THE FLASH S4x17 – NULL AND ANNOYED

Ralph Dibney is up to his old, annoying habits.

Hey, guess what? The Flash writers want you to think that the Elongated Man may not be cut out for this hero business. They do this by falling back on an old favorite they’ve already carted out too many times this season. Ralph develops major character flaw that jeopardizes the team, team members fight, Barry and Ralph have a hallway talk, and Ralph saves the day. I realize these shows sometimes have to fall back on formulas, but this is just getting boring now.

In “Null and Annoyed,” Barry and Ralph have different philosophies on how to stop DeVoe. Barry wants to fool him, using Ralph shapeshifting powers to look like the Flash and confuse The Thinker. Ralph….wants to use his abilities to hide his head in his body so DeVoe can’t steal his powers. That might work…for like three seconds. I don’t see how DeVoe would be so confused by Ralph hiding that he’d be defeated.

In fact, Ralph is taking all of the team’s efforts to stop DeVoe way too light-heartedly. He’s leaving whoopee cushions around S.T.A.R Labs, for crying out loud! His constant goofing off gets to the point that it impacts the team’s attempts to capture the latest bus meta, a thief who goes by Null. While Barry is distracted by Ralph’s foolishness, Null touches him, revealing her power to change the gravitational force in an object or person. It eventually wears off, but Barry has had it with Ralph.

And I’m in agreement. Every episode now, it seems that Ralph becomes a coward or an asshole for most of the run time, only coming through at the end and getting on the path to being a hero. But like a Groundhog Day loop, we’re right back where we started by the following week. There’s no reason it should be this difficult to evolve his personality in a more natural way. Even learning Ralph’s jokes and comedy are a defense mechanism from a difficult childhood does little to get me invested. It’s a well-acted scene, but it definitely feels like this is just Ralph’s problem-of-the-week to explain his behavior and move on to the next issue.

To beat Null, Barry and Ralph use a mixture of planning and improv. When the villainous meta arrives at a ball to rob the guests, Barry gets everyone out. But Null touches him, sending him into the atmosphere. To save his life, Ralph uses the meta dampeners on Null, then inflates himself to catch a rapidly-falling Flash. Nothing that intriguing, unless you count Ralph making a second fart joke in this episode.

Meanwhile, in the more fascinating villain story, The Thinker makes an uncharacteristic slip-up, offhandedly mentioning to Marlize that there are only two remaining bus metas to find, when she thinks there are three, including the Weeper. She does some digging and discovers that DeVoe had been drugging her. In a horrifying reveal, she learns that this isn’t the first time she’s discovered the truth. Every time, The Thinker uses a combination of his meta abilities to bring Marlize back under his control. The scenes between them end with a loop back to the start of the episode, with the two of them plotting and Marlize none the wiser. I hope she finds a way to wreck The Thinker’s plot.

And I hope that the writers find ways forward to write their characters without retreading the same ground. We’ve covered this territory so many times that it’s grown into a canyon of lazy storytelling. The Flash can do better.

Show Notes:

  • In a fun side plot, Gypsy’s father, Breacher, arrives on Earth-1, looking for help. His vibe powers have stopped working. He thinks it’s the work of an evil meta. But it’s really just Father Time, as his body can’t generate the energy needed to vibe anymore. Cisco eventually tells him, leading Breacher to retire and offer him his job!
  • The two security guards working at the scene of Null’s first robbery are none other than Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith. Yep, Jay and Silent Bob reunited on The Flash!
  • Okay, usually I’m all for puns on these shows. But when Ralph proposes that the team forms an improv group, moves to Washington and become the “DC Comics,” that is just really, really stupid.
  • In the closing scene, it’s revealed that Harry has been recharging his thinking cap in the time vault and reactivates Gideon. His behavior is starting to look very suspicious.