Friday, May 19, 2017

The Flash Season 3, Episode 22: Infantino Street

This week on The Flash, everything comes to a head a bit earlier than we all expected, as the long-awaited "Savitar Kills Iris" storyline finally played out.

I think most fans (myself included) were expecting the big Savitar showdown to happen next week, during the season finale. It was a logical assumption, and clever of the writers to subvert our expectations like that.

This was definitely one of the strongest episodes of the season (so far
 we've still got one to go!). The writers were on their "A" game here, and I only wish they could pump out shows like this every week.

The highlight of the episode was definitely the return of actor Wentworth Miller as Captain Cold. As always, Cold stole the show, and not one bit of scenery was left unchewed by the end. His appearance this week 
underscored the fact that The Flash is weaker without him. Cold absolutely BELONGS on this show. He and Barry have a wonderful chemistry together, and the sooner the producers bring him back permanently, the better.

Use time shenanigans to resurrect him, or bring the Earth-2 version of Cold to Central City, I dunno. Something, anything to get him back on a semi-regular basis.


I've been so preoccupied the past few months trying to figure out Savitar's true identity, that I've not really given much thought to Iris' situation, and how Team Flash could possibly save her. 

I'm calling it right now— despite what we saw, Savitar did NOT kill Iris this week. He killed HR, who used his facial transmorgafier to disguise himself as her. I'm not quite sure when he made the switcheroo, but I'm 95% certain that's what happened. More on this theory below.

Lastly, the writers missed a golden opportunity in this episode— they could have have given us an epic battle between Captain Cold vs Killer Frost! Damn that pesky TV budget!


The Plot:
Even though a couple weeks ago it was February on the show, it's now May, and twenty four hours before Iris West is doomed to die. We see the various members of Team Flash brooding or trying to come up with a way to save her. Barry and Iris are at home, enjoying their possible last moments together. Barry gets a call from Cisco, and says he'll be right over. As soon as he leaves, Iris secretly records a final video on his phone (which I guess he didn't take with him?).

Barry and Cisco meet with Lyla Michaels from Arrow, in front of the ARGUS HQ. Cisco tells her they need a massive energy source to power their Speed Force Bazooka, and he scanned the world (!) and discovered there's just such a thing inside ARGUS.

Lyla admits that they have an alien Dominator power source from the Invasion! crossover earlier this season. Given Barry's track record though (such as altering the timeline and turning Lyla's daughter into a son), she's reluctant to hand such a potentially dangerous item over to him. Barry pleads with her, saying that without it Iris will die, but Lyla says nope. Who could blame her?

Back at STAR Labs, Barry tells the Gang that if Lyla won't give him the energy source, he'll just steal it. Cisco says that's impossible, as ARGUS security is tighter than that of the Pentagon. There's even a power-dampening field inside that would prevent Barry from using his superspeed. Barry says he knows somehone who could help break him in.

Cut to Siberia, 1892, where Barry travels back in time (!) to enlist the help of Captain Cold, who's returning to the Waverider after a Legends Of Tomorrow adventure. Cold says he'll help Barry infiltrate ARGUS, with the understanding that he'll be in full charge of the caper. Barry agrees.

Barry brings Cold back to STAR in the present. Joe and the others are less upset about the fact that he sought the help of a known felon, and more outraged that he's screwing with the timeline YET AGAIN. Barry assures them he'll return Cold as soon as they save Iris, which seems to placate the Gang.

Meanwhile, Killer Frost meets with Savitar, and asks him if he's sure he really wants to go through with killing Iris, since she's the love of his life and all. Savitar says if he doesn't kill her, then he'll never be created, so yeah. Savitar suddenly gets a "memory flash" that Barry's working with Captain Cold to steal a power source to stop him. Temporally speaking this makes absolutely no sense, but let's just go with it or we'll be here all day. Killer Frost asks if he wants her to stop Barry and Cold, but he chuckles and says to let them steal their precious power supply, as it won't matter. This also robs the audience of seeing Killer Frost face off against Captain Cold. Boo!!!

Team Flash and Cold begin planning their ARGUS caper. Barry tells Joe to take Iris somewhere far away and not to tell him her location, so Savitar won't remember where she is. Cut to Earth-2, as Harry works in his version of STAR Labs. Suddenly a portal opens (with Cisco's help, I guess?), and Joe, Iris and Wally step through. Yep, hiding on a completely different Earth in another dimension ought to be far enough away!

