Thursday, March 30, 2017

The Flash Season 3, Episode 18: Abra Kadabra

This week on The Flash, we get the long-awaited first appearance of Silver Age villain Abra Kadabra, although he's criminally underused, another hare-brained "Save Iris" scheme from Barry, and the not-so-unexpected return of Killer Frost. Best of all, there were no musical numbers this week!

As a long time reader of comics, I was happy when I found out that Abra Kadabra was appearing on the show. That happiness soon turned to disappointment when the writers took such an important and iconic villain from the mythology and completely and utterly wasted him.

We get a few very brief scenes of him performing his trademark "magic," but he spend the majority of the episode going on and on about Savitar. Seriously, the way he crushes on the guy, I was ready to tell the two of 'em to get a room! 

Then when he's not preaching the gospel of the God Of Speed, he's playing coy with Joe and Barry, teasing, but never quite revealing, Savitar's true identity.

The writer's are really working overtime on drawing out the Big Reveal of Savitar's True Identity. Such plotlines can be tricky business, as instead of fueling fan speculation, they can easily cause them to shrug and say, "Who cares?" After all this buildup, I have a bad feeling when we finally do learn who Savitar really is, it's gonna be a big "meh" moment.


The Plot:
Inside Stagg Industries (remember them from Season 1?), two security guards run into Abra Kadabra, a supervillain/magician (!) from the 64th Century. Kadabra's looking for a piece of tech, and sees it locked inside a secure case. The guards pull their guns on him, and Kadabra disappears and reappears inside the case. He grabs the piece of tech and with a snap of his fingers, changes place with the guards trapping them inside the case. He snaps his fingers again and it fills with water, drowning the men.

Cut to Barry, Iris, Joe and Cecile double dating at Jitters. Cecile says her sister has four tickets to Hamilton she can't use, and offers two of them to Barry & Iris. They're eager to take them, until Cecile says the tickets are for a July show. Iris looks uncomfortable, since she's destined to be killed by Savitar in the season finale in May. Barry, who's trying to be optimistic, says they'd be delighted to take the tickets.

Barry and Joe investigate the "drowning" at Stagg Industries. While there, they get an alert of a robbery in progress at Kord Industries, another technology company (which should sound familiar to fans of the Blue Beetle). Barry changes into the Flash and zooms to the scene, and finds Kadabra in the middle of another heist.

Kadabra recognizes the Flash as Barry Allen, and knows everything about him— including the fact that Savitar will kill Iris soon (because he's from the future, and this is all ancient history to him, duh!). Suddenly Gypsy vibes in from Earth-19, and announces that Kadabra's under arrest. He throws a playing card at the heroes, which instantly multiplies into thousands, distracting them while he teleports away.

Back at STAR Labs, Gypsy tells Barry and the Gang that Kadabra is a criminal from the 64th Century who uses his era's extremely advanced technology (which seems like magic to us) to commit his crimes. Apparently he committed a series of robberies and murders on Earth-19, which is why she's after him.

Cisco tries making a very awkward move on his crush Gyspy, which she brusquely rejects. In other relationship subplots, Julian still thinks Caitlin only wanted him so he could cure her of her Killer Frostism (which is partially true), and says they're through. 

Suddenly yet another alarm goes off, indicating a break-in at Mercury Labs. Barry and Wally speed to the scene, as Cisco and Gypsy vibe there. Sure enough, they spot Kadabra there. The heroes surround him as Gypsy blasts him with a vibe ray, but it goes right through him, revealing he's a hologram. Foiled again!

The Mercury "break-in" was all a distraction, as Kadabra shows up at STAR Labs looking for something. Barry races in and cuffs Kadabra (Really? He can't get out of a pair of handcuffs?). Gypsy appears and demands to take him back to Earth-19 immediately. Kadabra then whispers to Barry that he knows Savitar's true identity, which he'll reveal if he's released. Barry thinks for a moment, then knocks out Kadabra and throws him in the STAR Labs Secret Super Jail. Needless to say, Gypsy's not pleased with this development, as she just wants to extradite Kadabra and go back to her own dimension.

At home, Barry and Iris discuss Kadabra. He wants to let him go so he'll reveal Savitar's identity, while Iris says he's a criminal and needs to stay locked up.

It's all moot anyway, as Joe sneaks into STAR and makes a deal with Kadabra: tell him Savitar's identity to potentially save Iris, and he'll let him walk. Kadabra agrees, and Joe opens the cell door. Kadabra very theatrically and deliberately states, "Savitar's... true... identity... is..." Suddenly Gypsy appears and asks Joe what the hell? Kadabra uses the distraction to teleport away. Nice going, Gypsy!

Joe, Caitlin and Julian track Kadabra to the elevators, where they try to stop him. He causes a huge explosion and escapes. The Gang groggily crawls from the wreckage, and Caitlin looks down to see a large pipe sticking out of her side! Julian wants to rush her to a hospital, but Cisco says they can't as she'll be identified as a metahuman (?).

