare! Which of course means, as we see in flashback, that the guy paid RALPH’s bus fare. They get a call from Harry, he’s got something.
- The Sonic Scepter! A vibrational sonic weapon that incapacitates with one blow and kills with two. Ralph is over the Moon. Joe is very much not.
- Better still, Harry’s got a solid idea on where DeVoe will be. And he’s getting way too fond of the Thinking Cap…
- Caitlin chats with Iris and gives her some good news. She’s worked out why Killer Frost manifests when she does; the dark matter Iris absorbs is locked into her adrenal glands. She can trigger the transformation with a simple adrenalin shot.
- The alarm sounds, DeVoe is incoming. They breach to his location and find…Edwin Gauss, the final meta, who walks out of a breach, sees them, then screams and disappears.
- Back at the lab, they figure it out; Gauss has his own pocket dimension. If DeVoe absorbs him, he’ll no longer need his chair,
- Harry, because he is going flat out at this point, figures out how to tell Gauss’ dimension jumps from DeVoe’s. The team roll out. Aside from Harry, who Iris benches. And Joe, who decides to have a word with Harry.
- Joe. because Joe is amazing and this show doesn’t remind us of this enough, very gently leads Harry to the realization he’s addicted to the cap. Harry reassures him and Joe lets it go. For now.
- Ralph, Caitlin and Barry track Gauss to a hippy commune. They find out that Gauss is referred to as The Folded Man.
- Ralph and Barry talk, again, about whether or not it’s right to kill DeVoe. And again, sense of dread.
- Caitlin finds Gauss! Who runs! Is caught! And CAITLIN IS IMMEDIATELY STABBED BY THE SAMUROID! BECAUSE HE’S BACK TOO!
- Barry takes it out and everyone regroups back at STAR Labs. Edwin is in the pipeline. He’s safe. It’s fine.
- It’s NOT. Ralph cooks off. He’s convinced that killing DeVoe is the only way to win. Iris and Barry both shut him down. Ralph is done, and goes to chat to Gauss. They bond over potato chips which is pretty much the most Ralph moment ever.
- Gauss, who’s adorable by the way, chats to Ralph and reveals he folded into DeVoe’s hideout. Ralph has a PLAN…
- Cisco, who is making a classic era Enterprise model because he’s wonderful, is interrupted by Harry. Harry is searching for his cap and goes from angry to model breaking to serious problem in the space of a minute. Joe, who did take the cap, and has seen the signs of addiction before, steps in. Harry’s an addict. He has to do something.
- Ralph and Gauss head off to kill DeVoe and are met by Barry. He tries to talk Ralph down but Ralph is DONE. He wants DeVoe ended. he wants him dead. The fight is short, regretful and definitive. Barry knocks him out.
- When Ralph comes round, Barry tries to talk him down. Ralph explains that he’s not afraid of what he’ll do to Ralph, he’s TERRIFIED of what they’ll do to Team Flash. The team is the only family he’s ever had and he’ll do anything to keep them safe.
- Team Flash make the call; go through the Breach, take out DeVoe. They do so, trigger the Scepter and…it’s a hologram.
- And at STAR Labs, DeVoe and Marlize breach in and jam Cisco’s powers. They’re trapped.
- Harry, Joe and Iris have a plan. Hack the computers, shut the chair down. Joe goes toe to toe with a Samuroid because Joe is AMAZING.
- Ralph faces off with DeVoe. And her skeletal dinosaur.
- Harry grabs the thinking cap.
- Marliz and Iris face off. Sword vs SCIENCE FICTION ASSAULT RIFLE.
- In the pipeline, Ralph punches out the T-Rex. That’s a thing that happens; Ralph Dibny punches out a T-Rex. That is a minor plot point in an episode this packed.
- Harry floods the Thinking Cap with dark matter and is knocked out.
- Ralph gets back to Gauss too late. DeVoe has taken him. Enraged Ralph tackles him through the Breach. He pulls the Sonic Scepter from his chest and takes DeVoe DOWN.
- Iris is beaten, or so Marlize thinks. Iris takes the sword blow, headbutts Marlize, knocking her out and shuts down the jamming because NO ONE MESSES WITH THE WESTS.
- Barry finds Ralph with DeVoe in cuffs. Ralph has won. And then, using Null’s powers, DeVoe breaks free, pins Barry and takes over Ralph. Barry begs Ralph to hold on and that they’ll save him. Ralph’s final words are ‘You…already did…’.
- Cisco, barely able to stand, breaches them in. Barry tries for the Scepter. Nothing. Cisco gets taken down. Caitlin gets the dark matter torn out of her, apparently destroying Killer Frost.
- DeVoe thanks Barry for all the training he gave Ralph and leaves.
- Every. Single. Bus Meta. DeVoe got them all.
- Iris finds Barry packing up Ralph’s office. She tries to console him but Barry insists he just needs to pack up the office. When he’s done, the place cleaned down, he pours a last drink for Ralph Dibny. Detective. Friend. Hero. He looks at Ralph’s empty chair, toasts it and says ‘I’ll keep them safe.’. Then leaves.