Back on Earth-1, Lyla leaves ARGUS for the night. She returns a few seconds later with Cold in tow, saying she's personally taking him down to a metahuman holding cell. The guard's surprised to see her back so soon, and asks for her ID. He scans it and it checks out. He then asks her to submit to a retina scan, which also checks out. He then asks her for the day's code word. Lyla stammers and stalls, then suddenly punches out the two guards. She then transforms back into Barry, courtesy of HR's Earth-19 facial transmografier. He and Cold then enter ARGUS.

Barry and Cold make it down to the metahuman holding area. They pass several cells labeled. "Grodd," "Cheetah" and "Cupid." Barry sees the glowing red energy source at the end of the hall, behind a Montgomery 3000 vault door. Cisco, who's listening on Barry's comm system, recognizes the name, saying there's no way to open the twenty five ton door without three different pass codes (Maybe they should call Ant-Man! Oops! Wrong universe!). Barry turns and sees Cold's already got it open! HAW!

They open the door a bit, but stop when King Shark appears, sensing someone outside. Barry says he can't believe ARGUS is using one of its prisoners as a guard dog to protect the Dominator tech. Barry asks to use Cold's freeze gun to kill King Shark. Amazingly, Cold balks at murdering him, instead rattling off some stats about the body temperature of sharks, and suggests using the gun's core to cool down the room and make the monster simply go to sleep.

Back at STAR, HR tells Tracy Brand he doesn't really fit in with the rest of the Gang, but is grateful that they've accepted him and given him a home. He also says he can't imagine living without her, so he "proposes" to her by asking her to stay at STAR Labs and work there with him. She accepts and they kiss.

Back at ARGUS, Cold cools down the vault and King Shark topples and falls over. Barry grabs the Dominator power source. Suddenly an alarm sounds, and the vault door begins to close. Barry slides under it in the knick of time, but Cold's trapped inside, along with a rapidly awakening King Shark. Cold tells him the place will be crawling with guards within a minute. Barry now has to decide whether to leave Cold to certain death or save him and risk capture, which will doom Iris.

Barry calls Cisco on his comm, and tells him he has to figure out a way to open the Montgomery 3000 door. Sure enough, despite the fact that minutes before it was absolutely impregnable, Cisco hacks into it and opens it just enough for Cold to crawl through. King Shark grabs his leg and starts to pull him back in. Cisco slams the door shut, which severs King Shark's hand. But he's OK, as somehow he grows a new one in seconds.

Barry and Cold turn to leave, and are confronted by Lyla and a squad of ARGUS guards. In Lyla's office, she says she watched their entire caper on the security cameras, and is impressed that Barry saved Cold when he could have easily left him. Based on that action alone, she's prepared to give him a dangerously powerful alien energy source (!).

Barry returns Cold to 1892. Cold tells Barry to stop trying to beat Savitar at his own game, whatever that means. He says the Flash should always remain a hero.

At STAR Labs, Barry zooms in and tells the others he successfully stole the Dominator energy source. He asks where Iris is, and HR stupidly replies that they've stashed her on Earth-2. "Barry" turns around and we see the right side of his face is scarred, and he's really Savitar! He thanks them for the info and zooms away.

Somehow the Gang calles Harry on Earth-2 and tells them Savitar is on his way. Harry, Joe and Wally brace themselves to face him. A portal opens and Savitar steps through. Joe shoots his ineffective police special at him, while Harry tries to blast him with some kind of ray gun. Wally attacks and punches Savitar at superspeed. Savitar breaks Wally's leg and throws him across the room. He then grabs Iris and leaps through a portal with her.

On Earth-1, HR apologizes to Barry for tipping off Savitar, saying the whole situation is his fault and he's just plain no good. Cisco has a vibe vision of he and Killer Frost fighting in the woods. Barry tells him to go and meet her, and try to talk her into becoming Caitlin Snow again. Having no other choice, Barry and the rest of the Gang go to Infantino Street, the place where Savitar is destined to kill Iris. Everyone gets into position and waits.

Cisco meets Killer Frost in the forest. Cisco says he doesn't want to fight her. She says she doesn't want to fight him either— she wants to kill him. They begin firing their blasts at one another.

