The Flash’s eleventh episode of the season featured a lot of Ralph, feels, and returning faces!
After only a week since The Flash returned from their winter hiatus, a lot has happened to our beloved Team Flash. Last week, Barry (Grant Gustin) was sentenced to life in prison for being framed for the murder of Clifford Devoe (now played by Kendrick Sampson), and Team Flash is also dealing with the fallout.
In the episode, we see a different Barry — only in the sense that he has facial hair! We see Barry in a life behind bars, which is pretty different from living in his top-notch condo with his wife Iris (Candice Patton). We see him participate in prison fights as he is saved from an unlikely ally named “Big Sir” aka Dave (guest star Bill Goldberg), who we learn has a connection to Barry’s father Henry (John Wesley Shipp). Because of this connection, the two bond and Barry repays his “debt” by saving Big Sir from an ambush.
Meanwhile in STAR Labs, Team Flash is faced with a familiar villain Axel Walker (Devon Graye) as he escapes from Iron Heights, thanks to his mother Zoey Clark aka “Prank” (Corinne Bohrer). The two embark on a villainous journey, prompted by Ralph’s (Hartley Sawyer) rescue in the beginning of the episode when he stopped a robbery in progress. After “Trickster” makes himself known, Ralph is forced to put his heroic abilities to the test to stop him, but falls short when he learns he isn’t in fact invincible as he thought. In the end, after receiving a pep-talk from Barry, Ralph steps up and saves Cisco (Carlos Valdes) and Caitlin (Danielle Panabaker) at his own expense.
In shipper’s alley, Iris visits Barry “every tomorrow” as he spends the rest of his “natural-born life” behind bars. Barry and Iris weren’t granted contact visits and are forced to chat through a phone, so the show did a thing which many fans loved (at least fans who love angst) — the Window Love trope in which two people are separated by a glass. As Iris isn’t taking the physical separation well, Barry phases through the glass so they can lock hands. This is another week of beautiful WestAllen scenes!
Here to discuss Ralph’s heroic journey and more is our The Flash roundtable!
Tatiana (@myrcellasear) – Entertainment journalism wannabe and avid pursuer of comics.
Cami (@tarcamwat) – Love sci-fiction, superheroes, strong female characters and sensitive male characters.
Alexis (@alexiswaverider) – Hope we are less screwed in 2018.
Tay (@candicekps) – High School Senior, Iris West superfan, and TV show enthusiast
Jessica (@newsflash52): Lover of all things DC, especially The Flash and Iris WestAllen, and podcast host for Ladies w Gumption.
1. Looks like Ralph needed a lot of pep-talking this episode to save the city. How do we feel about his journey?
Tatiana (@myrcellasear): I was more than ready to write Ralph off before the episode aired, and I admit to feeling as disappointed in him as Cisco and Iris did. But at the same time, it’s interesting to watch his path from reluctant hero to selfless one. I’ll never get over the feeling that Wally should be here instead of him, but I very much enjoyed his banter with Prank and Trickster as well as his scene with Barry.
Cami (@tarcamwat): Wasn’t Ralph a former cop? He shouldn’t be that scared to face danger. I thought that aspect of his arc stretched credulity. That aside I think Ralph is finally coming into his own. He’s knocked off almost all of the ugly misogyny and is now mostly a cowardly lion type of character. Ralph’s talk with Barry allowed us to hear the inner workings of a longtime hero. Barry’s advice was basically fake it till you make it.
Alexis (@alexiswaverider): I love Hartley but Ralph as a character can be repulsive. He’s a misogynist so I wasn’t surprised to find out he’d been playing “hero” because he felt invulnerable and of course for the glory. I’m not a big Ralph fan for a couple of other reasons: it feels like we traded Wally (a Flash lore, legacy character and hero) for a creep. Ralph wouldn’t have needed a redemption arc if the writers hadn’t botched his backstory in the first place. Frankly, he brings nothing of value to the team or show and I would rather limited screen time be used to flesh out our core characters whom can all benefit from some more character development.
Tay (@candicekps): Ralph’s journey is something that I was not originally fond of due to my slight annoyance of Wally West being sidelined. Yet, in this episode, I started to become more comfortable with his story line. I feel like he has a lot of potential to evolve into a great character.
