'The Flash' Recap: Barry Faces His Greatest Foe Yet, a Contrived Plot

Barry Allen is the most sincere, likable and joyful superhero in the ever-expanding landscape of comic book television. This week, however, he also became the stupidest, as for the first time “The Flash” stumbled in its portrayal of its title character.

Let’s begin with the freak of the week, the Everyman (aka Hannibal Bates), introduced in 2006 in DC Comics’ “52” #21. On TV, Bates’ name first appeared on Oliver Queen’s hit list (nice continuity), but Everyman debuts this week as a villain who can take the form of anyone he touches. It has all the makings of a classic hero-versus-villain showdown, but the episode fails in execution because more than one of our protagonists ends up looking like a drooling idiot.

Everyman is introduced in a harmless story fashion, with the villain taking the form of a woman to clear out some safe-deposit boxes. Police arrest the woman, who swears she’s innocent, despite the recorded evidence. This brings to light a number of potential suspects in Central City prisons who have solid alibis yet are shown on tape committing crimes. Everyman tries to sell the stolen jewels, which alerts Eddie Thawne. The detective tracks the villain, only to be framed by Everyman in the shooting two cops.

Eddie is jailed, which Barry takes personally because of his own father’s wrongful imprisonment, laying the groundwork for what should be a rollicking episode with high stakes. Except that, after Eddie begs his friend to clear his name, Barry is visited at home by Everyman in Eddie’s form. And Barry falls for the ruse, even after he just saw Eddie.

There’s absolutely no reason to make Barry look that stupid. Everyman could assume any number of forms to fool Barry, but Eddie shouldn’t be one of them, not after he begged his friend to allow him to stay in prison. It’s the worst type of plot convenience, and it really hurts what could have been a very cool episode. It’s bad enough that Barry constantly needs help from Team Flash to solve every villain problem, but here he comes as a doddering idiot for the sake of the plot. This show rules 98 percent of the time; the writers can do better than that (however, they do get points for having a psychotic villain named Bates disguise himself as his mother).

The adventures of addled Barry don’t stop there. Everyman takes Barry’s form (but not his speed), and tries to seduce Caitlin. Of course, Caitlin, who is, as usual, crushing on Barry, ends up terribly disappointed. Finally, it’s Harrison Wells who figures out that Everyman is disguised as Barry, and tasers the snot out of him. That’s when Iris West shows up and insists she bring the villain back so the police will free Eddie. So, instead of calling the cops, Caitlin and Iris drive a deadly, shapeshifting criminal to the police themselves. Of course, Everyman escapes in another bit of conveniently stupid character choices. Caitlin runs to revive the real Barry (hilariously slapping him awake), who races off after Everyman, and hero and villain finally did battle. As they’re fighting, Everyman takes form of Caitlin, causing Barry to hesitate. Despite knowing he’s fighting a shapeshifter, The Flash just stands there, mouth agape, and does nothing. Now the episode is just trolling us, right? Barry ends up defeating Everyman using a serum Caitlin devised, but yikes. Barry does absolutely nothing this episode but trip himself up.

Happily, the rest of the episode almost makes up for the haphazard plotting of the main storyline. Joe West and Cisco Ramon travel to Starling City to investigate the death of Harrison Wells’ beloved fiancé Tessa. West solicits the help of Quentin Lance to obtain information on the fateful accident that we know was caused by Eobard Thawne. Along the way, the two enjoy some wonderful father-to-father bonding as West encourags Lance to forgive Laurel. Anyone watching “Arrow” knows what a painful drama that has been, and hopefully West’s words will impact the increasingly unstable Lance.

Meanwhile, Cisco and Laurel enjoy a little time together as he upgrades Sara Lance’s old sonic grenade. Enhancing the device, Cisco attaches it to a choker, giving Laurel her Canary Cry. In return, Cisco receives a photo of himself posing with a costumed Black Canary, a brilliant moment that almost makes up for the episode’s lack of cohesion.

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