Friday, March 17, 2017

The Flash Season 3, Episode 16: Into The Speed Force

This week on The Flash, we get another dark, dour and gloomy (not to mention "meh") episode. I get that the show's currently in its "Heroes Brought Low" phase, so they can triumph at the end of the season. That's just Writing 101. But enough with the death and depression. The return to fun and frivolity can't come soon enough for me. This is the Arrowverse, guys! It's supposed to be lighter and more fun than the DC Murderverse, er, I mean Movie Universe. In fact this episode was so glum I almost didn't feel like writing about it.

This week's episode is sort of a sequel to last season's The Runaway Dinosaur. Many fans consider that to be one of the best episodes of the series. Unfortunately they won't be.saying that about this week's episode...

Last week I did a rundown of the candidates I thought were most likely to secretly be Savitar, including Wally, HR, Eddie Thawne and even Barry himself. After the events of this week's episode, I'm definitely ruling out Eddie. I suppose it could still be him, but I think it'd be too confusing if he was a Speed Force manifestation AND Savitar as well. This episode would also seem to rule out Wally, since he's no longer trapped in the Speed Force. Although I'm sure the writers could come up with some bullsh*t explanation if they really wanted it to be him.

I'm still leaning toward either HR or Barry. HR was acting even more suspicious than usual in this episode, going so far as to creepily eavesdrop on Cisco and Jesse. Another reason I think it's HR so far each season of the show has featured a different version of Harrison Wells. My theory would allow the producers to write out HR at the end of the season, paving the way for an all new Wells in Season 4.

Barry's not completely out of the running, though. This episode featured several references to "Future Barry," which I assume is some corrupted version of him that could somehow become Savitar.

Star Labs has been a little crowded lately, as the past few weeks it's been housing three, count 'em 3 speedsters. Suddenly in this episode Wally decides to take a break, and Jesse Quick vacates our Earth altogether, leaving Barry as the sole speedster in Central City. 

I'm not opposed to this, mind you, as I thought having three speedsters on the show was a bit much. But i felt like the housecleaning seemed a bit too abrupt. Especially in Jesse's case. One week she's mooning over Wally, ready to chuck her life on Earth-2 to be with him. Then completely out of the blue she decides to go to Earth-3 for reasons, and can't get off our world fast enough. Odd.

It's always nice to see John Wesley Shipp as Jay Garrick. I'm not too thrilled about his fate in this episode though, as it almost felt like the writers were trying to get rid of him. Hopefully this wasn't his final appearance.

Lastly, Barry Allen really is an idiot. Despite the fact that Iris' potential death is only a month or two away, he decides the two of them need a break and pushes her away. Does that make any sense? It felt incredibly contrived and unearned, and is obviously another way to keep the two of them apart until the season finale. Feh.


The Plot:
Inside STAR Labs, Barry stares intently at the Breach platform. He comes to a decision, and announces he's going into the Speed Force to rescue Wally. The rest of the Gang worries that he'll become lost once he's inside the infinite void. Joe tells Barry he doesn't want to lose both his sons. HR makes himself useful for once, and suggests Cisco whip up some sort of "interdimensional tether" they can use to pull Barry back into Earth-1 if he gets into trouble in the void.

Cisco opens a breach into the Speed Force, and Barry jumps through. He ends up in a budget-conscious creepy version of the Central City Police Department set. The Wormhole Prophets, er, I mean the Speed Force manifests itself as the late Eddie Thawne, who sacrificed himself to destroy the Reverse Flash back in Fast Enough.

Barry asks Speed Force Eddie if he knows where Wally is. SF Eddie says Wally's in a prison that "Future Barry" created, and won't allow him to be rescued. He tells Barry the Speed Force restored his powers in The Runaway Dinosaur because he promised he was over his mother's death. He says Barry lied about that and inadvertently created the Flashpoint timeline. SF Eddie says they can't allow him to make poor choices like that again. Barry argues that Wally's just a kid, and doesn't deserve his punishment.

