TV REVIEW: The Flash S4E18, “Lose Yourself” (CONTAINS SPOILERS)

The Flash upped the stakes in “Lose Yourself,” so long as you were deeply invested in Ralph Dibny’s (Hartley Sawyer) evolution as a hero. If not, then at least there were some exciting fight sequences directed by Hanelle Culpepper.

The majority of “Lose Yourself” centered on a philosophical debate between Barry (Grant Gustin) and Ralph regarding the pros and cons of killing Devoe. And while Barry’s argument – that those with powers should refrain from murder at all costs because there’s always another way – is the morally superior one, it would carry a lot more weight if the show hadn’t previously let him kill metas in season 2 without consequence. Or at least if The Flash had acknowledged those deaths (Atom Smasher and Sand Demon, if you’re wondering) as weights on Barry’s conscience. As it stands, the episode seems to accidentally give Ralph the upper hand in the argument, mostly because we’re 18 episodes into the Thinker plot with no progress to show for it.

Team Flash tracks down yet another bus meta in the hopes of protecting him from Devoe, this time the dimension-hopping Edwin Gauss. He was a fun and quirky character who did not get utilized enough, which almost uniformly true of all the metas this year. But with his new powers, Ralph’s suggestions, and Harry’s (Tom Cavanagh) Thinking Cap-inspired tuning fork, the team is finally ready to take the fight to Devoe instead of waiting for him show up. It’s actually a good plan, and the effects for Folded Man’s are visually interesting, but the switch that occurs halfway through “Lose Yourself” would have been much more surprising if the villains hadn’t been ten steps ahead the whole time.

Nevertheless, trapping the metahumans in Devoe’s lair gives the regular humans a chance to shine – a task which Iris (Candice Patton) and Joe (Jesse L. Martin) handle with flair. Iris has always displayed prowess in long-term planning and quick thinking, both of which she employs when she faces off against Marlize (Kim Engelbrecht) in a fight which recalls the best of their ferocity from the courtroom earlier this season. Meanwhile, Joe takes on a Samurai with ease while still finding time to babysit an increasingly erratic Harry. These are the moments that really make “Lose Yourself” stand out, portraying the heroism of everyday people and the bonds that keep this team together even when they’re not fighting a great evil. And they’re moments the show needs more, especially when said evil won’t even reveal its motivation so that the audience knows what’s at stake.

Speaking of Harry, his obsessive use of the Thinking Cap has both Joe and Cisco (Carlos Valdes) on high alert.. They both take turns trying to reason with him – Joe even brings up Francine and her addiction to make him understand – but there’s no stopping Wells when he thinks he’s on the right track. His fateful choice at the end of the episode is pretty much inevitable, and it’s hard to fault him for it considering how badly the team needs a win at this point. But he’s not the only one who risks everything this week, as Caitlin (Danielle Panabaker) also brings Killer Frost into a fight that may be well beyond her means. The slow yet subtle build-up of her bond with her split personality has been one of her best developments in years, and while the surprise that greets them in “Lose Yourself” is shocking it’s also undercut by the Ralph of it all.

All I will say about Ralph is that this week did more to make him likeable and rootworthy than the last few weeks combined, but it’s still too little too late. When Barry discovers that Ralph is selflessly protecting his teammates rather than fearing for his own life, it’s a revelation that makes no sense in light of all the cowering he’s done since Izzy’s death. Once again, his perspective shifts to fit the theme of the episode so that a story which should center Barry will focus on him instead. And nowhere is this more obvious that in tonight’s triple showdown: Barry’s wife faces Devoe’s wife, Barry’s father-in-law faces Devoe’s creation, and Barry’s… friend Ralph faces Devoe himself?

By the end of the episode, it seems the plot will kick into high gear because the team has no choice but to go after their villain in full force. But it remains to be seen whether the writers can delay the unveiling of his master plan even longer than they already have, which will greatly hinder the remaining stretch of episodes. Here’s hoping that they’ve found a clear focus and regained their sure footing from the first half of the series.

Rating: 3/5

Reviewer: Tatiana Hullender (@myrcellasear)

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

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