Thursday, April 27, 2017

The Flash Season 3, Episode 19: The Once And Future Flash

The Flash is back, after yet another one of its endless and interminable breaks. How I loathe these constant interruptions. Blame them on Sweeps Weeks.

This week Barry travels to the dark and dreary future, one that's somehow darker and drearier than his regular time period's been lately. In fact, this nightmarish version of Central City is so grim and gritty that I can't help but think it's meant as a parody of Zack Snyder's DC Movie Murderverse (see Man Of Steel or Batman V. Superman: Dawn Of Justice for examples).

We also get yet another tease of Savitar's identity this week. Sigh... OK, it was kind of fun trying to guess who he was at first, seemingly eighteen or twenty months ago, but the mystery's definitely lost its allure. The promos promise they'll finally reveal his identity in next week's episode. I hope so, because I'm honestly about five seconds away from not giving a sh*t. Enough's enough.

A while back I did a rundown of the candidates I thought were most likely to be Savitar, including Wally, HR, Eddie Thawne and even Barry himself. Based on various plot points, I narrowed the list down even further to HR or Barry. Eh, after this week's episode, I'm changing my mind again, as I don't think he could be either of them.

See, we don't learn who Savitar is this week, but get a pretty good indication of who he isn't. Future Barry says he finally managed to trap Savitar in the Speed Force in 2020. We then see that every character on the show— Barry, Cisco, Joe, Caitlin/Killer Frost, Wally, HR and Julian—is present and accounted for in 2024. If Savitar's locked up tight in the Speed Force, then he can't be any of them, right?

There's a fan theory floating around that Savitar is either Eddie Thawne or Ronnie Raymond, both of whom were fiancees of Caitlin Snow. Eddie was sucked into a singularity or something in the Season 1 finale, and Ronnie became one half of Firestorm and sacrificed himself to stop a singularity sometime in Season 2, I think. 

The technobabble nature of their both their deaths could easily serve as an excuse for them to turn into Savitar. And the appearance of either of them would definitely account for the look of shock and wonder on Caitlin/Killer Frost's face at the end of the episode.

I'm doubting it'll be Eddie though, since he just appeared (sort of) a couple months ago in Into The Speed Force. I think it'd be too confusing if he was both a Speed Force manifestation AND Savitar as well. 

That leaves Ronnie Raymond. I dunno if I really believe he's Savitar or not, but based on this episode, he seems to be the most likely candidate.

SPOILERS!

The Plot:
Barry and Iris hang out in their apartment. It's snowing outside, which is odd, considering this episode's airing in April. Barry's busy working out speed calculations (?) as he struggles to figure out how to save Iris from Savitar on May 23rd. Iris makes Barry promise to look after for Joe once she's gone (Plot Point Alert!). Barry gets a message from STAR Labs and rushes off.

At STAR, Killer Frost, aka Caitlin Snow, runs amok and attacks Cisco, HR and Julian. The three of them hide inside a cell in the STAR Labs Secret Super Jail, which seems like a dumb idea, since Killer Frost can simply open the door from the outside. Just as she's about to kill them with an ice blast, Barry appears. He urges her to try and fight her evil side, but she says "Nah," forms a wall of ice in front of him and runs off.

Cisco and Julian try to figure out how to find Killer Frost before she kills someone. Barry decides this would be the absolute perfect time to run to the future and find out who Savitar really is (?). When the others say "What the hell?" he reminds them that he can visit the future and be back a second after he left. Technically he's right, but it still seems wrong to run out in the middle of a crisis like this.

Unfortunately Barry's not fast enough to break the time barrier by himself, so he enlists Wally to help. The two of them run around the STAR Labs pipeline, until a time vortex begins to form. At the proper time Wally shoves Barry forward, which propels him into the vortex and seven years into the future.

In 2024, Barry's immediately attacked by Mirror Master and the Top, but manages to get away from them. He visits his apartment, but finds it empty and abandoned. Cisco appears, saying he had a feeling Barry would show up here some day. He notes Barry's wearing the 2017 version of his Flash suit. Barry tells Cisco that he needs to talk to his future self.

