-Fantastic acting from Hartley Sawyer
-Incredible special effects
-Laugh out loud moments
-An improvement from last week
-The team doesn't seem emotionally affected by Barry's incarceration
-Feels like a filler episode
-Do we really need more heroes around here?
Only slightly tainted by the failures of the previous episode, “The Elongated Knight Rises” is a surprisingly well-blended mix of gritty prison drama and comic book fun
Picking up with Barry (Grant Gustin) in prison, this week’s episode of The Flash focused heavily on Team Flash’s efforts to protect the city without the Scarlet Speedster. A big part of this effort is the continued hero training of Ralph Dibny, whose heroic title (The Elongated Man) is both introduced featured in the title of the episode. It’s hard to be too excited about an episode focused on Ralph, but we were pleasantly surprised. Ralph was surprisingly more tolerable this week, thanks in large part to Hartley Sawyer. Although we aren’t totally on board with the character just yet, The Flash seems to be slowly whittling away at our resolve to hate him, and that’s something, at least.
Balancing out the camp and humor of our main storyline is Barry’s time in prison. There is such a stark contrast between these two tones that you can instantly tell, just by the coloring, which one we are in at any given time. The contrast is to be expected – Barry certainly isn’t going to be having a silly adventure in his father’s old prison cell – but it begs the question: how is everyone so happy while Barry is in prison for murder? The only person that seems to care (aside from a singular comment by Cisco) is Iris (Candice Patton), who visits Barry on a daily basis (when tricksters and pranksters aren’t getting in the way.) Arguably the most affected by Barry’s sentencing (aside from Barry), Iris still manages to be a leader for the team and visit her husband, providing one of the episode’s only links between its two storylines.
Tasked with portraying a largely dislikable character, Hartley Sawyer manages to skillfully infuse The Elongated Man with a campiness that makes Ralph’s eye roll worthy lines fun, rather than annoying
It’s no secret that audiences have had a less than positive response to Ralph Dibny, The Flash’s subtly sexist and ego-fueled new hero. It remains to be seen why The Flash even felt the need to introduce more masks, especially since it doesn’t seem to know what to do with the ones it already has. For whatever reason, season four of The Flash has introduced us to possibly the least likable character on TV right now, and yet, somehow, Hartley Sawyer makes it work. On paper, Ralph’s lines are cringey at best – “groovy” – but the way Sawyer plays them lends an air of intentional camp and unironic cheese which leaves us chuckling, rather than rolling our eyes. Sawyer’s portrayal of Dibny feels like something out of a classic 80’s flop – devoid of the sincerity of more dramatic shows, yet endearing enough that you find yourself wanting more.
“Rise up. I don’t think it’s a stretch for you.” -Barry
It’s hard to sell an audience on the new guy, and even harder when the new guy is intentionally written as a selfish and slightly misogynistic jerk. But the face behind the mask, and the earnest smile it carries, have us actually (shockingly) rooting for Ralph to be better, to do better, and to be able to stand as a hero all his own. This progression is already happening, of course, and although rushed (Ralph has not earned Barry’s sincere faith in him) we are excited to see him improving. We can only hope that his new heroic outlook brings with it a shift in Ralph’s interpersonal relations – he has to be educated on his perception of women if he’s ever going to be a true hero in the eyes of The Flash’s largely progressive audience.
Is The Flash even The Flash without The Flash?
For the second time in the history of the show, this week’s episode of The Flash never actually featured the titular character. Sure, Barry Allen is The Flash, but it’s hard to say whether Barry, unsuited, briefly super speeding truly qualifies as an appearance of the Scarlet Speedster. There are only brief moments of Barry’s power; the most notable of which isn’t his foiling of incarcerated bad-guys, but rather, his heartfelt moment with Iris in which he phases his arm through the glass in order to hold her hand. It’s such a unique and tender use of a superpower that it entirely excuses the total lack of actual superhero-ing on Barry’s part this week.
“You are not the Flash, Barry. We are.” – Iris West, 4×02
Last week, Barry faced a jury in the trial of his life. In the midst of the jury’s deliberation, Barry unrealistically excused himself to battle a metahuman as The Flash. That moment did not work. This week, the show improves on its mistakes by simply not including a suited-up moment, rather than shoehorning one in. Earlier this season, Iris infamously said: “We are The Flash.” Reception to this line has been mixed, but this episode seems to compliment, if not entirely validate, this claim. Even with The Flash behind bars, the spirit of the hero remains. Iris and the team are The Flash, at least in this episode, and manage to make the absence of the mask hardly noticeable.
The Flash’s special effects crew are the true superheroes of the story – managing to make mile-long limbs look plausible on a CW budget
The special effects crew behind The Flash has never had an easy job. The fact that they are able to convincingly present a man running at the speed of light, week after week, on a limited budget is nothing short of amazing. It’s the kind of thing you take for granted until something like “The Elongated Knight Rises” comes along. Watching Ralph’s arms, legs, and even neck, stretch and wind through all sorts of obstacles leaves us in awe of the team that made it happen. A character like this shouldn’t work – such a power should not be believable, especially not on a network television budget. But somehow, it is, and for that, we humbly bow down.
“Relax, ladies, my cells are completely polygamized.”
This week, Ralph had quite the stretchy challenge. He reached for hostages, stomached bombs, palmed explosive bouncy balls, and through it all, the effects were solid. Ralph’s power may be elongating, but The Flash’s power is its ability to make us believe it. For every fantastic effect The Flash has to offer, there’s a way it could’ve gone wrong. It’s clear that the team behind The Flash is full of perfectionists, perfectly designing fantastical elements and integrating them seamlessly into live action shots. The Flash’s special effects team has such a fantastic handle on extra arms and legs, they could teach Vanity Fair a thing or two.
Somehow more realistic than the previous episode, “The Elongated Knight Rises” is a campy yet fun addition to the season, largely thanks to Hartley Sawyer and the special effects team
While it’s not making any “All-Time Best Episode” lists, “The Elongated Knight Rises” was an entertaining hour of television, and sometimes that’s all we really need. Hartley Sawyer made some serious progress in making us like Ralph, although it’s going to take some seriously crafty writing to make The Elongated Man a convincing hero before the end of the season. And, love him or hate him, you can’t deny the skill it takes to sell a man with limitless elasticity in his limbs.
When taken in relation to the previous episode, this one feels a bit disappointing. “The Trial of the Flash” storyline was so rushed, we were sure there was a big reason to skip ahead to Barry’s prison time. However, Barry’s time in prison was relatively inconsequential this week. Sure, it was the motivating factor for Ralph to fully hero-up, but we can help but think, “this is what we were rushing for?” The Flash has never let us down before, so we are still holding out hope that all this let down is leading us to some seriously memorable television.
Questions and Comments (Warning: Completely unprofessional fangirling below!)
- If the mystery waitress isn’t Dawn Allen, then The Flash is trying way too hard to mislead us.
- #BringBackJournalistIris2k18 (seriously, it’s time.)
- As much as I raved about the special effects surrounding Ralph, his actual power is… really pretty creepy. I think that head appearing in Barry’s cell will haunt my nightmares.
- Barry phasing through the glass to hold Iris’s hand!!! Iconic. Honestly.
- Barry Allen is the most attractive convicted murder that has ever existed. Don’t @ me.