As we take a step back from the main storyline with Savitar, “Duet” sees The Flash and Supergirl trying to escape a dreamland musical scenario set up by the Music Meister, an omniscient being that wants to put our heroes to the test
and that’s what you missed on Glee! Also, to give her views on the episode, our Supergirl reviewer Gretchen is here!
After Supergirl’s very subtle hints on her love for musicals, it is time for Barry to pull a Mr. Schuester and brood over Singing In The Rain because of how his situation with Iris ended up. HR mass-texts everyone to come to STAR Labs as a breach has been opened. Through it, comes J’onn, Mon-El, and an unconscious Supergirl. They tell everyone about the man who put her in her state and how he said he was pursuing the fastest man on Earth.
Almost on cue, the man appears at STAR Labs, taking out Wally and putting Barry under the same “spell” Kara is in. He wakes up in the 1920’s musical-place Kara had woken up and manages to catch her performing—I so missed seeing Melissa sing. Like, have you guys listened to her versions of “Chasing Pavements” and “New York State of Mind” from her very first episode of Glee? Life changing experiences.
Barry tells Kara about what happened and she is quick to say that Mon-El is “not my boyfriend, not my friend, he is my nothing”. They are interrupted by Malcolm Merlyn—for the sake of the recap, I’m sticking to their DCTV names, but it’s worth mentioning that everyone else had 1920 appropriate names and backstories—who is the mob boss owner of the club and has a fetish for cutting people’s throats. They also see Winn, a pianist with an accent, and Cisco, a waiter with big Hollywood dreams.
The Music Meister appears for some much needed explanation: Kara and Barry are trapped in a fantasy inside their minds prompted by their love for musicals (Kara is so adorable quoting The Wizard of OZ), without their powers, having to follow the script in order for their journey to end. Naturally, Blaine Anderson says “Hit it” to Brad the Music Meister breaks out into a song joined by Malcolm, Cisco, and Winn. Oh, also, Barry and Kara are under the good old “if you die here, you die in real life” trope.
Dr. Martin Stein ends up attacking Kara and Barry and kidnapping them. While waiting for the “bigger” mob boss to arrive, the duo chats about life, what they are doing and how they are doing, Iris and Barry’s engagement being off due to him asking her for marriage out of fear, and Mon-El, who has been in Earth-3 for nine months already (wow, has it really been that long?) and how he lied to Kara.
Then, the big OG arrives and it is Joe West, who has kidnapped Barry and Kara so they can look for his daughter, Iris, who has apparently also been kidnapped by Malcolm. Cisco leads them to where Iris is supposedly staying and, upon kicking down the door, they find her making out all passionately with Mon-El. The deal is Mon-El is Malcolm’s son which renders their love forbidden given how their fathers hate each other.
In the real world, Caitlin learns that the Music Meister is robbing Barry’s and Kara’s superpowers for himself as he breaks into Central City’s Bank. Cisco, J’onn, and Kid Flash team up to beat him up with some nice team work, successfully imprisoning him.
Now back on the land of music, Barry and Kara give Mon-El and Iris a grand “Love Conquers All” speech to get them to go to their parents and tell the truth in hopes that they will understand and not oppose the relationship. Barry goes with Iris for her moment and it is revealed that Martin and Joe are a couple in this reality (how nice!) while Kara makes her way with Mon-El to confront his father.
As Iris and Mon-El start telling their parents the truth, it comes as expected: the mob bosses don’t want their progeny to mingle with their sworn enemies. However, Barry and Kara intercede for them and, keeping up with the “Everything is easier in musicals” gag, the parents break out into an accepting musical number indicating that they do support their children in their choices. Yet, as soon as the number ends, both Joe and Malcolm call their gangs to prepare for war.
Meanwhile, the real Mon-El and Iris pay a visit to the Music Meister to demand him to break Kara and Barry out. He tells them that he can’t do anything now, but that they can help in ~~some mysterious way~~. Right about now, years of Once Upon a Time and a spoonful of Disney movies already spoiled me how the episode was going to end.
Before the war officially begins, we get a moment of levity as Kara and Barry try to continue following the script with the first of the two original songs, “Super Friends”, with Winn on the piano. Then, the Mob Bosses go into war firing at each other. Both Barry and Kara get shot in the crossfire, falling on the street as they bleed out to death. Real Cisco manages to vibe Real Mon-El and Iris into the scene and run to their rescue.
Before they die, Kara forgives Mon-El for lying to her about being the prince while Barry seems to get his love for Iris on the same page with her. However, as the last breaths come, Mon-El and Iris true-love-kiss Kara and Barry, saving them in the process.
