[Review] The Flash (2014) Episode 4×17: “Null and Annoyed”

Welcome back to Flashcaps, where we review previous seasons of the CW’s The Flash.

written by George Hatch

This week, The Flash tries to handle a very heavy subject with a light touch. It ends up falling on its face.

Spoilers under the cut.

The Plot: The A-plot sees Barry and Ralph trying to capture Null, a bus meta whose touch can render anything weightless, all while dealing with Ralph’s inability to take things seriously. The C-plot involves Danny Trejo’s Breacher coming to Cisco to figure out why his powers have stopped working. The B-plot…we’ll get to the B-plot.

The Good: I was very frustrated with the way Barry was portrayed this episode, trying to control every aspect of the plan, but by the end I realized it was a very realistic way for someone who’s running out of options to react to his situation. Ralph has really settled down as a character and is at times actually likeable, and I absolutely relate to gallows humor. Cisco unable to tell Breacher his powers are leaving him is kinda sweet, up until he fools Breacher into taking several dozen Benadryls under the pretense of curing his power failure…and then brings him a bottle of tequila. What the hell, Cisco?!

The Bad: It took a minute and a half for this episode to piss me off. Barry and Ralph are training against a DeVoe simulation, and Barry gets pissed because Ralph’s not following the script. The problem is that the plan involves Ralph changing into Barry in an effort to confuse DeVoe. Problem: DEVOE IS A TELEPATH, YOU DOOFUSES! Three literal geniuses, two very smart people, one very tactically sound person, and Ralph, and nobody thinks of this?!

Then there’s the B-plot. Ohh boy. See, I understand what the showrunners were trying to do, and their hearts were in the right place, bless them. But having Marlize DeVoe figure out that Clifford is physically and psychically gaslighting her by drugging her with the Weeper’s tears and then wiping her memory with Brainstorm’s powers again and again…

I say this with love, but this is not a show equipped to depict this kind of abuse. When you regularly have to handhold viewers to get them to go with your plot elements, nuance is not a tool that you should be pulling from your toolbox. Severe emotional and physical abuse, together with the implied rape, makes DeVoe a character who can never again be used without triggering parts of your audience. I wonder how many viewers had to drop this show because they weren’t properly prepared for the intense emotions it could cause.

Oh, and mixing Benadryl with alcohol? Never, ever, ever do that. Ever. I’m speaking from experience.

Fuck, I needed a trigger warning for this episode, and I’m not sure that’s hyperbole. Can we get this season over with already?


Seasons 1-5 of The Flash are available now on Netflix. George Hatch is three and a half years sober this month. He can be found on Twitter at @Raeseti.

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