TV REVIEW: The Flash S4E13, ‘True Colors’ (Contains Spoilers)

After two mostly filler but ultimately enjoyable episodes of The Flash, ‘True Colors’ actually pushes the plot forward a great deal but unfortunately doesn’t soar to the entertainment heights of its predecessors. Now that he’s in the metahuman prison, Barry (Grant Gustin) must find a way to save the group of prisoners from being sold and hopefully inspire them to use their powers for good. Meanwhile, Ralph (Hartley Sawyer) doubts his ability to be a hero even as his abilities become more and more necessary to the story – something which feels like it’s been done enough times.

The strongest story told in ‘True Colors’ is once again Barry actually being in prison, as it allows him to rely on his own natural intelligence and scientific skills rather than on his friends directing him on how to use his powers. In fact, since the metahuman wing is full of power dampeners, he is forced to come up with inventive solutions to help his fellow prisoners. His special brand of optimism and faith are on display once more, but the only character who seems particularly receptive to it was Becky AKA Hazard. Guest star Sugar Lyn Beard deserves a special shoutout for making her character’s transformations seem authentic despite her limited screen time. Back in ‘Luck Be A Lady,’ she was the epitome of oblivious privilege and didn’t seem to care who she hurt because she’d been hurt her whole life. But apparently time spent behind bars made her reflective, and now she takes in Barry’s preaching of a better life in with sincerity and enthusiasm.

The rest of prison crew unfortunately fade to the background and never rise above the cardboard cutouts they were in their introductory episodes. Some, like Black Bison, even lose the meager characterization they were previously afforded – she used to be singularly focused on reparations for her people, and now she only suggests killing a security guard. Perhaps if The Flash could’ve spent a little more time on this story, Barry could’ve interacted with more of them and helped flesh them out like Becky. Nevertheless, once there’s a few cool moments of they finally have an an opportunity to use their powers again. And while Amunet (guest star Katee Sackhoff, whom I love under any other circumstances) still grates a little, she’s used sparingly enough to be effective in ‘True Colors.’ But it’s Richard Brooks who holds both stories of the night together with his captivating performance as Warden Gregory Wolfe, appearing menacing and formidable when bullying his inmates yet equipped with excellent comedic timing when the situation calls for it.

And the rest of ‘True Colors’ definitely calls for it. When Iris (Candice Patton) comes to visit her husband, she’s told he’s in isolation after a fight and not allowed visitors. But thankfully Cecile is there, having learned not to spill the beans every time she reads a mind, and the ladies report back to STAR Labs with news that Barry and the metas are about to be sold to Amunet in order to come up with a rescue mission. What a coincidence that just then, Ralph has been so ruffled by a random spectre from his sketchy past that he shape shifts before their very eyes into an exact replica of his Irish tormentor. This is more of a Plastic Man ability than an Elongated one, though I’ll allow this minor stretching of the truth since Ralph’s personality is already more like Patrick’s.

Iris springboards off this new power and concocts a plan to have Ralph polyjuice potion himself into Warden Wolfe and call off the deal with Amunet, which leads to a few laugh-out-loud moments in which Ralph must play the Warden, which I’m sure were a hoot for Brooks to play. It’s even funny to watch Joe (Jesse L. Martin) try and fail to coach him while the others cringe at Ralph’s attempts to come off cool and collected. Iris is in the background for much of ‘True Colors,’ but she handles her leadership position as naturally as ever – shifting between taking command and delegating it to others with ease. That being said, after awhile it grates that she and many of The Flash‘s associates must continually take a backseat for Ralph to retrace his almost heroic steps.

Cisco (Carlos Valdes) is relegated to a few well-placed quips, and Caitlin (Danielle Panabaker) becomes Killer Frost to help Ralph be a hero. I can’t deny enjoying her speech about friendship and forgiveness, but it’s something she should be saying to the people who forgave her attempts to murder them rather than to a guy who doesn’t seem to want to help people all that badly. Sawyer continues to play Ralph with charm, but the beats of his story are tired at this point and don’t break any new ground except in terms of his powers. Iris, Cecile and Joe working on Barry’s appeal while Caitlin and Cisco try to break him out might have made for a more exciting and rewarding plot. Ralph does come back to save the day in a big way by the end of ‘True Colors,’ though, so for some people his story may be worth it in the end.

A final point: Marlize Devoe (guest star Kim Engelbrecht, who has been incredible all season long) has emerged as the more developed and more interesting villain, due both to Neil Sandilands leaving and to Clifford’s plan beginning to tear at the seams. He seems to have it all together in the first half, and as the arc moved along it was easy to trust that everything would make sense. But as we’ve now passed the halfway point and aren’t any clearer on the nuts and bolts of his plan, let alone the endgame, the Devoes start to feel like less of a threat. The stakes are certainly raised in this episode, but I hope it hasn’t taken too long to reach the next phase.

Rating: 2.5/5

Reviewer: Tatiana Hullender (@myrcellasear)

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

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