Season 3, Episode 17 – "Duet"
Grant Gustin, Jesse L. Martin, Candice Patton, Danielle Panabaker
Regular airtime: Tuesdays, 8pm
US: 21 Mar 2017
Season 2, Episode 16 – "Star-Crossed"
Melissa Benoist, Mehcad Brooks, Chyler Leigh
Regular airtime: Mondays, 8pm
US: 20 Mar 2017
Five, Six, Seven, Eight
Five musical numbers, four quarreling lovers, three gangsters, two “whammied” heroes, and one proposal; leave it to the DC TV megaminds to devise this super/flashy episode. Slated for months as the Supergirl/The Flash musical crossover, what manifested was a large scale, Glee-style musical episode, mostly taking place on The Flash. This is fitting, as the cast included three Glee alumni, including special guest star, Darren Criss; not to be overshadowed by the handful of Broadway stars who are series regulars across the Arrowverse. This episode satisfies and, if one pardons the pun, hits many high notes.
“Duet” is one in a long line of TV musicals, the most famous and daring being Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘s famous season six episode, “Once More with Feeling”. The episode became legendary and, for better or worse, inspired several other TV musicals (better: Scrubs’ “My Musical”; worse: Seventh Heaven‘s “Red Socks”). Glee‘s creators used Buffy to justify the creation of their crazy, little singing show in 2009; Fox launched Empire as a dramatic variation and the CW debuted Crazy Ex-Girlfriend as a comedic variation on the genre in 2015. With Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and Empire still on their air, amongst what seems like countless singing competition shows, “Duet” offers a good fit into today’s TV landscape.
That being said, the episode’s quality storytelling didn’t lean too far into the musical genres’ usual structure of plot within songs. Instead, it takes more of a Glee approach: having a scene take place and then following it with an emotionally matching musical moment. This episode does impact the future of both series as the dueting heroes each contemplate their romantic relationships and their futures.
Off to Oz
On Supergirl, Kara (Melissa Benoist) gets hypnotized by bad guy the Music Meister (Darren Criss), who’s caught by the DEO, but breaks free just in time to knock out the Girl of Steel and leap dimensions in search of “the fastest man alive”. Kara wakes up in an unknown place being told to jump on stage and sing. The Flash begins with Mon-El (Chris Wood) and J’onn (David Harewood) tracking their big bad to Earth One, and carry a limp Supergirl through a breach seeking help from Team Flash. The Music Meister, however, quickly makes his presence known and whammies Barry (Grant Gustin), who also falls into the dream world.
With Kara singing a stunning rendition of “Moon River”, Barry tries to make heads and tails of their new environment. As the Music Meister explains; in this place, they’ve no powers, and have to follow the script set out by their own imaginations. Filled with projections from their lives playing new characters, the duo must deal with the challenges faced in a movie musical, knowing that if they die in the musical, they die in real life.
“Put a Little Love in Your Heart”, featuring Criss, Barrowman, Jeremy Jordan, and Valdes, is a particularly fun number introducing Kara and Barry into their musical’s storyline, with a fun moment when Barry can’t help but mimic the dancers he’s watching. Dancers take over a nightclub owned by Barrowman’s “Cutter” Moran, in which Barry and Kara are apparently employed as singers. The big show-stopping number ends abruptly, however, when the Music Meister disappears to take over Central City in real life. Kara and Barry jump into the story to try to find their way home.
After getting kidnapped by the town’s gangsters, led by Digsby Foss (Jesse L. Martin) and his partner, Legends of Tomorrow‘s Professor Stein (Victor Garber), Barry and Kara are told to find their daughter Millie (Candice Patton)—a projection of Iris—whom they believe is being held captive by their boss Cutter. With help from Busboy, aka Cisco (Carlos Valdes), she’s found not trapped in the hands of Cutter, but wrapped in the arms of his son, Tommy (Kara’s projection of Mon-El). (Arrow reference, anyone?)
As Kara and Barry see it, Iris and Mon-El are in love; not exactly a sight they wanted to see. They still manage to convincing their lovers’ alter egos to tell their rivaling fathers the truth about their relationship; a moment that drives the story forward, and puts Kara and Barry one step closer to getting home.
Once this is revealed, Barry, “Millie”, Kara, and “Tommy” are serenaded by their fathers in a rendition of Guys and Dolls’ “More I Cannot Wish You” as proof of their acceptance. The song is a good choice; it suggests that while the fathers aren’t necessarily supportive of the relationship, they won’t stand in the way of love. As the only actual Broadway musical song of the episode, it’s a great showcase for Garber and Barrowman’s singing. It’s all a lie, of course; they might sing about acceptance, but they’re going to war.
Barry and Kara attempt to move through the plot again and try out an original song. Showcasing the singing talents of Gustin and Benoist, and the songwriting talent of CW’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend‘s Rachel Bloom, the duo sing “Super Friends”, a quirky number similar to the original songs of their network sibling. Utilizing Gustin’s tap dancing roots, the scene shines as the two finish the number on stage (complete with a wardrobe change).
Unfortunately, the warring factions are already fighting; Barry and Kara are caught in the crossfire, shot, and left for dead in the street.
Back to Reality
All the while, Team Flash and two members of Team Supergirl are waiting for some insight into how to help the heroes. If these episodes have a weak spot, it’s here: the Music Meister’s motivations are never explicit and not all together villainous. He attempts to break into a bank in Central City, using the powers he’s drained from Barry and Kara. Yet, there’s no real explanation as to why he wants to attack Central City, and offers a different motivation to Iris and Mon-El after getting caught, telling them the only way to save Barry and Kara is showing them some love.
When Kara and Barry start to crash as a result of their dream state injuries, Iris and Mon-El use a Cisco vibe to jump into their dream, saving both their loves with a kiss. Once they’re safely out of the dream, they face the Music Meister to get him to explain. Apparently, he just wanted two of the multiverse’s greatest heroes not to be so heartbroken. Sweet, but an odd way to “teach a lesson”, particularly since he almost killed both heroes. A clearer purpose behind draining their powers would have been nice; as it stands, he isn’t evil, just helpful in a horrifying sort of way.
While Mon-El and Kara are together again, Iris and Barry still look to be on the rocks. Leave it to the Academy Award-winning tag team behind La La Land, however, to write the perfect song to win over Iris: “Runnin’ Home to You”. Barry serenades Iris and proposes; an excellent way to close out a musical.
Overall, this episode fits well into the current narratives and leaves little to be desired; it even stands up against its TV musical predecessors. Then again, this much musical star power (Barrowman, Martin), it was definitely time for Team Berlanti to wake and smell the show tunes.