This season of The Flash has been an interesting round in the continual war with its own history the show likes to engage in. One of the more interesting side effects of the Flashpoint story was the show’s first ever attempt to give Caitlin Snow a storyline not involving boyfriends either dead or evil. Unfortunately, that idea revolves around Caitlin becoming a less-hammy version of her Earth-2 counterpart: Killer Frost which ends up as fun as it sounds.
The episode is also a microcosm of the show’s problems: namely that of the show’s continual refusal to have anyone learn anything. While there’s lip service paid to Barry Allen’s near-sociopathic tendency to meddle in people’s lives and shirk his non-Flash responsibilities, that commentary is undermined by largely coming from the mouth of a crazed and vengeful Killer Frost and a gloriously jerky Julian Albert due to the ending reveal. The other undercut also comes from Iris’ rah-rah speeches. That said, the show does at least allow some progression to happen: Cisco gets to find out the truth of his brother’s death happening due to Barry’s time travel, and he doesn’t forgive him for it. Barry’s saving Caitlin from her powers comes at a cost: her victim Julian demands Barry resign in exchange. His reasoning is an accumulation of the many things Barry has done even before he had a partner: the unexplained absences, his taking the job he has as secondary to being the Flash, and his letting a friend off the hook because of said friendship. Even if Julian doesn’t know that Barry is the Flash, his reasoning is hardly incorrect, and there needs to be actual consequences beyond Barry apologizing repeatedly. Frankly the show has allowed Barry an insane amount of latitude with the casts lives, and there’s only so much Grant Gustin can do to sell his actions as innocent foolishness.
The running seasonal plot doesn’t fare much better with the reveal of Savitar, in all his Megatron-esque glory, as the man behind Doctor Alchemy and the shocking twist that the evil speedster of the season can manhandle Barry. While he and Doctor Alchemy recede into the background pretty quickly, the show’s problem with compelling villains hasn’t changed from season 2. While it was nice to have a brief respite from an evil speedster calling the shots, it’s utterly meaningless if there’s no emotional connection guiding anything. While the (obvious) ending twist with Julian Albert looks to change that, the post-Flashpoint stuff has largely existed outside of Barry having been the trigger for it, just like Zoom only showing up because of Barry. The overall story hurts if it’s just empty punches thrown and no subtext or emotional involvement.
That extends to the episodic story as well. While the show graciously ends the neverending story of Wally’s genesis (or I suppose terrigenesis) into the next Flash, it struggles with Caitlin’s transformation into Killer Frost. Danielle Panabaker usually gets precious little to do on the Flash, though she acquits herself fairly well with what she’s given, even if the material doesn’t quite measure up to what it could be. The sad thing is that while the show expects you to sympathize with Barry and view Caitlin as damaged: her criticism isn’t wrong. The moment where she dresses down Barry for the lives he’s ruined, the people who’ve died as a direct result of his actions (i.e Eddie, Ronnie, Dante, and Joe-2), and revealing to Cisco that Barry caused his brother’s death is fantastic, and one that’s a long time coming. If there’s anything The Flash should do, it’s run with its own self-critique that might very well allow the show to move forward from the Arrow-lite it’s ended up morphing into.
3 out of 5 Ice Kisses
- I don’t think I’m the only one who minded all the manhandling Barry got from Cisco and Caitlin. He really had it coming.
- So I’m guessing Julian wasn’t lying about his family history. It sure seems like he has the dual personality that Doctor Alchemy has in the comics.
- As someone who grew up with Wally West as the Flash, and can’t shake that Keiynan Lonsdale is an adult man, I hope Kid Flash doesn’t become a thing post-Flashpoint. It’s a ludicrous thing to run with, especially with the Arrowverse’s propensity for stripped down interpretations of the characters.