The Flash’s mid-season finale saw Barry be arrested for the murder of Clifford DeVoe. “The Trial of the Flash” picks up immediately after the events of the last episode and there has never been more investment in a courtroom drama than the one laid out here (even though I’m sure the show jumped through many legal hoops for the purpose of the narrative). Even though the episode heads in a clear direction with all evidence pointing to Barry’s guilt, there’s still enough suspense surrounding the actions of Joe and Iris and how they are dealing with the trial. It all culminates in a solid final few minutes despite several episode hiccups throughout.
The Flash, since its inception, has always used the metahuman of the week story. Most of the time the metas themselves are quite forgettable and this has never been more true than with Neil Borman, aka Fallout (guest star Ryan Alexander McDonald). Borman is a meta who can spread radioactive energy and infect everyone around him without realizing. This subplot only proves to be a major distraction from the trial. The one shining moment comes when Barry saves the day. Otherwise, the subplot’s only purpose is to give Cisco, Harry, and Caitlin something to do. What the meta story should have done was flow seamlessly between the trial proceedings, but it actually takes us out of it instead. It’s with these scenes, and some of the lagging in the courtroom as well, which causes the pacing to stutter. The indifference to this particular meta story is strong and the overall subplot proves irritating, further pointing to the issue of STAR Labs being a crutch for the show and hindering more fluid storytelling as well as the development of characters outside its walls.
Even knowing what the outcome would probably be before episode’s end, it’s still hard to sit through the trial. Watching the prosecutor, Anton Slater (guest star Mark Valley), put Captain Singh on trial, question Marlize, and listen to him take down Barry filled the episode with some suspense. Barry, a changed man after breaking out of the speed force at the beginning of the season, is ironically the one with the most hope. Still, with his shoulders set, face heavy, and head bowed during several parts of the trial, it looks more like he’s resigned himself to the fact that he’ll be rotting in jail sooner than later. The fact that he’s being sentenced for a murder like his father echoes throughout the episode, culminating in the final minute as Barry discovers he’s been given the cell his father used to occupy. The Flash loves its parallels, but this one really hurts. The juxtaposition while Barry is being sentenced while The Flash is being praised as a hero is particularly well done and really hits home emotionally. However, the episode does feel like it, pardon the pun, runs through its plot without much impact. Barry is on trial for murder, but to quote the judge, the episode on the whole feels “unmoved” by the proceedings. “The Trial of the Flash” could have easily gone on for longer without lagging if it had been paced well enough, but alas.
Throughout the episode Iris is being triggered left and right–from the prosecutor’s words, to the hopelessness, and Marlize’s lies. She’s unraveling and speaking with Marlize, who had just given a tremendous sob story to the jury (and insinuated that her “affair” with Dominic was approved by her husband), sent her over the edge of how much she could handle and showcased just how far she’s willing to go to protect her husband. It reminds me of last season’s episode, “Attack on Central City,” in which Barry is seriously thinking about killing Grodd if it means protecting Iris and saving her from death at the hands of Savitar. But it is Iris who tells him it isn’t worth losing himself to save her. This time, the tables have turned and Iris is willing to go to great lengths to protect and save Barry from being convicted while he’s the one to talk her down. While I struggled a bit in believing Iris would out Barry like that, thinking back on all she’s been through in the last year–from a death sentence looming over her head to losing Barry to the speed force, her wedding being crashed by Nazis and now this–it’s easy to understand why she attempts to do it. You can see her struggle over the course of the entire episode and I’m so glad The Flash continues to showcase her inner and outer emotions.
