Barry Allen’s mother used to tell him, “Musicals have the power to make everything better.” This week’s episode of The Flash put that theory to the test.
Ever since the beginning when this series cast Glee alum Grant Gustin in the title role along with Jesse L. Martin (the original Tom Collins from Rent), fans have wondered when the show was going to give us a musical. When fellow Glee alum, Melissa Benoist, was cast in the title role on sister series Supergirl, it was a foregone conclusion this needed to be a crossover. What an age we live in where these characters get to interact in live action on the small screen!
While the DC cinematic universe continues to bathe in dark and gritty waters, it’s hard to imagine a sharper contrast in tone than a light-hearted musical. Can you imagine Ben Affleck’s Batman or Henry Cavill’s Superman breaking into song?
Picking up where the previous night’s Supergirl left off, that show’s J’onn Jonnz and Mon-El — Kara’s current beau from the planet Daxam — arrive in Barry’s universe with an unconscious Kara. They look to Team Flash to help them revive the Girl of Steel while tracking down the mysterious escaped prisoner responsible for her condition, who they name Music Meister (fellow Glee alum Darren Criss). Soon enough, Music Meister also puts the whammy on Barry, who finds himself off in la-la land in the form of a 1940s nightclub with Kara on stage performing a beautiful rendition of “Moon River.”
It seems both heroes are “stuck inside this wacky Broadway nightmare” (to borrow a lyric from the most beloved of all TV show musical episodes) of their own mental creation without their powers and where the master of ceremonies is none other than Music Meister. He explains the only way out is to play out the musical’s story. That story, of course, involves a cast of characters who look just like several members of The Flash and Greg Berlanti’s Arrowverse sister shows: Cisco, Malcolm Merlin, Winn, Joe West, Dr. Martin Stein, Iris, and Mon-El.
Along the way, Barry and Kara bond over their shared relationship woes, which leads to a great surprise moment when they realize they’re in a musical about star-crossed lovers who look like both of their respective significant others. Millie (Iris) and Tommy (Mon-El) are keeping their love a secret from their rival gangster fathers and it’s up to Barry and Kara to convince them to tell their fathers the truth.
Joe West Side Story
Fortunately, as Barry observes, “convincing people in musicals is really easy.” Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as they thought. Millie’s two dads — both Joe and Martin Stein — and Tommy’s dad, Malcolm (whose real world son was also named Tommy) make a truce through song but then each immediately plots war once the song’s over.
After singing the titular fan-tastic duet, “Super Friends” (co-written by Crazy Ex-Girlfriend star Rachel Bloom), Barry and Kara are caught in the gang war crossfire, which hurts them back in the real world. Kid Flash teams up with Vibe and Martian Manhunter, and together, they capture Music Meister (a lot of M.M. initials in this episode), who tells Iris and Mon-El it’s up to them to enter the musical world to save their significant others if their love is strong enough. Once Cisco figures out how to vibe Iris and Mon-El into the musical, they save their respective partners and bring them back to reality, each with a kiss.
It turns out Music Meister wasn’t a villain at all, and he really only intended to teach Barry and Kara a lesson about love and being saved sometimes instead of always doing the saving…or something. But it works because Kara forgives Mon-El for lying about being a prince, and Barry re-proposes to Iris after performing one more song.
Is this as great as the Buffy or Scrubs musicals? No. Is it still a lot of fun? Yes.
Personally, rather than the 1940s night club fantasy, I’d have preferred Music Meister’s musical fantasy world that The Flash and Supergirl found themselves in resembled their own normal lives with mostly typical episode plots just as a musical, as if this really were “The Flash: The Musical!” and “Supergirl: The Musical!” But hopefully this is a trial run for something like that in the future.
I also wish both heroes’ relationship conflicts were more substantial. In both cases, the couples were on solid ground until only very recently. Kara’s fight with Mon-El is incredibly minor. Barry and Iris got engaged three weeks ago, broke up last week, and just got re-engaged. Instead of ending a momentous episode like this with the couple getting engaged for the first and only time, it’s cheapened by the audience already witnessing that moment, having the engagement quickly derailed, and then having the engagement immediately back on track.
But overall, it was nice to get a respite from the heavier Savitar drama for a week, and the musical performances were strong. “Super Friends” was particularly fun, and Melissa Benoist’s “Moon River” was an excellent start to the episode.