A review of tonight’s The Flash musical crossover with Supergirl coming up just as soon as I don’t have a problem with your two dads, because I like musicals…
Over the years, the Berlanti-verse has assembled so much singing talent that it would be stupid if there wasn’t a musical episode at some point. Grant Gustin and Melissa Benoist were both on the later seasons of Glee (opposite “Duet” guest star Darren Criss). Victor Garber’s been Tony-nominated twice for his work in musicals (and two other times for work in plays). Jeremy Jordan also has a Tony nomination, and has done musicals on TV and film. Jesse Martin was part of the original cast of Rent. And John Barrowman (who also has a long theatrical resume) and Carlos Valdes have both put out several albums.
“Duet” brought them all together for a story that, while not taking place outside either series’ continuity, was content to ignore most ongoing plots beyond the current romantic difficulties of Barry and Kara in favor of a story that just let the actors sing as much as possible over the course of the hour. Like the first Berlanti-verse meeting between these two shows, it leaned heavily on the rapport between Gustin and Benoist, and was a welcome respite from the angst of seasonal story arcs I’d long since lost interest in(*). And, like everyone’s favorite ice cream gif, it was just fun.
(*) At Paleyfest over the weekend, Andrew Kreisberg said that Flash season four would finally feature a non-speedster big bad. That’s a step in the right direction for the show to break out of its rut, but I think all the Berlanti shows might benefit from cooling it on the serialization for a while and focusing on telling the most entertaining stories they can in a given week. Somehow, the one I find myself enjoying the most lately is Legends of Tomorrow, which has a larger story arc with the pursuit of the Legion of Doom, but which has a lighter overall tone and, through the time travel premise, more of a focus on individual episodes (like last week’s excellent Apollo 13 story) than the other three. If you build everything around a big bad who’s not that interesting, it can drag down a whole season; focusing more on the week-to-week can be trickier, but also gives the viewer more incentive to stick around even if they didn’t like a particular story, because the next one will be different.
Like the movie musical fantasy Barry and Kara found themselves trapped in, there really wasn’t much to the plot of “Duet” itself. But that didn’t matter, because it was just a spine on which to hang the things we came here for. Why, for instance, does Music Meister steal their powers and attempt a robbery? He could have found other ways to get close to Iris and Mon-El to teach them a lesson about The Power Of Love, but just like a musical sometimes needs a song regardless of what’s happening in the story, the episode apparently needed one superhero action sequence, in this case involving Wally, Cisco, and J’Onn using their powers in concert to take down the Meister. And as Barry notes at one point about the story-within-the-story, “Things really are easier in musicals,” which meant that barely no time had to be spent on establishing the fictional characters and conflicts, so we could very quickly let these talented men and women get to singing and dancing.
While the episode was mostly cover songs — my favorite was the three dads singing “More I Cannot Wish You” from Guys and Dolls, as much for the look of sheer delight on Barry’s face as he listens to these versions of Joe and Martin Stein sing as for the abundant vocal gifts of Martin, Garber, and Barrowman — it did offer a couple of original tunes. Even if I hadn’t known going in that Crazy Ex-Girlfriend‘s Rachel Bloom co-wrote (with Tom Root) one of the songs, “Super Friends” would have sounded like something of hers: light, bouncy, self-aware (the title itself, and the bit about how Barry’s not supposed to travel back in time anymore), and a plausible recreation of the style it’s gently spoofing. I had forgotten that Oscar-winning La La Land songwriters Benj Pasek and Justin Paul had also contributed to the episode, and in fact after the Music Meister was vanquished, I wrote in my notes, “This was fun, but it feels like we needed one more Barry song,” if only because Kara got a solo and he didn’t, and it’s his show. Fortunately, “Runnin’ Home to You” was still to come, and it was both an excellent showcase for the leading man’s pipes and a lovely way to bring an end to the latest contrived bump in the road for Barry and Iris, as the boy who loved watching musicals with his late mother now proposes in song to the woman he’s loved for so long. Corny, but sincere and appropriate and an excellent conclusion to my favorite episode of Flash in quite some time.
Really, my only complaint was that I wanted even more singing. I know these crossovers are logistically difficult to do in more than one show, especially when there’s dance choreography to learn on top of the usual production issues, but a proper two-parter would have given us twice as many songs, and given people like Jordan and Valdes and Martin more than just a small piece of one number to let loose.
But I’ll take it. And I hope this isn’t the last we’ve seen of the Music Meister in this franchise.
What did everybody else think? Did you have a favorite song?