After a generally pleasant season thus far and an intriguing villain setup, The Flash spiraled pretty quickly this week. With more than a few missteps, some missed character opportunities, and giving Dibny too much attention and a hero’s journey he doesn’t deserve, “When Harry Met Harry” turned into the weakest episode of the season.
To say the episode is full of misfires is an understatement. There are so many misfires. To start with, Harry gets tons of screen time this week, to the detriment of the episode because he’s only good in doses, when the “Counsel of Wells” is formed to help find some information on DeVoe. I’m not sure what the writers really intended because the team could’ve worked to find DeVoe together, but the humor of the few scenes of Tom Cavanagh playing multiple versions of Harry fall completely flat. More than that, the scenes are absolutely unnecessary. In the larger scheme of things, Harry has a nice dynamic with Cisco, but he’s ultimately not a character who needs that much attention. To spend so much time on him is frustrating.
On to Ralph Dibny, the character no one asked for and everyone got anyway. Dibny spends most of the episode making crude jokes and remarking on women’s body measurements, all of which is disgusting, unnecessary, and distasteful. This is especially so given the recent suspension of the show’s executive producer, Andrew Kreisberg. Once again, the show overestimates the audience’s love for Dibny and his journey to becoming a “hero” is kind of a joke given that he can’t even treat women with any respect and reduces them to their waist sizes. It’s insensitive and Dibny is most definitely not the kind of character people should be rooting for at this point.
That Hollywood’s most powerful men are facing repercussions for this very type of behavior makes Dibny even that much harder to stomach. Having him continue to act like a complete sleazeball makes my general dislike of him grow even stronger. Why is he, with all his terrible qualities and uncaring nature, allowed to have a hero’s arc? Dibny is the prime example of white male privilege and I wish that Iris, Barry, and Caitlin had said something to him about his behavior rather than letting it slide into simple nuisance territory. Barry’s “ignore him” is even unsettling given that women have to continuously ignore these types of comments in the workplace all the time and yet someone like Dibny is allowed to be on the team? Because Barry believes he has a hero’s heart? I’m not convinced, and now even less so than when Ralph was first introduced (as a man who would try and hit on a widow, no less). Are his comments meant to be funny? Yes. Are they? Absolutely not. Dibny is also a character that the audience needs in doses and dedicating an entire episode to his betterment after only three episodes is reaching. Moreover, saving people’s lives doesn’t equate to suddenly being a good person if he’s going to continue making rude remarks to the females on his own team.
Instead, the episode should have picked up some of the threads that we’ve been given already. Iris asked Caitlin to be her maid of honor last week and “When Harry Met Harry” could have had them interact more and possibly hang out. But this show has an unfortunate tendency to prioritize men over women, even if the man in this case is a recurring guest star and not a regular cast member. How about Iris and Cecile? Will they even have one-on-one scenes together? How is Iris feeling after the baby news? How is Caitlin feeling about her ability to be able to switch back and forth between herself and Killer Frost at will? So much potential is wasted in order to focus on Dibny, whose storyline becomes more important than the regular characters on the show. Dibny lacks basic human decency and empathy and Barry attempts to teach it to him, but can you really teach someone to have empathy? It takes a little girl almost dying in front of him to show that he has a caring bone in his body and that feeds into the “something has to happen to you for you to care” mentality that is honestly quite uncomfortable.
One of the only good things to come out of the episode is the character growth that Barry showcases. When Ralph is feeling down that he almost got a little girl killed, Barry is there serving up some solid advice about how being a hero is not a walk in the park. More importantly, he told Ralph he’s not alone and that he also has to rely on the people around him for support. One of the greatest things about Barry, with certain exception, is that his MO has never been to push the people he loves away. He’s done it a couple of times, but largely, it’s part of his character that he loves and allows himself to also be loved and supported. Be it by Iris, Joe, or the rest of the team, Barry has always had people surrounding him and he’s leaned on that. This conversation is especially nice because it truly shows he’s moved on from his days of running back to the past to fix his mistakes. He’s accepted his life, everyone in it and what they offer, and it’s what makes him a pretty good mentor now. My only quibble is that he didn’t do the same for Wally last season.
Overall, “When Harry Met Harry” is lackluster, dull, lacks any real heart, and assumes we care enough about Ralph to allow for his “redemption.” Given his attitude and belittlement of women, his storyline is even more annoying and frustrating. Had they toned down on Dibny’s comments and just given him a lousy bedside manner (a la Julian), he would have been much easier to stomach. As of now, his screen time needs to be reduced and his sleazy tendencies need to disappear completely if he’s to move forward. Certainly, The Flash could have actually used some more one-on-one scenes with Iris and Caitlin after the developments from “Girls Night” and at least one Iris/Joe or Iris/Barry scene (they’re supposed to be getting married in two weeks and yet they’ve barely interacted in the last two episodes). What we need even less is Barry as Ralph’s conscience. Aside from a few good scenes, it was the final scene, with Barry and Joe confronting DeVoe at his house, that made the entire episode and left us with a good cliffhanger moving into episode seven.