On Infantino Street, Savitar appears, holding Iris. He drops her momentarily (Plot Point Alert!) and taunts Barry, basically saying, "Come at me, bro!" Barry fires the Speed Force Bazooka at him. For a moment it looks like it's working, as Savitar seemingly doubles over in pain. He then straightens up as the gun sputters and dies. He holds up the Philosopher's Stone, which somehow protected him from the Bazooka.

Savitar picks up Iris and prepares to stab her, just as we've seen in the visions all season. Barry zooms forward, trying to reach Iris before Savitar's blade does. Cut to clips of Iris' secret video to Barry, as she records her wedding vows to him. Savitar runs her through and disappears. Barry catches Iris' dead form in his arms.

• OK, let's get right to it and discuss the end of this week's episode. In the final seconds, Savitar picks up Iris and stabs her through the heart with his arm blade, just like we've seen him do in various visions throughout the second half of the season.

But is that really what we saw? Nope, I don't think so. 

I am 95% convinced that HR somehow took Iris' place when no one was looking, including the audience, and he was the one who Savitar actually killed.

I present the following clues and hints as evidence:

Exhibit A: HR's facial transmogrifier makes a surprise reappearance in this episode. It hasn't been seen or even mentioned since he first demonstrated it way back in Shade, the sixth episode of this season. Suddenly it's back this week, seemingly for no other reason than to remind the audience that it exists (yeah, I know, Barry used it to sneak into ARGUS, but Cold could have easily gotten them in there without it). 

Seems like suspiciously convenient timing, eh? Why dredge up the device again unless it's about to become a major plot point?

Note that in Shade, the transmogrifier just changed HR's face. In this episode it suddenly has the ability to alter a person's entire body, allowing Barry to perfectly impersonate Lyla (all the way down to her retinas!). If it can turn Barry into Lyla, it can surely turn HR into Iris.

Exhibit B: Earlier in the season, Cisco and Barry future-vibed to May 23, 2017 to scope out the situation and look for anything that could possibly help them alter the timeline. While there they spot HR on top of a nearby building, armed with what looks like the Speed Force Bazooka.

Note that HR is not on the roof when the actual event goes down. Joe's on the roof instead, firing his useless handgun at the armored Savitar. Why would HR not be in his predestined spot unless he decided to do something radical and impulsive?

Exhibit C: Over on The Walking Dead, any time a secondary character suddenly opens up and infodumps their backstory or professes their love for someone, they're torn apart by zombies before the end credits roll.

Earlier in this episode, HR "proposes" to Tracy, asking her to stay on at STAR Labs with him because he can't imagine living without her. Uh-oh...

Exhibit D: HR was feeling intense guilt over the fact that he screwed up and told Savitar where Iris was hiding. He also told Tracy that he doesn't really contribute anything to the team, and feels inadequate because he's not a big-brained scientist like the others.

I could easily see these feelings of inadequacy pushing him to do something heroic— like sacrificing his own life— to prove himself.

Exhibit E: HR was acting mighty squirrelly at the end of the episode. His happy-go-lucky doofus manner was suddenly replaced with an uncharacteristically serious and somber mood, as he had the following conversation with Cisco:

Cisco: "You gonna hold down the fort?"
HR: "Yeah."
Cisco: "Of course you are. Cause that’s what you do. You show up. You’re ready. Dependable, when we need you the most. You hear me?"
HR: "I hear you."
Cisco: "All right."
HR: "Till next time."

Note that this conversation feels very much like a final goodbye. Just look at their faces during their conversation! Those aren't people who are ducking out on a quick errand, those are the faces of two men who know they're never going to see one another again!

Exhibit F: It's a tradition on the show at this point to have a new version of Harrison Wells each season. HR sacrificing himself for Iris would leave a convenient vacancy for a new Wells in Season 4.

Exhibit G: There's one tiny little flaw in my theory I have absolutely no idea just how or when HR could have switched places with Iris. Maybe next week we'll find out that Killer Frost helped with the switcheroo when Savitar wasn't looking, I dunno.

That said, HR replacing Iris works perfectly within the established events of the show. Barry has no idea a switch took place, so that means Savitar's unaware of it too. As far as he knows he just killed the love of his live, which drives him mad and forces him to create himself later or whatever the hell happened. But it also means Iris gets to live. It's the perfect ruse.

