Sunday, May 14, 2017

The Flash Season 3, Episode 21: Cause And Effect

This week on The Flash, the writers have clearly lost their minds as they pause in the middle of the dark, brooding Savitar storyline to give us an oddly lighthearted and delightfully comedic episode. What the hell?

I freely admit that I'm not a fan of overly grim and gritty comic book movies and TV shows, as I feel superheroes should be fun. I know, Silly me, right? So I've been less than happy with this season of The Flash, as it's been nothing but one long bleak and ominous mope-fest.

That made the sudden appearance of this cheerful and sunny episode feel all the more out of place. And its placement was even more bizarre! Seconds after Savitar reveals he's really a future version of Barry, the episode makes a MASSIVE one hundred eighty degree turn into the comedy realm! You can almost hear the tires squealing as it turns!

The thing is, the episode was actually quite good, and surprisingly funny. If it had aired at ANY other point in the season, I'd have enjoyed it immensely. But wedging it firmly in the middle of one of the most deadly serious storylines the show's ever done prevented me from warming up to it. I was too busy scratching my head, wondering what the hell the writers were thinking, to fully appreciate the comedy.

Imagine if, in The Empire Strikes Back, the following scene plays out. Vader's just cut off Luke's hand and told him that he's his father. It's a startling revelation, and Luke's completely out of options, with no way out. Suddenly Luke's two droids appear on the Cloud City gantry, and C-3PO says, "Excuse me Master Luke. I hate to interrupt, but R2 wants to know if you'd like him to ready your X-Wing for takeoff? I told him, sir, that you were much too busy to think about such trivial matters at this time, as you're obviously discussing something of some importance with Master Vader, but... what's that? Shut my stupid metal mouth for once in my life? How rude!"

That's what this episode felt like!

Part of me wonders if this episode was the writers' response to fan criticism that this season has been too dark, and they were reacting by trying to lighten things up a bit? If so, kudos to them for trying, I guess. But it's too late to salvage this season NOW guys. There're only two episodes to go! Wait until NEXT season to lighten things up again.


The Plot:
Picking up where we left off last week, Barry and Savitar continue their stand off. Savitar, aka Future Future Barry, explains who he is and how he came to be. Settle in, because it's twisted and complicated.

It seems that Savitar technically isn't Barry after all. See, Future Barry created an army of time remnants to help him battle Savitar, who killed all of them except for one. 
This Remnant Barry grew resentful when the STAR Labs Gang shunned him, and became filled with rage and pain. According to Remnant Barry, he realized that gods feel no pain, so he decided to become one.

When Barry asks why he'd want to kill Iris, Savitar/Barry explains it's to drive Present Barry so far into the dark that he creates him. That doesn't make much sense, but let's just move on or we'll be here all day.

Barry threatens to kill himself to prevent Remnant Barry from being born, but he says time is a tricky thing, and that won't work (which is a lie, but whatever). Barry attacks Remnant Barry, but the Savitar suit comes to life and knocks him into next Tuesday. Remnant Barry leaps into the suit (which was pretty cool) and zooms off.

At STAR Labs, Barry tells the Gang what happened. Cisco and the others begin brainstorming, trying to use this new knowledge to come up with a way to defeat Savitar. Barry thinks it's impossible to beat him, as Savitar has his memories and knows everything they're saying and planning right in this moment.

This gives Cisco an idea— if Barry was to temporarily lose his memory, Savitar wouldn't know what they're planning, and for once they'd have an advantage over him. Comic Book Science! Cisco and Julian whip up a machine to block Barry's long-term memory. Joe protests, feeling it's dangerous to mess with Barry's brain. Barry says they have no choice and he's willing to give it a try.

Barry sits in a contraption that was apparently borrowed from the set of Total Recall, as Cisco powers it up. He shuts it off after a few seconds, and Julian asks Barry how he's doing. Barry looks around and says, "Who are you people?" He doesn't remember who he is either. Whoops!

Barry starts freaking out, thinking these strangers are performing experiments on him, which of course is true. Iris calms him down by showing him photos of the two of them on her phone, and he realizes they're all friends. Meanwhile, Cisco and Julian try to figure out what went wrong.

