The Flash doing a James Bond homage should be right up my alley, but “License to Elongate” left me cold. Not nearly as funny or clever as it thinks it is, this week’s episode is a snooze that does almost nothing to further the plot or develop the characters. It doesn’t even get the reference in its title right (the Bond film is Licence to Kill, spelled in the British fashion).
Planning to name Elongated Man the Flash’s successor, Barry accompanies Ralph as he investigates a lead in Sue Dearborn’s disappearance. Cecile helps Chester P. Runk ask out his crush. Nash needs Allegra’s assistance in getting to the Monitor. Many James Bond jokes and references are made; none work.
“License to Elongate” picks up with Nash showing Barry and the others where the Monitor has been hiding the interdimensional portal that leads to his location. He believes the Monitor is lying about the Crisis, as he travels from Earth to Earth, inducing fear in the population. Nash wants to find and kill the Monitor, saving Barry from the death he’s been told is inevitable. Once this opening scene ends, everyone outside of Nash forgets it ever happened because it’s inconvenient to the main thrust of the episode, which is Barry preparing another member of his team for life without the Flash. This week, it’s Ralph, whom Barry wants to be the face of superherodom after he dies, so he tags along with his rubber-skinned buddy to track down Sue Dearborn, the case that’s been nagging at Ralph for months. They arrive at a gala event in Midway City to hobnob with wealthy socialites in the hopes of finding the missing girl. This is where the fun should start; it doesn’t.
“License to Elongate,” as the title implies, is The Flash’s take on a James Bond mission, with Barry and Ralph wearing tuxedos and trying to charm information from rich megalomaniacs and sexy heiresses. As you can probably guess, Ralph is very good at this, but Barry is a complete failure. Watching the Flash screw up over and over gets old fast, but the horse is beaten long after it’s dead and buried. This might have been more interesting if Ralph was going it alone, but sticking Barry with him drags everything down, making the hero of the show look like an idiot as he tries to negotiate his way around a simple party. Once or twice might have been funny, but after a while, you’re left to wonder why Barry wouldn’t just stop talking once he realized he wasn’t spy material. All the proper notes are hit: they flirt with a girl, they gamble against the villain, they’re captured and left in a death trap, they escape with help from a gadget, the finally confront the villain and his mute assassin while a timer counts down to doom. Then there are the interminable Bond references; I’m someone who fits references into everyday conversation as much as he can, and this still made me groan. The sexy girl’s name is “January Galore,” a jab at “Pussy Galore” from Goldfinger, but while that name made sense as a joke, this one doesn’t. For God’s sake, they do the “Bond. James Bond.” name delivery twice! This could have all been fun, but the writing just isn’t there, and the end credits can’t come fast enough.
On top of that, the spy mission means nothing for either of their characters. The point of “License to Elongate” is supposed to be that, while Barry thought he’d teach Ralph a thing or two about being a hero, it’s Ralph who teaches Barry a lesson. That’s fine, and a nice break from Barry being the mentor to his friends, but Ralph doesn’t teach him anything he hasn’t already learned about a thousand times throughout the series. “The Flash is great, but Barry Allen is the real hero” is something they did in season 1, and they dredge it up again whenever they run out of ideas for a filler episode (and they’ll never top Joe, tears in his eyes, saying, “The world may need the Flash, but I need my Barry Allen”). Ralph learns nothing, which I know is the point, but in light of Barry’s arc being weightless, it makes the episode even more disposable. The most human moments in the A-plot come from Joe, who, even in a lesser episode, can tug at your heartstrings with the slightest glance. When Barry tells him about wanting Ralph to take his place as Central City’s protector, Joe’s face tells you how devastated he is at the thought of losing his son. And the surprise at the press conference, hokey though it may be (it’s the Class Protector scene from Buffy with a fraction of the impact), works best when Joe hugs Barry, making it clear that he wants Barry to know how proud of him his dad will always be. Everything else may have fallen flat, but thank God for Jesse L. Martin.
“License to Elongate” misses the mark with its subplots as well. When Chester P. Runk materializes again, Cecile helps him get his identity back (minus a few parking tickets) and decides to use her metahuman powers to score him a date with the former Jitters barista on whom he has a crush. Things go predictably sideways, as Cecile ends up reading her own emotions instead of the girl’s, and Chester makes a fool of himself (the ethics of which, once again, are not questioned, and a joke is even made about how Cecile doesn’t care one iota if she’s violating anyone’s rights by doing this). I suppose some credit is due for tying this into the theme of the main storyline – Chester should just be himself rather than rely on fancy tricks to get a girl – but it doesn’t make a sub-sitcom plot any more enjoyable. Worse still is that Frost is present merely as a spectator; while I understand that this is because “License to Elongate” is Danielle Panabaker’s directorial debut, it’s irksome watching a great character support two mostly useless ones. Elsewhere, Nash enlists Allegra in breaking through the deadly barrier the Monitor has erected to guard his portal. This subplot has the benefit of being the only one that progresses the season’s arc, but it plays third banana to the other two, and Nash convinces Allegra to help him so easily that she might as well have just done it the first time. The stinger at the end has Ramsey showing up and tackling Ralph, which I guess is supposed to be a cliffhanger, but like the rest of the episode, it doesn’t work.
“License to Elongate” is a pointless, draggy filler episode that can’t even muster up the wherewithal to be entertaining. The season’s plot remains stagnant, nobody develops in any meaningful way, and the fun idea of a James Bond homage is wasted. Hopefully they’ve got the wheel-spinning out of their system now.