Jessica (@newsflash52): I know a lot of fans have strong feelings about the fact that Ralph gets the space to have a journey at all. He didn’t make the best first impression. However, since they are giving him one, I am glad that his journey does seem to be developing him to become a better person. I think this episode was a nice progression from his speech to Joe in 4.10. I also thought Ralph’s shock that he’s not invincible and his fear of getting hurt was a very natural reaction. It lead to a great scene with Barry, and in the end, Ralph chose to step up and be a hero
2. Barry seems really optimistic that the team will save him. Any ideas on how they will do that?
Tatiana: I have less faith in the team than Barry does! But the reason for that is I expect that the Thinker has accounted for everything in the present. Since I don’t think he can really calculate the statistics of something from the future… I’m guessing Dawn (yes, I’m gonna go ahead and call her that) will bring Iris & co. a key piece of evidence that Cecile can use for an appeal. In the meantime, I’m really glad Barry made a friend in Big Sir. Perhaps his desire to help that man will actually result in a quid pro quo and Barry will help the team get him out in turn?
Cami: Barry is just riding on faith right now, because it doesn’t look very hopeful at all. My best bet is that Marlize cracks somehow. That and the warden knows more than he’s letting on. I don’t know exactly what yet.
Alexis: Overall I try not to get my hopes up because our theories end up being far more intriguing than what ends up on our screen. I think that our “mystery girl” i.e Dawn Allen will have a part to play in this. I also think the Devoes’ will have something to do with it as well. I feel like Marlize will turn on Cliff or Cliff himself may decide to help out if and when he needs Barry for something else and Barry can’t do that from jail.
Tay: Although the team is working hard to save him, I believe that the alleged “Dawn Allen” will be the individual to save Barry since the Thinker is not expecting her. When we saw her writing the same codes that Barry previously wrote during “The Flash Reborn,”I immediately came to the conclusion that she will be the one that will save him from prison.
Jessica: Not many, but I was glad to see that Iris, Joe, and Cecile were already combing through the evidence files to try to find anything to help with Barry’s appeal. I’m holding onto my theory that Dawn will be key in helping get Barry out of jail, and her surprise appearance at the end of this episode just makes me that much more excited!
3. Iris stepped up this episode while her husband is in prison, and even was willing to risk herself for Caitlin and Cisco. Do we like her in the team leader position?
Tatiana: Cannot sing Iris’ praises enough. She is so strong, emotionally speaking, and her level head really helps the team operate more smoothly. I would obviously rather we see the characters at their day jobs rather than stuck in STAR Labs all day, but with the way the show’s setup, I think Iris is the best suited for a leadership position. She’s not afraid to ride those who are falling behind – Harry! – but she also sticks her neck out for her crew when they’re in trouble.
Cami: Of course we adore Iris in the team leader position! She has all the necessary qualities. Iris is brave, selfless, compassionate, and level headed. She’s always going to put the needs of Central City and her team ahead of her own (last week’s slip aside). Iris is also an excellent strategist and knows how to put her team in the best position to succeed.
Alexis: I didn’t realize this was going to be discussed when I talked about Ralph’s journey earlier but yes I think that making Iris the leader of the team was one of the best decisions The Flash has ever made. It would also be nice to see the reporter side of Iris but until Star Labs is dismantled so that it can longer serve as a crutch, I’m afraid Iris and other main characters will not get the justice they deserve. The writers insistence on keeping everything and everyone inside star labs is starting to wear down viewers and characters alike, someday something is has to give.
Tay: We LOVE her in the team leader position. Iris West is definitely a natural born leader. She never thinks twice about jumping in to save others while other members are typically hesitant to come to the rescue. Her ability to lead and direct even in stressful moments is such an admirable trait — and one of the numerous things I love about her.
Jessica: I love seeing team leader Iris! I cheered when she pulled out her big gun. Her friends were in trouble, and she didn’t hesitate. I’m little salty she didn’t get to use it. Lol I would like to them to show her strategizing more. So far most of their missions seem to be pretty straight forward, but Iris has a smart, strategic mind and is quick on her feet, so it’d be great if they could have her vocalize that more, especially if she’s not going to be in the field.
4. Ralph was not the only one who needed some convincing this episode. Do we find it funny how the team triggers Caitlin so her alter ego can surface?
