Let’s Talk Flash -&- Arrowverse Classic: The Musical

Arrowverse Review Index

After a week off the air, The Flash came back with Season 9, Episode 7: “Wildest Dreams”, and so we’re back too, discussing that episode, as well as giving you an Arrowverse Classic review of that time Flash and Supergirl did a musical crossover: The Flash – Season 3, Episode 17: “Duet”!

I quite enjoyed “Wildest Dreams”! Wasn’t amazing, but it combined a decent premise for some character work with the joy of bringing in Supergirl‘s Nia Nal (a.k.a. Dreamer). Nia was one of the highlights of Supergirl, with a fun, bubbly personality, conveyed wonderfully by Nicole Maines, with maybe the best superhero costume the Arrowverse has ever put on screen. They even gave us a flashback to Nia vs. THE WAAAAAVE!!!, complete with outright saying that Nia’s dream powers can do pretty much anything.

A great touch was how Iris’s dreams play out as very grounded what-if scenarios not too different from ordinary life, while Nia’s are surreal experiences that defy common logic, full of creepy imagery and symbolism. I’m not sure if it was meant to reflect their characterization or not, but I liked it.

Only big thing bringing this episode down … oh, Mark. Oh, Marky, Marky, Mark. Don’t seduce the newborn inhabiting the body of your dead girlfriend’s twin sister. Just don’t.

The Flash – Season 3, Episode 17: “Duet” review

This is one ep that isn’t about much of anything except having fun.

When television shows do musical episodes, it’s often conceived as a way to have the characters express themselves more openly than they ever would under normal circumstances – whatever feelings they try to keep to themselves, they’ll bellow to the rafters once they start their solo.

That is not the case here. There’d be little point to it – this is a crossover between The Flash and Supergirl, two shows where the leads always wears their hearts on their sleeves. You don’t need to magically compel these folks to sing – just get them on a balcony or in a STAR Labs hallway, and they’ll start pouring their guts out.

No, this ep doesn’t exist to make the characters sing, but to make the actors sing. People had noticed that the Arrowverse franchise had a lot of talented singers on payroll, from Broadway pros to Glee alumni, so they created “Duet” to put them all in one episode and show everyone what they can do – the story is just a loose framework to justify them all getting to sing. Like, there’s little reason Barry’s subconscious would put Malcolm Merlyn into this musical dream world, but John Barrowman is an excellent singer, so there they are.

Have everyone dress up glitzy, do covers of some old & beloved songs – plus one thoroughly jokey original number – and throw in some quips about how “it’s really easy to convince people of things in musicals”, and there you are: a very fun hour of television.

But while this episode is about having fun, it’s also about having fun – about the need to take a break from the heavier concerns of our life and just delight in things for their own sake.

It’s important to remember that “Duet” came out deep into The Flash Season 3, which was a pretty dark time for the show, full of gloomy ruminations on guilt and fatalism, and with an apparent mission statement to make Barry feel terrible about themself every single episode. So when the Music Meister plot kicks off, dropping Barry and Kara into a wacky musical dreamscape that has nothing to do with Flashpoint or Savitar or Killer Frost or Iris’s impending death, the relief coming off Barry is palpable.

Just as we’re meant to enjoy the musical numbers purely for their own sake, our heroes are meant to enjoy this bizarre adventure they’ve gone on, and take some of that upbeat musical energy back into their waking lives (as we see when Barry re-proposes to Iris through song). Heck, at the end, the Music Meister flat out says that teaching that lesson is the whole reason they did all of this – though why that required stealing Barry & Kara’s powers and robbing a bank is a little less clear.

Stray Observations:

  • I mentioned it before, but it bears mentioning again: there is a lot of great singing in this episode. Melissa Benoist doing “Moon River” might be my favorite of the bunch.
  • Even if I hadn’t known Rachel Bloom wrote the song “Superfriends”, I might have guessed it from the line “I’m your super-(that has a double meaning)-friend!”
  • Before watching “Duet”, I already felt that the way Barry/Iris and Kara/Mon-El broke up in the preceding episodes felt a bit forced. Knowing now that was done solely so they could have their big, romantic getting-back-together moment here … it’s a little irritating.
  • This isn’t the only time in Season 3 Barry learned a lesson about lightening up, but like most lessons Barry learns, it was quickly forgotten.
  • I’ll always love the fact that this light-hearted musical outing aired the same week as the Arrow episode “Kaipushon”, a.k.a. the one where Oliver is relentlessly tortured and psychologically broken by Prometheus, while in the flashbacks they practice skinning someone alive. That such wildly disparate tones can exist between the shows is one of my favorite parts of this shared universe.

Question of the Week: What’s your favorite use of music in the Arrowverse?