SF Eddie says he'll allow Barry to save Wally if he can beat a Time Wraith to the elevator. Barry races the Wraith around the office, and manages to run through it and make it to the elevator.

Meanwhile in the real world, Jesse's going crazy sitting around waiting. She picks up the piece of Savitar (that Barry broke off of him last week) and asks if Cisco could use it to track him. Cisco says it's possible, but it's too dangerous for her to attack him alone. HR hides in the shadows, listening intently to this exchange. Hmm...

Inside the Speed Force, Barry walks through a budget-conscious creepy version of STAR Labs. He sees Speed Force Caitlin cradling a crying baby. The Speed Force then manifests itself as the late Ronnie Raymond, who was Caitlin's fiancee at one time. Barry tells SF Ronnie he's willing to sacrifice himself to save Wally. Suddenly Barry's attacked by the Black Flash, who pins him to the floor. Barry takes off Cisco's "tether" device and sticks it to Black Flash, which for some reason disintegrates him (?).

Back at STAR Labs, the Gang loses contact with Barry. Cisco says with the tether gone, there's no way to ever locate him in the infinite Speed Force.

Barry then wakes up in a hospital, and sees Wally standing behind a door. As he reaches for the knob, it's coated by a blast of ice. He looks up and sees the Speed Force has now taken the form of the late Captain Cold (I guess it's only taking the forms of the dead during this visit). Speed Force Cold tells Barry that Wally's trapped in his own personal hell— seeing his mother die over and over again for eternity.

Barry says he's not leaving without Wally, and SF Cold freezes him to the wall. He's about to blast Barry again when Jay Garrick, the Earth-3 Flash, zooms in and punches out SF Cold.

Meanwhile, Jesse steals the piece of Savitar and takes it outside. It begins glowing and flies through the air, back to Savitar. Jesse follows it at superspeed. She finds Savitar and attacks. They battle for a while, and Savitar eventually gets the upper hand and starts choking her. He tells Jesse he has big plans for her, whatever that means. For some reason, HR is in communication with Jesse, and tells her to look for a weak spot in Savitar's armor. She takes the broken shard and stabs Savitar in the neck. He roars and speeds away.

Back in the Speed Force, Jay explains to Barry that after the tether was destroyed, Cisco vibed to Earth-3 to ask him for help (I guess he did all that while we weren't looking?). Barry and Jay enter the hospital room and tell Wally they're there to rescue him. Barry and Wally walk out the door, but notice Jay's staying behind. 

Jay tells them that for some reason, a speedster has to remain inside the Speed Force at all times, so he's decided to sacrifice himself and stay. Barry tries to talk him out of it, but Jay refuses to leave. Jay gives Barry his winged helmet, and says he'll see him later. Barry promises he'll be back for him someday, and he and Wally exit the Speed Force.

Later, Wally announces that after his traumatic experience in the Speed Force, he's taking a break from being Kid Flash. Jesse tells Wally that Savitar's crack about having big plans for her have unnerved her, and she's moving to Earth-3. Partly for her safety, and also to replace Jay as the Earth-3 Flash. Wally's sad to see her go, but understands. They profess their love for one another, and Cisco sends Jesse to Earth-3.

HR tells the STAR Labs Gang that Jesse learned something valuable in her battle with Savitar— that he's not a god. He's a man, and he can be hurt.

Later that night, Iris tells Barry she knows he only proposed as a way to try and change the future, but has decided she doesn't care. Barry says she was right the first time, and because he's an idiot and there are still seven or eight episodes to fill this season, he tells her he thinks they need some time apart.

• There's not a lot to say about this episode. It's tough to find plot holes in a story when most of it takes place inside a character's head.

• You know, all the special guest stars in this episode might have been more of a fun surprise if their names hadn't all been listed in the opening credits.

I think there's a SAG rule that requires them to be named up front. If so, they need to write some sort of clause in their contract that allow guest stars to be listed at the end of the episode when the sight of their name constitutes a spoiler!

