The Flash recap: 'Duet'

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The Flash

type:
TV Show
run date:
10/15/14
performer:
Grant Gustin, Danielle Panabaker, Candice Patton
broadcaster:
The CW
seasons:
3
Current Status:
In Season

We gave it an A-

God, I loved this episode. The Flash/Supergirl musical crossover was an immensely charming and necessary hour of television that brought some much-needed light to The Flash‘s detrimentally dark third season. The music numbers were fun, Darren Criss did an amazing job as Music Meister, and the entire cast looked like they were having the time of their lives, which made it more entertaining for the audience. The overall warmth of the episode made me ignore any problems I had with the season and the episode’s conceit. (At this point, I should say that the grade for this episode really doesn’t matter because this episode, in my opinion, was greater than the sum of its parts, which had a few issues.)

Directed by Dermott Downs, who has helmed some of The Flash‘s best episodes, “Duets” is the latest in a long history of similar gimmick episodes going as far back I Love Lucy. After 16 years, Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘s “Once More, With Feeling” remains the best musical episode because it was not only entertaining but also vital to the season, as it pushed both the plot and characters forward in a meaningful way. It’s clear “Duets” is trying to attempt something similar here, with the goal of helping Barry Allen and Kara Danvers work through the problems in their love lives. While the songs in the hour — a mix of covers and original music—aren’t nearly as character driven Buffy‘s, the hour was still pretty poignant.

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In last night’s Supergirl, Kara broke up with Mon-El because he lied about he really was. The episode ended with Criss’ Music Meister placing Kara in a coma with a whammy and jumping over to Earth-1 to find The Flash. Tonight’s episode begins with Mon-El — who, with J’onn, and a comatose Kara in his arms, travels to Earth-1, too, to ask Team Flash to help them wake her up. The Music Meister shows up at S.T.A.R. Labs right after them and whammies Barry, putting him in a similar coma.

When Barry comes to, he finds himself powerless and in a 1940s jazz club where Kara, who is similarly powerless, is onstage performing a beautiful rendition of “Moon River” from Breakfast at Tiffany‘s, which is pretty fitting. It doesn’t take long for them to realize that there’s some kind of Wizard of Oz thing going on because their friends and foes are in this world as different people: Malcolm Merlyn is the club’s mobster owner, Cutter, who expects them to perform an original song later; Winn is the club’s pianist, Grady; and Cisco is a waiter named Pablo who dreams of stardom. Kara notices the Wizard of Oz similarities because it’s her favorite movie. (Melissa Benoist’s delivery of, “And you were there,” warmed my heart so much).

Jack Rowand/The CW

The Music Meister appears and gives them the lowdown on the situation: They’re trapped in a movie musical, and the only way out is to make it to the end of the movie without dying, because if they die in the dream, they die in real life. To get them (and us) in the mood, he moves right into an exuberant rendition of “Put a Little Love in Your Heart,” which includes Jeremy Jordan, John Barrowman, and Carlos Valdes. In the moment this isn’t clear, but this song is basically the thesis statement of the episode, outlining Music Meister’s interesting and very meta motivation. Moreover, with lyrics that implore you to “think of your fellow man” in order to make the world a better place, it feels like the perfect song for Supergirl and The Flash, which really swerve into the inspirational aspect of superheroes. That being said, I wish the song was a bit more specific to the characters themselves, namely Kara and Barry.

Once the number is over, Barry and Kara get pulled in the movie musical drama as Professor Martin Stein (Victor Garber) kidnaps them. (I didn’t catch Stein’s name in this universe). Stein takes them to Joe, who’s known as the mobster Digsby in this world, because he needs them to help find his missing daughter, Millie. With Pablo/Cisco’s help, they find Millie, a.k.a. Iris, in an apartment where she’s hooking up with Tommy (a.k.a. Mon-El), whose father Cutter is Digsby’s mobster rival. Needless to say, both Barry and Kara are unnerved seeing their ex-significant others hooking up with each other. It doesn’t take much effort to convince Millie and Tommy to come clean to their parents, because characters in movie musicals are very simple. This episode has a lot of fun playing with the tropes of movie musicals. It’s meta in that way.

