Well, you’ve got to hand it to Marlize DeVoe. She, at least, understands what a trial — especially a TV trial — is supposed to be. In an episode that races through a story that could have lasted weeks, if not months, she’s the one person who knows the score. She’s the TNT of “The Trial Of The Flash”: she knows drama.
What can we say about “The Trial Of The Flash,” the first payoff to a cliffhanger that didn’t make a ton of sense in the first place? Well, it doesn’t linger, for better and for worse. In his review of mid-season finale “Don’t Run,” Scott Von Doviak made the point that perhaps we shouldn’t be “looking forward to too many episodes of Barry Allen: Wrongly Accused Of Murder Just Like His Father.” That’s still a fair point. Racing from booking to interrogation to court (just… court, no preamble) to closing arguments to deliberation to sentencing is weird, but it could work. After all, The Good Place went through several seasons’ worth of plot in one episode a few months back. It can be done, and done successfully.
That’s not what happens here. It’s easy to forgive a lot, when a story is good. So what if this isn’t how the judicial process works? Who needs witness and motions and sidebars? Who can we thank for sparing us an episode focused on jury selection? That it’s so implausible as to require some more extreme version of the word matters little. What does matter is that these intelligent people with loads of law-enforcement and courtroom experience are all suddenly acting as though they have no idea how any of this works. More importantly, with the exception of a few crystal-clear moments, “The Trial Of The Flash” doesn’t seem remotely interested in the people at the center of its story. This is just about getting it over with, and getting Barry in jail so they can get him back out — again.
Perhaps I’m the only one who feels this way, but the decision to dispense with the meat of the story to skip to the end seems pretty familiar, no? Yes, the show is called The Flash, and some speediness is to be expected, but Barry spent what feels like five minutes in the speed force prison, when it was supposed to last forever. Now one episode takes us from booking to life sentence in prison, and as a substitution for genuine emotional arcs, credited writers Lauren Certo and Kristen Kim have to somehow make sure we all know how the characters are feeling with the extremely limited time that’s left. That they find any time at all is impressive, because my god, that’s a lot of ground to cover.
That’s part of what makes Marlize DeVoe’s razzle dazzle so terrible and fun: the episode just stops and rolls around in the drama for a minute. While The Thinker hasn’t been a terribly engaging villain, Kim Engelbrecht’s turn has mostly been a winner, never more so than here. It’s not just the well-done but shameless sobbing that works, though how Englebrecht makes it all simultaneously convincing and hilarious, I’ll never understand. But what really makes this sequence sing is how utterly unable Iris, Joe, Caitlin, and company are at keeping their disgust off their faces. These people know the jury is watching, they know that this is all a game, but they just can’t. It’s stupid and excellent and entertaining as hell, and in this hour, that last one is a quality in sadly short supply.
There are other moments that ring true, notably the confrontation between Mrs. DeVoe and Mrs. West-Allen in the hallway outside the courtroom (though why Iris, who you’ll remember used to be a journalist, wouldn’t record this conversation is beyond me) and the scene in which Dibney talks Joe out of planting evidence. But for the most part, we’re just racing through the motions, with Barry convincing Iris not to reveal his identity in a quick little conversation and everyone saying over and over again that yes, things are bad. The worst offense, though, comes in the form of the B-story, which exists solely to set up the big conclusion: as Barry is sentenced to life in prison and called a monster, The Flash is given an award of valor by Singh and the Central City Police Department.
What’s Fallout’s deal? Is he a bus meta? How doesn’t he notice that people are never passing out around him? We’re meant to understand that he doesn’t have any knowledge of his ability — he never once turned green while looking in the mirror? He somehow didn’t see anyone react in fear to his appearance until it was narratively convenient? There are no answers to these questions, because this episode isn’t interested in the B-story, and it’s even less interested in the meta on whom it centers. It’s interested in getting Barry in a cell after saving the city, and that’s that.
On the whole, it’s probably best that this story was dealt with so efficiently, and there are certainly some solid moments here and there. But a positive end result doesn’t negate the rocky road that led there. The impulse to avoid getting bogged down is a good one, especially for this show, which spent so much time in the weeds last season. It’s a tough trick to pull off once, to say nothing of twice. Speed through things if you must, but make sure not to move so fast you leave your characters, and their stories, behind.
- Hi, I’m Allison! Scott Von Doviak is battling an ice storm, and as neither of us has the ability to funnel that storm to the dead Earth-15, I stepped in to cover. I also write about Arrow, so if you want to chat about the salmon ladder, you can find me over there. Thanks to Scott for letting me borrow his inflatable super-suit for the week.
- Another solid moment: Wells and Cisco laying into Caitlin for not thinking of imminent nuclear destruction as a Killer Frost-level threat.
- Barry’s new speed-skill is... narratively convenient.
- I understand Keiynan Lonsdale might be busy filming, oh, say, some other Arrowverse show, but it’s weird as hell they wouldn’t at least attempt to explain why Wally wouldn’t show up for his family or to, you know, help save the world so Barry could focus on being in court.
- I’m sorry, no way any judge in Central City believes Barry Allen is the most ruthless criminal they’ve ever encountered. Central City has more criminals than Hogan’s Alley. Several of them have attempted to destroy the entire world. Recently. It would have been a more effective moment without the hyperbole.