The Flash has decided to take advantage of some of its ties back to Glee. Both Grant Gustin and Melissa Benoist were regular cast members on the musical drama. Add to that Jesse L. Martin and Carlos Valdes’ extensive musical backgrounds and it only seemed logical that Music Meister (another Glee alum, here played by Darren Criss), should bleed over onto Earth-1 and wreak some havoc. There was no way to examine this episode without inviting my fellow #DCTV Couch Clubber and fellow musical theatre fan Amy Ratcliffe (she writes the Supergirl columns you all know and love) to join the discussion.
Amy: Thanks for having me back, Ashley! And thank you for not making me sing or dance in order to join you this week. I don’t even know where my tap shoes are, so… Anyway! It’s nice to be back in Central City once again.
Ashley: At the beginning of tonight’s episode, Music Meister effortlessly whammies Barry, but luckily for the Flash, he finds himself with an immediate ally in Supergirl and they face this strange new reality with a united front. There’s even a song by Rachel Bloom (who you may know from My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend), called “Super Friend” that backs this up. The song is cute and an obvious reference to the classic Super Friends cartoon that was so many fans’ introduction to the DC Comics Universe. What is not so great about this song, in particular, is that it puts to bed any SuperFlash possibilities that people like me were hoping for.
As it turns out, Music Meister’s motivation for the very specific use of whammies was actually pretty pure. He saw the unhappiness that had been wrought by Barry ending his engagement with Iris and Supergirl being fed up with Mon-El’s frequent lying (by the by: if you haven’t checked out this week’s Supergirl column, Amy and I weigh in over there on just this topic!). The goal of the musical is to reunite the star couples of Flash and Supergirl and help Kara and Barry realize how much they love and are strengthened by their partners.
Is that strong enough motivation for a musical? Classically, the coming together of star-struck lovers has been fodder for many popular musicals (West Side Story, Kiss Me Kate, Spring Awakening), although that isn’t quite what happens in “Duet.” We, as viewers, are misled for most of the episode into thinking that the focus should be on the love between Kara and Barry, before all expectations are subverted about halfway through when alternate versions of Mon-El and Iris arrive to shake things up.
Amy, you and I are both very fond of SuperFlash—what did you think about the reunion of Barry with Iris and Kara with Mon-El? Do you feel good about the respective relationships going forward or do they still seem like they could succumb to the complex circumstances of being a super hero? And, do you think that “Duet” should have dealt with some of these bigger themes as well and taken a page from something like Hamilton as much as the often referenced Singin’ in the Rain?
Amy: Singin’ in the Rain is delightful, but it and Wizard of Oz were referenced way too much, in my opinion. I know those two musicals are favorites of Barry and Kara and kind of their gateway into this whole experience, but surely they’ve at least heard of more current Broadway hits—especially since Hamilton was part of the Mr. Mxyzptlk episode.
That aside, I wasn’t thrilled about the arrival of Iris and Mon-El. Seeing Cisco’s powers being used to bust into the in-tune coma Music Meister created was surprising, too. However, like Kara and Barry pointed out as they progressed through the story, everything is easier in musicals. Those types of jabs at the tropes of musical theatre were amusing and made the story more fun. But following those same tropes, it absolutely seemed like the story was about pushing Kara and Barry together by way of an adorkable “duh, we’re idiots and we clearly belong together” ditty (it’s a good thing I’m not in charge of song titles).
Music Meister’s goal is put a little love in people’s hearts, and it could have been accomplished by having Barry and Kara kiss. But since we’re not going to have SuperFlash, I guess I’ll be okay with at least seeing the super friends happy again. Though, Barry, we have to talk about how unnecessary it is to sing an entire song as your proposal.
Back to Music Meister for a minute, his goals weren’t what I expected. Characters we know as villains are typically plotting for some nefarious purpose, not to spread joy. The innocence of it was sweet and refreshing. And yet, cynic that I am, I can’t help but wonder if Music Meister has something else up his sleeve. Am I being too skeptical?
Ashley: The skepticism feels right on point. Mxy keeps being brought up by the both of us and I think that’s because the two characters feel of a piece. They work under a jovial guise in order to get what they want. Both characters are working in the service of love—granted, Mxy’s motivations were much less selfless than Music Meister’s turned out to be. They both feel like characters that have business left unaddressed with their respective heroes and could crop up again soon.
Maybe we’ll get an M&M team-up in the next seasons?
Back to Music Meister in particular. There have been several characters in The Flash’s past that began as allies (or at least not bad guys), and were turned to the path of villainy after they received powers or had a bad experience once using their metahuman abilities. Heck, Caitlin is currently in the throes of fighting her Killer Frost instincts! I think there is a good chance that we could see the Music Meister making a return later this season, or sometime in the future, in his full bad guy glory and no one is going to be able to escape singing in that episode.
Whether or not Barry’s proposal song was entirely too long and unwarranted—and you were right, it definitely was—are you happy to see WestAllen reunited and heading toward wedding bells once again? And, do we finally think that Barry will move out of his friend’s home?
Amy: I have to cop to not being the biggest Barry and Iris supporter. I have to turn to something I’ve said a few times about Kara: I like when she’s happy and has a strong personal life outside of her time saving the world, even if I’m not the number one fan of who she spends her time with. I can apply the same approach to Barry. And I’m sure Cisco is relieved he’ll stop couch-surfing.
Ashley: We are of similar minds about Barry and Iris, although I do think this season has done a lot to strengthen their bond and make me come to appreciate that they are destined to be together in the same way that they have always been in the comic book continuity. It seems likely that Barry is just going to move back in with Iris (in their loft that looks suspiciously like Kara’s over in National City…)
If you would have told me last season when we got the very first Supergirl/Flash crossover that by the same time this year I’d be watching a musical version and truly enjoying it, I’m not sure I would have believed you. One of the unique things about super hero storytelling is that we’re already along on mind-bending narratives and musicals actually really work there. I’d love to hear from the readers what they thought of this unique crossover, and what their favorite moments or songs were down in the comments!
Ashley V. Robinson covers The Flash as a part of the #DCTV Couch Club. You can find her on Twitter at @AshleyVRobinson and on the Jawiin YouTube channel. The Flash airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. (7 p.m. CST) on The CW.