Sometimes, all it takes to make a good superhero story is a simple puzzle and a dilemma. After the previous eyeroller of an episode, The Flash is back with an episode that shows the power of a simple bottle episode. Spoilers follow for The Flash Season 8, Episode 7, “Lockdown.”
When a criminal invades the CCPD, Barry (Grant Gustin) and Kramer (guest star Carmen Moore) must trust and rely on each other if they are going to make it out safely. Meanwhile, Caitlin (Danielle Panabaker) learns a valuable lesson while out with Snow and Mark (guest star Jon Cor). The series also stars Jesse L. Martin, Candice Patton, Danielle Nicolet, Kayla Compton and Brandon McKnight. Stefan Pleszczynski directed the episode written by Christina M. Walker (#807).
The episode starts off on a fun note as Team Flash spots not one, but three crimes occurring at once. Barry tells the group to chill out–he’s got it. In mere moments, three criminals are left in the care of the Central City Police Department. It’s light, fun, and shows off how powerful this character is. What a great start. The show even follows up with a logical question: if a superhero hands off a criminal to the police, how does that affect the procedural aspect of police work? The last few years have taught us that laws and policing aren’t always as closely matched as we would’ve hoped, but dumping off some random guy at the police station with no context doesn’t make that process any simpler.
Kristen Kramer, now captain of the CCPD, tells Barry (who of course was admiring the Flash’s handiwork) that she wants a better point of connection to him. Of course, something will now happen to make that apparent. Minutes later, the whole of CCPD is knocked out, only to wake up with meta-dampening wristbands on their hands and none other than Goldface standing before them, looking for the meta-stopper bullets Kramer had made when she was in all-out war against the metas of Central City.
Goldface is one of the Flash’s better recurring villains. He’s just dangerous enough to be threatening, but he’s become quirkier over the years, and this episode gives the actor, Damion Poitier, plenty of space to goof around and give the character personality. He’s one of the funnier characters in an often much-too-serious show, and more of his jokes land than the often awkward humor offered by our heroes. While Katee Sackhoff’s Amunet Black isn’t actually in this episode, Goldface’s relationship with her inspires much of their exchanges throughout the story and informs why his character behaves the way he does.
Cops in a Bottle
It’s a good episode for Barry and Kristen, too. I do think it’s pretty weird that everyone in Central City is just forgiving Kristen for basically trying to make chemical castration of metahumans into a legal precedent, but the idea here is that she’s on a redemption arc from being a metahuman hater to being a proud metahuman, and this storyline works for that. She wrestles with her abilities and with admitting she needs help at all.
Meanwhile, Barry struggles with opening up to her both as Barry and as the Flash. By locking them up together, they’re forced to see things about each other that they might not otherwise. Kristen’s untrained powers make her feel vulnerable and isolated in a way that Barry never knew, giving him an opportunity to reach out as the Flash. The episode makes creative use of both her powers and his, and ends on the humorous and somewhat predictable note that Kristen figured out who Barry is when he escaped the explosion of his handcuffs.
This episode gives us a simple situation: lock up the heroes, take away their powers, make them find a way out. It gives us the best sides of each of those characters, too. A humorous and charismatic villain, the experienced superhero, and the vulnerable but determined newbie. They’re straightforward elements that avoid the show’s worst excesses. There’s no time travel, no drama. Barry can’t use his powers for most of the story, but we’re not mired in the drama of him losing them again. A self-contained episode like this isn’t always necessary or well-suited to the story, but it shows that there are still good Flash stories to tell if the writers are willing to set aside time travel and family for a few minutes.
And then Iris has a time blip because she’s still not cured from whatever last season was. Back into the woods we go.