The Flash‘s tonal correction continues in the season’s second episode, which might be the funniest and most fun outing in quite some time. Writers Jonathan Butler and Gabriel Garza mine a lot of humor — and heart — out of the couple drama at the center of the quippy and banter-filled “Mixed Signals,” which is overflowing in charm. Let’s dive in!
The great thing about the couple drama in tonight’s episode is that it doesn’t drag the story down. In fact, it’s one of the episode’s main sources of humor. First up, we have Barry and Iris, who are adjusting to the new status quo. Barry is living his best life now that he’s freed from the Speed Force and spends his morning reenacting that Risky Business scene, cooking breakfast, handling the wedding plans on his own, and catching up on six months’ worth of television. He’s just happy to be back and expects things to go back to normal — but we know that’s not the case.
The first sign of tension in Barry and Iris’ relationship comes when Barry reveals that he canceled that evening’s training session without telling her. Caitlin observes this little exchange and suggests to Iris that she and Barry might need to see a couples counselor to help them navigate this new status quo, i.e. being engaged and working together. Iris brushes off that suggestion — they’re Barry and Iris! — but Barry’s subsequent performance in the field changes her mind.
See, this week, Team Flash goes up against Kilgore, a metahuman who can control technology and has started using said powers to kill his former business partners who cut him out of the profits of an app that they developed together. (For the umpteenth time, revenge is a boring motive and the show can and should do better when it comes to its villains.) First, he murders Dean Cain lookalike Tim by hacking into an elevator and shaking him to death (thus ensuring Cisco will never look at Sriracha the same way again). Then, he sets his sights on Tim Kwan, sending Tim’s car speeding into traffic at 120 mph. Iris tells Barry to take Wally into the field with him, but Barry, wearing the new and ridiculously tricked-out suit Cisco made for him, speeds off to save the day on his own. Spoiler alert: He almost fails because he arrogantly ignores Iris’ advice and almost sends Tim hurtling into a construction zone. Thankfully, Barry uses his speed to disassemble the car so the car’s seat is all that remains when Tim finally comes skidding to a halt.
This little mishap convinces Iris they need to go therapy for “a little tune-up.” Cue one of the episode’s funnier scenes as Barry and Iris sit down with Dr. Finkle and start becoming very self-conscious about what they say. “I love therapy,” Barry lies before explaining, with a smile on his face, that he saw a therapist when his mother died. And thus the floodgates open and Iris and Barry lightheartedly run through the many funerals they’ve attended and realize just how much dark stuff they’ve been through. They hilariously struggle to talk about their problems at work without revealing that they’re, you know, Team Flash. Alas. Barry ends up running out mid-session when Deacon tries to kill Tim, who is at the police station, and Joe with one of the CCPD’s grenade robots. Barry arrives in time time to catch all of the shrapnel before it hits them.
Barry and Iris aren’t the only couple who hit a rough patch in tonight’s episode. Gypsy pops over to our Earth to spend the day with Cisco, our constant source of comedic relief, who keeps getting distracted by the crisis at hand. So Gypsy is forced to wait around while Cisco goes through his old tech magazine collection (and drools over a motherboard centerfold) in order to figure out the connection between the victims, which he eventually does when he stumbles upon a picture of Kilgore and his partners. They realize a woman named Sheila is the next target, so Joe and Wally stake out her home.
Tim pays Sheila a visit to warn her that their former partner is trying to kill them, but she doesn’t take him seriously until Kilgore shows up and uses her insulin pump to give her an insulin overdose. Luckily, Kid Flash arrives in time with a handy glucose injection to save her, but he fails to stop Kilgore from kidnapping Tim. (Recap continues on the next page)
Meanwhile, the writers start to dig into the heart of Barry and Iris’ issues. In their next session, Barry doesn’t understand what the problem is because they’re Barry and Iris, the relationship gold standard. (I’ll admit I laughed when he said that, but given the state of love in the Arrow-verse, that might actually be the case.) So Iris tearfully explains it to him: He entered the Speed Force without even consulting he. (Patton’s performance is particularly heartbreaking.
At first, Barry doesn’t know how to respond, but when they return to the S.T.A.R. Labs, he admits he didn’t take a moment to talk it through because he knew he wouldn’t have the strength to go. “Sometimes it’s not about us,” he says, to which Iris wisely responds, “It’s about us. You are not the Flash, Barry. We are.” What makes this latest bump in the WestAllen road so effective is that you understand where both of them are coming from. One of my biggest complaints about last season is that it was about saving Iris from her future death, but we never got a real sense of how she was feeling about it, of her interior life. This latest spat does a good job of acknowledging that her feelings carry just as much weight as Barry’s in this relationship. Furthermore, the show does a good job of digging into Barry’s flaws without making him unlikable or letting that give way to brooding.
With Caitlin’s help, Cisco realizes Gypsy isn’t really okay with their postponed date. He asks her what’s up, and Gypsy admits she was excited to spend the day together because on Earth-19, it’s 1-1-1 Day, a romantic holiday celebrated when two separate souls become one soul. Gypsy hates that she likes Cisco enough to want to celebrate such a cheesy day, which is super cute. Unfortunately, Cisco has his Eureka! moment right then and runs off because he figured out how to stop Kilgore: He and Caitlin need to create a compound that will reverse the ones and zeroes in Kilgore’s DNA, thereby deactivating his power.
The Flash and Kid Flash head back into the field to save Tim. In a twist we all saw coming, Deacon detects the new tech in Barry’s suit (Cisco basically turned the Flash costume into a sleeker version of Iron Man’s armor, complete with an internal computer, blasters, and Thai menus), takes control of it, and starts manhandling Barry like he’s action figure.
After using the unnecessary blasters to knock out Wally, Kilgore locks Barry in the suit and activates both the raft function — which inflates the suit, in one of the show’s best sight gags — and the self-destruct function. Barry, who is forced to call the team on a conveniently placed payphone, has no idea what to do — but Iris does! She tells Barry to throw lightning at himself. He does and it works: He regains control of himself and defeats Deacon.
With the day saved, Cisco and Gypsy finally have time to celebrate 1-1-1 Day together, which is as adorable as you think it is. Barry and Joe pay Deacon a visit in prison because they have one pressing question: How did Deacon get his powers if he wasn’t in Central City when the particle accelerator exploded? It turns out someone else is behind that, and he’s not the only metahuman who got their powers this way. Meanwhile, The Thinker learns that Deacon, a.k.a. Subject One, has been locked up in Iron Heights, which means it’s now time to find the other ones.
Wall of Weird:
- Caitlin briefly has trouble keeping her powers at bay at the top of the episode.
- Shoutout to cost-saving measures: The apartment that the first victim checks out in the beginning of the episode is definitely Felicity’s apartment on Arrow but with more furniture.
- What does Barry’s return mean for Wally West? There are a few moments in the episode when Wally definitely seems bummed about being sidelined: first when he notes that Barry’s suit got an upgrade but his didn’t, and later on when Barry tries to save the day without him. Now that Wally’s powers no longer serve as a plot device, I’m curious to see how the show will handle having two speedsters.
- “Come on, we’re not cavemen” — Cisco, to Barry, when he gives him the huge instruction manual for the new Flash suit
- Mini-crossover moment: Barry reads a newspaper that says Oliver’s identity has been outed.
- “It’s like Silicon Valley if Richard went nuts and started killing everyone at Pied Piper,” Cisco says about Kilgore. “I feel like he’s got a more anarchist, Gilfoyle vibe,” says Barry.
- “You just had to fall for the girl in head-to-toe leather, didn’t you?” — Cisco, to himself
|Available For Streaming On|