Katie Yu/The CW
January 23, 2018 at 10:23 PM EST

The Flash

TV Show
run date
Grant Gustin, Danielle Panabaker, Candice Patton
The CW
Current Status
In Season
We gave it a B-

“The Elongated Knight Rises” is a good example of everything that’s working and not working about The Flash‘s current season. Season 3 drained the show of its joie de vivre, turning an ebullient series into a dour slog, and season 4 has taken steps to correct that. No matter what, almost every episode has felt rather bubbly and has had a lot of heart — and that’s definitely the case in tonight’s episode, which features several fun scenes with the characters. Unfortunately, in the process of fixing that tonal problem, the show has lost its sense of direction, and it’s hard to understand some of its plot choices, which is also evident in this episode.

Let’s start with the good: With Barry stuck in prison, it’s up to the rest of Team Flash to step up to the plate to defend the city. This means it’s time for Ralph Dibny to show us what he’s learned over the past few months of Hero School under Barry’s tutelage. When the episode opens, Ralph easily, and somewhat recklessly, handles a hostage situation. He gains points for making sure the hostages were safe before confronting the bad guy but loses a couple for his arrogance. Believing himself invisible, he carelessly (yet amusingly) banters with the hostage taker before impulsively yanking the guy’s bomb from his chest and absorbing the subsequent explosion.

Sure, he saved the day, but what if he hadn’t been able to contain the explosion? That’s what Iris brings up when a victorious Ralph returns to S.T.A.R. Labs after saving the day and giving an interview to a local news station. Iris is concerned that Ralph is getting too cocky, but he ignores her because he’s riding the superhero high.

If you watch this show (or any series), you know that Ralph is due for a humbling experience, and that’s exactly what happens tonight, courtesy of the return of the Trickster. No, not Mark Hamill’s deliriously wacky baddie Jesse, but his son Axel, who manages to escape from prison with some help from his mother Zoey Clark. We learn that Zoey is the Bonnie to OG Trickster’s Clyde. Here, she breaks her son out because she wants them to flee Central City and live free lives, but Axel is more concerned with gaining his absentee father’s respect. Usually, The Flash barely tries to give its episodic villains motivation outside revenge, but I found the Axel’s decision to don the Trickster outfit once gain in order to get his father’s attention rather compelling and understandable.

Axel figures out how he’s going to accomplish his goal after a news segment featuring Ralph catches his eye, so Li’l Trickster (which would make for a corny, yet funny rapper name) takes over the Central City airwaves, as the Tricksters are wont to do, and demands that the Stretchy Man come out and face him. Ralph recklessly wades into danger, expecting an easy fight. Unfortunately, Axel comes bearing gifts: some pink acid that melts Ralph’s skin and shakes his confidence as a hero because he’s forced to confront the fact that he isn’t invincible. (Team Flash’s befuddlement over what was going on with Ralph and the acid was particularly amusing.) (Next: Prison Days with Barry Allen)

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