Tatiana: I chuckled when Cisco and Harry called out the name of her high school bully to draw Killer Frost out. As much as it doesn’t jive with her characterization in the previous season, I’m just glad we now have a fixed explanation for the dual personality and that it provides some comedic relief.
Cami: It’s still pretty funny, but it could get old very fast. How Killer Frost activates has always been a bit hazy. I hope Caitlin gets more control in the future. Right now it’s like a multiple personality disorder. She gets triggered from external events.
Alexis: Whether it be as Caitlin or Frost (can’t call her killer frost when she hasn’t done any killing to deserve that moniker); she always needs pushing to do heroic things. So while it’s funny to discover Frost “triggers” every episode, it’s also in character because that’s innately who she is.
Tay: I find it hilarious, yet I wish that she would automatically switch when people are in danger. On the same token, when Harry and Cisco shouted out her childhood bully and she transformed, I actually laughed aloud.
Jessica: Hilarious! Last week it was puppies; this week it’s Lexi LaRoach (wonder what the story was there?). Getting Caitlin to “Frost out” works because of the great comedic timing between Carlos and Tom, but the whole “I can’t just turn it on. It doesn’t work like that” excuse from Caitlin is getting a little tiring. Hopefully, Caitlin will eventually be able to control her own triggers. Sometimes you gotta motivate yourself, girl!
5. How did you feel about the Westallen jail scenes? Did you cry or squeal more?
Tatiana: The Flash is so in tune with my needs on the Westallen front, it’s incredible. As soon as something happens – like Barry watching the clock – I think, “Wow, I hope he’s waiting for Iris.” And then it happens, because Flash never lets me starve! A few tears leaked out of me for sure when Barry and Iris touched through the glass, and then the squeals came out in full force when he actually phased through the glass to touch her. That’s love, y’all!
Cami: Westallen makes me melt always, but seeing their hands entwined after Barry phased his hand through the plexiglass made me fly over the moon. That’s about as close to a sex scene as we are going to get. Barry anxiously waiting for 1:30pm everyday showed once again that he is always thinking about Iris and she is what gets him through his worst days. They’ll never give up on each other.
Alexis: I wasn’t sure if we would get any jail scenes but I was hoping we get the window trope and not only did we get one but two of them. I love that while in jail, 1:30 pm is the only thing Barry Allen is on the watch for, because that’s his “every tomorrow” visit from his wife. I love that through all this Barry and Iris remain a solid unit, who constantly support each other through the highs and lows, for better for worse. Every episode I don’t think Westallen can top itself but it always does. There’s a reason they’re the gold standard after all.
Tay: The WestAllen jail scenes made me SOB. Their dynamic is so special and unique, and I love how that is non-verbally shown in all their scenes. When Barry phased through the window to hold her hand, I lost it. They are just so cute and pure.
Jessica: I think I just melted into a pile of goo. It’s so adorable when you realize Barry’s restlessness in the prison yard is because he’s waiting for his daily visit from Iris. And then when you see him see her, he’s all giddy and smiling, and it just puts a warm feeling in my heart. She really is the highlight of his day. So it’s so bittersweet that they aren’t allowed to be together. The scene where he phases his hand through the window just so he could hold hers really made me emotional.
6. Barry Allen’s scruff, yay or nay?
Tatiana: You know, Eminem in 8 Mile vibe aside, I think Barry was rocking the scruffy prison look. There’s a reason Iris kept talking about touching him…
Cami: Prison Barry is sexy.
Alexis: Team as long as that shit doesn’t poke Iris to death and she’s ok with it, then I don’t care.
Tay: Yay! He looked so handsome despite being in jail.
Jessica: The scruff matches the whole 8 Mile aesthetic he’s got going on. Prison Barry is Prison Bae!
7. Westallen’s POSSIBLE daughter returned in this episode, writing the same symbols Barry wrote in season 4’s premiere. Any theories as to how the two tie together?
Tatiana: If I’m not mistaken, the symbols were also similar to whatever Devoe had on his board in 4.07, which makes me think that it’s somehow the key to defeating him. Then again, it also looks remarkably like Interlac – the language from the 31st century in the comics, which is used by characters such as Bart Allen. So I don’t know what it is, but I do think Dawn will use it to prove her identity and then to help stop Devoe.
