TV REVIEW: The Flash S4E14, ‘Subject Nine’ (CONTAINS SPOILERS)

‘Subject Nine’ is a marked improvement from The Flash upon returning from its Winter Olympics-induced hiatus. After weeks of waffling, Ralph (Hartley Sawyer) finally steps up to be a real hero just as Barry (Grant Gustin) begins to unravel from the stress of dealing with Devoe. And coming off his recent bout of insecurity, Harry (Tom Cavanagh) winds up inadvertently bonding with Cecile and learning some valuable insight in the process.

One of the biggest issues that has caused The Flash to feel claustrophobic and stagnant in the past is the lack of interaction with Central City itself. While early episodes this season took steps to correct that, the status quo returned as the story went on. ‘Subject Nine’ opened the world up again to great effect, first by putting Barry’s job on the line due to the mysterious outcome of his trial causing a bit of a PR crisis. For once, the town’s residents are actually asking questions and connecting dots, which in turn affect Barry in unforeseen ways.

And while Barry seemed to callously move on from his fellow metahumans’ deaths in the span of a scene last episode, this time his actions reflect how deeply shaken he is. Thankfully he has Iris (Candice Patton) by his side to pull him back when he goes too far and remind him that heroes don’t happen overnight, and they don’t use their enemies’ methods either. Not only is she a calming influence for her husband, she also has the gift of focusing the team even in the sillier moments – such as when they all forget to check a singer’s website for tour dates. Then there’s Ralph, who throws himself wholeheartedly into the mission of locating Izzy Bowin (the country musician who can manipulate sound waves in a manner similar to Black Canary) and keeping her safe so that Devoe can’t take over her powers and body. Throughout the hour, he proves that he has been deeply affected by the kindness the team has shown him and now wants to pay it forward  – a great change of pace from his previous behavior. There was even a hint of romance in the air between him and Izzy, but that was probably the least interesting aspect of their dynamic. Izzy herself was a great addition to the metahuman roster, with useful powers and a hard-won jaded attitude that belied all the layers lurking below the surface, and it’s a shame she probably won’t be much of a recurring character.

Caitlin (Danielle Panabaker) was hardly used in ‘Subject Nine’ – at one point she’s kept out of the action with the excuse of looking after a patient who can’t have more than a nasty headache – but at least Cisco (Carlos Valdes) was given the rare opportunity to show off both his Vibe skillset and his technical genius. The B plot of the night belonged to Harry, however, whose newfound friendship with Cecile is both inexplicable and delightful. Tired of falling short of Devoe’s intellect and failing as a father for Jesse, Harry decides to focus on solving some of Cecile’s pregnancy problems instead. It’s no surprise that even that simple task leads to one of his usual tantrums, but it quite the shocker when Cecile flips the situation around on him and treats him like the child he is. Through a combination of her motherly nature and her newfound mind-reading abilities, she manages to render Harry speechless and self-reflective. Jesse L. Martin was missed this week, but Danielle Nicolet’s performance filled the void and the stories of Joe’s dreams actually helped flesh out his character without even having him onscreen. The best part of this side plot is that it manages to connect to the season’s big bad rather nicely. Remember the cerebral inhibitor? It actually makes an appearance!

Clifford and Marlize have been slowly falling apart since he switched bodies for the first time in the midseason finale, and ‘Subject Nine’ shows him at his moment unstable yet. Watching him take out his frustrations on his wife is almost as painful as what he does at the end of the episode, but for the most part both actresses do a great job portraying a couple trying to keep their relationship from fraying further. Unfortunately the lack of clarity when it comes to Devoe’s long-term plans continues to put a damper on the proceedings, and there are a few instances where the tension is diminished simply because three metas should be able to take on one villain even if he does have six power sets instead of one. But the final moments still pack an emotional punch and at least contain some concrete options for stopping Devoe, so overall the plot is a success.

By the end of ‘Subject Nine,’ things are looking up again in terms of The Flash‘s emotional arcs. Ralph actually feels like he belongs on the team, Harry finds the emotion-driven story he’s been missing all season, Barry has a new day job, and Marlize is well on her way to a breaking point. We just have to hope that the show doesn’t lose momentum on its way to the finish line.

Rating: 3.5/5

Reviewer: Tatiana Hullender (@myrcellasear)

The Flash airs Tuesdays on the CW at 8/7c in the US.

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  1. Betty Williams /

    very well said so true

  2. MA /

    I agree with everything you said about the episode. I really did enjoy the surprising friendship between Harry and Cecile and the fact that it eventually leads to the cerebral inhibitor made it all the better and relevant. Fantastic review!

    • Tatiana Hullender /

      Thanks! Harry and Cecile was refreshing, and I was definitely surprised that I enjoyed it so much. Hopefully The Flash takes more opportunities to develop new friendships like this one, it can only improve the show!


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