'When Harry Met Harry...' is an inconsequential episode, offering some minor character development and a few laughs but little else.
[WARNING - This review contains SPOILERS for The Flash season 4, episode 6.]
The mantra for The Flash season 4 has been silly, superhero fun. The past two seasons only became more serious and fraught with drama as they went along, leaving the series in desperate need of a reset. And after a noticeable shift in tone, this season of The Flash was off to a strong start, producing a delightful string of episodes that kept matters light while still teasing the overall, villainous arc.
And for the most part, giving the series a lighter and brighter feel has re-energized The Flash, but with this week's episode, 'When Harry Met Harry...' it has begun to lose its luster. Which isn't to suggest that this is a bad episode, but it's inconsequential, offering some minor character development and a few laughs but little else in the way of any substantial progress for the season.
There are two plots running through 'When Harry Met Harry...' The first is Barry's continued mentoring of Ralph, teaching him the do's and don'ts of superheroing as they hunt down this week's newly powered villain and former bus passenger; the second involves Harry reaching out to various Wells of the multiverse for help in pinpointing the correct Devoe, thus revealing to them just who they're facing off against this season. Neither plot is an especially captivating one, and honestly, either one could have served as the subplot of a weightier episode, resulting in 'When Harry Met Harry...' being little more than innocuous fluff.
All that being said, it is at least entertaining innocuous fluff, though still not the best that The Flash has offered. Harry's assemblage of the Council of Wells, for example, is an amusing scene, but each Wells is a one-note caricature who quickly becomes stale after their introduction. Plus, the show has done this bit before when Team Flash went looking through the multiverse for a Wells candidate to replace Harry in season 3; it's how the series ended up introducing H.R. in the first place. The whole purpose of this plot is rather nice, allowing for Cisco and Harry's friendship to deepen, but it doesn't really need the screen time it's allotted here to accomplish that.
Still, the heartwarming ending that's earned through Harry learning to like himself works better than that of Ralph's transformation. Granted, the arc his character takes over the course of this episode is an expected one, with him slowly learning to channel his good intentions into good results and becoming a less selfish person, but the means used to achieve this are predictable and formulaic. While trying to apprehend this week's meta-human, Black Bison - an activist who can animate inanimate people and animals, using her new abilities to steal and return Sioux artifacts (a bland if laudable attempt at injecting a bit of social commentary) - Ralph winds up injuring a little girl in his attempt to capture her.
Of course, this leads to Ralph feeling terribly guilty over what happened, and it's only then that Barry's earlier lesson sinks in: protecting innocent bystanders comes first, apprehending the bad guy is second. This is superhero 101, and though Ralph eventually gets a passing grade, it's a perfunctory stop along the path towards him becoming the Elongated Man many fans expect. Ralph is still a skeevy guy (a trait which seems ratcheted up in this episode) and his obliviousness to how awful he is remains humorous, but there needs to be more to the character before he can be truly likable. For example, there's the briefest of mentions of him being a detective, but it's played as a gag even though it's just the sort of trait (along with the whole stretching thing) that could make him a strong addition to Team Flash.
'When Harry Met Harry...' isn't likely to become a real memorable episode of The Flash, though it does have quite a few good one-liners and quips. It's a filler episode through and through; an amusing interlude and nothing more. The most notable contribution this episode serves up is finally bringing Barry face-to-face with The Thinker - or at least his civilian identity, Clifford Devoe.
After locating the only Devoe in Central City that fits the profile of The Thinker, Barry and Joe arrive at a rather ordinary looking home where they're greeted by an entirely normal wife and husband. Of course, audiences immediately recognize the couple as The Thinker and his assistant, The Mechanic, but their unassuming appearance certainly raises questions. Are these past versions or clever disguises? It's more likely the latter since The Thinker mentions something about welcoming The Flash just the scene before, but the hows and whys are left for next week. So while this week episode's was mostly meaningless fluff, next week's episodes seems ready to finally offer up some answers about season 4's Big Bad.
The Flash season 4 continues next Tuesday with 'Therefore I Am' at 8pm/9c on The CW.