Cecile calls Joe and says she needs to see Barry at the CCPD immediately. HR checks on Tracy Brand, who's working on a way to trap Savitar in the Speed Force. They flirt a bit and nearly kiss, until they remember themselves and HR awkwardly rushes out.

Joe and Iris take Barry to meet with Cecile. She says she needs his expert testimony in the Heat Monger trial (a supervillain who's nothing at all like Heat Wave of Legends Of Tomorrow, wink wink) case, or the judge will declare a mistrial and he'll go free. Joe realizes there's no way in hell Barry will be able to testify, since he can't even remember his own name. Joe tells Iris to keep Barry busy while he tries to delay the trial.

Meanwhile, Killer Frost goes to see Savitar, who's kneeling in his headquarters somewhere. She knocks on his suit, and he suddenly springs into action, grabbing her by the throat and pinning her against the wall. He says he doesn't know who he is, confirming that Cisco's plan worked.

Iris takes Barry to lunch, and is delighted by his new, happy-go-lucky, worry-free personality. She realizes this is the Barry Allen she fell in love with, and misses him. She actually starts wishing this version could stick around forever (!).

Cut to the courthouse. Cisco and Julian give Barry a pair of Google Glass-like glasses, that can display text on the lenses. Barry takes the stand, and Cecile questions him about specialized evidence in the Heat Monger trial. Julian types out the answers for Barry, who awkwardly reads them off his glasses.

His testimony goes reasonably well until Barry becomes nervous and begins sweating, which shorts out the glasses (?). Comedy Ahoy! With Barry unable to answer any more questions, the judge dismisses the case, and Heat Monger goes free.

Joe, Cisco, Julian and Wally dejectedly return to STAR Labs, where they're met by Killer Frost. Joe pulls his gun on her, and Wally tries to stop her, but realizes his speedster powers are gone.

Iris takes Barry to their apartment, which impresses him greatly. He sees a photo of his late parents, and she explains that they died, and afterwards he came to live with her family. They kiss, and for some reason this causes Barry's superspeed to kick in. He's amazed to find that he's a speedster.

Barry and Iris return to STAR Labs, where they see see the Gang confronting Killer Frost (I guess they all stood there waiting patiently for Barry and Iris to show up, so they could continue their fight?). She explains that Barry's amnesia is affecting Savitar as planned (good). It also means that with no memories, Savitar never places Wally in a cocoon (as seen this season in Shade), and he doesn't become a speedster (bad).

Killer Frost wants to help them restore Barry's memories so Savitar can regain his. When they ask why they'd want to help her do that, she gives them a lame excuse about how there are a lot of supervillains in Central City who could wreak havoc until Barry relearns to use his powers. Amazingly, they agree to help her.

Killer Frost, Cisco and Julian work on a way to restore Barry's memories. Cisco baits her by telling a story about the good old days, when he and Caitlin were friends. Meanwhile Barry trains in the lab, as Iris says she's never seen him this happy. Joe senses she's starting to fall for this new, carefree Barry, and reminds her that he's not the version they both know and love. HR visits Tracy again to apologize for his earlier actions. They can't control themselves though, and finally kiss. For some reason, this inspires Tracy and she comes up with a way to perfect the Speed Force trap.

Cut to Heat Monger, who immediately (and I do mean IMMEDIATELY!) resumes his life of crime seconds after being released from prison. He enters an office building and sets it on fire for no good reason, other than Comic Books! The STAR Labs Gang are alerted to the fire. Barry decides he has to try and rescue the workers, even though he still doesn't have complete control of his powers.

Barry and Cisco arrive on the scene. When he sees the building, Barry's not sure he has what it takes to rescue anyone. Cisco uses the brain device that Killer Frost helped build, zapping Barry with it. Unfortunately nothing happens, and Barry still can't remember anything. Cisco explains that the "gas is in the tank," but Barry needs a way to "turn on the ignition." He needs a powerful memory to jump-start his brain.

