Central City district attorney Cecile Horton is really bad at her job. But, to be fair, when it comes to job performance, Cecile’s husband, detective Joe West of the Central City Police Department, is about as sharp as a bag of Nerf Balls.
Where do I begin? Oh, right, I began two columns ago, because this is column three in my series discussing the “The Trial of The Flash” episode from the The Flash TV show. (And there’s a sentence that’ll drive proofreaders crazy.)
Okay, I’ll actually begin with a SPOILER WARNING. If you’re not caught up on The Flash, I’m about to reveal a couple of episodes worth of endings. Now, with the warning out of the way, like a college professor dressing for his twenty-fifth graduation ceremony, I have to recap.
Barry (The Flash) Allen was on trial for murdering Clifford DeVoe. In reality, DeVoe, a super genius whose hyper brain was literally sapping the vitality from his own body, transferred his consciousness into the body of another man. Then he put his lifeless body in Barry Allen’s apartment and framed Barry Allen for murder.
The trial followed the Constitutional principle of a speedy trial, it barely took up half of the forty-two minutes a one-hour TV episode lasts when you use your DVR to skip the commercials. My writing about the trial has taken a bit longer. Okay, more like a terabit longer. But take heart, the trial’s reached the closing arguments and instructions to the jury stage.
Which I’m not going to write about.
Not because closing arguments and jury instructions are boring – although they are – but because the episode didn’t actually show either to us. About three sentences into defense counsel Cecille Horton‘s one-law-degree-short-of-being-ept closing argument, Barry received a Troubalert that the villain du semaine was wreaking havoc in Central City. Barry told the judge there was an emergency and he was needed. Cecille added that nothing required the defendant to be present during closing arguments and the judge let Barry leave the trial. You might wonder whether the defendant can actually leave a trial while it’s still going on. The answer is yes.
Defendants don’t normally leave their trials, because that tends to make juries think the defendants don’t care about the trial, so why should the juries care about the defendant? But they can leave while trials are going on. And case law says that if a defendant voluntarily absents him or herself from the trial, it can proceed without the defendant.
So Barry left the trial to help Team Flash. Not to mention helping us. As I said earlier, we didn’t have to watch the trial’s boring parts.
It took Flash less than one act to defeat the baddie. It took the same amount of time for the lawyers to finish closing arguments, the judge to deliver the jury instructions, and the jury to reach its verdict. Right before the act break, the jury found Barry guilty.
Some people have complained about the verdict coming in that fast. But it happens. It’s what we call in the legal game a flash verdict— no pun intended, that’s really what they’re called. When juries retire to the deliberating room usually the first thing they do is elect a foreperson. Then lots of juries will take a vote on the verdict just to see where they all stand. If that initial vote comes back with a unanimous guilty verdict, the jury deliberations could be over as quickly as the episode indicated. So I have no problem with how fast the verdict came in. I do have a problem with the jury instructions, however. Those things are never fast.
After the verdict, the prosecutor delivered a speech that he hoped Barry would receive a life sentence given the brutal nature of the crime. Which was grandstanding on his part. Barry had been convicted of murder in the first degree. In Missouri, the mandatory sentence for murder in the first degree is life without the possibility of parole.
Before the judge delivered Barry’s sentence, he delivered a speech about how in all his years on the bench he had never seen a defendant who was more unmoved or had such a lack of regard for human life. You know, the usual shtick.
Also grandstanding, but I can forgive the judge his grandstanding. Judges lay it on thick at sentencing, so they can show the voters they’re tough on crime. It tends to get them reelected. When prosecutors lay it on thick and show that they don’t even know what their state’s mandatory sentence laws are, they tend not to be reelected.
Which brings us to the end of “The Trial of The Flash,” but not our column. See while Barry was serving his sentence in Iron Heights Prison, Warden Wolfe discovered that Barry was The Flash. So three episodes later, in “True Colors,” Warden Wolfe made a deal to sell Barry and some of the other super villains in Iron Heights to Amunet Black, a super villain who trafficked in the super-powered people black market. When Barry and the other super villains learned about Wolfe’s plan, they attempted an escape during the course of which all the super villains and Warden Wolfe died. Team Flash told Barry that he should finish the escape plan so that he could be free and help Team Flash defeat Clifford DeVoe. Barry refused.
He was willing to help the others escape to keep Wolfe from selling them on the black market, but that was no longer a possibility. Barry was going to stay in prison until Team Flash could find a way to get him out of prison legally. That would be the only way he could ever feel truly free.