Cisco mentions that in her Killer Frost persona, Caitlin's body has impressive regenerative powers, which is an obvious set up, and something I don't think has ever been mentioned before. Caitlin refuses to risk turning into her own nemesis, and says she'd rather talk Julian through the operation (!). They give her a local anesthetic (I guess?) and with her help, Julian successfully performs the procedure.

After the operation, Cisco asks Gypsy why she's being such an asshole in this episode. She says it's because she used to have a partner on Earth-19, and Kadabra murdered him, hence all the rage and vengeance. 

Gypsy has a theory about what Kadabra's doing. She believes he's stuck here in the 21st Century, and is stealing tech from various companies to build a time machine to take him back... to the future! Um... isn't that EXACTLY the same motivation that Eobard Thawne had back in Season 1? Are we really doing this same plot again?

Cisco figures out that Kadabra stole Eobard Thawne's compact power supply from the STAR Labs Time Vault to power his time machine. He tracks the power supply and says Kadabra's on the move, flying his time ship over the city. Team Flash springs into action, as Barry, Wally, Cisco and Gypsy chase after him.

Kadabra opens a portal and prepares to fly his ship through it back to the 64th Century. Barry runs up the side of a nearby building, then jumps down toward the time ship. He vibrates into it, grabs Kadabra and vibrates the two of them back out as the ship flies through the time portal and disappears. OK, I gotta admit that was pretty cool.

On the ground, Gypsy officially places Kadabra under arrest. Again. She prepares to take him to Earth-19 for execution. Barry asks Kadabra one last time, literally begging him to reveal Savitar's identity. He says that in the future, he and the Flash have been enemies for years, but it was Savitar who truly broke him by killing Iris. He says by not revealing Savitar's identity, he gets to hurt the Flash one last time too. What a dick! Gypsy vibes a portal and takes him through it to Earth-19 (where I'm sure he'll never escape and pop up to pester Barry ever again).

Back at the West house, Joe & Iris are moping about the whole Kadabra/Savitar thing. Suddenly Barry enters and says he has a brilliant new idea to save Iris. He says their lives are all ancient history to entities from the future like Kadabra and Savitar. He says this is why their enemies are always two steps ahead of them. In order to fix this, Barry decides he's going to run to the future (again) to save Iris. That doesn't make a lick of sense, but I guess we've still got five episodes left to fill this season, so whatever.

In the med bay, Julian sits with Caitlin. She wakes up, and the two of them share a tender moment. Hooray, they're back together! HR enters, after being mysteriously absent for the entire episode (hmmm...). After some witty banter among the cast, Caitlin suddenly begins seizing and her heart stops beating. Cisco and Julian or course try using a defibrillator machine the wrong way to jumpstart her heart. Nothing works, and Caitlin dies (!).

A distraught Julian then yanks the power-dampening pendant from Caitlin's neck. Suddenly her wound heals, the room goes cold and there's a huge explosion of snow and ice. Killer Frost then emerges from the fog.

• Stagg Industries first appeared wayyyy back in the Season 1 episode Fastest Man Alive. It was owned by Simon Stagg (a character who popped up in the comics from time to time), who was killed in the episode by Multiplex (who was traditionally a Firestorm villain in the comics). 

• While Barry's investigating the incident at Stagg Industries, he gets an alert that there's a break-in at Kord Industries, and rushes to the scene. He arrives just in time to catch Kadabra in the act.

According to the Official Arrowverse Wiki, Kord Industries is in Star City, which is where Arrow and his crew live. Somehow Barry runs from Central City to Star City before Kadabra has a chance to escape with his stolen piece of tech. I guess he really is the fastest man alive!

Note: I suppose it's possible there might be a much closer, Central City branch of Kord, but there's nothing in the dialogue to indicate this.

• Abra Kadabra was a major Flash foe in the comics, and was created by writer John Broome and artist Carmine Infantino. He first appeared in 1962 in The Flash #128.

Much like in this episode, the comic version of Kadabra was from the 64th Century, a time when "science rendered stage magic obsolete." He wanted a career as a magician though, so he went back in time to the 20th Century and used his technology to dazzle audiences. He eventually became bored with showbiz and turned to crime, which is when he began clashing with the Flash.

Don't you just love that comic book cover above? "I've got the strangest feeling I'm being turned into a puppet!" Only in the Silver Age would you see a line like that!

By the way, back in Season 1 when we were all still trying to figure out Harrison Wells' true identity, I actually suggested he might really turn out to be Abra Kadabra (!). Obviously that was a hilariously wrong guess. In my defense, Wells was from the future, just like Kadabra, so it was only 98% unlikely. Hey, you can't guess 'em all right!

• Abra Kadabra is played here by actor David Dastmalchian. He was most recently in The Belko Experiment, where he played an assistant maintenance man alongside Michael Rooker.

He also played Kurt the computer hacker in Ant-Man (where he did his best David Tennant impression). That means Dastmalchian has played parts in both the Marvel and DC cinematic universes!