Inside STAR Labs, Iris overhears this. She speaks to Barry over his comm-link, telling him about the night he came to live with them, and how she found him crying downstairs and comforted him. Her story causes Barry's memories to return. He pauses to pose dramatically before he rescues the office workers, and suddenly Wally joins him. Now that Barry's memory has returned, so has Savitar's, which restores Wally's powers. The two of them run around the outside of the office building, putting out the fire and capturing Heat Monger (again).

Back at STAR, Cisco and the others test Barry and determine his memory is fully restored. As Killer Frost leaves, Julian calls after her, saying he can fix her and that he loves her. She says she doesn't love him or any of the Gang, and enters the elevator. Inside it, her eyes flash back to normal for a second, before becoming icy again.

Iris tells Barry how much she liked the happy version of him (!), and he says his pain and sadness are just a part of who he is (!!). So suck on that, Iris! HR and Tracy interrupt them, and she says she's completed the Speed Force trap, several years ahead of schedule. Unfortunately it requires a massive amount of power, more than the Sun puts out (!!!).

Cut to King Shark, swimming in a tank with a red glowing power source in the center (?).

• This week we find out that Savitar technically isn't the Barry we know and love, but a time remnant gone bad. This explanation is chock full of wibbly-wobbly, timey-whimey shenanigans, but as near as I can tell, this is what happened:

In 2016, Barry accidentally runs a few months into the future and sees Savitar kill Iris in May of 2017.

Barry and the Gang then spend the next few months trying to defeat Savitar and prevent Iris' death.

Iris dies as scheduled in May 2017. This sends Barry into a dark spiral of depression, and he adopts a ridiculous emo look.

Four years later, this Future Barry can't stand it anymore and decides to end Savitar once and for all, or die trying. He creates an army of time remnants to help kill him. Savitar kills all of the time remnants except one. Whether he intentionally left one alive or it just happened isn't clear. Future Barry then uses Tracy's bazooka to trap Savitar in the Speed Force forever.

There are then two Barry Allens walking around Future Barry and Time Remnant Barry. For some reason, the STAR Labs Gang shuns Time Remnant Barry, saying he's not the original. I dunno why they'd do that, and it could well be the result of Time Remnant Barry being an "unreliable narrator."

Anyway, this drives Time Remnant Barry crazy, so he goes back in time and becomes Savitar, spreading the lie that he was the First Speedster, convincing people he's a god and recruiting acolytes.

Savitar then murders Iris to drive Barry into a depression and start the whole cycle all over again.

Is that it? Did I get it right? I'm honestly not sure.

Savitar's origin is a classic example of the Bootstrap Paradox. He created himself (just like he said earlier in the season), and his origin has no definite starting point. As Cisco says, it's a closed loop, with no beginning or end. 

• At the beginning of the episode, Savitar/Barry infodumps his origin story to Present Barry. Present Barry then threatens to kill himself, which will prevent Savitar from ever being created and erase him from the timeline. Savitar/Barry smugly says, 
"Cause and effect's a tricky thing. Didn't work so well for Eddie, did it? Shot himself in the chest. Thawne's still kicking around. See, that's the thing about time travel, Barry. The more you do it, the less the rules apply to you."
For some reason, Barry takes Savitar's word for this. Not that I want Barry to kill himself, mind you, but I don't understand why he's so quick to believe an evil supervillain here.

And of course Savitar was lying! When Cisco gives Barry temporary amnesia, Savitar loses HIS memory as well! So Present Barry's death WOULD eliminate Savitar after all! He just bamboozled Barry into believing him!

• The season may be almost over, but there's still one more mystery left to solve! 

During their meeting, Savitar and Barry have the following chat:

Savitar: "God feels no pain. All I had to do was become one. And I only need two more things for Iris to die so that you are driven so far into the dark that I can be born."
Barry: "And the other?"
Savitar: "It may sound ironic given who I'm talking to, but I'll keep that one to myself."
GROANNNNN!!! This show just can't stop with the secrets, can it? Welp, I guess we'll find out what the "other thing" sometime in the next two weeks...

• Wow, Barry and Iris actually speak to one another in this week's episode. They didn't say a single word to one another in last week's episode, which seems odd considering she's scheduled to die in a few weeks.

Also, Iris actually had something to do this week besides stand around in the background at STAR Labs.