Cisco takes Barry to STAR Labs, or what's left of it. He says after Iris died, Future Barry shut it down and abandoned Team Flash, saying they reminded him too much of what he lost. Cisco stays in the elevator as Barry enters the darkened Cortex. Barry then encounters Future Barry, who for some reason speaks in a gravelly voice and has a ridiculous looking emo hairdo. Future Barry says he knows why Present Barry's here, and that he can't help him. He says he never found out who Savitar was. He tells Present Barry to go back and spend as much time as he can with Iris.

Barry says goodbye to Cisco and then attempts to run back to 2017. Oddly enough, he can't open a vortex. Apparently it never occurred to him that if it took two people to get him to the future, it would take two to get him back. Barry asks Cisco to just use his powers to open a breach and send him back. Unfortunately that's impossible, because at some point in the past seven years, Killer Frost froze off Cisco's hands, effectively neutering him. He now sports a pair of bionic hands.

Barry decides that since he can't get back home, he might as well catch up with his old friends. Cisco takes him to a prison where Killer Frost is incarcerated. Julian tends to her, and is surprised to see a slightly younger looking Barry. Julian says Killer Frost teamed up with Savitar and knows his true identity. Barry pleads with her to tell him, but she refuses. She does predict he'll be very surprised when he eventually finds out.

Barry visits Wally next, at the West house. Cisco say that after Savitar killed Iris, Wally went  crazy and tried to kill him by himself, with disastrous results. Wally's now wheelchair bound with a shattered spine, and whatever he saw while fighting Savitar left him completely comatose. He then goes to see Joe, who's tending to Iris' grave. Joe's not happy to see him, especially after he broke his promise to Iris and completely abandoned him.

Barry returns to STAR Labs, and demands to know why Future Barry turned his back on his friends and family. Future Barry tells him that he did everything he could to save Iris, but Savitar took her anyway. Once that happened, there was no reason to go on, so he wasn't there for Joe, for Caitlin or for Wally. He tells Barry he may not understand it now, but he will. 
Future Barry also says he eventually figure out a way to trap Savitar in the Speed Force forever, but by then it was too little, too late.


Barry talks to Cisco again, trying to figure out why he can't get back to his own time (um... because you don't have Wally's help?). Cisco says Barry can leave whenever he wants, and sheepishly admits he used some kind of dampening device to slow him down so he'd stay. Cisco wants Present Barry's help in getting Team Flash back together. Barry just can't resist Cisco's puppy dog eyes, and agrees to help.

Barry and Cisco go to Jitters, which is now called "HR Jitters." HR's there, reading his latest trashy novel to a group of enthralled MILFs. They round up Julian and Joe as well, and bring them back to STAR Labs. Barry talks them all into resurrecting Team Flash, and they're all on board. Cisco gets an alert saying Mirror Master and the Top are robbing another bank.

The Flash zooms to the scene and confronts the villains. They attack him again, and quickly get him on the ropes. Back at STAR, Cisco says his power dampening device could save Barry, but there's no way to get it to him in time. Suddenly Future Barry makes a dramatic entrance, saying he'll take it to him.

Future Barry zooms to the scene of the robbery, decked out in his updated Flash costume. He uses the dampening field to shut down the villains' powers and cuffs them, saving Present Barry.

Back at STAR Labs, Team Flash celebrates their sad little win, which doesn't matter because as soon as Barry returns to the present, this future timeline will likely cease to exist. Despite this, Future Barry says he sees now that this future's worth fighting for. He tells Barry that a scientist named Tracy Brand helped him trap Savitar in the Speed Force, and gives him some kind of futuristic flash drive (heh) with all the info he needs on it.

Barry enters the pipeline and somehow makes it back to 2017, even though earlier in the episode he wasn't fast enough to break the time barrier by himself. He tells Cisco and the others about his future adventure, and says the first thing they need to do is find Killer Frost and keep her from teaming up with Savitar.

