Four Color Television - The Flash / Legends of Tomorrow - Week 4 Recap / Review
The Four Color Ark
DC/CW Television Week Four Part One
The Flash Season 4, Episode 04: “Elongated Journey Into Night”
Cisco and Gypsy are having a bit of a romantic night in and things are about to get super hot and heavy, but Gypsy heads off to the bathroom for a hot second and while she’s gone: a breach opens and out pops Breacher (Danny Trejo) Gypsy’s over-protective father from Earth 19 and the premiere hunter of world hopping villains. The next morning at CCPD Mayor Bellows is kicking off his reelection campaign with a stump speech about his days as a cop and how he supports the CCPD, Barry and Joe extricate themselves from the media fracas and head up to Barry’s lab to discuss ways to track down the mysterious bus passengers. Joe is still purposefully keeping the secret that Cecille is pregnant, but everyone keeps making reference to how he seems off – but in a good way. As if he’s glowing.
Barry and Joe arrive at S.T.A.R. Labs to find Breacher there, spending the day with a very frustrated Cisco who solicits a little advice on how he should proceed from Harry. Harry suggests that Cisco take Breacher out for coffee, and Cisco recognizes this as good advice and follows suit. The rest of Team Flash has discovered that the bus driver of the Speed Force affected bus was murdered and among his personal effects was a business card of a private detective named Ralph Dibney (Hartley Sawyer) who was once a cop at CCPD and apparently has some bad blood with Barry. At CC Jitters, Cisco arrives at a table with three coffees for himself, Gypsy and Breacher – but Breacher informs Cisco he would like something else. Gypsy goes off to buy her father a tea, and Breacher avails himself of that opportunity to inform Cisco that he plans to hunt Cisco for the next 24 hours until he agrees to no longer date Gypsy. Seeing this threat as more of the promise it actually is, Cisco bolts and not long after Breacher follows.
Barry and Joe visit Private Detective Ralph Dibney, who from the looks of things has a list of enemies a mile long – and they can’t even convince the guy to admit he was on the bus let alone provide them with further information. They leave, and immediately after they are out the door: two goons burst in and take Dibney up to the roof where they hang him over the edge to shake him down. The only problem is, they literally shake him down: Dibney’s torso stretches until his body land safely on the ground with his legs still in the goons hands. Dibney hits the ground just as Barry and Joe walk by the alley he is spilling into so they take him to S.T.A.R. Labs. Barry suggests they should throw Dibney in containment because he’s obviously a criminal, he was “dirty then, and he’s dirty now.” Caitlin, however, will have none of this shit and calls Barry on his hypocrisy for a change. She also says that if she had access to some of his pre-dark matter affected DNA she might be able to stabilize his cells so that he could have a measure of control over his rubber-like body. Iris and Barry head back to Dibney’s office to collect a DNA sample and Barry explains why he and Dibney don’t get along. Back in the early days of Barry’s career he was working a case with Dibney where a man had murdered his wife and there was no evidence to help convict him; then Dibney miraculously found the murder weapon with the suspects fingerprints: open and shut case right? Wrong. Barry analyzed the knife and discovered it wasn’t the one used in the murder, it had been planted by Dibney. Barry went to his supervisors with that info, and Dibney was kicked off of the force. Just as Barry finishes his story in the present, he accidentally sets off an explosive that the goons had planted in Dibney’s office.
Still on the run from Breacher, Cisco sneaks into S.T.A.R. Labs and gets more advice from Harry who recommends that Cisco create a trap to catch Breacher to beat him at his own game because Vibing may be Cisco’s meta power, but his real superpower is building things. Meanwhile Joe has discovered that Dibney was blackmailing the Mayor, but Dibney refuses to explain why – so Joe and Barry go straight to the source. Mayor Bellows explains that he had cheated on his wife and Dibney caught him in the act and was blackmailing the mayor to keep it quiet – but as soon as he is away from Barry and Joe Mayor Bellows orders his goons to kill Dibney and the West/Allen team. Barry confronts Dibney about his blackmailing of the Mayor and how it proves how dirty Ralph is. Caitlin fabricates a compound that puts Dibney back in control of his powers, and Cisco’s trap for Breacher fails drastically. Ralph bolts from S.T.A.R. Labs so that he can meet up with Mayor Bellows, Breacher sees footage of Ralph and mistakes him for an alien that attacked Earth 19 and vows to kill him. Joe and The Flash track Dibney to the Mayor and are about to arrest the Mayor when Breacher shows up to kill Ralph, The Mayor kidnaps Joe and makes his way to the roof of a building where a chopper is waiting. Breacher is more than a match for The Flash, but luckily Cisco shows up to protect Barry and Ralph. Meanwhile Mayor Bellows is getting away with Joe.
