With the crossover over–and really, the only plot development to come out of it for The Flash characters is that Barry and Iris are now married–there is a lot riding on the mid-season finale, “Don’t Run,” to deliver. And deliver, it does. The episode is intense and filled with parallels and a plot that, on the surface doesn’t seem connected, but ties back into the overarching storyline. It’s filled with great character beats and moves the plot even further along with its twists, setting up what looks to be a great showdown in the back half.
What The Flash has managed to do so well this season is buildup DeVoe as a viable threat. He has a distinct plan that’s been set in motion, and it seems like we’ve only been privy to half of what’s really going on. Each episode has tied back to DeVoe and set up everything so well that the final minutes of “Don’t Run” are gloriously suspenseful. The season’s plot thus far is moving at a much swifter and it’s making for a strong season. Although The Trial of The Flash has been set up, the fact that the writers body swapped DeVoe so soon is a nice surprise. The Flash has missed opportunities in the past regarding some interesting plotlines for fear of moving forward without certain characters or versions of them (like Wells). So it’s unlike the show to let a great actor like Neil Sandilands leave so early on, but it makes for fantastic storytelling. The writers seem to be taking more calculated risks and it’s the most exciting a plot The Flash has had in awhile.
The parallels continue between the DeVoes and the Allens. In this episode, both couples are tested, albeit separately. On one hand, there is Iris who, as leader of Team Flash, is forced to make a tough call. And in the midst of Cisco and Ralph’s bickering and the stress of the situation, Iris chooses to save Caitlin from Amunet first since she is the most vulnerable and Barry can take care of himself for the time being. Her conflict is immense and you can see the decision weighing down on her even though it was the right call to make.
This episode showcases Iris’ strength under duress. The sacrifice behind her decision to save Caitlin first is something that instills fear in her with regards to how events could’ve transpired. Even though the situation ends with everyone coming out alive, Iris is unsure about her decision since it was at the expense of Barry, but he makes sure to let her know it was the right one to make. On the other hand, Marlize sacrifices Clifford in a way. Even though he still has his mind, he is no longer the husband she’s known. And while body swapping (something which is a bit disturbing) ultimately saves Clifford, you can tell it’s not an easy decision for her to make. Perhaps she doesn’t feel it’s right, but whatever is weighing on her, the cracks are starting to show in the DeVoes’ foundation. Will Marlize remain loyal to her husband’s greater plan? That remains to be seen.
The slow motion suspense in the final scene is particularly superb. Barry is ready to bolt, lightning sparking off of him, ready to run away from the crime scene. But as he looks between DeVoe’s lifeless body and the picture of him and Iris on the table, he realizes he can’t make a run for it. And this an outstanding scene for many reasons. The realization dawns on Barry is that if he runs away now, it’s only a quick fix. He’d be running for a long time, forever a fugitive, with the admittance of guilt heavy in the air. Running away would have been a snap decision made in a moment of panic. “Don’t run,” Barry whispers, and it’s honestly such a mature moment. Barry Allen is a character who has run from many things in his life before. He’s run from the pain of his mother’s murder, he’s run back to the past to fix it, run from his feelings for Iris back in early season one, and run away from his grief.
However, all of these past decisions are left behind in the instant he decides not to run from this. It seems Barry’s learned his lesson from “Mixed Signals” as well and, even though he knows he’s innocent, he decides to stay and face the consequences anyway. He’s a husband now and running away would not have only affect him, it would affect Iris, and also his family and friends. He is no longer making judgement calls without thinking. He makes a point to mention his marriage vows to Marlize DeVoe and then earlier, about not having to run now that he’s at peace and with Iris. It just goes to show how far he’s come as a character and that everything he’s been through, all the mistakes he’s made, aren’t for nothing. His past decisions have developed him into a man who isn’t afraid to stay and face whatever comes his way now that he is fully aware of what he has. And so this final scene ends up not only being a great cliffhanger, but one of the best moments for Barry as a character.
I’m going to take some time to also appreciate the fact that The Flash constantly reaffirms Barry and Iris as a healthy couple and doesn’t feel the need to create relationship melodrama where there doesn’t need to be. An example of this is not having Barry use Iris’ decision to rescue Caitlin first against her. In that moment, he knows it was the right call to make and, seeing that she’s torn up about it, tells her he’s proud of her for making a hard choice. The fact that much of the turbulence in their relationship largely comes from outside sources is refreshing and I hope the show continues in this vein and nixes the idea that marriage and being in a long-term relationship is boring. This show doesn’t need that kind of drama and it has thankfully stayed away from it for the most part.
I have expressed my frustration with the way the Killer Frost storyline played out in the third season in the past. I really believe The Flash missed an opportunity to give Caitlin agency rather than have her be a victim of her own powers. Suffice to say that this season has been a huge improvement regarding her storyline. I still don’t completely buy all the changes, but I can accept the nature of the duality much better given the fact that they’ve completely separated the two personas and have Caitlin not remembering when she’s Killer Frost. It’s a retcon for sure, but at least the writers are sticking with it so far. It is nice to see that Caitlin is more willing to help save someone’s life this season and her scenes with Dominic (guest star Kendrick Sampson) are good. They set up a connection enough for Caitlin to invite him to the West home for Christmas and it’s hopefully a connection that can stick when and after the team finds a way to save Dominic from DeVoe.
The episode deals with the difference in personality in an interesting manner. Caitlin is actually sad that Killer Frost seems to be on the way to being accepted by the city (she has her own drink in time for winter!) and her friends, who apparently hang out with the snarky woman when she’s around. It’s an interesting subplot for her and one that also allows Ralph to realize they’re friends as well. I’m still not on board with Ralph being on the team. He still has a very long way to go in being even a semi-decent human being and respectful to women, but The Flash insists on having him around and as long as it’s only in doses, then it’s (reluctantly) tolerable.
The Flash’s fourth season has been an enlightenment (I’m sorry, it had to be said!). It hasn’t stalled in its plot and has generally managed to use its characters wisely and center them in the midst of all that’s happening. It has given the characters some wonderful development and meaty things to work with. “Don’t Run” is a great turn and sets up the show for what will hopefully be an even better second half. DeVoe as a villain has been a solid choice and the story execution strong. The fact that he’s willing to sacrifice his body so soon and set Barry up to get him out of the way is a nice twist. Whatever else he’s planning remains to be seen, but it has been nicely paced and thought out so far. This episode is everything a mid-season finale should be and gives us a cliffhanger that will indeed have me coming back for more.
The Flash returns with new episodes on Tuesday, January 16 at 8/7c on The CW.