Friday, March 10, 2017

THE FLASH Season 3 Episode 15 Review: Breaking Out of the Speed Force

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After lying dormant for half a dozen episodes, Savitar finally broke out of his Speed Force prison, as villains are wont to do in the last third of a season. While it was nice to see a return to the main plot after dealing with Gorilla Grodd for the past few weeks, I was slightly nervous about having Savitar himself come back into the picture. From the clunky CGI to the over the top voice, the god of speed hasn’t exactly been a very frightening adversary, despite how much he brags about being better than Thawne or Zoom. In many ways he seemed to work better as a threatening shadow; out of the picture, yet still causing trouble from the sidelines via Doctor Alchemy or time travel. 

This episode managed to work around this problem by having Savitar possess Julian and appear in Wally’s visions in forms like that of his late mother. It’s a band-aid solution that won’t last long once Savitar starts physically fighting Barry again, but for this episode at least, it was effective. Keiynan Lonsdale gave a truly heartbreaking performance, beautifully capturing Wally’s manic desperation and inability to trust his own senses. But while it was riveting to watch Wally react to these torturous visions, it was also slightly ridiculous that he was left to deal with the whole thing by himself. Kicking Wally off of the team because of his connection to Savitar seemed like an extraordinarily dumb move on Barry’s part, especially since he was perfectly willing to exploit Julian’s psychic link to Savitar. And predictably, cutting Wally off from everyone else was exactly what led to Savitar escaping and tricking Wally into taking his place in the Speed Force prison. 

Interestingly, Savitar also revealed that his master plan was inextricably linked to Barry creating Flashpoint, which makes me suspect he’s someone from that aborted timeline who has somehow escaped-- possible even the alternate version of Barry himself. It would certainly tie into the theme of Barry being his own worst enemy that has cropped up time and again this season. 

Of course, Barry’s tendency to self-sabotage isn’t just related to superhero matters, as was made perfectly plain by Iris breaking off their engagement after learning Barry’s proposal was fueled in part by a desire to rewrite the future he saw. The show has sometimes been guilty of inventing flimsy obstacles to keep Barry and Iris apart; last season their interactions were painfully stretched out so that two didn’t have a chance to kiss until the last five minutes of the finale. But as relationship wrinkles go, this is perhaps the most organic one we’ve had in a while. Barry’s obsession with saving Iris’s life was bound to end up affecting their relationship, especially since, as Iris herself pointed out, he’s being trained to think of her as a victim in need of saving. I’m not sure there’s enough material here to drag out this fight for more than a couple episodes given that Barry was obviously planning to propose before Savitar become involved, but for the moment, it’s an interesting test of Barry and Iris’s relationship. 

Barry wasn’t the only member of the team to have their dirty laundry aired out either; Caitlin made the stunning confession that she had been keeping a piece of the stone for herself, in an attempt to use it to take away her powers. It’s one of the most selfish and, dare I say, flat-out villainous things Caitlin’s done on the show; she prevented the stone from being destroyed, despite knowing it was the source of Savitar’s powers and that he used said powers to kill one of her friends. And yet, for some reason, her cold-hearted actions are almost totally brushed over by everyone. 

This show has a frustrating “one step forward, two steps back” philosophy when it comes to her road to villainy. Every time Caitlin does something borderline villainous, the team immediately acquits her of responsibility and never even seems to have any lingering suspicions about her. While I have feeling the show is saving the team’s actual reactions to her betrayal for when she snaps completely and goes full-on Killer Frost, it steals the punch from these moments to show the team consistently being confronted with Caitlin’s moral shortcomings and then shrugging them off without a second thought and risks making them seem foolish for not seeing this coming all along. 

Given that next episode seems to be about Barry confronting darker versions of some of his friends while journeying into the Speed Force, one can at least hope that he’ll address Caitlin’s growing darkness, even if only tangentially. If nothing else, it would be a waste to have her late husband Ronnie appear as a guest star and not give him a chance to react to Killer Frost in any way.

Written by Kaitlin Roberts, THE FLASH Beat Writer -- Click to read Kaitlin's posts


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