Cut to Killer Frost walking through a wooded area. Savitar appears, and offers to help make sure the 
Caitlin side of her persona never returns. Killer Frost asks him why she should trust him. Savitar kneels down and the back of his suit opens up. A mysterious, shadowy figure steps out of it. All we see though is Killer Frost's face, as she's astonished by who's inside the suit.

Thoughts:

• As the episode opens, We see Barry and Iris in their apartment. The fireplace is blazing merrily away, and it's actually snowing outside. 

Just when is this episode supposed to be taking place (in 2017, that is)? I was under the impression the series was happening more or less in real time, as their Xmas episode actually aired back on December 6, 2016. So why the heck is it snowing on the show at the end of April? Is Killer Frost making it snow?

I'm betting this is a case of the show's numerous idiotic breaks screwing up the schedule, causing us to get a winter episode in the Spring.

• Cisco, Julian and HR run from Killer Frost, and hide in a STAR Labs Super Jail cell. I loved the Raiders Of The Lost Ark moment in this scene, as HR slid under the cell door, then reached out to grab his trademark drumstick just before the door closed on his arm.

• By the way, did you wonder why HR doesn't spend a lot of time in front of the camera this week? That's because he spend most of his time behind it. Actor Tom Cavanaugh directed this week's episode.


• Barry says he's not fast enough to open a time portal on his own, and needs Wally's help. They run around and around the pipeline, and at the appropriate moment, Wally gives Barry a boost to propel him through time.

Unfortunately it looks for all the world like Wally grabs Barry by the ass and tosses him into the vortex.


• When Barry arrives in 2024, he sees several newspapers blowing down the street, and picks one up to check the date and make sure he's really in the future.

Why the hell are there still physical newspapers in 2024? For three seasons now, every time Barry enters the STAR Labs Time Vault, he gazes at what appears to be a holographic newspaper dated 2024.

So I guess there aren't holographic newspapers in the future after all? Maybe we're to assume they still have paper newspapers in 2024, but what we see in the Time Vault is just a holographic recording of one of these? Or am I putting way more thought into this than the producers did?

• OK, this doesn't have much to do with this episode, but whatever. When Harrison Wells' Time Vault was first introduced back in Season 1, it was controlled by an artificial intelligence called "Gideon."

In the first season episode The Trap, Barry accidentally discovers the Time Vault and is greeted by Gideon's voice. He doesn't want Wells to know he's found the room, and asks Gideon if she can keep it quiet. She says of course. When Barry asks why she's obeying him, she says it's because he created her! Impressive!

Wow, Barry'd better get busy. He now has less than seven years to somehow figure out how to create an advanced, self-aware artificial intelligence. 

I get the feeling the writers forgot all about this little factoid...

Maybe Gideon's conspicuous absence is a feature of the revised timeline? The characters are still living in a slightly altered reality, right? First Barry meddled in time and created Flashpoint, then he went back and tried to fix it, and kind of did, but not quite. Did his constant time traveling accidentally erase his smartypants intelligent computer?

Oddly enough, over on Legends Of Tomorrow, Rip Hunter's timeship, the Waverider, is also controlled by an A.I. named Gideon. Hmm... Did he steal Gideon from Barry? Or did Barry give Rip a copy of Gideon for his ship?

• When Cisco meets Present Barry, he notes that he's wearing the 2017 version of his suit. That implies he'll be getting a new one soon!

• Barry meets the 2024 version of himself, complete with black hair that falls over his face in dank, greasy locks.

Obviously the producers were trying to make Barry look older here, but oddly enough his hairdo made him look younger, like a high school kid going through an emo phase.

• Did the producers deliberately try to make Barry look like Ezra Miller here? He's the actor who's playing the Flash in the upcoming Justice League movie.

• Great confusion surrounds the issue of Barry's method of time travel.