NEXT: “Runaway Dinosaur” redux

So, Barry takes Millie back to her fathers, and Kara takes Tommy back to Cutter, and the two lovebirds come clean about affair. Barry and Kara find themselves having to defend Millie and Tommy, which ends up making them realize how they’ve screwed up their love lives: Barry realizes that this stupid breakup with Iris needs to end because all that matters is that they’re together, and Kara now understands why Mon-El would’ve lied. Stein, Digsby/Joe, and Malcom/Cutter then go into a moving as hell rendition of “More I Cannot Wish You” from Guys and Dolls, which is their way of telling their children they support them. All of the men give amazingly poignant performances, especially Martin, who does that thing with his eyes where he looks like he’s just on the verge of tears. That being said, the song really only works in the context of the movie musical and doesn’t have that much to do with the real characters themselves — unless you read the scene as reminding Kara and Barry of how important love is. However, as soon as it’s over, both Millie’s dads and Tommy’s dad tell their men to prepare for war.

Barry and Kara return to the club, where they realize that they still need to finish the movie by going through with that original number Cutter requested. Cue: “Superfriends,” the tap number written by Crazy Ex-Girlfriend‘s Rachel Bloom. It’s the most Rachel Bloom song ever. It’s a clever and cheesy but self-aware ode to friendship that made my heart soar. The lyrics felt very natural for these two characters, whose chemistry has been irresistible since they met for the first time in last year’s great “Worlds’ Finest.” Naturally the tap dancing was great, too, and I found myself very jealous of how great Grant Gustin’s pullbacks looked.

Unfortunately the West Side Story-esque war starts as soon as the song ends. Barry and Kara run out to try and stop it, but they both get shot in the crossfire.

Meanwhile, in the real world, Cisco, Mon-El, and Martian Manhunter apprehend Music Meister, who siphoned off Supergirl and The Flash’s powers in order to rob a bank, and toss him in the pipeline. Kara and Barry’s vitals start dropping in the real world after they get shot in the dream, and Iris and Mon-El decide follow the Meister’s advice and ask Cisco to vibe them into the dream world. Despite Cisco’s reservations, it works, and Mon-El and Iris save Kara and Barry, respectively, with a kiss that wakes them up, because love is the fifth element! It’s basically like last season’s “The Runaway Dinosaur,” where Iris was the one who helped bring Barry out of the Speed Force.

When Barry and Kara wake up, the Music Meister escapes from the pipeline and explains he’s been watching both of them, loves the good guys, and wanted to teach these two people with broken hearts a lesson: Love is about letting yourself be saved. His motivation is a very literal interpretation of “Put a Little Love in Your Heart,” and it turns him into an audience surrogate of sorts. If we had the power to enter the show, we would probably want to help these two fix their love lives. I personally liked the twist that Music Meister actually had good intentions. Furthermore, the episode was way better for not trying to explain what the Music Meister is or where he came from. With this ordeal over, Kara reconciles with Mon-El and they all return to their Earth.

Barry definitely took a lot away from this latest adventure. When he and Iris return to their apartment, Barry turns on a backing track on his phone and starts singing the ballad “Runnin’ Home to You,” penned by Dear Evan Hansen songwriters Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. It’s the most character driven song of the entire show, and Grant sings it beautifully. (Also, part of the chorus sounds like John Legend’s “All of Me.”) While it ends with Barry proposing to Iris, the song doesn’t really take Barry to a new place emotionally when you think about it. We’ve seen Barry say similar things like this before with just as much sincerity (and I’m not even thinking about the last proposal, which was motivated by fear). Furthermore, based on the way the episode was constructed, it would’ve been better for the show to find a way for Barry to have sung this to Iris while still inside the movie musical. That being said, this does raise my issues with the conceit of the episode.

I understand the appeal of having Barry and Kara stuck in an alternate reality. It gave the writers an opportunity to get really meta, which is fun. However, did anyone else think the emotional push of the episode could’ve been a bit stronger if the singing had actually taken place in the show’s real world? It would’ve allowed for the music to be a lot more character specific and character driven. Team Flash has other issues to deal with apart from Barry’s love life, and it would’ve been nice to see Wally, for example, work through his post-Speed Force trauma through music. (Also, Keiynan Lonsdale is a musician). However, I’m very content with the episode itself. It gave the season a necessary injection of sunshine, which was necessary in and of itself.

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