The Flash, Season 3, Episode 11, “Dead or Alive”
One of the most disappointing aspects of the Flashpoint timeline on this season of The Flash has been that the once effervescent Cisco Ramon has been the spiritual leader of the mopiest timeline.
Taking away your mentor and your brother isn’t without its negative aftereffects, but this season Cisco has been bitter and downright petty most of the time. He came out of his funk a little helping HR Wells get the STAR Labs Museum up and running, and in this Cisco-centric hour everyone’s favorite support nerd looked like his old self.
This episode had a lot going on: Iris went to work investigating a story for the first time all season, Kid Flash continues to expand his abilities, Julian continues to lack social graces and of course there’s Cisco’s never-ending quest to get a little loving, and the universe doing its best to keep that from happening.
Oh yeah, Cisco might have also found some common ground with the most frequent target of his bitterness, HR , after an Earth-19 bounty hunter named Gypsy comes to collect the wayward Wells for violations of the inter-dimensional travel ban.
Gypsy chews through the team easily enough on the way to collect her prize. The only way Team Flash can keep HR around is with a trial by combat to the death; Cisco in a moment of both haste and flirtation, blurts out the challenge before Barry thinks to do the same thing.
This opens the door for a humorous training sequence where Cisco seems like he’ll be overmatched because he rarely uses his powers, and Gypsy — whose powers are similar — is a master of hers. There are also some nice moments between Cisco and HR, where Cisco admits that he’s helping HR out because that is what the Wells’ of several dimensions have done for him in the past.
After a false start when Barry and HR launch an unsuccessful sneak attack on Gypsy ahead of the duel, the two dimensional travelers duke it out in a cleverly choreographed battle that is equal parts fierce and foreplay, while traveling to every unused set on the Berlantiverse backlot.
Ultimately, Cisco gets the upper hand after goading Gypsy into the flaw in her combat style, noticed by Julian. Cisco spares her life, the pair flirt some more, and HR is safe. Once again, just as Cisco thinks he’s going to get some long awaited female affection, she portals out just before their lips touch.
As is the way in episodes like this, the revelations most important to the overarching story came from B-plot land. Knowing the day she is going to die means Iris knows which days she’s not going to die, so she takes some silly risks investigating an arms smuggling story. Most interestingly, Barry is realizing that perhaps the way he can most effectively change the future is to let others affect events, which means he’s going to have Wally save Iris on that fateful day in May, instead of doing it himself.
With literally a lot of time to kill between now and Iris’ date with destiny, you get the feeling that there are going to be more of these kinds of episodes that focus on less on Barry (who is probably spending the down time rehearsing for the musical episode), and more on the side characters. That’s an agreeable plan if the other episodes in this vein are as tight and energetic as this one.