Possibly the funniest episode of the entire season.
Realistic emotional conflict (as far as mind reading goes.)
Barry's separation from the team takes away from an otherwise fantastic episode.
This prison storyline feels too drawn out and doesn't have a realistic impact on anyone in Barry's life.
“Honey I Shrunk Team Flash” left us with the scariest feeling of all – hope.
Everything is better miniaturized. No, really, think about it. Teacup puppies, mini muffins, Funko Pocket Pops – everything is cuter when it’s small. That’s probably why “Honey I Shrunk Team Flash” is so charming. Just when you think you can’t love Cisco Ramon more, he shrinks. Ralph shrinks, too, which provides some hilarious hijinks given his malleability. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves here.
This week, Team Flash (sans Flash) faces Sylbert Rundin, a metahuman with the power to – you guessed it – shrink things. The team suspects Rundin of framing Barry’s new prison friend, Big Sir, but when they go to investigate, Sylbert is more than prepared. He escapes through his own window (using a parachute) and manages to shrink Cisco and Ralph on his way out. When Harry tries to reverse this predicament (using Ray Palmer’s ATOM technology) the countdown begins – the tech managed to destabilize Cisco and Ralph’s cells, and they are slowly but surely exploding from the inside out. Not to mention, they’re still small.
Eventually, the team comes up with a plan to restore our heroes to their natural size. By tricking Rundin, they are able to make him zap Ralph and Cisco back to full sized humans. All is not well, though, because without a confession from Rundin, Big Sir is forced to stay in prison (at least for the time being.)
While Team Flash deals with their tiny problem, Joe has a much bigger one – Cecile can suddenly read minds! It’s a result of her pregnancy, sort of. Apparently, she was affected by the original particle accelerator explosion, and her pregnancy brought her “symptoms” to the surface. Mind reading isn’t exactly in the equation for a perfect relationship, so this causes some strife between the couple (who are officially expecting a daughter, by the way!) Things work out, however, once Joe explains his concerns to Cecile. Communication is key, people.
On that note, let’s dive in and discuss what exactly made this episode so endearing.
The writing team worked hard to make this episode comedic, rather than cringey, and the result is a charming installment to the otherwise lackluster “Barry in Prison” arc
This episode was destined to go one of two ways. It could’ve gone terribly wrong. If The Flash’s writing team took themselves too seriously, the shrunken story arc would’ve fallen incredibly flat. Luckily, they leaned into the cheesy scenario they created. It’s a technique reminiscent of this season’s earlier episodes, which we adored. It plays on the fact that this is a comic book show. It’s meant to be silly, and out there, but still it remains grounded – not through realism (because who really cares how Cecile reads minds) but through the characters. It’s not about the cause of these wild scenarios, but about Team Flash’s reactions to them. By choosing to focus on the latter, rather than explaining the former, The Flash is able to function as compelling television while still delivering a wholly comic-book-silly storyline.
“I’m a gumshoe, not gum on a shoe!”
The beauty of the comic book is that it lives in the intersection between fantasy and science fiction. And in episodes like “Honey I Shrunk Team Flash” the show joins it there. Sure, most of The Flash’s metahuman moments are explained with theoretical physics and scientific gibberish, but unlike other science fiction shows, you aren’t asked to believe these things could really happen. It’s entirely beside the point. Cisco and Ralph shrink because, hey, miniature guys are funny – a notion hilariously demonstrated when Candice Patton’s Iris steps in a wad of
gum Ralph. It doesn’t really matter what led to these moments, because the payoff is so great – it’s fun in the fantastical sort of way you don’t have to think about too much.
The Flash doesn’t even pretend that this is an original idea; if they had, perhaps we would’ve enjoyed it less. But the show’s full acknowledgment of its tropey nature (the episode is literally named after a movie with the same premise) is so earnest that the storyline comes off as a love letter to camp, rather than descending into the category itself.
Big performances from the episode’s tiniest actors
In acting school, up-and-coming performers are taught the art of projecting emotion. Simply put, actors learn to increase or decrease their reactions based on their distance to the camera. When far away, they intentionally overreact so that the audience can see their emotion, even from a distance. With that in mind – what is an actor to do when it’s not distance, but size, they must overcome?