As they return to their bodies, the Music Meister appears and tells Team Flash and Supergirl that this was all to get the love sorted out, curing them from their broken hearts. He doesn’t offer any explanation for who he is, where he comes from, how he is so powerful and omniscient, and just simply disappears. I guess he is the chaotic good version to Mr. Mxyzptlk’s chaotic evil? I don’t know. No one does.
The teams part ways as Kara and Mon-El seem all loving once again. Barry and Iris go back to their apartment where he serenades her another original piece (did he just have that lying around or what?), “Runnin’ Home To You”, as he proposes once again and she says yes.
Glossing over how I caught myself listening to old Glee songs from season 4 (the one with Melissa Benoist) and how many times I shouted “Shut up, Darren Criss” at my screen (hint: around 6), “Duet” was incredibly weird in so many ways while still actually fun to watch, despite hitting so many of my second-hand embarrassment nerves.
Starting off with the nitpicks and plot holes, why and how did Barry come up with the name “Music Meister”? We know that he was mentioned in the newscast from the future despite this not being brought into conversation *whatsoever*, so was this it? Barry preemptively named the villain and everyone just went with it?
I gotta be honest, when I saw that newscast back in January, I expected the episode to be about a common villain who was musically talented so when Barry and Kara defeated him, he would try pursuing a career in music, OR the exact opposite if they managed to change the future. Nonetheless, as portrayed by the episode, the Music Meister was not a particularly good villain…if we’re even to call him a “villain”.
Still, seeing how it all went down, I don’t see how the Music Meister will have anything to do with the vision which leaves me really curious as to how the writers will pull it off. The thing is, he is already this almighty person who let himself be detained by the DEO, escaped from the STAR Labs prisons, says that all his motivations were about love, and that’s it: he feels more like a trickster god than someone who would want a musical career.
As for the singing and dancing parts themselves, they were both pretty cute and embarrassing. While this ended up not being directed by Joss Whedon as rumored, it was still well done and that’s what we get when the CW loves hiring musically talented actors. I did miss more female voices though which is odd given how we already know that Caitlin can sing—she even brought up how she sang “Summer Nights” with Barry back in Season 1, if I recall correctly. Julian was nowhere to be found, but I guess that’s alright given the episode barely had time to acknowledge the rest of the cast. It was also nice seeing The Flash bringing Victor Garber and John Barrowman out of Legends to be mob bosses.
Regarding the emotional impact delivered by the episode, it worked with Barry and Iris on a much higher level than with Kara and Mon-El. You see, WestAllen is a much more developed couple (three seasons, yo), and the issue they had to conquer was far less troubled than that with Karamel. The show keeps telling the audience that Barry had proposed to Iris merely because he wanted to change the future, but that is totally unbelievable for me. As I have mentioned in other reviews, Barry’s love for Iris has been a monolith of The Flash ever since it started. Sure, Iris had Eddie for a while, Barry dated both Linda and Patty albeit far less serious and also having the kiss with Felicity. WestAllen has always been endgame and the most compelling relationship of the show and maybe even the DCTV.
Although I’m not a huge fan of the whole “dreaming about the day when you wake up and find that what you’re looking for has been here the whole time” trope that gets the borderline treatment of friendzone on-and-off, The Flash has made it work because Iris and Barry do exist outside of the relationship and both of them have a solid infrastructure in it: it is healthy, they care deeply about each other, and have been best friends forever.
So, when you take all of that and put in the context of Barry ONLY proposing out of fear, it becomes a bit unrealistic. There’s no part of me that believes that Barry Allen did not want to ask Iris to marry him the very day they even started dating. Thankfully, this has been reasonably resolved as the couple is back on track with their nuptials and probably happier than ever which really suits them. It is up to see if the vision of the future has changed now and Iris will be wearing the ring when she dies – or better yet, doesn’t die.
When it comes to the Supergirl parts, I do agree with what Gretchen says below more eloquently: as much as Kara is this big, amazing, kind, and forgiving person that always strives for the good, the betrayal she felt from Mon-El’s lies came to a conclusion that almost seemed unearned and way too easy. I would expect Kara to be mad at him for lying about things that are problematic (to say the least) for at least another episode or two.
As a side note, it was incredibly thoughtful of the show to take a minute to acknowledge Wally’s PTSD after being imprisoned in the Speed Force and seeing his mom die over and over again. A small action that was a really sweet touch to his arc. Oh, also, I’m not a huge fan of musicals (although I have watched La La Land six or seven times this year already), so it took me some time to really get with the program of the episode. For a while there, it really reminded me a lot of Glee. Thankfully, at least Melissa was there to guide me through because I happened to like her character in the show far more than Grant Gustin’s and Darren Criss’s.
