‘The Flash’ 4.02 Review: “Mixed Signals”

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The Flash, pardon the pun, hit the ground running this week and didn’t stop. “Mixed Signals” is a strong second episode, and probably one of the most enjoyable episodes of the show thus far. It mixed humor, heart, and the metahuman of the week in a way that was balanced; the pacing moved at a swift pace, but never once did anything feel very rushed. Honestly, it’s everything one could hope for in a The Flash episode and more. The showrunners weren’t kidding around when they said that the show would return to the fun and it truly shows.

The title pertained to more than the metahuman, Kilg%re, who was after his old team for stealing his program and making money off of it while leaving him behind in the dust. Not only did the meta create some challenges for Team Flash, but his presence also tied back to The Thinker. Right now, his motives continue to be a mystery, but at least he’s out in the open (to the audience, at least). Amazingly, he’s the only metahuman who wasn’t created by the particle accelerator explosion, so that’s a nice and refreshingly new take on metas and their powers.

 Jack Rowand/The CW

Jack Rowand/The CW

But let’s break down what gave the episode heart: Barry and Iris and, on a smaller scale, Cisco and Cynthia, working through their communication issues. Even better is that it all tied into the episode’s plot and flowed really well, bringing “Mixed Signals” full circle. Barry, having been… cleansed in the speed force, jumps right back into his life, forgetting about the fact that he’s been gone for six months. The speedster thinks nothing’s changed and goes right back to wedding planning and canceling team trainings without letting Iris know first. Stumbling through some of the conflict (like Barry not listening to Iris during one particular outing and almost not saving someone as a result), they go to couple’s therapy to try and work through some of their miscommunication. What starts off as a very entertaining trip to the therapist’s office (the couple hilariously works out ways to not reveal Barry’s identity and what the “job” pertains) turns a bit more serious when Iris finally reveals what’s really bothering her to an oblivious Barry.

Amazingly, Iris gets to discuss her emotions and doesn’t allow for them to just be brushed aside. This show has long since swept up her grief and feelings under the rug before, so this particular emotional development for Iris  is more than appreciated. She’s so happy Barry’s back and that they’re getting married, but she’s also still hurt that Barry has been making decisions without talking to her. In a moment of emotional vulnerability, she asks Barry how he could have left her behind when he decided to go into the speed force? Iris being angry with Barry for leaving her made a lot of sense. Even in her grief and her need to be strong for others, she was still mad about being left behind to pick up the pieces even though she knows why he did what he did. The need to visit couple’s therapy in the midst of everything happening only made for a better outcome for their relationship

 Jack Rowand/The CW

Jack Rowand/The CW

What’s fantastic about this episode is that even though Barry calls he and Iris “the gold standard,” they face issues like any other couple. Even better than that is that they discuss them and instead of letting it dramatically tear them apart like so many other shows are wont to do, it makes them closer and stronger. Barry and Iris have always had a special kind of relationship and the writers know it, too. This episode could have gone completely different, but instead, like any healthy couple, they worked through it and Barry doesn’t dismiss Iris’ concerns in the end, but listens to them. For so long Barry felt he had this weight on his shoulders and that he had the burden of saving the city himself; but Iris not only assures him that he isn’t alone in this fight, but that they’re a team and they have to act as a unit if they want to protect the city. Their scenes together at the therapy session and later at STAR Labs highlighted all of their strengths and again reiterated how unified they can be when they’re on the same page.

Elsewhere in the episode, Cisco is also struggling with some miscommunication after ditching Cynthia and their date quite a few times to go fight off Kilg%re. What may have seemed like a tacked on subplot provided some nice character development for both Cisco and Cynthia. Cynthia admits that on Earth-19, the day is a special day and she wanted to spend it with Cisco. It’s nice to see Cynthia show a bit of her vulnerable side with Cisco. That they’ve come so far in their relationship in the last six months is great, even if it played out offscreen. They’re being set up to become the secondary romantic relationship on the show and if it continues to develop, it’ll allow both characters to flourish.

 Jack Rowand/The CW

Jack Rowand/The CW

Despite it being a nearly perfect episode, there were some instances where the humor didn’t quite land. It’s easy to see the tonal shift and that’s possibly why the episode swerved too far into the silly humor territory, but it’s commendable that the writers are finally correcting a long-held criticism of the show getting too dark. Happy and fun Barry is back and he’s a sight for sore eyes. Because he leads the pack, it means all the other characters are getting some lighter material as well and it’s wonderful. There’s still the worry that the show isn’t utilizing Wally as well as they could be. For most of the episode, Wally was either knocked out or being placed in the shadow of Barry; obviously, he wasn’t the focus of the episode and there was a lot to take care of plot-wise, but this isn’t the first time this has happened. When given something to do, Wally thrives and the show needs to remember that he’s also his own character and not just there to prop up Barry.

Ultimately, “Mixed Signals” proved to be another solid outing in season four of The Flash. It near-perfectly balanced all the subplots, tied them back to the main plot, and brought a lot of humor to the table. Barry and Iris continue to be the “gold standard” couple in the DCTV universe and their relationship anchored this episode, bringing the heart right along with it. The new information regarding how metahumans have gained powers without the particle accelerator as a catalyst is smart. The Thinker, once again appearing in the final moments, continues to be mysterious, but his presence isn’t at all tacked on. It’s definitely a plot the writers seem to care about and it’ll hopefully continue to be well-paced. This may be too early to say, but even though The Flash is only on its second episode, the show seems to be on the right track.

Random Thoughts: 

  • “The Gold Standard” — the show went meta and this is the writers telling us what everyone already knows.
  • Poor Joe is confused during this entire episode. I love that crazy things happen around him and he’s just learned to go with it.
  • Why didn’t Cisco upgrade Wally’s suit?
  • Is Caitlin still working at the bar? And, while it’s nice that she wanted to offer advice to both Cisco and Iris, I’m not sure that she’s the best person for the job. She’s unfortunately had lousy luck in the love department, but I appreciate that she used Ronnie for reference.
  • Anyone have theories on who the other metahumans The Thinker wants to gather are?
  • A healthy relationship being portrayed on a superhero show without irrational melodrama. Sign me up!
  • I’ll keep repeating it, but making Iris team leader was one of the best decisions the show has ever made.
  • Was this episode saying that having and using too much tech is bad? Was the show shading itself?
  • We got to see more of Central City!
  • I wonder what the therapist really thinks about Barry and Iris’…. triathlon.
90%
90%
Fantastic

“Mixed Signals” proved to be another solid outing for season four of The Flash. It near-perfectly balanced all the subplots, tied them back to the main plot, and brought a lot of humor to the table. Barry and Iris continue to be the “gold standard” couple in the DCTV universe and their relationship anchored this episode.

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About Author

Mae is a Washington, DC-based film critic, entertainment journalist and Weekend Editor at Heroic Hollywood. A member of the Washington, DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA), she's a geek who loves discussing movies and TV. She is also a voting member of the Black Reel Awards. If she's not at the movies, she's catching up on her superhero TV-watching, usually with a glass of wine in hand.

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