The Flash introduces an unlikely version of Elongated Man - who along with Gypsy's tough as nails father, makes for a campy and fun episode that's the season's best yet.
WARNING - This review contains SPOILERS for The Flash season 4, episode 4
The Flash season 4 has been a better, brighter, more upbeat season from the get-go. While the show's writers may insist there was never an official plan to bring the series back to basics or to remind viewers of what a fun and silly superhero adventure it can be, that is precisely what season 4 has so far achieved.
This week's episode, 'Elongated Journey Into Night' is by far the best episode The Flash has had in some time. It manages to introduce a classic DC Comics character, continue the mystery surrounding The Thinker's ultimate plan, give Cisco a great B-plot in where he meets Gypsy's father, and has Joe deliver his big news in the most perfect and hilarious manner. While doing so, 'Elongated Journey Into Night' keeps its story moving at a steady clip, keeping the atmosphere light and the action campy and fun.
Easily, this episode's greatest success is its stellar introduction of Elongated Man AKA Ralph Dibny (Hartley Sawyer). First introduced in The Flash #112 in 1960, Dibny has long been a second-tier hero (maybe even third) of the DC Universe despite having one of its more unique powers. Obviously, Marvel's Mr. Fantastic is probably the best known stretchster (?), but DC will tend to use the wild and crazy Plastic Man more often than Elongated Man - either because of the awkwardness of his superhero name or because readers didn't find the nice guy who loves his wife, just as much as he does a good mystery, to be all that interesting.
On The Flash, however, Ralph Dibny isn't anywhere near the wholesome, kindhearted Elongated Man of the comics, yet he shows all the promise of becoming that person. Introduced as a private investigator (which, to give an idea of the kind of self-hating guy he is, he's crossed out investigator and painted "dick" on his office door) who shares a complicated history with Barry Allen, this Dibny is a jerk and a bit of loser. He's been thrown off the police force for falsifying evidence, an act which Barry exposed, and now makes his way by taking on cases of suspected adultery and doing a bit of blackmail on the side. He's crass, kind of scuzzy, and really not the sort one would think would make such a fine addition to Team Flash, but it's because he's such an unexpected ally that his addition to the series works.
As it happens, Dibny was also one of the 12 people on the bus that fateful day Barry reemerged from the Speed Force, dousing everyone inside with dark matter. This is how Dibny develops those stretching powers - something that The Flash is surprisingly able to pull off with their TV budget CGI. The show still can't make it appear any less gross than it is - because it's gross, just very gross. Stretching a limb is one thing, but when Dibny loses control of his face? Ew. Thankfully, Caitlin is able to concoct a potion that gives him greater control over his elasticity (as well the ability to morph into the expected bod of a star worthy of The CW).
And while, yes, Caitlin's time as Killer Frost is that one lingering thread the series refuses to address (until next week, anyway), she is able to offer up some advice to Barry that maybe gaining these powers is an opportunity for Dibny to do some good. He's clearly a guy whose heart is in the right place, he just hasn't always gone about doing things in the right way. Sound familiar? Oh yeah, just about every member of Team Flash has been guilty of that; chief among them, Barry. So it's great to see Caitlin laying down that wisdom and for Barry to learn not to always judge people by the mistakes of their past - a lesson sure to come in handy once it's revealed what Caitlin was really up to for those six months (because it clearly involved more than bartending).
Along with a wonderfully fun introduction for Ralph Dibny, 'Elongated Journey Into Night' also gets to play with idea of Cisco meeting Gypsy's father - a hurdle in any new relationship, but one The Flash complicates to a hilarious degree by having her father be her boss, share in her powers, also travel between worlds rounding up bad guys, and be Danny Trejo. Honestly, they didn't even need to come up with such good reason for Danny Trejo to be in this episode; just having him hunt down Cisco would have been enough. However, having him play Gypsy's father opens up the opportunity for Trejo to return, which is sure to be a treat. This may be the least significant B-plot The Flash has done, but it is also one their most entertaining.
The whole ordeal with Cisco does then dovetail nicely with how this episode wraps up, giving Cisco the chance to stand up and be a hero, saving Dibny from Breacher (Trejo) and earning his respect in the process. ("I hate you, but I respect you.") This then gives way to Dibny taking that first step towards being a hero himself, recapturing some of the spirit that clearly drove him to become a police officer in the first place. Plus, with his induction to Team Flash, they've gained another member to help them crack this case of why The Thinker - now revealed to be Devoe, a name Barry's heard before - hoped to create all these new metas in the first place. If there's one thing any version of Ralph Dibny loves, it's a good mystery.
The Flash season 4 continues next Tuesday with 'Girls Night Out' at 8pm/9c on The CW.
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