The only downside though is that HR dies in the process. And Barry's gonna be in for the shock of his life when the transmogrifier wears off and he realizes he's cradling HR's dead body in his arms!

Exhibit H: There's no way in hell the producers would kill off a main character like Iris. HR on the other hand is expendable, as there's always a spare Wells somewhere out there in the multiverse. Maybe Harry will even return!

• The Infantino of the title of course refers to artist and editor Carmine Infantino, who was a massive creative talent at DC Comics during the Silver Age. Infantino helped revamp the Flash in the late 1950s, developing the Barry Allen character and designing his now iconic red and yellow costume. In 1961 he drew the landmark Flash Of Two Worlds issue, which introduced the concept of Earth-2 and the multiverse. A huge amount of what appears on the series was directly inspired by Infantino's work.

He was also instrumental in energizing and restoring Batman! It's hard to believe now, but in the early 1960s the Batman comics were low sellers at DC, and on the verge of cancellation. Infantino updated Batman's costume, and along with writer John Broome, jettisoned some of the sillier aspects of the comic, making it a bona fide hit again.

• Barry plucks Captain Cold from the middle of an adventure with the Legends in 1892 and brings him from the future. When Joe hears this he practically has a stroke from exasperation. Who could blame him? Barry's time travel shenanigans have already screwed over the entire cast at least twice this season, and now he's DOING IT AGAIN!

Barry assures Joe that he's not actually changing the timeline in this instance, as he plans to return Cold to the exact moment he picked him up when their caper is over. That's easy for him to say, but what if King Shark had killed Cold in the present, so he couldn't return to 1892? I bet that would have thrown a wrench into the ol' timeline!

• By the way, how the hell does Barry know to find Cold in 1892 Siberia? 

And why the hell did he go back to that particular year to pick him up? Why not just go to the first season of The Flash and snatch him during one of his guest appearances there?

Answer: Because in the first season of The Flash, Cold was still a dangerous and callous asshole. Barry needed the kinder, gentler, borderline heroic Cold from Season 1 of Legends Of Tomorrow.

• Barry shows up at STAR Labs with Cold. Team Flash then has the following conversation: 

Iris: "Barry, are you out of your mind?"

Joe: "I thought he was with the Legends."
Barry: "He is."
Cisco: "No, he dead."

Note that at this point Cold has just left the room, and can probably still hear them. So that comment doesn't warrant a reaction from him? If he heard them, now he knows he's gonna die sometime before May 23, 2017!

• Last week I noted that whenever Tracy was around, Barry and Wally both wore their full costumes. This implied that she was one of the few people in Central City that didn't know their secret identities.

This week's episode confirmed this fact, as Tracy walked into the Cortex and HR tried to cover her eyes so she wouldn't see Barry sans mask.

Of course Barry can't wait to reveal his secret identity to yet another person, and immediately tells her he's the Flash.

• As I've said many times in these Flash reviews, writing logical time travel stories is hard! Maybe even impossible. 

Case in point: Since Savitar is technically a future version of Barry, he has all his memories and knows exactly what he's going to do next. OK, that actually makes sense.

But in this episode Barry suddenly decides to enlist the help of Cold. For some reason, Savitar then gets a headache, as a brand new "memory" of this event forms in his brain. Wha...?

That doesn't make any sense. ANY decision Barry makes in the present is already known to Savitar. There's no "suddenly turning left instead of right" here to throw him off. From Savitar's future point of view, ANYTHING Barry does is automatically ancient history, no matter how many times he changes his mind or how many "new" ideas he comes up with.

• Ever since Barry saw Savitar kill Iris in the future, the Star Labs Gang has been doing everything in their power to alter her destiny and change the timeline. Nothing they tried worked.

A few months ago I said that since she's destined to die on Infantino Street, then why not do the obvious— take her as far away from that location as possible and makes sure she never goes there again. If she ain't there, he can't kill her, right? Of course he could kill her somewhere else, but one thing at a time.

Looks like I'm not the only one who thought of that. In this episode, HR suggest putting Iris on a plane to Paris, or somewhere else far away. Barry immediately dismisses this idea, saying, "There's nowhere on Earth that Savitar wouldn't find her."