Consider for a second how much of a challenge it must be to act as a shrunken version of yourself. Every motion has to be perfectly exaggerated – enough for the bigger characters to see, but not so much that it looks over-the-top or unreal. Carlos Valdez and Hartley Sawyer are able to walk this delicate tightrope with expertise, and their scenes are by far the best in the episode.
Cisco: “Your face is huge. I’m watching your emotions on IMAX.
Candice Patton, Danielle Panabaker, Tom Cavanagh, and Jesse L. Martin also do a phenomenal job on their end. Their reactions are genuine and convincing, despite the fact that they were likely reacting to literally nothing. Iris’s disgust at the squished Ralph on her shoe made this episode – it was surprisingly hilarious, and will likely be the most remembered moment from this episode of The Flash.
The Flash continues to provide shining examples of interesting (yet healthy!) TV relationships
The biggest problem with televised relationships (particularly those on The CW) is the tendency to sabotage relationships with unrealistic – and often downright toxic – drama. This is where The Flash excels. Week after week they find a way to make their relationships interesting, never stagnant, and still completely stable. We see this consistently with Barry and Iris. Never do they do anything out of character or manipulative for the sake of ratings. Instead, they have a calm and believable love that serves as a basis for the show. Barry and Iris are never each other’s conflict, they are a cohesive unit that faces external conflict together.
Cecile: “Joe, your Grandma Ester’s noodles taste terrible… and, I think I have been using semicolons wrong for my entire life which leads me to believe that I don’t even know what a semicolon actually is.”
This week, we see this reflected in Joe and Cecile. Their conflict surrounds Cecile’s new telepathic ability. Joe is uncomfortable with Cecile being able to read his thoughts – he hates that she has unlimited access to his fears. On other shows, this would be a weeks-long argument, filled with secret keeping and toxic behavior. But not so on The Flash. This show knows how to create an episode-long conflict with a realistic conclusion. The solution is not to depower Cecile or invent some anti-mind control helmet. Instead of a band-aid, Joe and Cecile get to the root of their issue. They communicate. It’s refreshing to see such a healthy resolution between two adults in a committed relationship on television. Honestly? These two are relationship goals.
“Honey I Shrunk Team Flash” serves as a reminder of why we love The Flash – although it still fails to live up to the glorious first half of season 4, it certainly recaptured us in a way that the previous episodes have not
“Honey I Shrunk Team Flash” was almost was an A-worthy episode. Perhaps on another show, this would’ve been an A+ episode. But The Flash operates on a higher scale. We’ve seen A episodes of this show, and this one didn’t quite reach that bar. We know how incredible this show can be, and despite its recent failings, we’re sure it’ll reach that point again.
One thing that needs to occur is the resolution of Barry’s prison storyline. Heavily promoted and highly anticipated, the actual arc has fallen incredibly flat. The Flash just isn’t as interesting without The Flash. Just like when Arrow removed it’s titular character in season three, stories like this work much better in theory than they do in practice.
Even so, the actual process of getting Barry (Grant Gustin) out of prison should be entertaining. The only question is: why has The Flash waited so long to get there? Why are they spending so many episodes with their hero sidelined and Team Flash focused on other things? There has to be a purpose here, but we can’t quite guess what it is. For the third week in a row, we conclude our review with the scariest thing of all – hope. Despite the turn The Flash has taken, despite how much we miss the first half of the season, we remain hopeful. Just as Barry trusts that Team Flash will get him out of prison, we trust that the team behind The Flash has a plan that will steer us out of these murky waters and seemingly unnecessary plot points. Nothing would make us happier than a reason to rescind all of our previous criticisms. But until that happens, here’s to hoping.
A Couple of Comments
- Am I the only one who had to Google “gumshoe”?
- I really love Cecile. I, too, question if I even know what a semicolon actually is.
- Is it possible that Joe and Cecile’s daughter is actually the mysterious waitress that we’ve all assumed is Dawn Allen?
- Prison Barry Allen continues to look like a whole snack.
- Barry using superspeed to cheat at poker is perhaps the most realistic use of a superpower the Arrowverse has ever seen.
- They should’ve kept Ralph small. He was funnier pocket sized, and a stretchy little gumball would surely come in handy.