Welcome back to my weekly recaps of The Flash. To read previous coverage, go here.
The power of love is, on the whole, a pretty dumb concept to base an episode on.
There are two types of viewers in the world. The type who are watching The Flash expecting it to be dreary and serious and not fun and the type who watched this episode “The Duet” where Kara and Barry sang and tapped their way back into their partners hearts with glee.
Guess which camp this critic found herself in. (If I could’ve taken a picture of my bright eyed face at the last number “Run to You” I promise I would’ve.)
The Flash has taken great pains in the last year or two to do in everything in their might to dissuade the original fans from watching, adopting storylines and character beats that went mightily against what made us all fall in love with the world and the characters who inhabited it in the first place. As a pretty devout and stubborn fan even I found myself increasingly loosing interest this year as characters continually forgot promises they’d made a mere episode prior to never lie to one another again and misery happened upon them less for narrative purposes and more for the sake of building a “serious” and “adult” atmosphere.
Funnily enough I took all of the characters more seriously as they were lit in sepia tones, donned from head to toe in 50’s musical garb and were singing about being “super friends”.
Please everyone thank Rachel Bloom (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend) for that one.
I was even able to put up with all 1000 faces Darren Criss managed to pull while doing a serviceable job in his guest starring role as the Music Meister.
Here are some other thoughts I had during the episode.
The charm Barry and Kara create together is screen shattering
I mentioned before the episode began that it could actually be to the shows detriment that Kara and Barry spend so much screentime together this week due to just how much charm they share together. Kara is always delightful to watch onscreen but Barry who has been so dour these past few weeks is brought to life in her company. Their humor shines together and it makes us wonder how well the two could work together if given the chance to share episodes beyond the rare crossover event.
On top of that their number together is wonderful with Grant Gustin and Melissa Benoist both being allowed to demonstrate their impressive footwork. Their rapport is palpable from the moment Barry’s eyes land on Kara crooning “Moon River”, to their shared enthusiasm for musicals to their easy camaraderie in one another as their love lives outside this musical interlude is disheveling. There’s is a relationship we buy as being reliable and tight despite only having shared a few episodes together. It’s easier to believe in their friendship than it is to buy Kara’s dynamic with Mon-El, one that is severely undercut when compared to Iris and Barry’s, one that has been building since episode one of the series.
I don’t know how it would be possible to incorporate dancing in every episode, but I don’t know if I’d say I’m averse to it.
This cast is so damn talented!
While I was casually aware of the characters talent in the musical theater variety (yeah, I saw Glee and watched Rent) seeing just how musically inclined these actors are is a refreshing look at just how many legitimate triple threats there are currently working in Hollywood, especially when they managed to ape the look of old school musicals so well. Jesse L. Martin was always going to kill it in any number he was given but juxtaposing that with Jeremy Jordan or Carlos Valdez crushing a tune (we all wanted more of their number right?!) allows for the viewers to experience a complete joyful experience from beginning to end.
The music itself was infectious, infusing just the right amount of storyline and sheet spectacle to make it jump off the screen. Going into the episode I would’ve guessed that it would be the Kara and Barry duet “Super Friends” that won my full attention but instead this sap was totally enamored by the “Runnin’ Home to You” proposal at the end if the episode between Barry and Iris for a number of reasons, not limiting the character history shared between the two and the sheer pipes Gustin possesses. However, the main appeal of it was how strictly “musical theater” it was. It was escaping the trappings and excuses of the dream sequence world that would enable the cast to sing and allowing a truly corny by heartfelt scene to cap out an episode that had earned a moment as earnest and lovely as it was.
They can’t sing every week but can we keep this tone?
I will endure any hackneyed plot involving the power of love where both Kara and Mon-El and Barry and Iris ending up together at the end after episodes of stress if it means we get this tone of fun and joy each week because it’s what the show has crucially been missing. Because of the surreal, fantastical nature of the hero (unlike Oliver Queen’s Arrow who is more accustomed to real life grittiness) The Flash can afford to go off the deep end in storyline structure every once and a while, especially with the list of villains the hero has on his roster. If they can afford a two arc episode on Gorilla Grodd, an episode set in a magical musical world than they can allow the world some levity every once and a while in order to create a universe more enjoyable and inviting than what they’ve presented this year.
The Flash, for all of his personal trauma and loss is a character who has defied that tragedy to become a wholesome and good natured hero who wants nothing more than to prevent this kind of loss of befall any other victim. The early version of the show knew how to balance this melancholy with action adventure romps and they need to recall how they captured the atmosphere initially, because the show has been greatly missing it.
It was a little silly, pretty clever and a hell of a lot of fun and The Flash could do with a lot more of it. “Duet”, more than anything else, was a breath of fresh air.