Tuesday, February 27, 2018

"Subject 9" Hits Highs Before Settling For "Ho-Hum."

The Good: Moments of continuity, Most of the special effects and humor work.
The Bad: Obvious plot progression, Mediocre performances
The Basics: "Subject 9" starts The Flash out with an intriguing new metahuman before settling into the familiar.

The fourth season of The Flash has finally come into focus. While DeVoe was instantly the season's adversary, the show has meandered into the S.T.A.R. Labs team figuring out what DeVoe is up to. But, as "Subject 9" begins, DeVoe's general plan - to absorb the metahuman abilities from the metahumans he created - has become apparent to both the viewers and the characters within The Flash. "Subject 9" also opens with Ralph Dibny at an intriguing narrative juncture; recognizing that DeVoe is coming after the others like him, he starts the episode knowing he has a target painted on his back.

"Subject 9" was preceded by"True Colors" (reviewed here!) and found Barry Allen being exonerated for the murder of DeVoe - thanks to Dibny discovering a newfound ability; using his stretching skin to shape-change. Allen's successful appeal came following DeVoe making a rather bold move with the metahumans he had created and the murder of Warden Wolf at the hands of DeVoe. The seeds have been well-planted for Marlize DeVoe to switch sides; it remains to be seen how long she will hold out before betraying her husband.

Barry Allen returns to work where he gets a surprisingly cold reception. Captain Singh asks that Barry take a leave of absence to help restore faith in the Central City Police Department. The new Mayor wants to prove that DeVoe is still alive, but while relieved of duty, the S.T.A.R. Labs team closes rank on Ralph Dibny and they renew their search for the other bus metas. Dibny visits the bus depot's lost and found and discover that Izzy Bowin was one of the people turned into a metahuman through the bus accident. While visiting Bowin at a gig, Dibny and Allen are surveilled by the DeVoes. When Bowin resists their help, she reveals her power: the ability to manipulate sound waves.

After DeVoe reveals herself to Bowin while the Flash team is trying to convince her of the threat to her life, the S.T.A.R. Labs team decides to try to train her to be a part of the team. Bowin wants nothing to do with them, but Dibny actually changes her mind. Horton rails against Wells's new device while Bowin is trained at S.T.A.R. Labs. When The Flash steps in with the training, Bowin gets hurt. After bringing the new dampener to Horton, Wells and Horton try to strike up a friendship when Wells has an important epiphany about the nature of the device he built for her. Believing she can take DeVoe on herself, Bowin leaves S.T.A.R. Labs.

"Subject 9" makes Ralph Dibny surprisingly important. Dibny helps find Bowin and he is integral to convincing her to stay with the S.T.A.R. Labs team. Dibny is willing to be tested upon so that Bowin can develop her abilities and that is a nice twist for him; being suddenly useful.

Attentive viewers will recognize the moment it is brought up that "Subject 9" has the season's resolution within it. In the third season, when DeVoe was being teased as the fourth season's adversary, Savitar mentions the weapon used to defeat DeVoe. In "Subject 9," Horton turns to Wells for help with dampening Joe West's thoughts . . . which seems like exactly what the crew needs to adapt in order to stop DeVoe. So when the silent epiphany comes, attentive viewers are well-prepared for it. In fact, it is hard to believe that it takes so long for the S.T.A.R. Labs team to develop the cerebral inhibitor . . . considering they had a similar device already in play to protect Barry from the psychic attacks of Gorilla Grodd.

The climax of "Subject 9" is incredibly frustrating. The physics of the final scene make no reasonable sense; there is a force field (apparently) and The Flash doesn't even try to vibrate through it. Or go around it. As a result, the move by DeVoe feels ultimately forced for the plot, as opposed to a sensible development based on characters' actions.

Harrison Wells returns to the narrative in a way that continues to illustrate that the writers have not figured out how to write for him now. Tom Cavanaugh is good - though he does smirk through one moment where he is supposed to be performing exasperation - but the character has been a bit aimless this season. Fortunately, Cavanaugh's final scene in the episode is well-executed and bucks the trend of adult characters being almost exclusively under thirty. Cavanaugh and Danielle Nicolet have good on-screen chemistry for their scenes.

In the end, "Subject 9" leaves the viewer with something of a ho-hum feeling. The plot moves into the inevitable territory fans knew it would, but it still feels more formulaic than it is fresh. The cast - save Hartley Sawyer - seem to be simply going through the motions and "Subject 9" feels more like a filler than a thriller episode.


For other television reviews, please visit my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2018 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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