Musicals have always brought me great joy, but I’ll be honest and say that just a few weeks ago, I was prepared to go into the musical crossover episode of “The Flash” expecting not to like it. But, it’s nice to be wrong and I am more than happy to report that “Duet” was immensely enjoyable and had a definite sense of flair and fun. There was theatrical spectacle, a “Romeo and Juliet”/“West Side Story” storyline, and sprinkled a little bit of “The Wizard of Oz” in there, too. “Duet” had the most saccharine “love is all you need” theme running throughout, but it worked incredibly well for “The Flash,” who is himself a romantic hero. The entire episode was basically superheroes stuck inside of a musical, all gift-wrapped in a fairy tale and I adored most of it.

Photo: Jack Rowand/The CW

Photo: Jack Rowand/The CW

Besides mentioning them simply as part of the plot, I won’t go too much into Kara and Mon-El’s questionable love story because I simply don’t care for them as a couple and within the scope of their own issues, this episode didn’t really do all that much for them. After being whammied, Supergirl is brought to Earth-1 by Mon-El and J’onn hoping that Team Flash can help get her out of her coma. And also because some loony villain named Music Meister (guest star Darren Criss) said he had an appointment with the fastest man alive (but he could have been talking about Savitar, to be honest).

Photo: Jack Rowand/The CW

Photo: Jack Rowand/The CW

To teach them a lesson, Music Meister plays a warped version of Cupid/romantic counselor and sends Barry and Kara into a dream world they’ve created in their minds. It all gets very stylishly ‘40s and musical from there. It’s like Music Meister is the audience. He had zero patience for Barry’s mistake last week, so he takes it upon himself to help fix it. Forbidden love, gangster feuds, breaking into song, and shootouts are all a part of the script Barry and Kara have to follow in order to leave the dream world and learn their lesson. Which is, of course, that love conquers all and that “love is about letting yourself be saved and not just about saving other people.”

I had reservations about Darren Criss playing Music Meister, but he proved worthy of the role. It was entertaining to watch everyone’s reaction to him and his escape from the holding cell and interaction with Cisco was an especially great moment. The episode downplays it, but he seems like an immensely powerful metahuman. That is, if he’s even metahuman at all. It was surprising, however, that Criss didn’t get the chance to sing more given his vocal ability. But even though he was the reason behind Barry and Kara’s comas, the episode wasn’t about him and so this can be overlooked. 

“She’s an incredibly brave, strong woman. One look and you can see that. And she wants to be with him, no matter how scared she was to tell you, no matter how dangerous it is to be with him. All that matters is they’re together. And when you find a love like that, well you gotta hold onto it. No matter who’s trying to stop you, that’s clear to me now.”

Photo: Jack Rowand/The CW

Photo: Jack Rowand/The CW

The plot for “Duet” was completely ridiculous and sappy. But honestly, if “The Flash” has proven anything, it’s that it can make these things work in its favor. Last week’s episode ended with Barry Allen asking for space in a final scene that made no sense. The musical sought to rectify his momentary lapse in judgement by bringing in someone to, quite literally, whack him on the head and snap him out of his self-made misery. Barry Allen, ladies and gentleman, pushed Iris West away to help save her from Savitar, but then spends a few days on Cisco’s couch feeling sorry for himself and watching “Singin’ in the Rain” instead. However, any frustrations I may have had with Barry (and the writers) last week magically disappeared in the span of minutes due to this episode’s ability to dish out some wonderful magic of its own.

“Duet” is, quite simply, joyful. The plot is zany and Barry and Kara are charming as they try to figure out a way to leave the dream world before finally playing along. Because “everything is easier in musicals!” But while they’re the center of it all, it’s the other characters, who are different versions of themselves, that also add to the memorability of the episode. Jesse L. Martin and Victor Garber as mob bosses? Carlos Valdes as a musical conductor? Candice Patton as the delightful Millie Floss? Yes to all of this. Their additions into the dream story made the musical feel all the more fun and Barry and Kara’s reactions to it all were hilarious. The songs, both covers and originals, were all executed nicely and the episode had plenty of humor that carried it through to the end. 

tf317_2382One of my biggest critiques of “Duet,” however, is the parallel the writers try to draw between Barry and Iris and Kara and Mon-El. It was a mistake to attempt to have the latter be on the same level as the former and it was really easy to see that in the more emotional and intense moments of the episode. Kara and Mon-El felt like an afterthought and their lack of longevity and history, seeing as how they’ve only been together for a few episodes, fell flat in the wake of the musical’s lesson and outcome. Even in the final moment in the dream, Barry and Iris’ true love’s kiss felt far more powerful and came full circle with Music Meister’s lesson of allowing Barry to be saved instead of the other way around. Mon-El’s moment with Kara didn’t have the same impact and that says a lot. 