And later that episode, Team Flash did figure out a way to get Barry out of prison. The Elongated Man used his stretching powers to make himself look like Clifford DeVoe and appeared in court. “DeVoe” told the judge that he hadn’t died, he had been in some weird state of unconsciousness. The judge didn’t think to ask any questions such as how DeVoe survived the autopsy which would certainly have been required on his body before Barry could ever have been brought to trial, and ordered Barry released.
So that was Team Flash’s plan to get Barry out prison legally? Committing a fraud upon the court? If that’s the kind of “legal” method they were willing to use, why didn’t they just bribe the jury during Barry’s trial? It would have saved them a lot of time and us a lot of grief.
It’s just like riding a bike. Once you’ve done it, doing it again is easy.
And what we’ve done, and are doing again, is “The Trial of The Flash.” Sorry, that should be the trial of Barry Allen as it wasn’t The Flash who was on trial for murder in the January 16th episode of The Flash, it was his secret identity Barry Allen. I’d think the old habits formed in columns of another era were dying hard but even the TV show called this episode “The Trial of The Flash.”
Anyway, The Flash – err, Barry Allen – was on trial for killing Reverse-Flash – I mean Clifford DeVoe; damn that muscle memory. Barry didn’t kill DeVoe. DeVoe, the super genius dubbed The Thinker, had transferred his mind into the body of a man named Dominic Lanse, because DeVoe’s own body was paralyzed and atrophying. DeVoe took his lifeless shell of a former body to Barry Allen’s apartment, stabbed it with one of Barry’s knives, and arranged for the police to find Barry standing over the body. Presto, Barry was framed better than Dogs Playing Poker.
Barry’s defense attorney Cecille Horton decided that the best way to beat the murder rap was to reveal to the world that Barry was The Flash…
Damn it! You’d think that after thirty years my fingers wouldn’t automatically write about the events of that old “The Trial of The Flash.”
Oh wait. Cecille wanted to do that in the current “The Trial of The Flash,” too. She decided the only way for Barry to beat the case would be for him to testify, which would require revealing his secret identity. No logical arguments such as, Barry is an expert forensic scientist for the police, so would he plan a crime so clumsy that all the evidence pointed to him. Or, if Barry had actually knifed DeVoe to death, why wasn’t there any blood on him when the police found him? Nope, nothing like that could be tried. Or tried. Only revealing Barry’s secret identity so he could testify could save him.
Problem was, Barry didn’t want to reveal his secret identity. He said if his Rogue’s Gallery learned his secret identity then all his family and friends would be in danger of reprisal from said Rogues.
Uh, Barry, you and your father-in-law, Joe West, are police officers who have openly worked with Team Flash in the past. I think you and Joe are already targets. Cecille, who’s engaged to Joe, used to be a prosecutor. So we can kind of reprise the reprisal for her. And your wife, Iris West-Allen, is a crime reporter who probably already has an enemies list as formidable as Richard Nixon’s. As for your other friends – the super heroes Vibe, Killer Frost, and Elongated Man, the Rogues already hate them, too. But they can kind of take care of themselves.
The point I’m making is that your family and friends already have targets on them. So not revealing your secret identity isn’t really protecting them all that much.
Moreover, at this point who in Central Citydoesn’t know the Flash’s secret identity? He and his team routinely use their street names while in costume. Their attitude toward preserving Flash’s identity is about as cavalier as a Cleveland sporting goods store in January. And even if there are some members of the general public who don’t know Flash’s identity; which of his Rogue’s Gallery doesn’t know it? Girder knows it. Pied Piper knows it. As does Plastique, Captain Cold, Reverse-Flash, Zoom, Weather Wizard, Savitar, Heat Wave, Abra Kadabra, Clifford DeVoe, and Gorilla Grodd. Did I leave any out? Probably.
So, again, Barry not revealing his secret identity? Not so helpful in the whole protecting-your-family-and-friends department.
The prosecution called Marlize DeVoe, the “widow” of Clifford DeVoe, as a witness. When Cecille cross-examined her, she used some photos that Joe Allen and Ralph (The Elongated Man) Dibny took of her in lip lock with Dominic Lanse. (Remember, her husband’s mind was in Dominic’s body, so she was actually kissing her husband.) Cecille suggested that maybe she and her husband weren’t so much in love and she and her new lover were tired of waiting for her husband to die so killed him.
Which is one of the worst ways to introduce that evidence. Why? Because it gave Marlize an immediate chance to explain the pictures. She said her husband was dying of ALS and she met Dominic, whose father died of the same disease, in an ALS support group. Her husband could see their mutual attraction so he encouraged Marlize to go to Dominic for the things he could no longer give her. It won the jury back to Marlize’s side.
