This week’s episode, “Dead or Alive,” delivered a tremendous amount of delight and also a lot of poignancy. It gave us so much of what is great about this show and balanced characters and plot without missing a single beat. It brought on compelling character moments and interactions, introduced a new and interesting metahuman, while not allowing us to forget the overarching plot that’s been set in motion. But what really made the episode so memorable was the fact that it let two of its best and strongest characters, Iris and Cisco, take the spotlight.
H.R. has been broadcasting the adventures of Team Flash to the multiverse (inserting himself in the primary role of the story’s hero). Because of this, it’s not hard for Earth-19’s “collector” (guest star Jessica Camacho), who goes by Gypsy (and honestly, they could have used a better and non-offensive name), to find him. It turns out that by hopping over to another Earth, H.R. has broken one of Earth-19’s laws: Citizens aren’t allowed travel inter-dimensionally. To save H.R.’s life, Cisco challenges Gypsy to a trial by combat and has only twenty four hours to prepare and hone his powers to go against his much more advanced counterpart.
Carlos Valdes as Cisco really delivered this week. In an episode that isn’t focused on Barry, it’s refreshing to let other characters take center stage and Cisco gets so much fun stuff to do. Between trying to further develop his powers under pressure, to heavily flirting with Gypsy (negotiation by way of flirtation could totally be a thing!), and telling H.R. why he put his life on the line for him, the storyline really opened up new avenues for Cisco’s development and Valdes doesn’t disappoint in his portrayal. He brings such life to Cisco and this season has definitely gone a long way in making him far more than just the funny sidekick.
Elsewhere in the episode, Iris is tracking down a story about an arms dealer. She is intent on getting justice and writing the story, even though she is encouraged to leave well enough alone (a frustrating throwback to season one when Barry and Joe were trying to control her actions). Iris then enlists Wally’s help (the brother/sister crime fighting team was in full swing and it was fantastic), but he, Joe, and Barry freak out when they find out Iris stepped in front of a gun without a single care to her well-being. Barry thinks she’s doing all of this because she’s afraid to die, but that’s not the reason for her recklessness. Iris is afraid that she won’t leave anything behind and wants her life to have meaning as a reporter and not just as a sister, girlfriend, and daughter. I know she is much more than that, but sometimes the show forgets and so it’s nice that the writers acknowledged it.
Honestly, these could be my last few months on Earth…. I’m just being realistic, Wally, I get to do that. Look, I want my life to mean something, more than just as a daughter or as a sister or as a girlfriend, but as a reporter. This story can do that. It can say that I, Iris West, mattered.
Candice Patton, in one episode, got to be funny (the scene where she distracts Joe and alludes to her being pregnant so that Wally can take photos of the evidence is downright hilarious), badass, and emotionally expressive. Iris has so much agency and is allowed to voice her emotions and her point of view without being shut down. And Patton nails every single second of it and further proves her versatility in this role. The scene where she expresses her fear of leaving nothing behind like her mom did (thanks to writer Zack Stentz for never forgetting about Iris’ mom, which is something that happens too often), was filled with depth and pathos. Iris has always been far more than just a supporting character and it’s in episodes like this, where she really gets to stand out (and also do her job as a reporter), does she flourish even more as a person. The writers most definitely need to find a way to utilize her more often the way they did in “Dead or Alive.”
Part of what makes both Iris and Cisco such great characters is the simple fact that they rise up to the occasion, even when they might not know what the outcome may be for their lives. They don’t simply stay put and let others do the heavy lifting, even when it would have been easy to do so. I really liked that, although Barry was a part of both plots, he took a backseat in more of a supporting role. He didn’t want to with Cisco, and he did try to intervene at one point to help his friend, but he stood back and let Cisco do what he needed to do. With Iris, Barry tried to get her to lay off of chasing the arms dealer story and even though that didn’t work (she still has to do her job, right?), he did want her to talk about what was going on with her and then actually listened. He is comforting afterward and not dismissive (even though he could have said a couple of other things about Iris leaving a mark besides simply stating that Iris is the “woman that I love”).
