Points for this much: This week’s big musical extravaganza crossover with ‘Supergirl’ considerably lightens the mood from the dreary misery-fest that ‘The Flash’ has been for much of this season. I appreciate that, even if the episode is pretty silly.
Episode ‘Duets’ takes a break from the usual moaning about Savitar and Iris’ impending death. We start with a flashback to Barry as a little kid watching ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ with his mom. She tells him to remember that when he’s sad, “Everything is better in song.”
In the present day, Barry is still sulking about his breakup with Iris when he gets an alert that a dimensional portal has opened in S.T.A.R. Labs. He and Cisco arrive just in time to see J’onn J’onzz (or Hank Henshaw, as they know him) and Mon-El leap through carrying Supergirl’s comatose body. This picks up from the ending of Monday’s episode of ‘Supergirl’. They explain that she was knocked out by a mischievous alien who announced that he had a date with the fastest man alive, which is why they followed him to Earth-1 hoping for answers and a way to wake Kara up.
Suddenly, that alien, who calls himself the Music Meister (Darren Criss from ‘Glee’), materializes in the lab. He somehow knows all about Barry and the gang. He playfully taunts them that he’s going to teach them a lesson, then looks into Barry’s eyes and hypnotizes him the same way he did to Kara. Barry likewise falls unconscious.
As Kara had, Barry wakes up in a dreamy 1930s nightclub setting. In fact, Kara is there too, singing “Moon River” on stage. Although the two of them still know who they are (and are both equally confounded by the situation), around them in the club are a host of familiar faces playing new roles, all as stock character types from old movie musicals. Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman) is Cutter Moran, the club owner with Mob ties. Winn is the piano player. Cisco is the busboy with big dreams of breaking into show business.
Barry and Kara take a moment to compare notes on how they got there and what they know, and both realize that none of their powers are working. Music Meister then shows up to chat with them. Barry tries to grab him, but he’s a hologram. He explains that they’re in their own heads, and the movie musical setting is of their own (unconscious) choosing. If they want to get out, they need to follow the script and reach the end of the plot. Then he launches into a big song-and-dance production number to “Put a Little Love in Your Heart” involving all the supporting characters in the scene, and abruptly disappears. At the end of this, Prof. Stein (Victor Garber) enters the scene as a gangster who kidnaps the two of them at gunpoint.
Stein brings them to see Joe, who’s playing the role of Mob boss Digsby Foss. He tells them that his daughter Millie is missing and shows them a photograph. Of course, it’s Iris. She was last seen in Cutter’s club and he assumes that Cutter (who’s his professional rival) has kidnapped her. Because they work in the club, he wants them to snoop around and find out what happened to the girl. Reasoning that this must be the plot they’re supposed to follow, Kara and Barry agree.
Back in Central City
As Barry and Kara lie comatose, Caitlin determines that their powers are being drained. At that very moment, Music Meister is using Barry’s speed and Kara’s heat vision to rob a bank. Wally, Cisco and J’onn (who reveals himself as a Martian) race out to confront him. Because Music Meister is so powerful, they have to work together to defeat him. When he tries to fly away, Cisco opens a portal so that J’onn can knock him out of the air, and then Wally wallops him with a speed-punch.
They take Music Meister into custody and lock him in a cell in the Pipeline. When Iris and Mon-El question him, he says that only the two of them have the power to save Barry and Kara.
Kara and Barry track down Millie/Iris and discover that she’s having a secret ‘Romeo & Juliet’ (or ‘West Side Story’ in this case) forbidden love affair with Cutter Moran’s son, Tommy (Mon-El!). The prospect of Iris and Mon-El hooking up kind of disgusts the both of them, but they agree to see this storyline through. They advise the crazy kids to come clean to their parents and try to bridge the divide between their two families. It doesn’t take much to convince them. Characters in musicals are pretty amenable to going along with obvious story mechanics.
Barry brings Millie back to her dads (plural… he’s amused to learn that Joe and Stein are a couple in this story) while Kara brings Mon-El to Merlyn. At first, it seems that all the parents are willing to accept the relationship, and they even belt out a song from ‘Guys and Dolls’ about it. However, both sides then quickly gear up for a big Mob war.
Before that happens, Barry and Kara still need to put on a big show of their own. With Winn’s help, they perform a truly dreadful original song called “I’m Your Super Friend” on stage at the club. The crowd loves it, confirming that this place has no connection to reality.
When the two gang factions break out into shooting in the street, both Barry and Kara are caught in the crossfire and badly wounded. Fortunately, Cisco (the real one, not the busboy) is able to vibe Iris and Mon-El (also the real ones) into the dream to save them. Apologies and reconciliations commence. Iris kisses Barry and Mon-El kisses Kara, and the power of their love snaps everyone out of the dream.
Everybody wakes up back in the lab, and Music Meister (who has easily escaped his cell) congratulates them on learning the lesson he came to teach them – something trite about love and letting themselves be saved. When asked if he’s from another Earth in the multiverse, Music Meister brushes off the question, suggesting that none of them could understand where he’s from. Then he vanishes again as quickly as he arrived.
With everyone’s relationships all patched up, Kara, Mon-El and J’onn say their goodbyes and return to Earth-38. Barry sings a song to Iris and proposes to her again. She agrees. Their engagement is back on.
In terms of plot, the only thing this episode really accomplishes is to bring an end to the ridiculous spat between Barry and Iris. That’s appreciated, and I hope it means that they’ve snapped out of the mopey phase they’ve been stuck in for most of this season. However, it hardly feels like we needed to devote a whole episode to that. Obviously, the entire storyline of this episode was contrived only to create an excuse for a gimmicky musical interlude.
Music Meister is kind of fun, but I fear that it’s just a little too soon to have another all-powerful trickster character appear just a few weeks after the very similar Mr. Mxyzptlk visited ‘Supergirl’. The episode also fails to explain why someone who’s basically a god would need to steal Barry and Kara’s powers in order to rob a bank. We’ve seen that he can walk in and out of impenetrable locations with ease, and why would he need money anyway? I suppose that perhaps he was merely trying to distract the rest of the team from waking up Kara and Barry, but that’s never made clear in the episode. Nor is his motivation for sending them into the dream in the first place.
Compared to other TV shows that have randomly broken from their regular formats to let characters burst into song, this one is a lot better than, say, the ‘Fringe’ musical episode, but not as good as ‘Buffy’. The biggest disappointment, sadly, is the singing, which really shouldn’t be the case with so many experienced singers in the cast. Victor Garber, Jesse L. Martin and John Barrowman are all Broadway vets, yet the three of them are only given one dull song to carry. Both Grant Gustin and Melissa Benoist got their starts on ‘Glee’ with Darren Criss, but apparently they’re out of practice. Benoist is clearly auto-tuned, and Gustin’s lip-syncing is really embarrassing. The less said about that “Super Friend” song, the better.