But that aside, we all know the truth: this is a Joe West episode. A damn good one. Jesse L. Martin has delivered several of his best performances as Joe this season, and this might be the highlight. We had two spectacular, intimate, heart-wrenching moments with Joe and Barry earlier in the season, and this time we get to see them go at it. Grant Gustin brought it in that scene as well, and it’s great watching Barry and Joe argue, knowing that ultimately both of them are right (“You know I’m not proud like that.”). And that doesn’t even take into account Joe’s cool, calm, and collected waltz into Carver’s home, or the look on his face after he saves first Cecile and then himself from that bomb.
I think most audience members would pull a Flash and try and pick bullets out of the air to protect Martin if we needed to, and this episode is just further reinforcement of that. My only hope is that Joe going into witness protection won’t be something that is as kind of easily brushed off as Cisco disappearing for a few episodes earlier this season to catalog the post-Crisis changes. This was a good, dramatic episode and work got done, so I want the ultimate resolution to live up to that.
I’m always a fan of having Ragdoll show up, if for no other reason than it gives me reason to believe that maybe someday we’ll see these shows try and do something with Gail Simone’s Secret Six comics. But I like the way the show plays with horror movie angles whenever Ragdoll is around. I’m not the biggest fan of this kind of overpowered version of the character, and I hope they find a way for him to revert to his generally more unsettling self at some point, but he’s still exactly the kind of baddie you bring in once a year instead of some other baddie-of-the-week to help make this feel even more like a superhero show than usual.
In fact, one of the highlights of an already strong episode were Barry’s two direct confrontations with Ragdoll. The first, where Flash fails to stop a bullet meant for Joe West, is quick, and even with some really gorgeous special effects (seriously, was it me, or did the few speed shots in this episode look absolutely crystal clear?) felt underplayed and dramatic. But I was really into Barry reduced to banging on pipes with a wrench to try and flush out Ragdoll. Something about the lighting in that scene, the perfect Flash costume they’re using this year, and the pure supervillain-ness of Ragdoll’s look just gave the proceedings a classic superhero feel.
I wasn’t thrilled with the idea of going through more “hero loses their powers” stuff, and I still find the whole “speed meter” Barry wears on his wrist to be some pretty lazy shorthand. But there were lots of subtle moments throughout the episode that I thought illustrated what was going on better than any prop or special effect could. Barry unable to use his speed to win at whatever drawing/Pictionary game they were playing at the start of the episode was one, as were little things like how he stumbles/falls into the room where Joe and Cecile were with the bomb, more out of breath than a trip of that distance should make him was another.