• Oh, The Flash costume designers. Why do you continue to vex me? Once again we get a supervillain wearing a bland, black, non-costume. I don't understand the problem. Barry, Wally and Jesse all wear traditional colorful superhero costumes. So why can't the various Arrowverse villains do the same?

Mirror Master, Mr. Mxyzptlk,  Music Meister— virtually every bad guy we've seen on the shows this year have worn the same damned thing— a plain black suit. Although in a burst of creative energy, Music Meister did accent his drab outfit with a bright red pocket square! Astonishing!

And of course Abra Kadabra is no different. Yet another plain black kind-of-tuxedo looking thing. I suppose I can cut them a slight bit of slack here, since he's supposed to be a stage magician, and his non-costume makes a certain amount of sense. It's still pretty drab though. Would it have killed them to have given him a cape, for Thor's sake?

• Gypsy says that Kadabra uses sophisticated technology instead of actual magic to perform his "tricks." Cisco and Caitlin both chime in with Clarke's Third Law, saying, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." That's actually a real saying, coined by noted sci-fi author Arthur C. Clarke.

• So Kadabra uses advanced technology that's like magic to us, but he can't get out of a pair of 21st Century handcuffs. Got it.

• Kadabra refuses to help save Iris by telling Barry who Savitar really is. Barry and Joe then mope about the fact that they have no idea how to save Iris. Joe says, "Sometimes I wish you hadn't told me what was gonna happen."

Really? Wasn't he the guy who was pissed a few weeks ago when they finally told him the truth after keeping it from him for months? And wasn't he all butt-hurt when Barry didn't come to him and ask his permission to marry Iris? Make up your mind, Joe! You want to truth or don't you?

• When Caitlin's injured, Cisco says they can't take her to a hospital because they'd identify her as a metahuman. Wha...? Do Central City hospitals routinely check patients for metahumanness before treatment? What do they do if someone does turn out to be a meta? Tell 'em to hit the bricks?

This was all just some extremely contrived writing in order to put Julian in the position of treating Caitlin, so the writers could force them back together. Well, for a little while.

• Caitlin's "death" was pretty heavily telegraphed early on in the episode. Julian points to the "Killer Frost Still At Large" headline, which hasn't changed. A bit later Cisco comments to Caitlin, "
Looks like things between you and Julian are a little frosty, huh?"

Then once she was injured, Cisco suddenly mentions that Caitlin has a Wolverine-like healing factor when she's in her Killer Frost persona (which I'm pretty sure is a retcon). Caitlin also stubbornly says she'd rather die than use her powers to fix herself.

Once you add up all that, an appearance by Killer Frost was practically guaranteed!

The real question is whether or not Caitlin is really dead. Is it possible for her to ever come back? I'm sure the writers would love us to think no, but I can't imagine they'd kill her off and just leave her villainous side running around from now on.

• When Julian rips the pendant from Caitlin's neck, her Killer Frost powers are unleashed. We then get a shot of her ugly incision healing itself almost instantly. Oddly enough, her stitches seem to fade away instead of falling off her torso. Weird.

• At one point Cisco tracks Kadabra's movements through Central City to help Barry catch him. He tells Barry, "Okay, now he's on Thurlow and Eighth."

We all know that The Flash writers love to name their fictional streets after real-life comic book creators. I did some extensive research (OK, more like a few seconds) and couldn't find any writers or artists named "Thurlow." However, there is a Thurlow Street in Vancouver, where The Flash (and all the other Arrowverse shows) are filmed.

• Kadabra may have just inadvertently revealed the identity of Season 4's Big Bad. Right before Gypsy takes Kadabra to Earth-19, Barry pleads with him to reveal the true identity of Savitar. 

Kadabra then monologues briefly, saying, "See, here it is. In the future, you and I have been enemies for years. Oh, there have been others, of course. There was Thawne, Zoom, DeVoe, but none of them hurt you like Savitar. He truly broke you."

Of course we're all too familiar with those first two names he mentions, but DeVoe's a new one. There's no way that's just some random name the writers came up with, to sell the idea that Kadabra's from the future. Especially since there's a DeVoe in the comics.

Clifford DeVoe, aka The Thinker, first appeared wayyyy back in 1943. He often clashed with the Golden Age Flash, aka Jay Garrick. DeVoe wore a Louis Tully-like "thinking cap," which amplified his psionic abilities. Later on in the Modern Age he was killed and became some sort of living artificial intelligence.

The producers have already stated that the main villain of Season 4 would NOT be another speedster (thank the Maker!), so it's a pretty good bet that Kadabra's comment was foreshadowing The Thinker.

• At the end of the episode, Barry decides he's gonna save Iris once and for all, by traveling to the future again, which will somehow give him an added advantage.

As I said earlier, this doesn't make a bit of sense. He's already seen Iris' future, many times now, and knows every detail about what's going to happen to her. What more is there to learn? I honestly don't understand how running to the future again is going to change anything.

This feels like more plot trickery, to give us another "Messed Up Alternate World" storyline, that we've already had twice this season.

1 comment:

  1. Dastmalchian ironically was also in The Dark Knight, so he's been in the Marvel, DC, and Nolan universes...


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