The better way to introduce the evidence is spring it in the defense case-in-chief. Sure Marlize could try to explain it away. But she wouldn’t be able to do that until the state’s rebuttal case which would be hours – or days – later. Any bad feelings the jury might have gotten from the picture would sit in them for those hours — or days – and take root. So maybe, the jury wouldn’t buy into Marlize’s explanation quite so easily. That way, the closing argument of “We only have her word that she had her husband’s blessing. Maybe she and Dominic were tired of waiting for Clifford DeVoe to die and decided to do something about it,” would have had more effect.
And, for that matter, did anyone think to check out Marlize’s story? Did Dominic’s father really die of ALS? We know they didn’t meet in a support group, so why not check into his father’s death. If Dominic’s father did die of ALS – and what are the odds of that? – nothing’s changed. But if he didn’t, then Marlize committed perjury and the jury would have discounted most everything she said. To answer my own question, no one bothered to check Marlize’s story. So there’s some good criminal defense work.
Yes, “and.” It’s happened again. I’ve run out of column before running out of material. Only this time it isn’t muscle memory causing me to re-type something I wrote back in 1983. This time it’s happening now. Seems that no matter what century I’m in, I’m fated to write endlessly about “The Trial of The Flash.”
So what do you do when you’re feeling nostalgic? If you’re me – and luckily for me, I am me – you write about The Trial of the Flash. No, not the one from 1983, the one from last month. On the TV series The Flash.
So let’s get you up to speed; pun intended. This season Team Flash is fighting Clifford DeVoe, AKA The Thinker, a genius who’s one coyote away from being a super genius and orchestrating some sort of season-long master plan to hector The Flash.
And here’s where we start getting into SPOILER ALERT! territory. I’m about to reveal important plot details from several episodes of The Flash. Why? It’s in my job description. Right after wise ass. If you’re one of those people who don’t watch a show until the DVD set comes out or you binge it on a streaming service, so aren’t current with the current season of The Flash, you might want to stop reading now. The column will be in the archives so you can read it after you’re all caught up. And that way you come here twice so I get more hits.
After The Flash finally figured out DeVoe was the big bad this season, he changed into his secret identity, Barry Allen Central City Police forensic scientist, to question DeVoe. Which played right into DeVoe’s hands. DeVoe had orchestrated events to cause Barry to confront him. DeVoe further manipulated Barry into continuing to confront DeVoe and DeVoe’s wife, until the DeVoes were able to get Barry’s boss Captain Singh to issue a restraining order against Barry. Next DeVoe transferred his consciousness into a man named Dominic Lanse, because DeVoe’s super brain was sapping all the energy from his body, making it atrophy and become paralyzed. DeVoe didn’t want his old body anymore, but he still had a use for it. After the mind transfer, DeVoe/Lanse took his former body to Barry’s apartment, stabbed it with a knife that was there in the apartment, and arranged for the police to find Barry standing over the lifeless, bleeding body of Clifford DeVoe. Presto, the framed Barry was on trial for murdering DeVoe. Now I know I said DeVoe orchestrated these events, but for DeVoe’s manipulations to work, Barry had to act like a complete idiot. So maybe I should have said DeVoe string quarteted them.
According to the show, Barry was arrested on Christmas Eve, 2017. His trial started when The Flash came out of its winter break on January 16, 2017. Which, uh, no! The Constitution guarantees everyone a speedy trial, but that doesn’t mean that the trial starts a few weeks after arrest, giving no one enough time to prepare. Even in the Arrowverse, trials aren’t as speedy as Speedy Gonzales. (You were expecting me to say as speedy as the Flash. Psych!)
The first thing we learned about the trial was that Cecille Horton, a prosecutor and also the fiancée of Barry’s father-in-law, took a leave of absence from the prosecutor’s office to defend Barry. Which seems doubtful. Although the Constitution – yes that again – does guarantee Barry the right to an attorney of his choice, he can’t choose an attorney who would have a conflict of interests in the case. An attorney who was employed by the prosecutor’s office while it was building its case against Barry then left the prosecutor’s office to defend Barry would probably be on the grounds that the attorney could well have learned privileged things about the prosecution’s case while was still in the prosecutor’s office.
On the other hand, considering how poorly Cecille represented Barry, the prosecutor’s office wouldn’t want to disqualify her. It probably welcomed her with arms more open than a Walmart on Black Friday.
