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).
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