 Funniest moment in the whole episode: After Barry loses his memory, he asks Wally how they know one another. Wally says they're "brothers." Barry then tries to surreptitiously sneak a look at his hand to check out his skin color! HAW!

Kudos to Grant Gustin (aka Barry), who actually has excellent comedy timing. Too bad he never gets to use it much on this show.

 Barry suffers temporary amnesia and can't even remember his name. He gets out his wallet and sees his ID, which says he's "Bartholomew Henry Allen." He says that's not a good name, and decides to go with "Bart," claiming it sounds cooler.

Bart Allen was actually a character in the comics. He was a teen speedster who originally went by the name Impulse, and later became the new Kid Flash. I'm pretty sure this scene was an homage to him.

 So the central conceit of this week's episode is that Savitar knows everything the STAR Labs Gang is going to do, because he lived through all this and remembers it. All well and good.

Right after Barry briefs the Gang on Savitar's origin, he asks HR how Tracy's coming with the Speed Force trap. HR says "slowly," and Barry tells him to get her to speed it up.

Whoops! If Savitar knows everything that Barry knows, why the hell is HR telling him ANYTHING at all about the Speed Force trap? He should tell Barry it's none of his goddamned business, and keep him as far away from Tracy as possible so he can't see what she's doing and remember it after he (sort of) becomes Savitar!

 Halfway through the episode, it becomes patently obvious that Iris actually prefers Innocent Carefree Barry to the Serious Mopey Barry she's currently engaged to. She even goes so far as to tell her father that she wishes they didn't have to restore Barry's memory/personality!

Does this sound like the words of a woman who should be getting married soon? Jesus Christ, if telling your dad you like the brain-damaged version of your fiance better than the normal one isn't a huge red flag, then I don't know what is. Joe needs to sit Barry and Iris down and convince them to call off this wedding, STAT! 

• Last week's cool Killer Frost ice slide scene must have broken the effects budget. She didn't use her powers even once in this episode. Not even one tiny ice blast!
• Earlier this year in the big four part Invasion! crossover event, Professor Stein and Jefferson Jackson of Legends Of Tomorrow stumbled into a secret room inside their timeship, the Waverider.

In this room they found a recording from Future Barry Allen, in which he confessed to Captain Rip Hunter that he altered the timeline, creating Flashpoint. Future Barry also told Rip not to trust anyone, including him.

So far this dangling little plot thread has gone unresolved, until now. This week when Cisco finds out that Time Remnant Barry becomes Savitar, he says, "So when the Legends found that message in the Waverider from old you saying 'Don't trust Barry Allen,' it was talking about Savitar Barry Allen."

So, plot thread resolved, I guess, in the most unspectacular way possible. By the way, I don't know why Cisco called the Barry in the message "old you," as I was under the impression that particular version was from the future. 

• Heat Monger may be the lamest supervillain the show's ever come up with. He's nothing but a very, very poor man's Heat Wave. And let's face it, as powers go, Heat Wave's not exactly that impressive to start with. He's a guy with a flamethrower! Literally ANYONE can have that power. All you need to do is pick one up and pull the trigger.

• Halfway through the episode, the incredibly lame Heat Monger's set free when Barry can't testify against him. Literally an hour later (maybe less!) he's back on the streets wreaking havoc, setting office buildings on fire. Seriously? The ink isn't even dry on his release papers, and he's committing crimes again already?

This is patently ridiculous even in a comic book world. He must have RAN from the courthouse to his hideout in order to gear up that quickly!

• Earth-19 Watch:
This week we find out that the only version of Star Trek that Earth-19 has is Voyager! Yikes! Remind me never to go there!

OK, I get the joke here, as many fans consider Voyager one of the lesser spin off series. But that's the problem it's a spin off. It cannot exist without the Original Series to inspire it. 

The only way this could work is if the Earth-19 version of Voyager is significantly different from the one in our world.

• Last week the Gang brought Tracy Brand into STAR Labs and told her all about Savitar and her future, so she could start working on her Speed Force trap several years early. I wondered if they also told her the Flash's secret identity.

This week we get confirmation that they did not. When HR announces that Tracy's made a breakthrough, Barry and Wally both suit up before they appear in front of her, indicating that they've not told her their secret identities.

