The Flash: Pay the Piper

Character giving advice: "When I was [insert previous plotline], I was [insert loosely described emotion]. But what that taught me was [insert sappy lesson that's only applicable if it's super vague]."
I kid, I kid. But that's most of the dialogue in this episode.

By nature I love brevity: A lower-middle tier Flash episode. But at least there's stuff happening now.

It's kind of funny. The original Pied Piper episode was the only one from the first season that I missed on its original run, but other than the Particle Accelerator explosion from the Pilot, it's probably the episode the show has revisited most. I'm not entirely sure why, except that once they had already time traveled there, that became the most complicated place to revisit. Andy Mientus is a fine actor, but neither he nor his character is anything special, especially since we don't tend to see the same version of him more than twice.

It's really hard to find much to break down about this episode. Most of it is a retread of the typical Flash formula. There are emotional stakes, pep talks, and B and C stories. The thing is that in 'Pay the Piper', like in many of the worse-but-not-terrible episodes of Seasons Four and Five, the emotional stakes and conversations are dialed to eleven, the pep talks are overwhelmingly saccharine, and the B and C stories are completely separate from the rest of the episode. The dialogue quality is much lower, and the action quotient follows suit.

But it isn't terrible, by any stretch of the means. The actors do what they can with what they've got. Andy Mientus is quite good as The Flash guests go, and I noticed Candice Patton taking on aspects of Efrat Dor's performance from earlier in the season. The direction from Amanda Tapping is fine and never bothered me, and Alwyn Kumst's cinematography does some interesting things, particularly in the mirrorverse sequences. None of it is reinventing the wheel, but there is a lot of extremely competent work being done in most of the levels of production.

It's the writing that's the true failing here, and it's really the script more than the story. Disclaimer: the writer of this episode is just starting her career, and this is her first television script according to IMDb, so I don't begrudge her for it, and I wish her all the best of luck. Even still, the dialogue doesn't flow right, and details large and small feel wrong. The science in particular bothered me a lot. It bothered me at the beginning when the thinnest of connections to Hartley Rathaway's field of study made him the only person who could possibly help them, and it bothered me a whole lot when they were (I think) holding a vial of liquid sound by the end.

And yet, there are some good ideas found within the script. Ralph's Dib-ploma, for example, was sweet and dorky in just the right way. Hartley's wry commentary on the emotional sappiness Barry was throwing at him made me chuckle. And Cecile got some load-bearing dramatic material for the second week in a row, which is always a positive. Maybe it's just hard for me to hate an episode that put Joe back on our screens after I thought he would be gone for a while.

I'm actually curious why Joe returned so soon. Part of me wonders if the halted production made the producers look for a way to sneak Joe into one of the episodes after it had been completed, and this was the most logical place. That scene between him and Barry could have easily been knocked out in a day with just Jesse L. Martin and Grant Gustin's schedules to worry about.

One final note, and it's about Godspeed. He worked well in his first appearance, and at the beginning of this season, but here he came across as just discount Zoom. And with only three episodes left, I'm not sure he really fits. Maybe they're hoping to use the setup they've planted for him and Bloodwork for the next season. I certainly hope so.

Running Plot Threads:

-Iris found Kamila in the mirrorverse, and started having the same 'neural dissonance' that made Eva so weird.

-The latest fake Godspeed was able to speak for a little while. He said, 'The one who sent me wants infinite velocity.'

-Barry did more work on the artificial Speed Force, but to no avail. His speed is beginning to flicker out more frequently.

Pensees:

-Continuity issue: Barry couldn't throw lightning bolts back in Season One. You could easily explain this away by saying he could in the Crisis timeline, but the fact that this explanation wasn't offered in the episode makes me think the error wasn't caught.

-This episode gets continuity points, however, for including Cicada's dagger in the mirrorverse.

-Apparently, Iris and Kamila have spent enough time working together at the Citizen that Iris knows the ins and outs of Kamila's relationship with Cisco. It makes sense, but we really haven't seen them spend much time together. You have 22 episodes, show! Use them to build character relationships!

-This week on characters being dumb: Nash pulls the hose out and then shuts off the helium, not the other way around. Barry saved all the other people in the area before saving the one Godspeed was actively threatening. And Godspeed ran directly into the wave of lightning and sound waves that was being thrown at him.

-The truck Barry was thrown into read 'Crossover Comix and Collectibles'. The person it said to call was Barney Sands, who was a kid who collected comic books within the comic universe. At least, that's the best I can tell. Something is wrong with the DC wiki at the moment, so I can't easily check.

-Are we actually going to Atlantis? Finally! This could potentially be the burst of legitimate fun this show needs. Just no 'hijinks' fun, please. That never works out.

Quotes:

Nash: "Do you not have protective protocols in this place?"

Nash: "There was this big event, we call it Crisis, and-"
Barry: "He's his twin."
Nash: "I'm his twin."

Hartley: "My world is over. I hope yours burns."
I almost laughed at loud at this one before we found out why he was being so dramatic.

Nash: "Whose fault is that?"
Barry: "It's mine! Is that what you want me to say?"

Barry: "Someone just reminded me that we're no good to the people we love if we can't find the strength to move forward and forgive ourselves."
Hartley: "Thanks, Oprah."

2 out of 6 perpetual motion machines.

--
When CoramDeo was reviewing the first episode of the season, he took notes. But what that taught him was to take notes when writing reviews.

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