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Season 4 of The Flash has been a blast thus far, so it’s only fair that you get the occasional dud. Such is the case with “When Harry Met Harry…,” an episode whose title references a popular 80s romantic comedy but won’t have you screaming “YES!” in ecstasy. In fact, “When Harry Met Harry…” leaves you with an uncomfortable feeling similar to the walk of shame after a bad one night stand. And if that metaphor makes you uncomfortable, imagine watching an episode where one of our “heroes” reduces women to their measurements and the featured antagonist is a wooden Native American stereotype that is boring as she is offensive.
The episode begins promisingly enough with an amusing scene in which Barry and Ralph “stop” a mugger while making a coffee run. The scene introduces the central tension between the two, which is that Ralph is too focused on catching the bad guy to worry about protecting civilians. While I’m willing to accept a more rough-hewn Ralph than the one that appears in the comics, this sort of recklessness strains credibility. After all, wasn’t Ralph a former cop whose sworn duty was to protect and serve the citizens of Central City? The showrunners clearly want to emphasize Ralph’s rookie status as a superhero, but if they belabor the point too long it’s bound to get old hat. What already is old hat is Ralph’s horndog lecherousness—given the current social climate we’re in (particularly in regard to the accusations recently leveled against Arrow-verse Executive Producer Andrew Kreisberg, which came well-after this episode was shot, but do come to mind here), having a man comment on the body types of his female coworkers is remarkably tone deaf. It takes all of Hartley Sawyer’s considerable charm to make Ralph seem redeemable enough that you don’t want to see him thrown in Iron Heights prison.
At any rate, Team Flash remains on the hunt for DeVoe, the mysterious Big Bad behind the recent spate of metahuman antagonists. Rather than create some high-tech doohickey that would jog his memory, they bring Ralph in to Barry and Iris’s couples’ therapist (?), who hypnotizes him into remembering who was on the metabus with him (??). In his hypnotic state, Ralph remembers someone with a black bison insignia on the back of her jacket, and sure enough the next scene is of her attacking a guard with her powers. As it turns out, Black Bison (modeled after the minor DC Comics villain) has the power is to control inanimate effigies—an ability, it should be noted, that isn’t a natural part of the bison skillset. This Black Bison, alias Mina Chayton, is a woman of Sioux heritage seeking to reclaim artifacts from her culture. This culturally specific angle could be interesting if “When Harry Met Harry…” invested the least bit of curiosity about said culture—“Sioux” is a placeholder reference that just as easily could’ve been Apache or Cherokee or any number of other Native American tribes. A similar lack of thought and sensitivity went into Mina’s background as an activist (read: left-wing) professor; the episode alludes to the fact that she had a violent past but dares not delve too deeply into sensitive political waters, leaving us with a cipher whose motivations are opaque at best.
More than anything, the episode is designed to put Ralph through his hero paces before he becomes the Elongated Man we all know and love. That explains why we see Ralph in a generic costume—Rookie Hero’s First Super Suit, if you like—that stretches as he does. He also goes through the standard hero does-bad-before-he-makes-good storyline when a young bystander gets injured during Ralph and Barry’s battle with Black Bison. To be fair, the scenes in which the two heroes fight various manner of inanimate objects, ranging from a suit of police armor to a dinosaur skeleton, offer fun visuals. But the empty calories offered by clever fight scenes aren’t enough to nourish the viewer looking for something a bit more substantive.
As for the reason the episode is titled “When Harry Met Harry…,” the B-plot features Harry bringing together a team of alternate world doppelgangers in order to track down DeVoe. This Council of Wells include an effete German, an airhead lothario and a cyborg from a dystopian future. The main point of the storyline is to see Tom Cavanaugh do charmingly terrible impressions of Matthew McConaughey and Mad Max-era Mel Gibson, as well as to have Harry learn to love himself or some such. After some initial bickering, the Council put their heads together and are able to track down DeVoe. But has the Thinker already outthought them? I for one will tune in next week to find out—all the better to leave this clunker of an episode behind.