The trial started with a montage of scenes in which Anton Slater, the prosecutor, lectured the jury. I’m assuming he was delivering his opening statement. Either that or he was testifying himself, because there wasn’t anyone in the witness stand. As I don’t think even the most careless of Hollywood writers would actually have a prosecutor testifying, we’ll go with opening statement.
Slater’s opening statement was a bit more complete than most. Opening statements give the jury a general overview of what each side expects its case will prove, not every detail of their case. If you give away your whole case in the opening statements, then the jury won’t pay attention when the witnesses testify. And if they’re not paying attention to the witnesses, how will the jury hear it when some witness confesses that he killed the victim? (Oops. Wrong show.)
Slater’s more-detailed-than-most opening statement included showing actual evidence to the jury, such as the restraining order that the DeVoes obtained against Barry and the knife that was still covered in blood. Showing evidence to the jury during opening statements is problematic. Technically, evidence isn’t supposed to be shown to the jury until after it has been authenticated by a witness or witnesses and the judge rules that it is admissible. If you show evidence during opening statements and the judge later rules that the evidence was inadmissible, you’re just inviting a mistrial. And while judges may like invitations to political fundraisers, they hate invitations to mistrials. They hate actual mistrials even more. For that reason, many judges will not permit lawyers to show the jury actual evidence during opening statements
About that restraining order that the DeVoes obtained against Barry. Captain Singh, Barry’s boss in the Central City Police Department, testified that he issued it on behalf of the DeVoes. Which he didn’t. Restraining orders are judicial orders that judges issue after hearing evidence detailing why the person seeking the order needs some other party restrained from doing something. The judicial branch issues restraining orders and the executive branch, through the police, enforce them. Singh could have given Barry a formal reprimand. He could have ordered Barry to stay away from the DeVoes as a matter of departmental policy. But unless Central City is in the habit of bouncing checks and balances, Singh wouldn’t have issued a restraining order against Barry.
So far we’ve had all of that, and I’m just getting started. Literally. I’ve just started covering this episode of The Flash. I won’t finish until next column. At least I think next column. Based on my notes, it might take longer to write about the trial of The Flash than the actual trial.
Poor unfortunate Caitlin Snow – not only was TheFlash favorite transformed into super-villain Killer Frost but now her latest love interest has gone and vanished.
Actress Danielle Panabaker said: “Here’s the one thing I will say about Caitlin’s relationship with Julian last year – I think he was more into her than she was into him. She was dealing with so much personal stuff, so much turmoil, as she was learning about her powers. So I think it’s a loss for the show and for Team Flash, but I don’t know that Caitlin feels Julian’s absence as deeply as she felt, for example, [her late fiancé] Ronnie’s absence.
The above I plucked, more or less at random, from a computer news column. If you didn’t happen you see this particular item, or you did see it and decided it wasn’t worth any time or effort (and I’ve been meaning to speak to you about your attitude, young man!) but even if this item missed you, you’ve certainly read stuff like it, especially if you’ve ever taken and English Lit. Class (and who among us hasn’t?)
Allow me to elucidate.
The paragraph I quoted reports on an interview with Danielle Panabaker, a charming young actress who portrays a scientist on a television series based on a long run of printed comic books titled – some of you may have guessed this – The Flash.
Allow me a digression. I once had a friendly dispute with a book editor over the proper usage of an article in proper nouns. Since, in this and similar cases, (The Green Hornet, The Lone Ranger etc.) the article – “the” – is a part of the character’s name and not just a minor element of a sentence, it merits – nay, demands – the same treatment – courtesy? – as the bulkier sections of the character’s name. It’s all part of the same thing, really.
That is, it is part of a signifier for a person who has never really existed. This “Julian” is a construct fabricated from several people’s imagination – primarily actors and writers – plus computers and ink and, since we’re talking television here, bandwidth and assorted electronic voodoo hoodoo and such. So, when Ms. Parabaker opines that “I don’t know that Caitlin feels Julian’s absence as deeply” as she felt another character’s absence… well, lovely Ms. Panabaker, no she doesn’t. Because neither she nor Julian exist, not the way you and I and Washington politicians exist: you know – flesh and blood and tax bills and all that kind of good stuff. Any thoughts and/or feelings not present on a script, placed there by a member of the Writers Guild (who is, no doubt, a master of exposition) just… isn’t – not so far as the fabrications we’re blathering about are concerned.
We can’t blame the television folk. I think he tends to treat fictional beings as fact goes back a long way – maybe a long, long way.
Any harm? I don’t know, but there is, I think, just maybe, this behavior encourages us to accept on faith what we’re told without knowing that we’re accepting or questioning anything. We’re generally unaware of the air we breathe.
