TV REVIEW: The Flash S4E16, ‘Run Iris Run’ (CONTAINS SPOILERS)

Iris West-Allen (Candice Patton) gets her husband’s powers for a day in “Run Iris Run,” which only falls short of being one of the best episodes of The Flash this season due to an extraneous subplot or two.

After Barry (Grant Gustin) disappeared into the speedforce last year, Iris stepped up as the leader of Team Flash in order to ensure that Central City remained protected in its hero’s absence. Upon his return, she remained in that position and helped STAR Labs function more efficiently than ever before, leaving many viewers to wonder what had become of her journalism career. “Run Iris Run” finally answered that question in a roundabout yet surprisingly organic way, opening up new avenues for the future and allowing Patton to explore the more light-hearted and fun-loving side of her character.

The story begins when Iris is made to question her bravery – we’ll get to that in a bit – and decides to go out into the field with Joe (Jesse L. Martin) to question a suspected bus meta. She’s as tired of staying within the walls of STAR Labs as we are of watching everyone stay there, but she runs into more trouble than she bargained for when the new meta Melting Point (guest star Leonardo Nam) transfers Barry’s powers to her. Now only Iris can do the Flash’s job and save the day, much to her trepidation and excitement. Patton plays the different levels here perfectly, and Gustin also adds depth to what could otherwise be just another temporary loss of speed. He’s supportive of his wife, afraid for her safety, and consumed by the thought of no longer being himself if he’s not a meta. The training sessions bring some season one vibes with them as well, reminding fans and team members alike of the joys of discovering one’s abilities for the first time. It’s all fun and games until Iris’ confidence plummets as the threats she faces escalate, testing Barry’s own leadership skills or lack thereof.

“Run Iris Run” works on two levels: it’s a great role reversal for Barry and Iris that forces them to understand the position the other is put in daily, but it’s also a wake-up call for Iris about her own destiny. She doesn’t regret serving as leader, and by the end of the episode it’s clear how much the team needs her as one, but she’s been neglecting her passion in favor of Barry’s all season. Not only do the writers come up with a fun and inventive way to introduce a new power and speed suit (one which we’re certain to be seeing again soon), they also provide an opportunity for Iris to grapple with the fear she’s been hiding since Savitar nearly killed her and to start living her best life once more. There are a few minor quibbles with this portion of the episode, such as the question of why Killer Frost (Danielle Panabaker) isn’t sent out to help stop a fire, but overall it’s an entertaining and touching storyline with a satisfying conclusion.

The bigger problem is that Iris’ insecurities are triggered by Ralph (Hartley Sawyer) regressing to his man-child ways after an episode of great growth two weeks ago. How is it that he can accuse her of hiding behind the console while everyone else risks their lives when he hasn’t left the lab since finding out Devoe plans to kill him? It’s frustrating to watch him pout and whine his way through the proceedings, especially when more time could have been devoted to deepening Caitlin’s friendship with Iris given how supportive she is of the new female speedster, or exploring Cisco’s (Carlos Valdes) own fears this episode. While Ralph’s storyline is clearly building to a climax in the upcoming battle against Devoe, it currently feels too much like treading water. I’m more interested in learning how Melting Point will fit in with the team, for example, than in whether Ralph will ever get over his selfish tendencies.

Speaking of Cisco, his subplot with Harry (Tom Cavanagh) in “Run Iris Run” revolved around all the ways that creating a Thinking Cap could go wrong. Since Barry was sent to prison, Harry has been pursuing every possible avenue of defeating the Thinker with a single-minded determination that borders on obsession. Now that he’s planning to enhance his own mind the way Devoe once did, Cisco puts his foot down and demands that his friend consider the consequences first. Cavanagh and Valdes have excellent chemistry, which makes their scenes flow very nicely, but it still felt like part of the equation was missing. We know that Harry trying to improve his thought process with dark matter is bad because Cisco says it is, but it might’ve helped to actually see some negative effects for Harry this week. Nevertheless, The Flash was wise to incorporate some moments that push the larger arc forward even as the main focus was on the emotional fallout of Iris’ new powers.

The last two episodes have struck a nice balance in tone for the show, letting character beats breathe amidst the jokes and including major plot points in between enjoyable filler. Hopefully they can maintain this momentum after the hiatus, as the team finally launches into the final stages of their fight against the Devoes.

Rating: 4/5

Reviewer: Tatiana Hullender (@myrcellasear)

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

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