Flash: The Curious Case of Bartholomew Allen

Wait, why did I just super-speed into this room?

Flash has been really erratic this season. There have been some good episodes and some that left a bit to be desired. This particular one has some elements of both. Joe seems to be floundering, and Iris is missing, which most of the cast seem oddly unbothered by, and things aren’t looking great for Caitlin, either. It’s a very odd episode that felt off on several fronts, which is even more confusing when you learn it was directed by Caity Lotz, best known to Arrowverse fans as Sara Lance. There are a lot of balls in the air, as well as a borrowed title, in “The Curious Case of Bartholomew Allen.” You knew Barry was short for something, right?

Things start off with Flash zipping around town. He does several random good deeds, and even gets a little reward, before racing back to the West home for a very different spin on “family game night.” It’s more like Team Flash game night for one thing, and it’s not the usual game you’d expect, which everyone seems fine with except Joe. Joe’s lack of enthusiasm actually brings things to a stop for a bit, although not before a very cool reveal about what’s going on, and a nice nod to Allegra getting better at certain things. Barry and Joe talk about the missing Iris, and then Barry gets an alert from CCPD about yet another high-tech theft. I swear, the only establishments that get more use from Central City’s supervillains than abandoned warehouses are tech companies.

In a nice surprise, it’s not Kramer calling for Barry’s help, but David Singh, who we haven’t seen in quite a while. I like him a lot more than Kramer, with her poorly defined meta-powers and vaguely generic “Native” background they’re slowly trying to bring up reminders of more and more often. Singh goes over the new case with Barry, is impressed with the man’s speed, and a bit put off by some developments with Kramer. In very little time, Barry makes a case study, goes over the evidence, searches the city at speed, and finds the suspect van he’s zeroed in on. Flash arrives brimming with overconfidence, and that never goes well. After a tiny bit of banter, Flash gets ambushed by something he really should have been able to avoid, and the bad guy gets away after an ominous line.

Back at STAR, Barry gets tested to see what’s happened to him. It’s the kind of work that Caitlin really should be doing, but there’s no mention of her at all at this point. Chester steps in to do her work, because as usual, comic book science doesn’t really recognize disciplines or specializations, so a self-taught inventor, who is certainly a genius, can do detailed work on superhuman biology. The results are disturbing, and Barry is showing some bad side effects already, although the concern is undercut by playing the results for comedy. Singh goes to visit Joe at home, and things are not going well with the retired former detective/Captain. Singh offers some help, and is clearly a bit worried about his old friend.

In the Speed Lab, Barry is trying to get everything working again, and Cecile comes to check on him. She’s worried about how he’s acting, with reason, and he essentially brushes off her concerns. Then another alert goes off and Barry races off to play hero. This break-in is at Magnus Labs, comic book home of the Metal Men, a team of android superheroes. Once again overconfident, Flash tries to get fancy with his villain takedown, and blows it twice, incurring further damage to himself. Once again, the bad guy gets away. It really takes some doing for the Fastest Man Alive to lose to a guy with no powers or battle-suit or anything like that. Once again returning to STAR, there’s more bad news about Barry’s deteriorating condition. We do finally get a name for the bad guy, Dr. Orloff, who was a minor character from the Wally West era of Flash comics. Cecile impresses the need for some additional precautions on Barry, and they go do some research in a different mode than Flash is used to. Singh helps Joe with a household task that goes poorly, there’s at least a passing reference to Joe and Cecile’s rarely seen daughter, and Singh decides they need a break.

Barry and Cecile eventually find what they’re looking for, which brings to mind a few other questions. They are in what’s supposed to be a high-tech lab, and Barry’s not using his powers. They just let some random guy in a sweater and a woman they’ve never seen before look through their files? At any rate, they trigger a safety device, and Barry decides he needs to use his powers. What happens next is dramatic, and sort of fitting for the theme of what’s happening to him, but makes no sense at all. Flash doesn’t teleport, he runs every step of where he’s going, just at incredible speed. This little scene really doesn’t work at all. Returning to STAR eventually, somehow, there’s more grim news from AI Gideon. The team goes to deal with assorted tasks to try and find the bad guy, as most of them continue to ignore their day jobs. Cecile works for herself, more or less, although I have no idea how she manages her case load if she’s always helping Team Flash. Allegra, on the other hand, is supposedly managing Central City Citizen Media in Iris’ absence, and she’s never there, either. I don’t see how this is supposed to work. Back at Joe’s place, Singh gives Joe some much-needed advice that Joe doesn’t want to hear, but hits home. There’s a really obscure name drop for a character that, if my research is right, showed up once in a single Silver Age comic.

Cecile finds Barry acting really oddly, and we see another major symptom of his current problems is kicking in. Cecile is very kind, generous, and reassuring with Barry, and provides an inspirational story from her own family history. Barry finally actually listens, and then they get called away by Chester, who has found the information they need. Chester has the bad guy’s plan, and it’s really, really bad for the entire city. Orloff himself is setting things up and looking like a delighted maniac as he does so. Barry makes a desperate decision and Cecile gets her turn to say the show’s most-used line. The Flash races off to confront the villain and manages to beat him, curing himself and inflicting a nasty fate on the mad scientist. Chester gives Barry some surprising news about his recovery that doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, but it makes the team happy.

One week later, the wrap-up scenes begin. Singh shows up at the Wests’ place for game night, and they are continuing what they did before, but Joe is being a lot less of a killjoy, which is nice to see. Singh also points out something I’ve been wondering about with one of the main characters. It’s a really egregious thing they’ve chosen to ignore, especially given Barry’s history on this particular issue with other people. Barry gets pulled away from the party when he gets a call from Carla, and both of them realize Caitlin’s been ducking everyone for quite a while now. Barry goes to her place, does something utterly illegal, and sees the changes Caitlin has made to her place. She pleads her case, admitting it sounds bad, and then Barry acts like a complete jerk rather than a concerned friend. This scene seems really out of character to me, and Barry, one of the nicest guys in superhero tales on screen or page, is utterly inconsiderate on so many levels in this encounter. If he’s trying to utterly alienate Caitlin, he’s probably doing a great job. If he’s trying to do anything at else at all, he’s failing miserably.

What I Liked: Cecile is becoming a better, bigger, and more important member of the team, and nicely growing into the role. It was great to see Singh again. I’m impressed with the obscure names they managed to work into this episode. I was amused by what they had Allegra doing in most of the scenes she was in. The family game night was fun, and the change from Flash running around town to Barry joining in was very well done.

What I Didn’t: This episode had a lot of flaws and was really kind of a downer in general. Some of what happened with Barry didn’t work for the way his powers actually get things done. Joe really needs something to do with his time. Cecile and Allegra at the very least have actual jobs they should be doing. That final scene with Barry and Caitlin was horrible on every level, and I’m disappointed with Barry and the writers both. Barry getting caught by both ambushes in the episode was pure overconfidence on his part.

This was a very uneven episode, no disrespect to Caity Lotz, whose work I tend to enjoy. I’m giving this one a 2 out of 5.

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