Barry reveals his identity and gives Ralph a pep talk, Ralph stretches his arms to catch the chopper and Barry runs up Ralph’s arms – saving Joe and capturing the Mayor. Overcome by the emotion of the moment, Joe blurts out that Cecille is pregnant. Team Flash celebrates the joyous news, Breacher reveals that while he still hates Cisco he now at least respects him and the two leave for Earth 19 – but not before Breacher reveals that Gypsy’s real name is Cynthia and his is Josh. Barry attempts to bury the hatchet with Dibney by asking him to join Team Flash and let Barry train him to be a hero.
THIS, this was the episode I have been waiting for since the season began. Returning to form with an episode that embraces the fun and history of the DC comics universe while still dealing with the events of the episode in a serious manner. The tone is not comedy for comedies sake as with last week’s appearance of Hazard, this was a light episode that layered in some serious dramatic moments that posed fundamental questions regarding the nature of The Flash and his brand of heroism. A Ralph Dibney who planted evidence so a murderer could not get away is certainly operating outside the confines of the law and deserved to be kicked off of the force, but was that truly any different than the way that Barry and Team Flash lock up metahumans in the S.T.A.R. Labs pipeline without any access to due process? This was the first episode in a long time that felt like the kind of storytelling I fell in love with on this show way back in season one. The beating heart of Barry Allen is what makes this show work, and the constant wear and tear by Zoom and then Savitar kept us from seeing a lot of stories through that particular lens, and it was awesome to see the writers suddenly get what had been missing in the series. This was Tom Cavanagh’s second episode of The Flash as director, and it may be one of my favorites in the series overall. Danny Trejo was excellent in the B story as the overbearing father trying to make sure that Cisco is good enough to date his daughter, but this story belonged to the private eye with the nose for clues. Ralph deviates slightly from the Ralph Dibney of the comics, but in the end he is presented almost as he exists in four colors – his nose even twitches when he smells a mystery which was a cheer inducing moment for longtime fans. Making Mayor Bellows crooked was a great way to bring Ralph and Barry into alignment on an issue, but as a fan of the 1990 Flash series this one hurt a little bit. Tony Bellows (Vito D’Ambrosio) was the young cop partnered with the gruff and older Officer Murphy on the older Flash series and seeing the same character as the Mayor in this alternate Central City was always one of my favorite call backs to the older show.
Finally this season, I can say that The Flash was the best episode of this week’s CW shows.
Episode 04 MVP: My gut instinct is to call this for Danny Trejo, because he was just so damn funny in this episode, but Hartley Sawyer is the true winner of this week’s award. Bringing to life a character who is in equal measure a classic comic character and a mirror image of our tv version of Barry Allen was not an easy task, and Sawyer took it and ran with it in some truly great ways.
Legends of Tomorrow Season 3, Episode 04: “Phone Home”
In 1988 little Ray Palmer is attempting to save his little friend Gumball from the government agents who kidnapped them both, but these agents have no compunction against killing a child. A shot rings out and Ray Palmer is killed at just 8 years old. Meanwhile, on the Waverider, adult Ray Palmer is leading the Legends in a team building exercise complete with trust falls. When Mick is about to fall into Ray’s waiting arms, Ray vanishes from existence. Gideon reveals that Ray Palmer was found dead on November 1st 1988, so Sara sets a course for October 30th so that they can save Ray’s life. When they arrive at a point prior to his death, adult Ray returns to existence and they begin to try to figure out how to save him. Newcomer Zari marvels at the notion that even knowing they are attempting to solve his own death – Ray is still unflinchingly upbeat.
