It’s a bold choice indeed to take a show like The Flash, sideline the title character, and then put the city in the hands of an untried, inexperienced, and selfish hero. For an episode or two, sure; for an extended arc that will last who knows how long? We don’t know how this whole “Iron Heights Barry” storyline is going to end up, but it’s not off to a great start. I present Exhibit A, “The Elongated Knight Rises.”
The premise is this: Barry’s an upstanding hero, so because he was found guilty by a jury of his peers, he’s going to do his time while waiting for Iris, Joe, and Cecile to go through the appeals process which should take months. In the meantime, rather then put Killer Frost or Vibe in charge of protecting the city, or calling Wally West or Jesse Wells back, the S.T.A.R. Labs team opts to put the lives of innocent civilians into the stretchy hands of the uneven and overly jokey Ralph Dibny, a.k.a. The Elongated Man. (This has the kinda funny side effect of forcing the police to actually do their job again.) The plan just about blows up in their faces, but this is still far from the dark days of Savitar, so you can rest assured it’s going to end up fine and dandy.
But before we focus on Dibny, let’s talk about Barry Allen; you know, the title character? Just because he’s incarcerated doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a story to tell. Now this particular story involves the wildly inconsistent use of his powers while in jail, a run-in with some prison thugs, and a heartwarming bit of backstory for a fella by the name of Big Sir (played by special guest Bill Goldberg, who I’m sure the stunt team loved having around since they didn’t need to train up the WWE veteran for fight scenes). Here’s a list of things Barry will grudgingly use his powers for:
- Eventually stopping a prison riot.
- Etching a mark for each day spent in prison into the cinder block wall of his cell.
- Saving Big Sir (and himself) from getting shivved.
- Bucking prison protocol in order to touch Iris’ hand through the safety glass. (That vibrating wrist shot creeped me out.)
Here’s one thing Barry won’t use his powers for:
- Escaping prison.
While I admire the challenge that this storytelling decision poses for the writers, I’m finding it hard to care about Barry’s prison life at the moment. Maybe things will change once the next episode(s) continues Barry’s new friendship with Big Sir as the team adds the convict’s own case to their workload, because why not.
The only times the main plot of this episode crossed over with Barry’s Adventures in Iron Heights was when Iris paid him visits and when Dibny broke in for a much-needed pep talk. It seems that, when Central City villains prove incompetent and incapable of injuring the Elongated Man, he’s happy to fight crime, drop some one-liners, and increase his level of celebrity. But when the second generation of the Trickster arrives with some rubber-melting “axid” (yeah, that’s acid with special ingredient x), the now-vulnerable Dibny wants no part of the crime-fighting business.
This brush with cowardice–and ultimate discovery of a backbone, which he finds when his friends are in mortal peril–was a nice wrinkle for the rubberized man’s rather one-note character to this point. Unfortunately, Hartley Sawyer‘s Jim Carrey-like delivery is over the top and grating even in this campy cartoon of an episode. Elements of this hour reminded me of The Mask, except that the comic that franchise was based on was actually pretty violent with its cartoony nature. The Flash is far from that. You have to look no further than the very silly legacy villains The Trickster and Prank to realize that no one’s in much danger this episode. (Unless you’re a Beebo. RIP.) While I fully appreciated the return of villains, and the actors who played them, from the 90s version of The Flash, I could have done without the tired jokes about skipping medication meant to help deal with mental illness and the old “kidnapping hostages for a deadly game show” gag. We’ve seen it all before and it’s predictable, which takes the energy out of the telling.