There’s plenty to enjoy in “Run, Iris, Run,” and Candice Patton’s grounded but ever-so-slightly giddy performance is only one such pleasure. The purple lightning is killer. Iris swapping clothes with Caitlin is fun. Two briefly featured villains play their ridiculous scenes to the hilt and obviously have fun doing so, and Harry and Cisco get a solid storyline of their own. The episode ends with a handful of satisfying stories that seem likely to move the season forward in a positive direction, not least of which is the introduction of the latest member of Team Flash. But the episode also suffers from a lack of thought, and that it dampens the overall effect of what’s otherwise such a fun episode makes it that much more frustrating.
So, to get this out of the way so we can quickly get back to the plentiful good stuff: What the hell is going on with Ralph Dibny?
It’s unsurprising that The Flash turns a corner with Ralph (Hartley Sawyer) in this episode; he spent “Subject 9" in a state of heightened terror, then watched someone who trusted him die as he stood there, unable to help. It makes sense that some of his quipping and tomfoolery would be stripped away. But he also ended “Subject 9" in a moment of commitment, telling Barry that they need to find the remaining three bus metas before anyone else dies. Yet “Run, Iris, Run” sees Dibny not only refusing to leave STAR Labs, but openly goading and belittling Iris for not being a superhero. There’s no mention of the fact that he, himself, has screwed up as a hero, no acknowledgment that staying safe in the bunker is exactly what he’s choosing to do, and almost no protest from the rest of the team when this happens.
It’s not good. That last item is so off-putting, in fact, that it’s hard not to wonder if perhaps credited writer Eric Wallace and director Harry Jierjian didn’t view Dibny’s behavior as being particularly troubling. It’s not that the position that Ralph is in isn’t worthy of sympathy, and it’s understandable that he might choose to lash out. But with the exception of his very first mini-tantrum after Cisco first refuses to help Harry with the Thinking Cap — the only one, for my money, that actually works — he’s only lashing out at Iris. Not Cisco, the person refusing to help Harry. Not Barry, the superhero who’s not fast enough to stop him. Not the team as a whole. Just Iris. It’s not great, Bob, and it’s not remotely believable that none of those characters would speak up for Iris.
It’s not the only instance of thoughtlessness here, but the others are of the more mundane (and more typically Flash) variety. Nearly all of them can be easily overlooked, given the episode’s many other pleasures. Candice Patton is a realiably enjoyable presence on The Flash. She’s been good, even when her material has been lackluster. Here, though, she’s dynamite. Iris glows with palpable joy when she’s running, and Patton lends subtlety and empathy to Iris’s scenes with a frustrated and discombobulated Barry. She’s equally as good when Dibny’s condescension rattles her, and when the episode finally truly centers on her — on what Iris wants, not what someone else has made her want to prove — all the other flaws fade away.
Patton isn’t the only thing to like about “Run, Iris, Run,” but she’s such a delight to watch, and she carries the episode without so much as misstep. Heightening what’s an already pleasurable storyline is that it’s so grievously overdue. The acknowledgement that Iris used to have a life outside Team Flash is almost jarring, since over the last two seasons, the show has done little to develop Iris outside of her relationship with Barry and the threat of Savitar. There’s a palpable energy to all things Iris and Iris-related, as though everyone involved is grateful for the breath of fresh air. Even the hokey, implausible stuff feels like a new kind of hokey and implausible.
But while nothing can top the sheer joy that radiates from Patton nearly anytime the new Flash runs — particularly that final nod, after she’s created the tidal wave — her final scene comes closest. Watching Iris rediscover her love for writing, watching her realize that it’s the best way for her to be a hero, is a lovely and incredibly welcome surprise, both narratively and thematically. If nothing else, it’s heartening that the show recognizes the lack of definition Iris has suffered of late, and it bodes well for her story moving forward.
The same is true of the development and at least temporary retirement of the Thinking Cap. Carlos Valdes and Tom Cavanagh work together as well as they ever have, and a story about one member of the team wanting to go dangerously far in pursuit of an important end is very on brand for The Flash, and the restraint present here is both admirable and promising. There are no Dark Matter shenanigans, and rather than drag it out for the rest of the season, Cisco and Harry get the cap working just long enough to find the names of the remaining two bus metas. That’s less on brand, and it’s a good sign for a show that’s stumbled a lot recently.
The last promising development: the entrance of Matthew / Melting Pot, played by Leonardo Nam of Westworld. An episode like this one is worth writing a too-convenient meta into the story, but the fact that The Flash has found a way to tie his abilities into the season’s endgame is another pleasant surprise. Whether the Iris-as-Flash idea came first or the power-swiping-DeVoe-combatting meta idea did doesn’t matter, but the fact that they’re interconnected does. It’s an indication of a steady hand at the wheel, and that’s something that this turbulent, frustrating, and occasionally promising season could use.
- Hi! Once again thankful to Scott Von Doviak for letting me step in this week; he and the show will be back with you on April 10.
- That long-lost Weasley brother at the top made me chuckle. He shoots fire! It’s like he has a Firebolt!
- Iris restarting her Flash blog makes her both the team leader and its historian. Pretty cool. That opens up loads of narrative possibilities.
- Jaco Birch was played by Max Adler, probably best known for playing Karofsky on Glee. It wasn’t a particularly meaty role, but he sure had fun with it. There’s only one way to make a line like “I don’t think so, copper, not until I get my money!” work, and it’s to lean into the cheesiness. He leaned way the hell in.
- Other nice moments: Joe’s relief after Iris saves the day; Barry’s silent “thank you” to Cisco after he vibes Iris out of the burning building; Iris grabbing her supersuit and racing away; Caitlin’s obvious pleasure at Iris’s adventure with superspeed.
- How is a tidal wave ever a good solution? And why did both Cisco and Caitlin have to stay to fill in for Iris, when Barry was there to do that? One of them I buy, but both of them?
- And hey, wouldn’t ice have come in handy with the fire?
- And also, I’m glad that Matthew (and Nam) are joining the team, but are they all just ignoring the part where he held a scalpel to Iris’s throat?
- Barry rightly took a backseat this episode, and I liked that the show acknowledged the awkwardness of the transition, but not going to the “we are the Flash” well seems like a missed opportunity.
- “Mad science is just an area of study, it’s not a degree.”
- “I have hangers!”