SPOILERS for The Flash season 4 midseason premiere.
The Flash is back, but only long enough for Barry to be convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison! Turns out, even the fastest man alive can’t outrun the evidence mounting against him – especially when he can’t even be bothered to take the stand and defend himself. Meanwhile, a meta with radiation powers is unwittingly endangering all of Central City, raising questions about just how Team Flash expect to keep the city safe with Barry behind bars.
‘The Trial of The Flash’ is a slapdash midseason premiere, racing through the trial in a single episode so that Barry can get sent to the slammer in time for the credits to roll. It’s perfunctory at best, with the end result being more important than how the characters arrive there. This isn’t to suggest that dragging out the courtroom scenes for weeks is the better option, but when adapting such a classic storyline, the very least this series could do is make the trial a compelling piece of drama. Instead, Barry’s conviction seems all but assured from the get go, with Barry himself resigned to his fate before the trial even begins.
Making the ordeal all the more frustrating is Barry’s insistence that he must not reveal he is The Flash, even if it’s the one thing that could clear him of these charges. The episode even has the gall to tease that such a reveal is coming not once, but twice, only to have Barry refuse to come clean each time. The first time this happens it’s understandable that Barry would stop Iris from outing him in front of the whole court because it is his secret identity to share, not hers. The second time, however, it’s just plain irresponsible for him to hide the truth that he’s only leaving the proceedings to stop Central City from going up in a mushroom cloud.
Barry’s defense for why he must keep his identity a secret is the same that most heroes cling to – were he to reveal that Barry Allen, mild-mannered crime scene investigator, was actually The Flash his loved ones would be targeted by his enemies. Except, every single one of Barry’s friends and family have already been targeted by Barry’s enemies, and some have even died. Wanting to protect the innocent people closest to you is a noble idea, but here it’s dumb. Refusing to fess up to being The Flash only endangers more people, as the whole situation with the radiation-leaking meta proves.
Of course, as ‘The Trial of The Flash’ demonstrates, Barry is willing to go to jail to keep his secret. And while this is certainly meant as a selfless gesture similar to his decision to enter the Speed Force prison, the stakes here are different. Revealing that he’s The Flash would actually be the more selfless act, sacrificing his privacy in order to continue protecting Central City. It would also be a far more interesting development than Barry going to jail, allowing The Flash to explore what happens when a superhero becomes a public figure rather than a vigilante. Arrow has toyed with this idea in the past, but given that The Flash is a more beloved hero, it really only makes sense for Barry to become the first Arrowverse hero to step out from the shadows.
‘The Trial of The Flash’ ends with Barry incarcerated (in the same jail cell as his father, which is a wry coincidence) while The Flash is awarded a special honor for saving the city. At this point the show is just beating us over the head with the parallel, but it draws attention to a bigger issue – won’t someone notice that The Flash has mysteriously disappeared on the same day a former police officer is imprisoned for murder? Barry’s trial was a big enough deal it made the news, surely someone will put it all together. Not that it matters in the short term because next week’s episode shines the spotlight on Ralph Dibny as The Elongated Man, as he steps in to fill The Flash’s shoes. Guess no one has Wally’s number?
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• This week’s meta threatens Central City with a potential Hiroshima-level nuclear disaster and somehow that’s the B-plot?
• Barry’s new power is interesting, allowing him to speed up both himself and Iris so they can hold a private conversation in a crowded courtroom, but it’s pushing the boundaries of what a guy with super-speed can really accomplish. He might as well be able to freeze time.
• Allowing Ralph to play the private investigator was a nice touch, as was his speech to Joe about what it’ll cost him if he plants evidence just to turn the tables on The DeVoes – but does anyone believe Joe would go that route? The whole scene felt like it was more in service of Ralph’s arc than something Joe would actually consider.
• Marlize DeVoe may just be the MVP of this episode thanks to the deft way she outwits Team Flash’s attempt at pegging her for her husband’s murder. I mean, nice try guys, but the DeVoes have been two steps ahead of you this whole time. Of course they would have an alibi cooked up for why Marlize is with a new, younger, hotter man.
• Is the leather jacket necessary for Caitlin to become Killer Frost? Seems so.
The Flash season 4 continues next Tuesday, January 23rd with ‘The Elongated Knight Rises’ at 8pm/9c on The CW.
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