And didn’t I mention politicians a few paragraphs back?
How do research labs in comic book or science fiction universes or, in this case, the TV show The Flash stay in business? Given that their experimental default setting seems to be catastrophe, how can they afford their insurance premiums?
To no one’s surprise, an experiment in the Central City branch of S.T.A.R. Labs went wrong in the Flash episode “Cause and Effect.” The result – other than one of those marking time episodes that crop up when the season has three more episodes but the season-long arc only has two episodes worth of story – Barry (The Flash) Allen got amnesia. It also resulted in the world’s most unnecessary SPOILER WARNING.
By the end of “Cause and Effect” Barry got his memory back. And if you didn’t want to know that, you should have stopped reading two sentences ago.
The A plot of “Cause and Effect” doesn’t concern us now. (It didn’t even concern me while I was watching the episode. I knew Barry’s amnesia would be more temporary than a henna tattoo in a car wash.) It was the B plot that prompted me to get anal-retentive and anal-lytical.
There was this pyromaniac named Lucius Coolidge AKA the Heat Monger, which is a silly name. Mongers sell things. Heat Monger set fires for free so he was actually giving heat away. Coolidge was caught largely because of the forensic investigation of Barry Allen. Unfortunately, some judge had a hole in his schedule and unilaterally moved Coolidge’s probable cause hearing up to that afternoon on the very day that Barry Allen, unlike Cats, had no memory.
Without his memory, Barry couldn’t testify. Well, he could testify, but he wouldn’t be able to say anything more useful than my one-year-old granddaughter could. And he wouldn’t be nearly as cute saying it. If Barry didn’t testify, the judge would find there was no probable cause to bind Coolidge over for trial and dismiss the cause. Coolidge would go free.
Team Flash gave Barry a pair of glasses equipped with a heads up display in the lenses and warned him not to let them get wet. Barry took the witness stand while his supervisor, Julian Albert, sat in the courtroom. Julian typed the answers to the DA’s questions on his laptop which were transmitted to the lenses on Barry’s glasses so Barry could read them in court.
If I said that the scene then played out exactly as anyone could have predicted, I’d be selling the word “exactly” short. Julian used emojis which Barry read out loud. Julian typed too fast so Barry had to tell him to slow down. Barry started to sweat and shorted out the glasses. Barry couldn’t continue testifying and the judge dismissed the case. Coolidge was released.
All in all, a three-minute scene played for comedy relief – it’s funny because Barry perpetrated a fraud upon the court – that ended with a dangerous sociopath being released. Don’t worry about the sociopath, he celebrated his victory by setting fire to an office building in front of eye witnesses who identified him for the police. Worry about that preliminary cause hearing. It may not have been funny like the show intended, but it was laughable.
Did the DA never consider asking the judge for a continuance, because the key prosecution witness was ill and not able to testify? After all, the judge created the problem by unilaterally rescheduling the PC hearing for later that day just because he had a hole in his schedule. (Note: judges don’t normally do things like that because it doesn’t provide the parties with adequate notice to prepare for the hearing.) Heaven forbid that the judge use his free afternoon to read the motions filed in the other cases before him or an article on how to avoid judicial intemperance.
And if the judge denied the continuance? There’s still a solution that’s a lot simpler than creating makeshift and volatile Google glasses. Have Julian Albert testify, for crying out loud!
Julian was Barry’s supervisor in the Central City CSI division. He would have overseen Barry’s work. He would have been familiar with Coolidge’s file. He could have testified with as much authority as Barry.
But if Julian was testifying based on Barry’s notes, wouldn’t Julian’s testimony have been inadmissable hearsay? No. Barry’s test results were records kept in the ordinary course of business. As such, they fell under the business records exception to the hearsay rule; one of the many hearsay exceptions. As long as Julian authenticated the notes, he could have testified about them.
But what about Coolidge’s ability to cross-examine Barry, the person who performed the tests? Wouldn’t having Julian testify instead of Barry deny Coolidge his right of confrontation?
Not according to the case law.
In Crawford v. Washington https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/541/36/, the U.S. Supreme Court held that admitting out-of-court statements that fell under one of the hearsay exceptions violated the defendant’s right to confrontation, if the statements were “testimonial” in nature. If the statements were not testimonial, then standard hearsay rules would apply. If the statements were testimonial, then the Sixth Amendment superceded the hearsay rules and precluded admission.