The team goes undercover in 80’s gear to track young Ray and attempt to discover how he dies, and ultimately the gang follows him back to his home in Ivy Town where adult Ray spies through the window that his younger self has somehow befriended a baby dominator and presumes that the dominator will turn on and kill young Ray.
The team hatches a plan to return the next day while Ray is at school, retrieve the dominator, and return it to where it belongs. Zari and Ray break in, Amaya and Nate provide overwatch – there’s only one problem: young Ray didn’t go to school – he played hookie to hang out with his friend Gumball. Ray shrinks down to hide, Zari hides under the bed and young Ray settles in to watch Singing in the Rain with Gumball. Ray’s mom has been called by Ray’s school about him not showing up and she shows up to yell at Ray, Zari and Ray need a distraction so they can snag Gumball and get out of the house. Nate and Amaya, who are posing as Animal Control show up to provide a distraction – but young Ray packs up Gumball and an action figure sized adult Ray and runs away. Sara detects another time ship has arrived and leaves to investigate
Meanwhile on the Waverider, Jax and Rory suspect that Professor Stein has been ratting the team out to the Time Bureau so they set up in the time shuttle to catch him in the act - sabotaging the shuttle so he cannot escape. Of course he hasn’t turned on the team, he is actually attempting to return to 2017 to witness the birth of his grandchild.
The feds capture Young Ray, Zari and Gumball; a Dominator captures Sara; and Jax commandeers the Waverider to take Stein to see the birth of his grandchild. Adult Ray returns to normal size and breaks out Zari and young Ray – giving his younger self a speech about needing to grow up and realize that the world is not as nice as he wants it to be. Zari gives an opposing speech about being positive. The team escape with Gumball and return him to his mother who had captured Sara. The team reunites and the Legends accompany the dweeby Young Ray Palmer Trick or Treating.
After last season’s George Lucas centered episode, and the way in which J.R.R. Tolkien was so thoroughly involved in the season finale – a Spielberg episode was indeed quite expected and very welcome – though I feel like the episodes obvious connection to E.T. should have been lampshaded a bit more. When the team met George Lucas we let the team make the references because the joke is that Lucas doesn’t know what Star Wars is yet, but we the audience and as time travelers so do our core characters. Taking that same premise forward to a Ray Palmer centered E.T. analog is amusing, but the episode is set in 1988, a full six years after the release of the film. We already know for a fact that Ray has seen E.T. so there is no reason that young Ray couldn’t have been in on the fun a little. I had a bit of a moment when I realized that this episode was establishing that Ray Palmer and I are the same age, a moment that quickly disintegrated when I realized that Brandon Routh and I are in reality roughly the same age and if I wasn’t aware of that when Superman Returns came out – I shouldn’t be too concerned about it 11 years later. Beyond the Spielberg shoutouts and the look at a young and geeky Ray Palmer, what this episode really sets up is a relationship between Zari and Ray by allowing Zari to slowly but surely be won over by the young Ray rather than directly being charmed by Brandon Routh’s adult Ray. From a storytelling standpoint it was a master stroke because it provided us a fresh perspective on the positive, can do attitude of Ray – deconstructing it and reconstructing it for us all while giving the newcomer a chance to play off of it in an unexpected way. The birth of Stein’s grandchild, and the subsequent decision by Jax to begin working on a way to dissolve the Firestorm partnership has been telegraphed for weeks, and I’m not looking forward to seeing them find a way to shuffle Garber off of the show. And I won’t say much about the inclusion of more Nate Heywood awkward comedy making its way into an otherwise excellent episode, except to implore the writers: please stop using this guy for comic relief in this manner. Nate works well in the brotherly dynamic between him and Ray, and he works as the character who is most wonkishly enthusiastic about history – but as Dudebro McYuckster he is an unqualified disaster.
Episode 04 MVP: Brandon Routh who took this deconstruction of Happy Go-Lucky Ray Palmer and imbued it with pathos and charm in a way that enriches who Ray has been shown to be in previous encounters.
NEXT: Supergirl and Arrow.