Cami: Dawn is from the future and that language is most likely from the future as well. Dawn may be writing a historical record of events. Right now she seems to just be observing and not getting too directly involved with anyone. I’m sure that will change over the next few episodes. I’m just not sure if it will be intentional or by accident.
Alexis: I think she is Dawn from the near future and the symbols are speed force language which includes the key to defeating Devoe. I think team flash will someone come upon her diary and that will send them down that path. There’s also a possibility that those symbols are the new language in the far future like 31st century but that would imply that Dawn is from the far future or traveled to one. So unless Barry and Iris decide to take a sabbatical to the 31st century where Iris births the twins, I am leaning less towards that.
Tay: I believe that the two will tie together when Dawn hopefully saves Barry from prison and aids to the plan to take down the Thinker.
Jessica: Well. I think she’s Dawn Allen, obviously, and that the symbols are either Interlac, the official interplanetary language of the 30 century or some people think it could be a language specific to the speed force. Either way, I think she’s writing the symbols in her journal because she knows that no one in this century would be able to read them. So even if she lost her diary, no one who read it would know she’s from the future. I think the symbols Barry wrote are passages from Dawn’s journal, including the line “This house is bitchin.”
Final Verdict: Every season has a filler episode, and this was another one of them.
Every show (mostly) is going to have episodes where it strays away from the main plot to have a little fun — this episode was just that. In order to make Ralph’s heroic journey almost-believable, the show needed to step away from Devoe for a bit and give him something to do. At first, Ralph was a raging misogynist who would confidently state a woman’s sizes. Now, he’s the guy who is learning to be a better person and hero and this episode allowed him to grow. Ralph realized that saving people’s lives isn’t about the glory or being invincible, it’s about helping people and that alone.
As mentioned earlier, Barry gave Ralph a nice pep-talk to get help him overcome his fear, and in the end, it revealed a few things about Barry: he’s selfless as can be. He believes that being in Iron Heights didn’t allow him to truly be himself, and that was the innate trait to help people (even when he stopped a riot in the prison). Nevermind the fact that he is going to be in prison for the rest of his life, his worry is that the people of Central City won’t be saved, and he needed Ralph to finish the job. This episode just reaffirmed Barry as the the hero we all know and love.
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Although it was nice seeing Ralph step into his own, it seems a bit contrived in the sense of giving him the most material and a lot of screentime. Yes, we are still bitter that Wally left town (and is now going on a different show) and this episode showed that we needed him the most.
If we’re being honest, Ralph doesn’t necessarily need to be on the team. Team Flash works well without him, and even showcased that in tonight’s episode when Cisco had to save him at one point. To be fair, Ralph ended up saving him in the end, but that was only because Ralph’s fear got him and Caitlin trapped, to where Iris was ready with her gun to go save them.
It could help The Flash a lot if it focused on the characters that it already has, before bringing in new characters — some that solidify their ineffectiveness. The team has Iris, Cisco as Vibe, Caitlin as Killer Frost and Harry and these people are enough to keep Central City safe in Barry’s absence.
While the episode might have been filler, it was nice to take a break from taking various L’s from Devoe. Though Barry is incarcerated, it seems to be taking his time in Iron Heights well, and the best part of his day is getting to see Iris. This episode delivered many points of views, whether that be Barry’s feelings about his life as The Flash, Iris struggling with the separation, Ralph overcoming his fear, and learning that Caitlin’s arch-nemesis Lexi La Roche is a trigger!
Lastly, it’s almost like the show knew it had to end with a bang, as the mysterious caterer (played by Jessica Parker Kennedy) from Crisis on Earth X reappeared! She kindly paid for Cisco and Ralph’s coffee, and went on an eager rant about coincidences and lending hands. In the final shot, we see her write in her notebook in what appears to be the same symbols Barry wrote while in a speedforce daze in the beginning of the season! Something tells us that she has a key role in Barry and Iris’s life (their daughter Dawn Allen), and maybe even in defeating Devoe. This is enough to make us stick around for more!
The Flash returns Tuesday, January 30th on The CW.
The Flash took us on a journey of punches, elasticity, and feels. TVAfterDark will be continuing our weekly roundtables next week when The Flash returns. Until then, check out our past coverage – catch up on roundtables, news, reviews, and more, all about The Scarlet Speedster!