The Flash Season 3 Recap And Review – Episode 17: ‘Duet’
Musical episodes are very hit or miss. Ever since Joss Whedon created Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s “Once More With Feeling,” genre writers have been tried shoehorning musical episodes into their creations. So when it was revealed that Supergirl was moving to the CW, the company made sure to fast track a Flash/Supergirl musical crossover. The result is “Duet“, an episode that you’ll either love or hate depending on your how much you enjoy the musical format. As far as I’m concerned “Duet” is one of the strongest episodes this season.
Now let’s be fair, a musical episode makes a lot of sense. Grant Gustin and Melissa Benoist have proven their musical chops during stints on the musical TV show, Glee. The two have shockingly good on-screen chemistry and the supporting cast is chalk full of performers with strong singing voices. In fact, when Benoist was announced as Supergirl, the fans demanded a Flash/Supergirl crossover with a musical slant. After nearly two years, it’s no surprise that the powers that be gave the fans what they wanted.
The premise of the episode is pretty basic: Kara Danvers and Barry Allen have been trapped by the Music Meister (Darren Criss) in a hypnotic musical maze. In order to get free, they have to sing their through the maze’s plot and finish the story. It’s a silly enough premise that allows the Brave and the Bold to break into song and dance, replete with period costumes and accents.
I’ve gone on record that half the fun of The Flash is that the character is hopeful (and even funny) in the darkest of situations. It’s this constant ray of hope that really gives the Flash his power, and provides a stark contrast to broodier characters that whisper sweet nothings into the night. So when you compare that basic template to the absolute slog of negativity that’s been the majority of Season Three, the injection of a surreal musical “break” was exactly what the doctor ordered.
Then there’s the humor. Instead of treating “Duet” too seriously, the writers chose to have a bit of fun this week as Barry and Kara realize they’re trapped inside of a musical. This allows them to break the fourth wall, make inside jokes and even point out the absurd neatness the musical genre. That said, the humor wasn’t exclusively on the musical front. A lot of the fun came from actors taking on new roles, similar to our experiences in “Welcome to Earth 2“.
What made this all the more enjoyable is that “Duet” pulled actors from all over the DCW to populate their musical world. While some characters like Merlyn are still stab happy psychopaths (this time he has a nightclub too) some characters are radically different. This was no more apparent than Joe and Professor Stein as a married couple trying to raise Iris. In fact, the use of atypical roles was one of the delights of the episode as everyone from Mon El to Cisco had a neat twist on their character.
Now, I will say that musical numbers were the weakest element of the episode. Some of the selections were downright inspired, such as Melissa Benoist singing “Moon River” or the ensemble “Put A Little Love In Your Heart”. In fact, I ‘d say my complaint about the musical world was that we just didn’t have enough performance. Despite the musical promotion, the show used a bit too much walking and talking when a nice musical number would have gotten the job done. Usually that means that an episode will break the normal 42 minute long run time, but if you’re going to do something, do it right. On the whole though, it was a successful experiment.
I think that when you really look at the episode as a whole, the reason why it works, is similar to why the aforementioned “Once More With Feeling” worked. The episode addressed the current problems in the Flash/Supergirl story lines. Instead of putting everything on hold this week, characters were still moving forward. For instance while Barry and Kara were down the rest of the team had to suit up. This required Wally to face his own fears (with help of a divine H.R. pep talk) so he could help Vibe and Martian Manhunter track down the Meister. It was a “squee” worthy moment as the trio stepped up to the plate, a reminder of how fleshed out the DCW has become over five years.
The episode also addressed the dangling love threads that have been frayed as of late. Instead of adding in a new wrinkle, such as Barry and Kara developing feelings for one another, the writing team addressed the real rifts in each character’s relationship. In one hour “Duet” unraveled that plot line and repaired a lot of that “positive destruction” I had been railing against for the last few weeks. In the end it appears the Music Meister was a hero in his own way, healing plot lines and moving our show back into a positive direction. With the re-engagement of Barry and Iris we seem to be hitting a new high note. Let’s just hope this doesn’t come crashing down all over again. I’m going to get whiplash.