The Flash: 3.17 Duet
The Supergirl / The Flash crossover last year was a huge amount of fun and expectations were high when, on top of the thrilling Invasion event, another crossover announced. Not only that, it was going to be a musical. Naturally, fans everywhere expected greatness. Musicals have been done numerous times on TV from Scrubs to Buffy The Vampire Slayer and the latter, under the genius direction and writing duties of Joss Whedon, became the epitome of what makes a great TV musical.
In many ways, that expectation was too high and Duet is no Once More With Feeling. The musical numbers are great (more on that in a moment) and it is always a delight to see Grant Gustin and Melissa Benoist bounce each other. But the gangster musical setting wears a little thin after a while and the the story has a couple of flat moments to be truly riveting. But it is undeniably fun and while it doesn't reach the colossal heights of that Buffy musical juggernaut, it certainly has its moments and a couple of surprises in tow.
The arrival of Darren Criss's Music Meister (a villain that was originally voiced by Neil Patrick Harris in animated series Batman: Brave and the Bold) certainly felt tacked on to the end of the preceding Supergirl and he sadly doesn't get a huge amount to do here apart from gleefully (Glee pun intended) play with these characters lives with a god-like awareness of their stories. The episode (and Supergirl's) never really goes further than explaining he's some kind of alien (perhaps a relative of recent omnipotent entity Mxyzptlk?) And the story of him stealing the Flash and Supergirl's powers and racing around Central City is a giant red herring. Though it was fantastic to see Cisco's reaction to
J'onn J'onzz transforming into the Martian Manhunter and then teaming up with Kid Flash and Vibe to take down the villain. At least it comes together in the end with the reveal that he put Kara and Barry in this situation to mend their broken hearts after their respective breakups with Mon El and Iris. Yes, love really does conquer all and a kiss can bring these heroes back to life. Awwwww.
The dream world Kara and Barry find themselves allows the show to realistically bring in every big singer in the Arrowverse. That's why Victor Garber's Martin Stein and John Barrowman's Malcolm Merlyn don't have to conveniently turn up at the same time. Garber and Barrowman are great singing talents (and I'm not just talking about Stein's rendition of the Banana Boat-Song (Day O) from the last episode of Legends Of Tomorrow!) and the episode has great fun placing them and numerous other characters in the roles of gangsters, artists and doomed lovers in the world Barry and Kara are in. Having Garber and Jesse L. Martin playing married gangsters and the 'dads' of quasi-Juliet Millie Foss (Candice Patton's Iris) was fabulous, while Chris Wood's Mon El got to play her Romeo as Tommy Moran. But for the biggest surprises, though not necessarily the biggest voices were Carlos Valdes (Cisco) and Supergirl's Winn (Jeremy Jordan).
The musical numbers varied; they didn't quite have the magic of Buffy's Once More With Feeling but they worked. Melissa Benoist, one of the leading ladies of Glee's later seasons opened the episode with a beautiful version of Moon River while an arriving Barry watched in awe and confusion. I loved their reactions as they caught each other's eye line for the first time though I think they could have upped this for comic effect in further while she sang. The second number with Barrowman, Valdes, Jordan and the Music Meister himself Darren Criss was a pure Glee musical number, complete with backing dancers. Put A Little Love In Your Heart was a solid choice though - like most of the entries - it wasn't a strong enough entry to stick in your head for long.
Unfortunately the second third of the episode does disappoint; while the Romeo and Juliet in a world of gangsters delighted in putting the series regulars of both shows in new roles, it was all fairly uninteresting. The excitement of the real world capture of the Music Meister elevated proceedings but it took far too long for the next big musical number. Fortunately it was the best yet as Garber, Martin and Barrowman's character's sang an emotive, powerful version of More I Cannot Wish You, a song that made great use of their talents.
My favourite song was the episode's only original number Super Friend especially written for the show by Rachel Bloom, the mastermind behind her own musical show, the delightfully funny Crazy Ex Girlfriend (don't let the name out you off, it's well worth a look and both seasons are on Netflix now). As frustrating as it was to take this long for Gustin and Benoist to have a song together, their tap dance routines, hat twirling moments, poking fun at Superman, cheesy rhymes and banter-like lines made this a very funny delight to watch.
But surprisingly, the most emotive song came after Iris and Mon El had woken Barry and Kara from their music-induced comas and Supergirl and co had returned to their own universe. Grant Gustin's rendition of Runnin' Home to You was beautiful; Barry realising he had made (another) stupid decision in splitting up from Iris and winning her back with a song and a second marriage proposal. Gustin was always one of the strongest recurring singers in Glee and this song proved why.
It's just a shame there couldn't have been more. There was too much dull plodding between songs (though I enjoyed Kara and Barry noticing that things get done a lot easier in musicals) and both leads - great singers in their own right - didn't have enough opportunity to show those talents. if you look at the IMDB ratings, Duet is the lowest-rated episode of The Flash by far and that is totally unfair. But then again, I like a good musical episode if it is done well. Yes, there was no connection to the Savitar plot, making it largely filler and I get the audience's frustrations with that. But with something as fun as the Super Friend song, how can you not watch this episode and have a big smile on your face?