The Crawford case also said that business records were not testimonial. So having Julian testify wouldn’t have violated Coolidge’s Sixth Amendment rights. Moreover, Coolidge’s attorney could cross-examine Julian as to the procedures that were performed, the test results, and Julian’s expert opinion as to what the business records meant. Coolidge would have been able to exercise his right of confrontation, so no harm.
Anyway, that’s what the case law holds. See how simple it is? Julian testifies and Coolidge is bound over.
Here’s the thing about all that case law, I think it’s wrong. I think its reasoning is flawed and it’s conclusion incorrect. Doesn’t matter. No matter how much I might not like it – and I don’t like it a lot – it’s still the law. And I can’t ignore the law no matter how much it would suit my needs.
And here’s the other thing about that case law; no matter how much it might have suited the show’s needs, The Flash can’t ignore it either.
As we wind things down on the current season of TV, I’m of two different minds on two shows I’d long held in similar regard. Agents of SHIELD (no, I don’t want to add all those extraneous periods. You know what I mean, right?) and The Flash. Both turned in seasons that were rife in comic references. AOS gave us Ghost Rider, LMDs, Madame Hydra, and a dash of the non-Marvel-sanctioned Matrix. The adventures of Team Flash gave us… Flashpoint. I am nothing if not full of opinions on both.
Let’s start with the good, shall we? For the first time in the history of the show, Agents of Shield dug its heels in deep with reverence to the pulpy source material. Because of this, the normally cinema-by-way-of-a-limited-budget show felt larger than ever. With pronounced arcs carrying through a disjointed season, we finally got a TV show with the pacing and payoff akin, truly, to actual printed comics. We had a genuine drive from the beginning to end – allowing the final beats of the season to encompass literally everything that came before it. The means justified the ends, and by the time the stinger for the 2018 season drops, we’re exhausted in the best way.
Beyond the prowess of the prose, where AOS shined brightest came collectively in character development. Over the course of this season, nearly each member of the team was given an arc to follow. And while perennial favorite Phil Coulson was left with the least to improve upon, even he was given a few badass moments to chew the scenery on. With Phil mostly on the dramatic sidelines this time around, the MVP of the season falls solely on Iain De Caestecker’s Leo Fitz.
Where he and co-science-bro (by-way-of-Sam-and-Diane) Jemma Simmons were once the bright-eyed innocents of the team, Fitz was saddled with the most growing up to do over the lengthy season. Shouldering the moral arguments of science-over-dogma, followed by a What If conceit Stan Lee himself would have been proud to take credit for, left our Scotsman bereft of any remaining innocence by season’s end. That the writers of AOS make the gravitas of Fitz’s arc feel deserved stands out as the season highlight for me.
You’ll note we’re three paragraphs in, and I’ve not had a single good thing to say about The Flash. Sadly, much like my thoughts around the literary basis of the arc, Flashpoint does for the TV show the same as it did for the comic and animated feature: drag the whole series down into the muck and mire that plagues DC all too often these days.
Simply put, The Flash’s best moments all contained themselves in the singular episode that largely snuck away from the timeline-altering plot that drove the entirety of the season. The Supergirl crossover episode that showcased Grant Gustin’s singing chops, Duet, stood alone as the single point of light in a dreary season.
As with the source material, The Flash saw Barry Allen time-travel to the past to save his mother from her timely demise. By doing so, we entered an Elseworld tale that spins out like so many would-be DCU alternate timelines. Things are darker, grittier, sadder, and devoid of the humor and spritely spirit that has long been the calling card for the show’s continued success. And by doing so, and pitting Barry Allen against yet another Speed-Based-Villain for the series… we are treated to yet-another-plot wherein Barry must. Run. Faster. Except this time, he merely gets by with a little help from his friends.
Speaking of… Not to continuously drop elbows on a dead Beta Rey Bill here (sorry, I know I’m crossing the streams, but I don’t know any more famous comic book horsies), but Team Flash is as much to blame over the dead-in-the-water season as any linger ties to Flashpoint itself. Whereas AOS took time to build, and rebuild their continuously expanding team – taking time to really allow the audience to get into the heads of Mack, Yo-Yo, and even The Patriot – The Flash seemed content to heap team member after team member into Star Labs without ever expanding each character beyond one or two notes they began with. Be it Wally West, that one scientist who HR Wells loved, or Malfoy CSI (I think his name is Julian, but he’s not worth the Googling), basically every Flash-bro walked into Star Labs, delivered or received a litany of pep-talks about their value to the team, and then sat back to let Barry run and mope. By the season’s end, I felt a connection to every Agent of Shield. I left The Flash wishing I had any feelings whatsoever.
