‘The Flash’: Holy cats, it’s a musical episode
Season Three, Episode Seventeen — “Duet”
By Jarrod Jones. Every once in a while it’s important to reorient yourself and get back to focusing on what’s most important. Because this is The Flash, it usually takes an extra-dimensional being to help you along towards those pesky fundamental truths. And because this is the first-ever musical episode of The Flash, the path towards enlightenment is only traveled with a dapper haircut and a song in your heart.
“I told you — everything is better in song,” Nora Allen tells her darling little boy in flashback. That statement is put to the test in “Duet”, the latest Supergirl/Flash crossover, only this time the Maid of Might and the Scarlet Speedster are pitted against… the Music Meister?
You might remember the Music Meister as that one-off villain from the old Batman: The Brave and the Bold days. Meister, here played by Darren Criss, succeeds Neil Patrick Harris in the role. He’s good, not NPH good, but certainly serviceable for the task — though one wonders why the show didn’t just stick with Supergirl‘s Mr. Mxyzptlk, another being with similar reality-warping powers. (And better branding.)
Anyhow, we find Barry crashed out on poor, put-upon Cisco’s couch, a heap of frayed feelings and mush after taking some time off with Iris. The Flash’s current heartache is in sync with Supergirl’s relationship problems — a quagmire of emotion that the Meister looks to capitalize upon. (Why? For love.)
Obviously there’s absolutely zero time for navel-gazing: Mon-El and J’onn travel to Earth-1 with a knocked-out Kara in tow. (The Meister put her under in this week’s episode of Supergirl.) In the Arrowverse, The Music Meister is a ridiculously overpowered metahuman who can travel through the multiverse, run faster than both The Flash and Kid Flash, and he can lull people into comas, making them dream about… being in musicals? Whatever works.
The point is to get these kids singing. And since this is The CW and everybody likes to be supportive, guest stars like John Barrowman (Merlin from Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow), Victor Garber (Professor Stein, formerly of The Flash and currently on Legends) and Jeremy Jordan (Winn from Supergirl) pop by to lend their pipes to the proceedings as well. (Cisco gets in on the action too, because why not?)
For a musical episode “Duet” is all business, treating the occasion as yet another stepping stone towards Barry and Iris’ inevitable reckoning with Savitar. Still, there’s plenty of fun to be had in the interim. In “Duet”, Kara and Barry are forced to confront their current romantic travails: both heroes are on the outs with their respective sweethearts, so naturally Music Meister throws Mon-El and Iris West into a romantic entanglement that sets the plot, such as it is, in motion. Being star-crossed lovers caught in a forbidden romance à la West Side Story means our heroes are forced to watch their lovers make whoopee in front of their very eyes. (“Actually, I was thinking of ‘The Fantasticks’,” Kara says, still miffed at Mon-El.)
There’s a precedent here — Buffy The Vampire Slayer did this years ago when The CW was still called The WB. And there’s a sense of inevitability too: what was once a fun little bit of fan trivia — “hey, Supergirl and The Flash were on Glee!” — has morphed into a musical extravaganza starring a group of people who are really flippin’ great at sashaying across the screen.
It’s a silly episode because it’s supposed to be a silly episode, one that’s designed to clear the palette before The Flash goes and kills somebody off at some point in the season’s final six episodes. You forgive the little contrivances — like why would two nightclub crooners get tapped by the mob to search for a missing girl? — because none of that really matters in this dream world. What matters is how Barry and Kara get out of this little predicament.
Of course this wouldn’t be a proper DC Comics superhero teamup if we didn’t get to see some actual caped derring-do. To fill that quota is Vibe and Kid Flash, who join forces out in the field for the very first time with The Martian Manhunter along for the ride. (These flirtations with DC team-building are killing me.) The whole thing wraps up in a tidy package, just like a breezy musical ought. Savitar still looms ahead, but at least we made time for some pizzazz.
Barry: “You’re a really good singer, by the way!” Kara: “Thanks! My sister always says I put the ‘Kara’ in ‘karaoke’!”
“I reached my limit with magical creeps.” – Kara, who ain’t joking.
Det. Joe: “My name is Diggsy Foss. I run this town.” Kara: “So… you’re the mayor?”
BEST MOMENT: The dads have a sing about it. Jon Barrowman, Victor Garber, and Jesse L. Martin form a trio and sing a lovely tune about their love for their children. (Though Malcolm Merlin kinda gets lost in Det. Joe and Firestorm’s impressive pipes.)
EPISODE’S MVP: Victor Garber’s Broadway chops got a fleeting moment in the spotlight. Yeah everyone can sing on this show. But Professor Stein is on a whole other level.
– Sorry about the recap delay, folks! Travel and work got in the way of The Flash for about a month. With “Duet” I’m back on track — and I may still recap the last three episodes, you never know. (If that’s something you want to read, let me know in the comments!)
– Of course, we first got to see Det. Joe flex his singin’ muscles in The Flash Season Two, Episode Thirteen. (“Welcome to Earth-2”)
– The Music Meister first appeared in Batman: The Brave and the Bold Season One, Episode Twenty-Five. (“Mayhem of the Music Meister!”) It’s a really great episode.
8.5 out of 10
Next: “Abra Kadabra”, soon.
Before: “Attack on Gorilla City”, “Untouchable”, here.