Katee Sackoff (Photo: Jeff Weddell/The CW)

Unless I’m forgetting something, “Girls Night Out” is the first entirely Flash-free episode of The Flash. (Or at least the first one where his place wasn’t taken by another speedster.) It also serves as a much-needed corrective to the sidelining of Iris last season, when the writers didn’t know what to do with her most of the time other than put her in peril. We’ve already seen a much more take-charge Iris at STAR Labs this year, but “Girls Night Out” takes it a step further by living up to its title. While the men are out of commission, the women of Team Flash (with an assist from Team Arrow) handle the crisis of the week.

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Let’s deal with the menfolk first, since Barry has rarely been as delightful as he is in this hour where he never dons his work duds. The West-Allen union is approaching, so it’s time for the respective bachelor/bachelorette parties. What is originally scheduled to be a quiet night at Joe’s house watching home movies and sipping fine brandy is upended when Ralph Dibny crashes the proceedings. The show is going all-in on Ralph being a sleazebag, at least at this juncture, and while that’s not really the Elongated Man of my youth, his antics do provide a spark in a way the glum Julian never did. I’m not so sure I buy Cisco being so skeeved out by the Golden Booty, but perhaps that’s just a sign of the character’s maturation, as the younger Ramon would likely be all over this plan.

The strip club setting brings both pros and cons. Leading the latter is the C-storyline about Cecile’s daughter Joanie working as a stripper. The purpose is clearly to create an awkward situation for Joe and give him second thoughts about becoming a father again at his semi-advanced age, but it’s a hackneyed reveal, even given her stated justification for doing it. (It’s all for feminism, as she’s writing a book about the female experience in all its forms, including clothing removal for money.) On the plus side, there’s drunk Barry, something we rarely get to see given his super-speed metabolism of alcohol. Cisco has whipped up a special speedster beverage, however, and soon Barry is loudly proclaiming himself to be the Flash and sobbing over his love of chicken wings. Grant Gustin’s drunk acting is pretty hilarious, and it’s a lot of fun to see him get to do this sort of thing rather than simply mope and whine.

Emily Bett Rickards (Photo: Katie Yu/The CW)

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Amusing as the guys night out is, this week is all about strong women (#feminism). Felicity drops in for Iris’ bachelorette party, a treat for those of us who have mostly bailed on Arrow at this point. (Or maybe that’s just me.) Caitlin, reluctant to attend at first because she’s planning to leave town, is talked into tagging along. That leads the group into an encounter with the reason for Caitlin’s escape plan: Norvok, the snake-eyed henchman of Amunet Black (Katee Sackoff). Caitlin’s missing months are sketched in: she went to work as an enforcer for black market queenpin Amunet in exchange for the power to exercise some control over her Killer Frost side. It’s more of a Jekyll/Hyde relationship now (or, as Felicity astutely points out, Bruce Banner and the Hulk): Caitlin and Frost share the same body, but not exactly the same mind.

This is a have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too solution for the show, and I’m basically on board for it, but the route there includes an indulgence in some of The Flash’s worst tendencies, as once again we have a member of the team withholding crucial information and another member wondering WELL, WHY DIDN’T YOU JUST SAY SO? Iris’ pep talk with Caitlin feels like a rerun from last season, and while I’m glad Danielle Panabaker will get the chance to handle both sides of the character going forward, I’m not sure we needed another round of “I know there’s a part of you that’s good.”

An all-women team needs a strong female antagonist, and they get one here in Sackoff’s Amunet. The Battlestar Galactica and Longmire star clearly relishes the opportunity to take a page from Wentworth Miller’s playbook and sink her choppers into the set design. With a British accent and a wardrobe out of Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation tour, Sackoff gives her already very expressive face a workout like never before as she battles our heroes with a shape-shifting glove of metal, ejectable shards. Of course she’s defeated by a giant magnet, but after Frost declines to kill her, the ladies of Team Flash just sort of let her walk away, which...why did they do that? I’m all for seeing Sackoff again soon, but maybe throw her in the Pipeline or Iron Heights next time she’s disarmed. Still, though its flaws knock it down a notch or two from the most recent couple of episodes, “Girls Night Out” is another solid entry in what’s turning out to be a fun season.

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Stray observations

  • Felicity walks right into STAR Labs, because there’s still no security or even a lock on the door. Haven’t we been through this already? It’s one of the most high-tech facilities in the world. How hard is it to install a door buzzer and a surveillance cam?
  • “Disney, you’re a regular in this joint?” Harry was used sparingly this week, but pretty much every line was a gem.
  • “Sad Flash. Why the face?”
  • The fourth bus meta is identified as the Weeper, whose tear ducts secrete a molly-like drug. For some reason he’s crucial to the Thinker’s plan, but we’re still at about 30 seconds per episode for the season-long arc.
  • A prediction: by season’s end, Ralph’s horndog nature will be tamed by the love of a woman named Sue.

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