• Last week on Legends Of Tomorrow, the team went inside the mind of their former captain Rip Hunter, to try and cure him of his terminal evilness. Oddly enough, the inside of his mind just happened to look like the interior of this timeship, the Waverider, but with more spooky green lighting and lots of dry ice fog. 

Why would the inside of his mind look like his ship? So the producers didn't have to blow money building new sets that would only be used for one episode, that's why. Gotta watch that budget here on The CW!

So this week on The Flash, Barry enters the Speed Force, and once again this infinite void takes the form of various locations familiar to him. The CCPD, STAR Labs and a hospital room. Again, why would an interdimensional, abstract space look like places he knows? 
So the producers didn't have to blow money building new sets that would only be used for one episode, that's why. Gotta watch that budget here on The CW!

• In a similar vein...

On Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Commander Sisko often entered the Bajoran wormhole, an interdimensional tunnel located near the space station, that connected the Alpha and Gamma Quadrants.

The wormhole was populated with a non-corporeal lifeform called the Prophets. The Prophets were non-linear beings who experienced the past, present and future all at once. In order to communicate with a lowly, linear being like Sisko, they took the form of various people he knew, such as his crew mates.

This gave the rest of the cast something to do during wormhole episodes, but it also saved the series a ton of money. Making the aliens look like the regular cast meant makeup man Michael Westmore didn't have to create tons of expensive alien prosthetics that week.

And so it is with The Flash and the Speed Force. Making it take the form of various regular cast members saves the producers a ton on CGI. Gotta watch that budget here on The CW!

You know, sometimes I feel like a talk about the budget of these Arrowverse shows way too much. But it's hard not to! I don't think I've ever been as aware of a TV show's limited budget as I am when I watch The Flash.

Earth-19 Watch:

Apparently Earth-19 has Super Mario World, as HR challenges Cisco to play him someday.

When Cisco says he thinks he can rig up an interdimentional tether for Barry, HR says, "Yeah! Now we're cooking with helium." The laws of physics must be very different on Earth-19. Here on good old Earth-1, helium is an inert gas. That means it can't burn or explode, for those of you who believe Obama is using microwaves to spy on Donald Trump.

They also have "Schroeder's Cat," and a Peanuts character called "Schrodinger." Also, in the Earth-19 Peanuts strip, Charlie Brown is the one who plays the piano, which is apparently funny as he's terrible at it.

Earth-19 has the Peanuts comic strip, but it's a bit different. 

• I don't understand why one speedster always has to stay inside the Speed Force. 

Savitar's trapped there, but tricks Wally into taking his place. Then Barry enters to rescue Wally, and is willing to stay to free him. Then Jay sacrifices himself by remaining inside the Speed Force so both Barry and Wally can leave. 

Why? Why does there have to be at least one speedster occupant in it at all times? Other than because the writers say so? This is my biggest complaint about this whole Savitar/Speed Force storyline— nothing about it makes any sense and it feels like the writers are making it all up as they go. Rules, guys! Savitar and the Speed Force need rules, so the audience at home can play along and try to figure out what's going to happen. It's hard to do that when even the writers don't know.

• Wally's "personal hell" inside the Speed Force consisted of him standing in a hospital room, watching his mother die over and over again for eternity. When Jay Garrick takes his place, he does so literally, by standing in the exact same spot, watching Wally's mother die.

I'm assuming that after Barry and Wally left the Speed Force, Wally's Hell morphed into something more meaningful for Jay. It has to, right? Otherwise it's not gonna be much of a punishment for Jay to stand there and watch a stranger die over and over.

By the way, when Wally sees his mother die over and over, HE'S the only one who can see hef— when Barry looks into the hospital room, all he sees is an empty bed.

Why's Wally's mom invisible to everyone but Wally? Were they not able to get actress Vanessa Williams, aka Francine West, back this week? She appeared on the show in the previous episode. Maybe it's the budget rearing its ugly head again. There were four guest stars in this episode— could The CW honestly not afford a fifth?

• There was really only one notable line in this episode:
Speed Force Captain Cold: (after knocking down Jay with an ice blast) "Getting a little slow in your golden age, Garrick!"

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