Can’t say how the days will unfold. Can’t change what the future may hold. But I want you in it. Every hour, every minute. This world can race by far too fast. Hard to see while it’s all flying past. But it’s clear now, when you’re standing here now. I am meant to be wherever you are next me. All I wanna do, is come runnin’ home to you, come runnin’ home to you. And all my life, I promise to keep runnin’ home to you.”

But enough about Kara and Mon-El. Barry and Iris’ romance took center stage in this episode and it was enough to make even the coldest of hearts melt into a puddle of fluff. Barry has been so focused on saving Iris that it was nice for him to be saved by her (Iris’ other saves include releasing Barry from Gorilla Grodd’s mind control and getting him out of the speed force) and it solidified that Iris is as much Barry’s hero as he is hers. She was an important presence in the episode and took charge when everyone else was drawing a blank about what to do. By episode’s end, Barry and Iris were engaged once more and it was one of the most simple, beautiful, and emotionally stirring moments in the episode and in their relationship thus far. Unlike the first proposal, which saw Barry pull out all of the stops, this time, he outdid himself and sang his proposal in a beautiful ballad called “Runnin’ Home to You.” Every lyric and melodic note, thanks to “La La Land” songwriters Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, felt like an all-encompassing theme for Barry and Iris’ relationship. Combined with the lighting, Grant Gustin’s singing voice, and the way the two looked like they were falling in love with each other all over again made for a gorgeously intimate, emotional, and hopelessly romantic scene.

Photo: Jack Rowand/The CW

Photo: Jack Rowand/The CW

The smaller crossovers succeed where the big four-way crossover failed because they focus on progressing characters instead of just simply giving us a spectacle. “Duet” developed the characters and, even though Barry and Iris’ brief separation was unnecessary, their reunion and second proposal more than made up for last week’s nonsense. The musical was also a nice break from the angst and it’s always enjoyable to see the cast play different versions of their characters. “The Flash” put on a show this week and successfully intermingled superheroes with the musical theater genre and sprinkled it with Disney-level fairy tale goodness. It was a wholly entertaining hour and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get misty-eyed during the final scene.

Next week, a visit from Abra Kadabra!

Random Thoughts: 

  • I felt really bad for Kara. To want something special like what Barry and Iris have and end up with Mon-El.
  • Despite my unkind feelings toward Mon-El, he and Kara don’t have terrible chemistry, but literally standing near Barry and Iris doesn’t do them any favors in that department and they pale in comparison.
  • I am not usually a swoon-y person, but damn it if Barry and Iris don’t bring out my inner sap. Is it weird to say they’ve captured my fictional character-loving heart and I don’t want it back?
  • Can there be a spin-off with Millie and her mob dads (we can nix Tommy and switch him out with Barry).
  • Cisco is getting cocky with his powers. I kinda like it.
  • Poor Wally! I’m glad Music Meister was weirdly there for him too and made him get out there and face his fears post-speed force. I hope we get more of how he’s been effected next episode.
  • Cisco’s annoyance and surprise with Music Meister after knowing he escaped the cell was hilarious. I know S.T.A.R. Labs security is terrible, but has anyone ever escaped the cell?
  • It was truly Disney-level magic. The scene where Iris gives Barry true love’s kiss totally reminded me of “Tangled,” after Flynn Rider “dies,” except there it was a tear that brought him back. I still can’t believe we got a true love’s kiss, but I will not complain.
  • Does this make Barry Sleeping Beauty? And does it also mean Music Meister is like a weird version of a fairy godmother?
  • The costumes! I adored all of the costumes so much (and the hairdos)! I am also a sucker for fedoras.
  • I would pay money to see Iris and Kara team-up.
  • Iris taking the lead by approaching Music Meister and then telling Cisco to vibe into the dream world. I loved it!
  • Candice Patton’s accent as Millie was so good!
  • Iris got serenaded by Barry singing an original song written specifically for them. Mon-El might get a mountain dropped on him if he ever screws up again. See the difference?
  • “Why don’t we have a gif of that?”
  • “You didn’t change anything.” Barry, you were only gone for a few days. What on Earth would she change?
  • “Leave your jacket on.” Barry looked so confused by Music Meister tossing his jacket.
  • Barry and Kara’s level of disgust over Millie and Tommy was just fantastic.
  • “Gather the boys. We’re going to war.” The Floss dads really don’t want their daughter anywhere near that “hooligan.”
  • Isn’t “Runnin’ Home to You” just so beautiful? It’s been playing on repeat for two days straight. My showtunes-loving heart also really liked “Super Friends.”
  • This cast’s talents though? So great.
  • If they’d kept James as Kara’s love interest, her side of the love lesson would have been better.
  • Joe is not here for Barry in any alternate universe.
  • Barry gently touching Iris’ face is my new aesthetic. Them slow-dancing is also my new aesthetic.
  • What the hell will Barry’s wedding vows sound like?

"The Flash" put on a show this week and successfully intermingled superheroes with the musical theater genre and sprinkled it with Disney-level fairy tale goodness. It was a wholly entertaining hour and I'd be lying if I said I didn't get misty-eyed during the final scene.


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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