Barry tells Wally he's not fast enough to run into the future, and needs his help. They run in circles at superspeed until a portal forms, and Wally literally tosses Barry into it. So far, so good.

Once Barry finishes his business in 2024, he tries to go back to 2017. Surprise! He can't seem to run fast enough to open a portal and get back! Derp!

Did it never occur to Barry (or the writers) that if getting to the future is a two man job, getting back would probably be the same?

To confuse the matter even further, Cisco admits he deliberately used a power dampening device to suppress Barry's speed, because he didn't want him to go back to 2017. This implies that somehow, Barry should have been able to return to the present by himself. And at the end of the episode, that's exactly what he does!

So which is it, writers? Does Barry need help traveling through time or not? Does it take two people to jump to the future, and only one to get back? Is going to the past like running downhill?

• Barry asks Cisco to use his vibe powers to open a time portal for him. Cisco says he'd love to, but unfortunately Killer Frost froze off his hands at some point in the past. According to Cisco, "No hands, no vibes."

Did his hands contain special vibe-emitting glands? Couldn't he manifest his power some other way? Through his stumps, or even his eyes?

So where did Cisco get such advance Attack Of The Clones bionic hands? The writers realize he's only seven years in the future, right? It seems unlikely prosthetic technology's gonna advance that far in so short a time. I guess maybe Cisco invented them? And had someone else make them for him? Or maybe he got them from Atom.

• Barry goes to visit Future Killer Frost in her cell. She's surprised that Cisco didn't tell Barry she teamed up with Savitar. She says, "You didn’t tell him, did you? Well, secrets always were our thing, weren’t they?" 

Meta Alert! Wow, truer words were never spoken, as characters consistently keeping secrets from one another for no good reason has been a hallmark of The Flash since the series began. Maybe this is the writers' way of saying they're gonna cut back on the secrets? HAW HAW! What the hell am I saying? They'll never learn their lesson!

• Mirror Master's Inception-style reality warping effects were very well done. Kudos to the effects team!

• I like the Future Flash costume quite a bit! It's still overly complicated, but it looks more like the one he wears in the comic than any previous version, plus it's a brighter red. Slowly but surely, the show's working its way toward a comic accurate Flash costume!

• At HR Jitters, HR reads excerpts from his new novel to an appreciative audience. The title of his book is The Streak Vs. Mr. Reflecto, which I assume is based on a real life future battle between the Flash and Mirror Master?

• Apparently smartphones won't change much in the next seven years, as the ones the future characters all have look pretty much the same as our current models.

I'm sure this was a cost-cutting measure, so the prop department didn't have to cobble together futuristic looking phones. But it also makes a certain amount of sense, as the phones we have now haven't changed much in the past seven years. They've probably gotten a bit thinner, but that's about it.

• After 2024 Team Flash's little victory, the news media of the future celebrates the return of the Flash. What the heck's going on with that newscaster's collar? Is that what men's shirts will look like in 2024?

By the way, we've seen Channel 52 on the show before. It's a reference to "The New 52," one of DC's semi-annual revamps of their entire comic line.

• Before Barry leaves, Future Barry gives him the name of Tracy Brand, the doctor? scientist? who figured out how to trap Savitar in the Speed Force in 2020. He also gives Barry some kind of futuristic flash (heh) drive, in the hopes that Brand can figure out how to eliminate Savitar three years early. A couple things here. 

First off, I googled the name, and as near as I can tell, "Tracy Brand" isn't a character from any DC comic.

Secondly, about that button drive that Future Barry gave to Present Barry: I sure hope Tracy Brand or Cisco or someone can figure out a way to read the info off a storage medium that hasn't been invented yet!

• Math is hard! Barry travels to the year 2024. Once there, he mentions several times that he came from 2017.

When he finally gets back to 2017, he has the following conversation with Cisco:

Cisco: "You're back?"
Barry: "I went to the future."
Cisco: "How far?"
Barry: "Eight years from now."

Hmm. I freely admit I'm not a math expert, but eight years from 2017 would be 2025, right?

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