Iris’ almost reveal leads to a fantastic scene, both emotionally and visually breathtaking, between her and Barry. This show, for whatever reason, won’t outright discuss the physical connection Iris herself has to the speed force and Barry’s powers, and the first time it’s ever really addressed is in this scene. Barry has moved so fast in the past only one time that I can remember, back in season one. But it’s always been just him and he hasn’t been shown to be able to do this with anyone else. This time around, he moves so fast that he’s able to stop time in order to speak with Iris. It’s a powerful scene that allows her to express her sorrow and declining strength in the face of the trial, while he explains why she can’t reveal his secret. All the while, lightning surrounds them in a way that’s visually stunning and ethereal as the rest of the world blurs around them. Iris once again subtly activates a new power for Barry and, for the umpteenth time, showcases the physical connection to the speed force. All in all, it’s the most powerful moment of the episode.
While Barry and Iris are grappling with the trial, Joe is on a mission to help save Barry in his own way. Only for him, it’s through slightly more illegal means. He wants to plant evidence to frame Marlize. Ok, yeah, she’s just as guilty as her husband for this entire mess, but is Joe going too far? Obviously, having Barry go to jail isn’t an option for him and he’s already watched Henry serve time for a crime he didn’t commit; he isn’t about to let the same thing happen again. It just goes to show how far the Wests are willing to go for Barry and it’s a show of human vulnerability even if I never want Joe to have that on his conscience. Ironically, it’s Ralph who steps in and talks him down from doing something he’ll regret. It’s definitely progress for him and the show is definitely paving the way for him to become a hero in his own right, though it’ll always feel weird because of the way he was introduced and portrayed as a shady asshole and sexist earlier on.
Finally, Kim Engelbrecht gives us a good performance as Marlize. She’s shown having conflict regarding the events transpiring. For one, her husband is there, but he’s no longer physically recognizable and her reluctance to embrace him as who he is now bodes trouble for the future. In the courtroom, she certainly acts distraught and immediately drops the act once she’s outside and face-to-face with Iris. It’s a great scene between the two women and showcases some of the similarities and differences between them. Currently, they’re on the same level–both are willing to go to lengthy means to protect their husbands. At the same time, I believe Marlize will slowly begin to lose her confidence in the plan given that she never addresses Iris’ question head on. She deflects. But why is it that she and DeVoe are so hellbent on destroying the Allens’ lives? Whatever the reason, Marlize doesn’t seem as confident about it as she once was before DeVoe “died.”
The Flash has been good about weaving plot threads together, upping the stakes, and pacing the overall story arcs well this season. However, despite “The Trial of the Flash” having several strong moments, the metahuman subplot takes away from the pacing and fluidity of the overall episode. It’s unnecessary and really points at the glaring STAR Labs problem the show has always had and probably will continue to have. The stakes and emotion during the trial on Iris and Joe’s parts are there at least and this is what anchors the episode throughout. The trial dips in many instances, but remains steady overall. All in all a good enough episode with strong moments despite the plot holes and metahuman nonsense.
- This is the most The Flash has used Barry’s full name in one episode. I counted at least four. Don’t judge me.
- While I admit to laughing at Cisco bringing up puppies to get Caitlin to Hulk-up, the only way Caitlin can get angry is if you bring up puppies? I guess a metahuman potentially nuking the city and killing lots of people isn’t worthy of being angry about. Ok.
- Yes, I still notice Wally’s absence. Thanks for asking. It’s even more insane given that his family is suffering and he’s off in Cambodia or wherever. Fix this, writers.
- It didn’t really look like Cisco, Caitlin and Harry cared that Barry was being sentenced. Weird.
- Can we agree that the defense case was really weak? Because it was. I know Barry didn’t have a lot on his side in terms of actual defense, but damn, insanity, a plea deal, or revealing his identity were his only options?
- Barry leaving in the middle of final statements just made him look even more guilty really.
- “I would rather run forever with you than stand alone without you.” Where are the tissues?
- I know Barry knows he’s innocent, but he still could’ve put in a good act in front of the jury like Marlize did.
- “No one’s here. You can drop the act.” I loved this scene.
- I truly felt bad for Singh and the position he was put in. I know he cares about Barry, but he had to do his job.