Friday, May 12, 2017

THE FLASH Season 3 Episode 21 Review: Here’s Your Required Dose of Filler

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After months upon months of hyping the mystery of Savitar’s identity, the answer we finally got at the end of last week — that Savitar is in fact an evil future version of Barry — felt a more than a little anticlimactic. It’s not that the idea doesn’t have some merit as storyline; but by waiting this long to reveal who Savitar really is, the show has had to rush along explaining how Barry ended up on this dark path. The explanation we got in this episode, which picked up moments after last week’s ending, made very little sense and has introduced several plotholes. The most confusing of these is that Savitar proudly reveals himself to be a time remnant of Barry’s… which begs the question of why Barry’s can’t just decide not to create any time remnants in the future. Every time we’ve seen a time remnant in the show they’ve been created on purpose as part of a speedster’s plan, and the Barry of 2024 clearly indicated that he created his time remnants to try and stop Savitar (boy, this is a lot of Barrys to keep track of). There’s not even an attempt to try and handwave this solution away, which feels odd considering how many zany theories Team Flash spouts ten seconds after learning Savitar’s identity. 

Which brings me to another point... none of the characters have a reaction to learning Barry is the villain they’ve been chasing all year. Even Iris seems to be completely nonplussed by the revelation, in spite of the fact it means she’s now facing the prospect of being murdered by an evil doppelganger of her fiance. The whole reason evil versions of characters are so compelling as antagonists is because of what their loved ones are forced to go through when they see them. Having all of their leads shrug off the truth so quickly just makes the storyline feel half-baked and paints Savitar as an ineffective villain. 

It’s even more puzzling that the team is utterly unphased by Savitar’s identity given that this episode also takes the time to highlight how hard it is for them to see Caitlin running around as Killer Frost now. Her reluctant team-up with her former friends was fun to watch, particularly when she was forced to work with Cisco. The steady, loyal friendship between Caitlin and Cisco has often been one of the show’s most endearing relationships, and it was hard not to feel moved by Cisco’s persistent attempts to remind Caitlin of the old days. It would have been more effective if Caitlin had defected earlier in the season, since, after all, it’s hard to feel nostalgic for when she was a part of the team when it was less than two episodes ago, but I’ve given up trying to understand the bizarre pacing of this season. The fact that the series would devote one of the last episodes before the finale to what appears to be an ultimately pointless “filler” plotline certainly doesn’t give much hope that the show will manage to turn its uneven storytelling around before the year ends. 

And of course this isn’t to say that the filler wasn’t enjoyable its own way! In fact, this new Barry showed that the character is much more likeable character when he’s not constantly brooding or acting as though he carries the weight of the world. Watching Iris take a walk down memory lane with Barry certainly allowed the easy, natural chemistry between Grant Gustin and Candice Patton to shine in a way it hasn’t in quite a while; the scene where the two of them were making fun of Barry’s high school photos was my favorite in the whole episode, and it was simply two characters sitting down to have a real conversation — something that seems to be happening less and less on the show these days. 

All in all, it felt like this episode could have been an enjoyably lighthearted episode that wasn’t required to advance the plot, in a way similar to many of the very first episodes of the series. It just had the bad luck of being poor timing by coming on the heels of a poorly handled reveal in a season that has very little time left to wrap up its many, many loose ends. But if nothing else, it did highlight the fact that both the show and the characters are much better off when they aren’t taking themselves so seriously and are actually allowed to have fun. While it seems unlikely there will be much time for that in these last two episodes, hopefully it’s something that the show will take to heart as it enters the next season.

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


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