- We see DeVoe and Marlize toasting their success. Ralph, it turns out, is immune to the ravages of DeVoe’s expanding abilities. And now, at last, he can have his face back. Marlize, unaware she’s being drugged, weeps with joy as DeVoe explains the apex of their plans. Dark Matter. Siphoned from Gideon. Harry’s pride was part of the plan too…
It’s a rare treat to be surprised by a superhero TV show. That’s not a criticism of the genre either, rather a simple function of time. We all know how these stories progress, we can all talk about secret origins and greatest villains and every other element of the modern myths that make up this colourful, fractious, often brilliant sub-genre.
It takes real courage to look at all of that, honor it, and do something different. In that regard, this is one of the bravest episodes of TV you’ll see all year.
Killing Ralph, a character with a history almost as long as Barry’s, could so easily have been cheap or sensationalist. Instead, Butler and Garza take endless pains this episode to show us why it happens, and to show us Ralph’s journey to this point. He is, definitively, a better man than he was when we first met him. He makes the right, almost impossible choice. Were that all we got it would be impressive. The fact we get that moment where he explains why he’s willing to kill makes it astonishing. This is a character who has so often been a punchline with legs. Here we see him for what he is; a fundamentally good guy who is prepared to sacrifice himself to save his friends, knowing full well doing so may sacrifice his relationship with them in doing so. Ralph Dibny goes out a hero and he deserves to. He’ll be endlessly missed.
Of course this could all get rolled back and we fully expect versions of Ralph to pop up next year. But for this character and this season, it makes perfect sense. The hero makes the hard choice. The villain sweeps the board anyway. Now what?
This alone is the makings of a classic episode. However, everyone else gets stuff to do this week. Caitlin’s new found, and now destroyed, relationship with Killer Frost is the poignant counterpoint to Ralph’s plot. Cisco is pushed to the limit and must, surely, be looking at that job offer from last week. Harry’s own pride is weaponized against the people he loves. Joe fights a Samuroid. Iris gets numerous moments of total badassery. Gauss is, like so many of the bus metas, ridiculously charming and sorely missed. And Barry, not so much a hero with his heart on his sleeve as a heart with a hero attached, salutes his friend and honors his vow. It’s all brilliantly written and played and it brings the season down to a needlepoint of moral quandary, ethical dilemma and a villain with the face (At first) of a hero. Stunningly good stuff, from start to finish.
- Hartley Sawyer, always one of the best elements of this cast, is on top form this week.
- The ‘Gauss! STAB! SAMUROID!’ action beat is a brilliantly paced moment.
- Cisco making the classic era Enterprise model, and his gloriously enthusiastic ‘Scottish’ accent.
- Similarly, Harry breaking CIsco’s model is shocking precisely because it’s so violent and so unlike him.
- Joe. Freaking. West. After a half season of twiddling his thumbs. Joe is on fire this week. He’s calm, he’s compassionate and he can kick a Samuroid’s ass single handed. Good job, Detective.
- The Ralph/Barry fight is brilliantly handled and, again, shows how Barry sees time differently and how that, more than anything else, is one of the keys to his abilities.
- Gauss using yoga positions to open breaches is adorable.
- The Iris/Marlize fight is BIG Fun.
- The payoff to Frost and Caitlin leaving each other notes is a subtle, poignant gut punch.
- Likewise Barry not using his powers to clean up Ralph’s office.
- Basically nothing. The Barry/Iris angst at the end feels a smidge eye rolly but it’s earned where it hasn’t been before.
And the Random:
- Arturo Del Puerto is great as The Dude-esque hippy space folder, Edwin Gauss this week. He’s a busy guy too, with appearances in GLOW, upcoming Sons of Anarchy spinoff Mayans MC and The Last Ship among others.
- Hanelle Culpepper has directed for The Flash on several previous occasions including the brilliant ‘King Shark’. She’s also directed for Star Trek: Discovery, Empire, Gotham and many more.
- Jonathan Butler & Gabriel Garza have previously written for the show on episodes like ‘When Harry Met Harry’ and ‘Trule Colors’. Their previous writing credits include Bella and the Bulldogs, The Penguins of Madagascar and The Fairly OddParents.
- ‘If it wasn’t for this old girl I’d still have to leave the couch when I wanted to use the bathroom! Cos I can-‘
‘YES I *KNOW*’
- ‘It’s not art, it’s SCIENCE!’
- ‘This might just be the most powerful tuning fork in the Multiverse!’
- ‘Pretty sure I saw him stepping out of the shower in the thing! I wanna know what problem he was trying to solve in THERE! No…No…I…I don’t wanna know…’
- ‘DON’T FORGET TO LEASH YOUR SPIRIT ANIMALS!’
- ‘That is not the tough call, it’s the WRONG one.’
- ‘IF I APPLY ANY MORE HOBBY GLUE THIS SHIP’S GONNA BLOW! Wow this glue’s really something…I should probably wear a respirator…’
- ‘DeVoe cannot HAVE THEM! THEY ARE MINE!’-OUR FEELINGS, RALPH ALL OF THEM.
- ‘We like Hero Ralph. Please don’t take him away from us.’ -OUR FEELINGS, BARRY, ALL OF THEM.
- ‘Yep. That’s the half I was afraid of.’
- ‘Get OUT of my OFFICE’
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