At the end of the day, we know both shows will return for another season. My hope is that Barry and his team will return to the real roots of the character – the fun, and hope – and largely forget as much of the Savitar saga as metahumanly possible. As for Agents… Heh. Well, let’s just say Coulson did his job; I can’t wait to see where they go from here.
I grew up on Broadway musicals. Once upon a time when going to see a show on Broadway didn’t cost you your mortgage plus the life of your first-born, my mom and dad were avid theatergoers. They saw the original production of South Pacific with Mary Martin and Ezio Pinza, the original production of Camelot with Richard Burton and Julie Andrews and Robert Goulet, and the original production of The King and I with Gertrude Lawrence and a then little-known Yul Brynner.
When they were still dating they went into town to see Oklahoma! Over the years they saw Carousel, and Brigadoon, and Rex Harrison and Julie Andrews in My Fair Lady, and Zero Mostel in Fiddler on the Roof, and Carol Channing in Hello, Dolly!, and the original West Side Story with Carol Lawrence and Larry Kert. My father fell asleep at Cats and my mother said she had a hard time staying awake herself.
Our stereo console was filled with “original Broadway cast” albums from all those shows and more – well, not Cats. When I was kid I would put on an album of, say, South Pacific and pretend I was Mary Martin washing that man out of my hair – oh, and I still do that in the shower some times:
“When a man don’t understand you, When you fly on separate beams,
“Waste no time, Make a change,
“Ride that man right off your range. Rub him out of your roll call,
“And drum him out of your dreams.”
Yes, I am singing as I type.
My brother and I would put on West Side Story and dance around the living room, jumping on and off the chairs and the tables and sofas and getting into a lot of trouble. Later on, my mom often took Glenn and I into town to see revivals of these shows and others. In 1966 my father was laid up with a really bad ankle sprain, so I was privileged to go with my mom to see the one and only Ethel Merman in the revival of Annie Get Your Gun at Lincoln Center.
So it’s safe to say that I grew up on Broadway musicals. And love them. I have more Broadway soundtracks on my iTunes playlist than anything else – perhaps not cool, but fuck you and your Beyonce and Adele. One of my proudest and happiest moments and one that I will remember on my deathbed is when I played Peter Pan in Peter Pan at Camp Monroe. I have also played Ado Annie in Oklahoma and every single female role in Fiddler on the Roof except for Golde (Tevye’s wife, for those not in the know). I was Miss Mazeppa, bumping with my trumpet and in full Roman centurion regalia, in Gypsy.
So it’s safe to say that I grew up on Broadway musicals. And that it has continued into adulthood and to the present day. I became mesmerized by Hugh Jackman long before he was Wolverine when John and I went to see him as Curly in a revival of Oklahoma. And I became familiar with Melissa Benoist and Grant Gustin and Darren Criss long before any of them put on a superhero costume through my allegiance to Glee. And I knew Jesse L. Martin as Tom Collins from Rent, not to mention Victor Garber from Godspell, Sweeney Todd, and the 1990 revival of Damn Yankees.
And of course I knew John Barrowman from his days as Captain Jack on Doctor Who. But I never watched Smash, so I never caught on that Jeremy Jordan could sing and dance until last week…
…which was, of course, the crossover musical episode of The Flash called “Duet.”
It was wonderful.
It started in the epilogue of Supergirl on Monday night, in which Darren Criss pops up as the Music Meister, who does “something” to Kara which places her in a seemingly coma and then pops off to find the “fastest man alive.” Meanwhile, Kara wakes to find herself in a nightclub in what looks like the 1940s, dressed in a gorgeous gold beaded gown with a man telling her that she is the last-minute opening act. She steps through the curtains, and finds herself standing in front of a microphone and an audience. She opens her mouth and…to be continued.
And on The Flash the next night…
A young Barry Allen is watching Singin’ in the Rain with his mother, who is, uh, singing the praises of the musical. Then, in present time, Barry is watching Singin’ in the Rain and other classic musicals to soothe his tormented soul over his breakup with Iris. “Everything is better in song,” he says to Cisco, with whom he has moved in as a temporary(?) roommate.
Called to S.T.A.R. Labs because of a breach in the multiverse, they find Mon-El carrying a still-comatose Kara and J’onn Jonzz, who have come to Barry’s Earth because of the Music Meister’s claim to be looking for the Flash. The villain shows up, puts Barry into the same coma-like state as Kara, and suddenly Barry finds himself in the same nightclub as his Kryptonian friend… and she is up on stage, singing “Moon River.” (One of my favorites – from the not-musical Breakfast at Tiffany’s, in which Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly sings the lovely ballad, composed by Henry Mancini with lyrics by Johnny Mercer, while sitting on her fire escape and accompanying herself with a guitar.)