I'm actually amazed at this! They've announced their true identites to every other person on the show, so it's refreshing to see them actually keep it a secret from someone. Although for the life of me I honestly don't see why they didn't tell her!

• Tracy tells the Gang she's successfully designed a "bazooka" that will permanently trap Savitar in stasis inside the Speed Force. There's just one small problem. I'll let Tracy explain:

Tracy: "In order to generate enough power to magnetize Savitar's radial field and keep him in a state of perpetual stasis inside the Speed Force, we need by my calculations 3.86 terajoules of energy."
Joe: "I'm guessing that's more energy than in a AAA battery."
HR: "Yes."
Cisco: "That's more energy than in the sun!"

Well now, hold on there, Cisco! A joule is described as "the work required to produce one watt of power for one second." A terajoule then is equal to ONE TRILLION joules.

OK, that sounds like a massive amount, and 3.86 of them sounds like even more! But the bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima released 63 terajoules of energy! I seriously doubt the first atomic bomb was more powerful than the goddamned Sun, so it must produce far, far, more than 3.86 terajoules! Cisco's way, WAY off here!

By the way, I am not a physicist or electrical engineer. I found out this information with literally thirty seconds of googling!

• At least Tracy didn't say the Speed Force bazooka needs 1.21 gigawatts of power to function!

• After Tracy explains that her bazooka needs a ridiculous amount of power, Iris says, "Guys, where are we gonna find something like that?" Barry then gets a knowing look on his face, and we immediately cut to a glowing red jewel inside some kind of high security cage, which unfortunately is guarded by (I guess?) Kind Shark.

OK, I have NO idea what's going on here. As far as I know, the last time we saw King Shark on The Flash was back in, er, King Shark in Season 2. King Shark escaped from ARGUS, and Barry helped recapture him and place him back in his high security holding pool there. 

His ARGUS holding facility was just a pool, and I don't remember any glowing red energy sources in it.

ARGUS is associated with Arrow, which I haven't been watching, so it's possible this red thing popped up there. Actually it looks like something that would be more at home on Supergirl, but she lives on a completely different Earth, so I don't see how that could be. Hopefully we'll find out what's going on here next week.

• This Week's Best Lines:
Savitar/Barry: (seeing Present Barry) "It's like looking in a mirror. (indicates the scarred right side of his face)  Well, not quite."

Julian: (after hearing that Savitar is Time Remnant Barry) "That explains why Caitlin was willing to follow him. He has a face that she trusts."
Barry: "Half of one anyway."

Barry: (seeing Cisco's mind-wiping contraption) "You want to give me a perm?"
Cisco: "It's not for your hair, Steel Magnolia."

Barry: (after being mind-wiped) "Are you guys experimenting on me?"
Julian: "No one is ex... well, yes, technically, yes. But but it was consensual."

Barry: "No, how do I know you didn't kidnap me here to do some weird brain surgery on me? Or maybe you're like those criminals who trick people into hotel rooms so they can steal their kidneys. (lifts up shirt) Do I still have my kidneys?"
Julian: "We don't want your kidneys."
(note that Barry doesn't remember who he is, but somehow he still retains the knowledge that people who travel to third world countries sometimes allegedly have their kidneys harvested)

Killer Frost: "What's that saying? 'Man plans and God laughs?' Well, men are planning.
And what's the God of Speed doing? Kneeling."
(She's been on a real literary streak the past couple of weeks)

Barry: (as he testifies in court by reading what Julian types on his hi-tech glasses) "Uh, yes, I am a CSI at the CCPD under the expert direction of Julian Albert. Smiley face."

Cisco: (trying to jog Killer Frost's memory and turn her back into Caitlin) "There was this one time we had this very strict deadline, and Dr. Wells was super hard on us. All of us, even Hartley."
Julian: "Who's who's Hartley?"
Cisco: "Oh, he was this guy we used to work with. Such a dick. You actually reminded me a lot of him when you first came onboard."
(Cisco's referring to Hartley Rathaway, aka the Pied Pipfer here, and it's been a running joke on the show that he constantly refers to him as a dick)

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