I was raised on films like Singing in the Rain, Mary Poppins, and The Sound of Music. So, while I’m not a whole-sale musical fanatic, I do enjoy a good musical. Unfortunately, I never watched Glee, so I didn’t have nostalgia to guide me through why Benoist and Gustin singing together was The Best Thing Ever, but I still found my own reasons to enjoy their musical performances. Mostly because they’re a delight together.
The dream sequence with Barry and Kara couldn’t have started much better than with Melissa Benoist singing “Moon River” in that dress. When Jeremy Jordan came on and the whole cast started singing, I admit, my boots were tapping. Well, slippers actually, but still. “Super Friends” let Benoist and Gustin show off their singing and dancing skills in delightful, true to musical fashion. The fathers trio was delightful. Overall, the musical element had a pleasant, warm blanket feel to it. Like Barry on the couch at the beginning of tonight’s episode or Kara yesterday. It wasn’t “earth-shattering, hold the presses, this is the most amazing musical episode ever” (other than “Moon River”, I’m still swooning), but it was good fun.
Music Meister himself lacked proper motivation. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed seeing Kara, Barry, and company sing, and the aesthetic was to die for. But I expected more motivation than, “I just thought you all should realize you love each other”. Darren Criss was billed as a villain and antagonist. But, how is he a villain again? Because he forced them to dream their relationships back together? Perhaps they were trying to avoid making him too much like the chaotic Mr. Mxyzptlk, which makes sense. But it still felt a bit…flat.
Juxtaposing Westallen and Kara/Mon-El also fell flat. I am not a regular Flash viewer, so I don’t know how it came across to long time fans of the show, but the comparison between Westallen (a long-standing, established, supportive relationship) and Kara/Mon-El (a relationship of only a few weeks that has been full of disrespect, miscommunication, and arguing) seemed forced. I can see what they were going for, and I’m just not sure that those relationships are on the same level. “My fiancé broke up with me because I was obsessed with saving her and kept screwing up time” isn’t exactly the same as “I broke up with my boyfriend because he lied about being a prince and slave owner”. But, your mileage may vary. On the surface, they were two stories about single superheroes feeling lonely because of relationship troubles.
My bigger concern was with the way the show glossed over Mon-El’s lies. On Supergirl, last night, Mon-El confessed that he was the heir to an oppressive culture that was a significant player in an intergalactic slave trade. He also benefited from and participated in the system of oppression and slavery on his planet, though to what degree he fully participated we don’t know at this point. He had lied about it to Kara for months, fearing what would happen if she knew he was the prince. (He lied about being the prince before he liked her, by the way.) If I give Mon-El and the narrative full benefit of the doubt, he did voice distaste for slavery, though he did not actively oppose the system or try to change it while on Daxam.
Either way, this episode of The Flash chose to blame Kara for not creating an environment in which he felt ‘safe’ enough to tell her about his slaving past. In the confrontation with Mon-El/Tommy’s dad over his relationship with Iris/Millie, the implication was clearly that it was her fault for not allowing Mon-El to feel safe enough to tell her the truth. She ought not to have been “prejudiced”…against him being someone who owned slaves? The story focuses on him lying about being the prince, but not about why him being the prince was significant to Kara, which is that it means he benefited from, participated in, and upheld a cruel and unjust system of oppression (which she mentioned last night).
Mon-El lied for 14 straight episodes about being the prince and all that entailed. Last night, that lie appropriately blew up in his face. Only the ‘tension’ resolved almost immediately afterward, and at Kara’s expense. It’s the narrative equivalent of brushing it under the rug. To compare, when Kara found out James was lying about Guardian, she chewed him out multiple times and their friendship strained for multiple episodes. And that was a lie about his crime-fighting hobby, not about owning slaves.
Anyway, I’m annoyed that the story tonight was “forgive him lying about being the prince”, which sidesteps Kara’s frustrations with the lie being a way to hide his participation in slavery. The issue was not being the prince, it was being a slave-owner and someone in power who failed to challenge or question an oppressive culture. Forcing Kara to apologize for Mon-El not feeling ‘safe’ enough to tell her he was a slave owner is deeply disturbing to me. And, getting her back together with him afterward even more so.
At least now we know Benoist and Barry can rock a 1920s aesthetic? Oh, and shout out to making fun on Clark in “Super Friends”. I dig Barry and Kara gently poking fun at Superman.