Due to the Olympics, the Flash had gone on a brief hiatus, but with Subject 9 it finally made a return to chronicle the ongoing feud between Clifford DeVoe and Barry Allen. In the previous episode, Barry had finally gotten a new ray of hope as Ralph assisted him in beating the murder charges against him and he was able to come back to active duty. However, the show immediately dashed our hopes that this latest twist could be the catalyst needed for dealing with the DeVoe conflict and instead fell back to its repetitive and old ways. It was enough to make us contemplate the point of putting Barry in prison because doing so didn’t accomplish much.
The only tangible and real fallout of Barry’s stint in prison is the fact that his career in the CCPD is now on shaky ground. Viewers are going to find it difficult to sympathize with Barry at this point because they have often wondered why he needs to have a day job at all. Not only is he a metahuman, but he also has access to all the wealth and resources that were left to him by the original Harrison Wells. Hence, there are better ways for Barry to spend his time rather than doing a day job.
Yes, Barry’s decision to become a private investigator is definitely interesting and something to look forward to, but on the whole, it doesn’t really work well because it takes away the fallout of Barry’s ordeal in prison. Other than this element, the episode was pretty much everything we have come to expect from this season. Both DeVoe and Team Flash were racing each other to track down the latest meta from the bus. It is certainly fascinating to see DeVoe switching bodies and taking on new forms. The novelty is evident now that Becky Sharpe has become DeVoe’s latest and unwilling host.
She comes off as a contrast as her performance is very intense and yet she has this unassuming and small frame. The juxtaposition is fun, indeed. With that being said, the character of DeVoe is not just the same now that Neil Sandilands is not portraying it. Sandiland lends a gravitas and sadness to the performance that cannot be seen with anyone else. His successors are not able to pull it off, although it could be a deliberate shift as well because DeVoe’s mind is growing more desperate and irrational as his hosts continue to wither away.
Still, we are hoping that the showrunners will quickly lift the veil from DeVoe’s game plan, something they haven’t revealed so far. At this point, it feels that the bus meta McGriffin has sort of overstayed his welcome. In addition, with each episode, it seems more and more likely that DeVoe will not turn out to be the primary antagonist of this season. In fact, the ultimate villain of season 4 could actually be Marlize. It is better if that transition happens quickly as DeVoe seems to be deteriorating and there is not much left to explore here.
As far as this episode is concerned, it seems that the sole purpose of ‘Subject 9’ was to create a conflict for providing Ralph a stronger sense of personal investment in their fight against DeVoe. The description that was released for this episode had made it sound that we were going to have to see Ralph once against wonder if he had the right stuff to be a hero. Luckily, this wasn’t the case. Instead, Ralph switched roles and tried to impart his newly-found superhero wisdom to Izzy Bowen, a fellow bus meta and this was a rather decent step forward for his character.
However, this is where the episode was unable to make its point properly. The showrunners were simply not able to build a proper rapport between Izzy and Ralph. The former was not a very compelling and powerful character and it seemed that Miranda MacDougall just combined some country music stereotypes and gave Izzy an over-exaggerated accent. Other than that, she simply didn’t have enough screen time to be able to connect to Ralph properly. All she did was spent an afternoon at STAR Labs and had a conversation with Ralph. How does her loss profoundly change Ross? For Izzy’s death to have some actual significance, she should have been around for a few more episodes at least.
It also didn’t help the show that the latest confrontation with DeVoe was also a little flat. The battle should have been dynamic considering that his own mental powers have gotten a boost since he has added six other abilities. Rather, it was sluggish, short and awkwardly framed. Apart from this aspect, it is also clear that the writers are unable to handle the supporting cast of the show. The Harry/Cecile subplot was mildly charming and it created a connection between the two characters that have rarely interacted before.
Moreover, there was a reference of the ‘cerebral inhibitor’ of last season, but the payoff didn’t really justify the buildup. Putting that aside, most of the members of Team Flash felt as superfluous background characters. Caitlin had the same thankless role she has had the entire season and Joe didn’t even make an appearance. Basically, the episode was not a very strong one for a series that needs to be turning things around right now. There is no denying that season 3 had its own flaws, but it had managed to bring it’s A-game at this time and had succeeded in recovering its momentum in the final months after Savitar’s true nature was revealed.
Currently, there is little sign that season four will be able to do something similar. This episode is its weakest installment yet in a season that has already been weak from the get-go. The plot has chosen to fall back on old routines rather than bringing any changes through Barry’s prison ordeal, something they did with the Flashpoint timeline as well. With the finish line drawing nearer, the season needs to bring about a reversal of quality.