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Episodes of The Flash not centered around Barry Allen are far and few between, but when they come around they tend to prove just how much of an ensemble show it is. Case in point, the relatively uneventful “Dead Or Alive,” which doesn’t do much to move the broader season arc forward in any meaningful way, but instead takes its time to re-orient the characters and their dynamics. In that, it more than succeeds, and despite taking a break from the whole Savitar/future thing, it ends up doing a hell of a lot to actually set it up.
Gypsy is… not the best name for a character in 2017, but the character herself delivers instant charisma, hopping over from Earth-19 in order to apprehend this season’s Harry counterpart, enthusiastic sci-fi writer “H.R.” Wells. Harrison 3.0 fancies himself something of a hero, instantaneously writing himself into scenes that are still unfolding, but beaming his book back to his universe bit by bit has led to him being tracked down. A cross-dimensional invasion on Earth-19 once led to dimension-hopping being punishable by death (every nugget of multiverse info makes the show feel vast) and H.R. is a dead man walking. That is, of course, unless Cisco can fight Gypsy to the death, per the rules of Earth-19’s bizarre justice system.
Jessica Camacho brings a no-nonsense bavura to the vibing law-woman. Her powers are way more advanced than Cisco’s, allowing her to Portal in and out of a room at will and fire a whole host of energy blasts, but her biggest strength appears to be Cisco’s weakness for evil ladies. It’s an odd dynamic to say the least, and while Carlos Valdes has no shortage of likable charm, asking her out on a date when she’s trying to kill his friends feels a bit too goofy, even for a show with a psychic gorilla. The Flash has never really featured a convincing romance to begin with (Patty seemed like she could fill this role, if only Barry wasn’t such a baby about keeping secrets from her) and while it’s really just fun & games, it tends to undercut the tension of this life-or-death tête-à-tête while making Gypsy herself seem sloppy for even considering the idea. Then again, her real romance is with Earth-1’s abundance of coffee, so I guess it evens out.
The Barry-Iris romance continues to trudge along, with the otherwise flawless performances of Grant Gustin and Candice Patton being contorted to give the appearance of a chemistry that just isn’t there. That’s not a knock on the actors by any stretch, if anything it’s a testament to how well these characters work as a mutually platonic support system, but I guess we may as well prepare for their “endgame.” On the bright side, this week’s episode is as much about Iris as it is Cisco. While her life is in the hands of Barry and Team Flash, she’s acutely aware of the possibility that the future Barry travelled to will come to pass and she may be dead in four months. Stories of death anxiety are far and few between in the superhero genre (one would think it’d be a more common phenomenon, yet the only other live action example I can think of is Marvel’s Doctor Strange), and Iris is determined to make her mark on the world in the time she seems to have left. If that means running headfirst into danger for a story on advanced arms dealers, then so be it. At least her brother Kid Flash is there to back her up!
Wally’s training is paying off exponentially, and he’s even grabbing headlines and attention. He’s an invaluable member of Team Flash, the ever-growing roster that now includes Tom Felton’s Julian Albert. Julian doesn’t get a whole lot to do, but his frank, unfiltered demeanor provides welcome friction to the dynamic as he continues to work on his manners with Caitlyn’s help. He even suggests a 3D diorama of future events to help Barry map out the possibilities, though Cisco being Cisco decides to take it upon himself to create it out of LEGO. Even the uneventful Flash episodes are peppered with moments of heart and humour, and despite certain elements not quite working (get a grip, Cisco, she’s trying to kill your friends!), each episode feels more or less satisfying.
“Dead Or Alive” falls more on the “more” side of that spectrum, with Cisco finally coming around to admitting his complicated relationship with the new Wells. As much as he’s annoyed by him, he also owes him a cosmic debt because of how much the other Wells’ have helped him, and I guess Cisco also ought to just be nicer to him in general. That doesn’t just extend to saving his life, but to helping him make a difference on his new homeworld. With Julian’s help, Cisco figures out a way to throw Gypsy off balance, but not before their vibe battle takes them across the multiverse, to Earth-2, Earth-Lava, and even Earth-Supergirl. When it comes down to it, of course Team Flash isn’t going to execute the fallen authoritarian, but the unfolding of this decisions serves as a reminder that justice doesn’t need to be retributive and rules can be questioned. While the law demands she either return with H.R. or face death, the Team decides to keep him on Earth-1 to make it seem like she killed him. That way they both get to live, and Gypsy heads back to 19 with tote bags full of Brazilian Roast. It’s a minor detail, but the lack of coffee on their Earth goes a long way to explain why H.R. drinks five cups a day here his new home world.
Home. That’s what this is for H.R. now, and while he’s still figuring out his place on the team (much like the abrasive Julian), it’s a family dynamic that both works, and works to keep working. “Dead Or Alive” is exactly the kind of respite from the time travel shenanigans that this season needed, and it further punctuates its focus on the rest of the team when Barry finally realizes why his obsession with saving Iris will lead to failure. There’s no way he can become fast enough to save her from Savitar, but his protégé still can. Finally, the “fastest man alive” confronts the inevitable truth that this title won’t be his forever, stepping aside so to speak and tasking Wally with being the hero of this story.
Barry’s still going to be around full-time, but that’s a pretty big deal for the show and character. As much as The Flash will continue to be about him and Iris, it’s now Wally’s success we’ll need to get behind. It’s finally time for Kid Flash to take center stage.
Note: Amelia Emberwing is now reviewing Legends of Tomorrow! You can read this week’s write-up here, though I would urge all Flash fans to watch the episode regardless of whether or not they’re caught up on the show as it deals with the ramifications of both the Zoom and Reverse-Flash season finales.