REVIEW: The Flash S4E11, ‘The Elongated Knight Rises’ (Contains Spoilers)

After The Flash stumbled a little in its midseason premiere, one would not expect an episode all about sleazy private eye Ralph Dibny (Hartley Sawyer) to be just what the doctor ordered. But thankfully, ‘The Elongated Knight Rises’ distributed the story lines more evenly than anticipated and struck a balance between the light-hearted shenanigans of Team Flash and the more somber difficulties of Barry (Grant Gustin) adjusting to prison life.

The first thing that ‘The Elongated Knight Rises’ gets right is its approach to Ralph’s so-called heroic journey. Dropping the casual sexism bordering on harassment with which he was introduced is already a huge improvement – though it would have been nice if The Flash acknowledged the issue head on and resolved it – but keeping his selfishness is also ironically a good call. The writers are clearly taking a slower approach to his character arc than they did with Wally (I’m not bitter!), and we get to see Ralph soak in the attention of being a hero but also falter when the danger gets too real. And his momentary cowardice in the face of the Trickster and his ride or die mother (a dynamic duo played with great charm by Devon Graye and Corinne Bohrer) allows Barry to step up as the mentor he was always meant to be.

While ‘The Elongated Knight Rises’ does suffer a little from stifling Cisco (Carlos Valdes) and Caitlin’s (Danielle Panabaker) powers so that Ralph gets his shine, the episode manages to highlight how the team functions as a whole. Cisco especially gets a few great moments as both Vibe and the resident tailor, and Iris (Candice Patton) once again proves that she knows how to keep STAR Labs in check even when she herself is going through major emotional turmoil. If anything, Harry (Tom Cavanagh) has the least to do – but that’s forgivable because his comedic interludes cause a chuckle more often than not.

With the humor and hi-jinx taken care of, Barry is free to shoulder the the emotional weight of ‘The Elongated Man Rises,’ which he does with aplomb. Torn between hopelessness at being trapped in prison with no one to save and optimism that his wife and friends will get him out, the slow passage of his days is deeply affecting. Much of the hour revolves around Barry wishing he could be of more use, and The Flash provides him ample opportunities to step up despite his dire circumstances. One prison fight sequence near the end of the episode is particularly well done, and once again walks the tightrope between tension and humor without falling off. His burgeoning friendship with Big Sir (WWE star Goldberg) actually winds up adding a lot of heart, especially in terms of Henry-related nostalgia.

Not only does Barry form new alliances – and make new enemies – in prison, he also has some touching scenes with Joe (Jesse L. Martin) and Iris. Having to put on a brave face for his family takes a toll on Barry, but it’s also very sweet to see how a simple visit can brighten his whole day. And just like the speedforce scene in the middle of the courtroom last week, The Flash once again takes a totally unromantic setting like a jailhouse and turns it into a vision of loveliness with help from Gustin and Patton’s chemistry and a dash of special effects.

The villains of ‘The Elongated Man Rises’ did not pose much of a threat, but they were very enjoyable to watch and gave Ralph the chance to stretch his skills. There were even Beebo gags, which provided both laughs and a nice link to Legends of Tomorrow. Again, the most frustrating aspect of this storyline was that Cisco and Caitlin had to be held back, but at least the show makes up for it by incorporating their other areas of expertise. And while neither Devoe appeared throughout the hour, nor was their plan for world domination even hinted at, the filler nature of the episode did not detract from its merits. As much as I want to see the endgame unfold already, it was a wise move for The Flash to establish how Barry is adjusting to his new normal as well as how the rest of the team are coping without him.

And, of course, I can’t forget to mention the huge Easter egg that the writers dropped for us in the final scene. The return of a highly-anticipated character and the re-emergence of a pretty important plot point from the season premiere are sure to keep fans buzzing with theories until next week.

Rating: 4/5

Reviewer: Tatiana Hullender (@myrcellasear)

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

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