There are all kinds places superheroes are meant to be. Secret labs, outer space, other dimensions, New York City, Gotham. But over and over, writers seem to want to put them in the most boring possible places. This week, yet another superhero takes the stand in a court of law. Spoilers follow for The Flash Season 7, Episode 8, “The People v. Killer Frost.”
“The People v. Killer Frost”
One of the things that frustrated me most about Marvel’s Iron Fist–aside from that it generally sucked–was that it took a superhero who wears a green jumpsuit and yellow mask, took away the fun costume, and then put him in a mostly-gray boardroom.
The CW, meanwhile, loves to put its characters in courtrooms. That’s where we are again this week. I can’t help but wonder if this is a trick that shows like these use to keep costs down; they probably have a couple pre-built courtroom sets they go back to, and courtrooms don’t require any visual effects to make work. At least this courtroom was full of people, unlike the weird COVID trial on Supergirl.
The thing is that we live in a very litigious society that adores courtroom shows and has dozens of more believable ones. CW writers are good at supernatural melodrama, which is what makes the show’s other story work. More on that later. But we know good courtroom drama when we see it, and CW, this ain’t it.
Stick with what you’re good at
Cecile Horton is a likable character but a bad lawyer, and she’s facing off against a plaintiff that is working so brazenly off an agenda that the case would never last in court. And so the end result is that you have courtroom drama that doesn’t feel at all dramatic despite it being an important arc for the character in question. It’s just a waiting game.
The drama in question is that Frost, having reformed in a deep, genuine way, wants to make good by doing time for her criminal acts. Now, she did help save the literal universe and it feels like that maybe balances out the comparatively minor crimes she committed before she gave up her old life. But while Frost wants to pay her dues, Kristen Kramer’s agenda is so obvious that you can literally see it on her face. It turns out that Kramer suffered losses at the hands of a metahuman and wants to establish a legal precedent for forcing metahumans to take the cure, likening it to taking away a weapon from a dangerous person.
There’s an analog here to the historical use of forced castration, sterilization, and lobotomization that people imprisoned in the American prison system have had to endure, but it’s hard to tell if the writers are consciously invoking it.
What makes this all the sillier is that Frost already wanted to do time for her behavior. They didn’t need the MacGuffin of Doing It For All Metahumans to give her a good reason. Frost’s arc of wanting to atone for her actions is a good one on its own, but losing it in a courtroom drama does a disservice to the story and to actor Danielle Panabaker who has been doing double-duty as two characters for a long time now.
More like Mean Force
While most of Team Flash is occupied with all of that, Barry is trying to track down Fuerza with help of his Speed Force Mom (we’ll call her Nora). Tensions rise when they find the woman and confront her. Barry, being Barry, wishes to be gentle. Nora, though, busts out this rant about how the woman is a monster and knows it.
Things end up with The Flash (who doesn’t sound at all like Barry, isn’t the same height, and didn’t talk to the exact same person earlier that day) talking the young woman into coming to Star Labs for testing. Where Nora conjures a ball of cosmic lightning and kills her.
This story doesn’t get much screen time really, but it works because it becomes clearer and clearer that the Speed Force has its own agenda. Barry is, for all the fighting Flash does, a gentle soul who would rather talk things out than fight (the show bears this out over and over again). And so when his longtime ally goes wild, it’s scary and heartbreaking and puts the show into unknown territory. Flash is now facing off against the actual Speed Force? Unless that’s Eobard Thawne in disguise again. Classic Thawne. Is the Speed Force the “big bad” for this arc? That could be interesting for sure.
But, again, this accounts for maybe a few minutes. Most of the episode is spent on courtroom drama and things directly connected to that courtroom drama, and it’s a big snooze for what should’ve been an important character moment.