Well, maybe he would and maybe he wouldn't. But isn't it worth a shot?

• Barry uses HR's facial transmogrifier to disguise himself as Lyla to sneak into ARGUS. It almost works, but he's tripped up by a password. Barry then beats up the two security guards at the desk in the middle of the ARGUS lobby and he and Cold go on their way. SOMEHOW a fight in the lobby doesn't set off any alarms in the ultra-secure faclity. Got it.

There may be an answer for this goof: after Barry and Cold steal the Dominator power source, they're captured by Lyla. She tells Barry she watched him steal the thing on the security cameras. So it's slightly possible she saw him beat up the security guards but didn't stop him because she was curious as to what he was up to. Giving him enough rope to hang himself, so to speak.

• Wow, Cold's time with the Legends Of Tomorrow really did change him for the better. Barry wants to use Cold's freeze gun to kill King Shark. Incredibly, Cold says nah, and comes up with a non-lethal way to stop him! Amazing!

• The best part of the episode was easily Captain Cold's reaction to seeing King Shark. 

In particular I liked the scene in which they flood his cell with icy mist to put him to sleep. As they slowly creep through the mist, which hides King Shark's unconscious form, Cold says, "Reminds me of Jaws. They didn’t show the shark because they couldn’t afford to make it look good."

This is of course a fun little meta-comment, as The Flash no doubt blows its effects budget every time King Shark shows up!)

• Barry plucks Captain Cold out of the timeline in 1892 Siberia. But just where exactly is Cold at that point in the Legends Of Tomorrow series?

The Legends visited Russia in White Knights, the fourth episode of Season 1. They went there in 1986 though, not in 1892, so that's no good.

When King Shark loses a hand in this episode, Cold says, "Ouch. Been there." Captain Cold really did lose his hand in Left Behind, the ninth episode of Season 1 (don't worry, Gideon regrew it for him). That means Barry had to pick him up at some point between episode ten and sixteen of Season 1.

• Was this REALLY the best time for Cisco to run off and fight Killer Frost? At a time when Barry and Iris need as much help as they can possibly get?

Earth-19 Watch:

This week HR mentions doing something "Mission: Improbable style," which is apparently the Earth-19 version of Mission: Impossible

Too bad this is probably one of the last Earth-19 references we'll ever get on the show.

"Don't cross the streams, Barry!"

• This Week's Best Lines:
Cisco: "Yeah, so, I tasked our satellite to look for anything that might have our specific power requirements, and wouldn't you know it we found something that has exactly what we need. And it's right there in that building. Crazy, huh?"

Lyla: "I really don't think you should be spying on me, Cisco."
Cisco: "Is it spying if we're friends?"

Cold: (after Barry asks him for help) "Why ask me?"

Barry: "Well, you have a particular set of skills."
Cold: "Great movie."

Cold: "There are only four rules you need to remember. Make the plan, execute the plan, expect the plan to go off the rails throw away the plan."

Barry: "I’m trusting you."

Iris: "We all are."
Cold: "Just don’t sit me at the single’s table at the wedding reception."

ARGUS Guard: "Captain Cold?"

Cold: "Always nice to meet a fan."

Barry: "I can’t believe ARGUS turned King Shark into a guard dog."
Cold: "King Shark. That’s adorable."

Cold: "Have you seen Shark Week, Barry? Me, I can’t get enough of it. Good thing the Waverider has cable."

Barry: "What’s your point?"
Cold: "Most sharks are cold-blooded, but the great white shark, like our friend in there, is partially warm-blooded. He’s susceptible to cold. Never strays into water colder than 53.6 degrees Fahrenheit. If we lower the temperature in that room to 53.5 degrees, King Shark should fall asleep like a little baby."
(this is actually true, so kudos to the writers, who must be fans of Shark Week!)

Barry: (referring to King Shark) "How long do you think he’ll stay asleep?"

Cold: "I like Shark Week. I’m not a marine biologist."
(possible George Constanza reference?)

Barry: "Tell me, Snart, did you think I had it in me? To leave you behind?"

Cold: "I wasn’t sure. Always known you had the potential to be as ruthless as they come. Your history made sure of that, same as mine. Who knows, maybe that’s why we get along. You see the good in me. I see the bad in you."

Cisco: (to Killer Frost) "I know you’re here! Come out and face me like a woman."

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