You’re not like the other Wellses…. No, I mean those two, they were geniuses. We depended on them. But with you, the roles are reversed. You depend on us. Harrison Wells was always there for me. So I just…I wanted to be there for Harrison Wells.
“Dead or Alive” was able to connect both Iris and Cisco’s stories, albeit indirectly, by having both characters take on things they were seemingly outmatched for and still come out on top. The main plot developed Cisco’s powers, which hasn’t happened since we got a hint of what he could really do by means of his Earth-2 doppelganger back in season two, and gave him a worthy opponent in Gypsy. I really appreciate that she is a more fully formed meta than we’re used to seeing on this show and she and Cisco have great chemistry. Part of the reason the episode stood out and allowed the characters to shine was the fact that they weren’t stuck in S.T.A.R. Labs the entire time. We had a change of scenery, Barry and Iris were seen doing their jobs, Cisco was dimension hopping (CatCo from “Supergirl” made a brief appearance), and we even got to see CC Jitters and CCPN again. It’s always beneficial to see the characters interacting in other settings besides S.T.A.R. Labs, which has become a bit tiresome, and this episode highlighted that.
The subplot further developed Iris, voiced her emotions and concerns in regards to her potential death, and finally gave us more of her actively reporting. Candice Patton and Carlos Valdes both prove that when they get more focus and amazing stuff to work with, they can pull it off really well and can solidly carry an episode. The episode was engaging, delightfully fun, action-packed, full of great characterizations, and also a memorable new metahuman. It was by far one of “The Flash’s” best episodes this season and probably of the series thus far.
Next week, Iris is caught in the middle of a meta attack and Barry trains Wally!
- “H.R. Wells’ Adventures in the Multiverse – chapter by chapter.” I died.
- “Wow. What an exit.” Cisco is totally infatuated with his worthy opponent.
- “It’s the beginning of an amazing journalistic legacy.” I sure hope so. Writers, the ball is in your court. Make it happen.
- This episode proved that H.R. is much better when he is just on the sidelines and not taking up large chunks of the episode’s screen time.
- “There comes a time in every couple’s relationship when you realize there is too much love for two people…” I died of laughter. Joe’s expressions (and wiping down his forehead after the conversation) were priceless. He thought he was ready to be Pawpaw last season. I guess he’s not as ready as he thought.
- “Hell no, I ain’t cool with this.” I’m convinced Joe West’s kids are trying to give him a heart attack.
- Iris “bold as hell” West stepping up to a gun like it’s nothing because she knows she won’t die. Loved that scene and the way she carried herself.
- “I’m still a journalist, Barry. I can’t hide from the world because of what you saw.” More reporter Iris, please.
- “Let’s just talk about this like two adults. Over coffee… or dinner.” I love Cisco so much.
- There’s a new pessimist in the lab. Julian’s attempts at “helping” and his claim that the reason Cisco won was because Gypsy was probably having a bad day were fun and just enough not to grate on the nerves.
- I need more Wally and Iris scenes in my life.
- I don’t 100% trust H.R. I’m thinking that the face he’s showing us isn’t really his.
- Barry actually considered shipping H.R. back to Earth-19 if he knew for sure it would change the future. Priorities.
- Barry kissing Iris’ hands, wiping her tears, reading her article five times and constantly reassuring her she won’t die. Yes to all of this.
- I also loved Barry and Iris’ teasing in this episode. They are too precious.
- Earth-19 and their addiction to coffee. I, too, would cry if we no longer had coffee.
- I absolutely want Cisco and Gypsy to date (also, did they give us her real name? I’d rather call her by that if it was mentioned and I missed it).
- Jessica Camacho was such a great guest star! She nailed that role so well and was really memorable. I want her to come back ASAP.
- Cisco finally put on a suit.
“Dead or Alive” is engaging, delightfully fun, action-packed, and full of great character development and a new meta that is memorable.