After Kara finishes her performance, the Music Meister pops in and tells them what’s going on – they are actually living this scenario psychically, or “in their own minds,” while their bodies lay undisturbed and inanimate in S.T.A.R. labs. Why the musical setting? Because both are deeply connected to the genre – Barry through his mom, and Kara through her love of The Wizard of Oz. They both must follow the plot of this mind-blowing musical to its end to recover and get back to the real world. Except: “If you die in here, you die out there.”
The episode is full of remarkable performances. Perhaps, at least for me, the best was the beautiful rendition of “More I Cannot Wish You” from Guys and Dolls sung by Jesse, Victor, and John. Grant’s interpretation of “Running Home to You” is heartbreaking and glorious. “Super Friend” is a treat to watch, with Grant and Melissa singing and hoofing and having a joyous time. Jeremy, Darren, John, and Carlos (Valdes) swing to “Put a Little Love in Your Heart.” And Melissa’s “Moon River” is, just, well, I just have to sing along…
“You dream maker, you heartbreaker,
“Wherever you’re going, I’m going your way.”
“Two drifters, off to see the world.
“There’s such a lot of world to see. We’re after the same rainbow’s end,”
If racism is America’s original sin, it’s not surprising that racial issues hold such a central place in our popular entertainments. It also affects our response to these entertainments.
Especially mine, and especially this weekend.
It started with a semi-binge of the Iron Fist, the new Marvel Television series on Netflix. All sorts of people were angry that the actor cast as the lead, Danny Rand, is white. While this is faithful to the source material, it would not have been blasphemous to cast an Asian-American actor. The character, as written in the television series, is not particularly white.
He is, however, really boring. I don’t know if this is the fault of the actor or the script. There are so many things that are not discussed that might fill in the characters’ inner lives. What does Rand Industries do? Do they make things? Do they just do real estate deals? Why does Danny run around like a crazy person instead of asking questions? How do they get from Gramercy Park to Chinatown so quickly? Did they chase each other through subway tunnels?
Maybe these details are filled out in later episodes. I expect to finish the series, although probably not until after I watch Dave Chappelle.
In other words, while I understand that race might be an issue for some viewers, it was not the most notable part of my experience.
I also finally saw Get Out, an amazingly brilliant movie. Race relations are absolutely the point of this movie. It offers a view of the world as experienced by African-Americans that I don’t get to see very often. It also offers a view of white people that I, a white person, rarely get to see. It’s funny and frightening and very important while never making me think I’m doing something that’s good for you. Broccoli should have such a good script.
Should we only have people of color as leads when the story is about their particular subgroup? I don’t think so. There are all sorts of stories that can be filled with people of any race, gender or ethnicity. For example, I love Jesse Martin on The Flash, and I am sure he was cast because he is Jesse Martin, not because they needed an African-American in the part. That said, the fact that he is black adds a definite je ne sais quoi to the series. So does his height. So does his goatee.
My ComicMix colleague Joe Corallo and I have spent hours arguing over these and related issues, usually consuming a good deal of tequila in the process. We have very different responses to the Aftershock series Alters. I really like it, and Joe likes it less than I do (although I think he’s coming around). I’m interested in the story the creative team is trying to tell, and Joe has less patience with the story than he does with the creative team. This is not an argument either one of us can win, because we like what we like and don’t like what we don’t like. Still, these are interesting reactions to have when a series is launched about a character who isn’t a straight cis white guy.
There are times when a character cannot be a straight cis white guy. There are times when a character must be a straight cis white guy. Most of the time, the only reason it matters to certain audiences are our cultural assumptions about which people are worthy of stories.
Musicals are life. And while we weren’t exactly caught up on both Supergirl and The Flash (though we’re told we really need to do that), we couldn’t miss the SuperFlash crossover event. Especially not with Broadway talents like Darren Criss, Jeremy Jordan, John Barrowman, Jesse L. Martin, Victor Garber and Glee alums Melissa Benoist & Grant Gustin!
Thing is, Maddy knew a little something about the Music Meister’s first appearance (played by Neil Patrick Harris, who also beat Darren Criss to the punch at playing Hedwig) on Batman: The Brave and the Bold, so we couldn’t help but compare the two musical episodes.
Could this CW musical event stacked with all our favorites be better than an animated episode featuring Black Canary singing about her love for Batman? Watch the video & find out.