This review contains spoilers.
3.21 Cause And Effect
How much you enjoyed the latest episode of The Flash was probably dependent on how frustrated you were that, after last week’s big Savitar reveal, it was mostly a filler ep. Personally, I got a huge kick out of watching Barry — excuse me, Bart — Allen try to make his way through the world without knowledge of his identity or his speedster abilities.
For me, this episode proved that The Flash is far more skilled at lighter, standalone episodes than it is with the heavier, serialised plot stuff that it tried to engage at the beginning of the ep. Tell me: Did you have more fun watching Team Flash try to explain how Savitar is a version of Barry? Or did you have more fun watching an amnesiac Bart try to explain how he knows when a fire is burning hot to a waiting judge?
Cause And Effect picked up more or less where I Know Who You Are ended, with Barry confronting Savitar and the supervillain finally revealing his identity to the superhero. Long story short? Savitar is a time remnant created by Future Barry (circa four years from now). When Time Remnant Barry was rejected by Team Flash, he turned bitter and angry, going back in time to become the first speedster, collecting minions along the way and creating the myth of the god of speed.
“That makes no sense,” Joe tells the team when they try to explain it to everyone and the audience back home. Bless him. Plot-wise, it doesn’t make sense. Thematically, it makes total sense that Barry is his own worst enemy.
Team Flash is understandably disheartened by the big reveal, especially because they realise that Savitar will literally know every plan they come up with to try to stop him because he was there… as Barry. Rather than try to come up with a plan without Barry, Cisco comes up with an alternative idea: they’ll temporarily interrupt Barry’s ability to create short-term memory. What could go wrong?
Of course, Caitlin is usually the brain scientist around these parts (a fact that Joe wisely points out before Barry agrees to undergo the experiment), which means Cisco and Julian accidentally erase all of Barry’s memories. He’s a blank slate. He doesn’t even remember Dragon Ball Z.
Team Flash is obviously perturbed by this development, but, rather than use this opportunity to come up with a plan to take out Savitar, they immediately set about trying to fix Barry. The thing is: Barry is happier than ever, lending itself to a larger meta-discussion about the tone of this show in general. Without his memories of his parents’ deaths or all of the pain he has suffered since he became The Flash, Barry is a much lighter person. (No word on why Savitar is still an asshole.)
Barry revels in his relationship with Iris, in his ability to move at super speeds, and in his mission to help people. It’s a reminder of what this show once was when it first started: a superhero tale that wasn’t as broody as big brother Arrow, but rather a tale of why a motivation to do good doesn’t have to come from pain. Sadly, that ship has mostly sailed for The Flash. For better or worse, Barry is just as broody as Oliver these days, which makes for a much more somber tone. Cause And Effect was a nice reprieve from that tone, though one that could never last — especially not this late in the season.
While Team Flash is trying to figure out what to do with adorable amnesiac Bart, Savitar is having similar memory problems. Now, this doesn’t make any sense to me. If Team Flash succeeded in restoring Barry’s memories by the end of the episode (which — spoiler alert — they did), then why would Savitar lose his memories in the present day? So much for a closed loop, yet linear explanation of Savitar’s life span.
Savitar’s memory loss was really an excuse to get Killer Frost to join forces with Team Flash. For one brief, shining moment, their goals were aligned: to restore both Barry and Savitar’s memories. It’s unclear why Killer Frost is so committed to helping Savitar, and she refuses to tell Cisco and Julian when they ask nicely, but nothing about Caitlyn’s evolution into Killer Frost makes much sense when you look too closely at it, so…
As with the Savitar explanation, The Flash has never done a very good job of explaining exactly why Caitlyn’s Killer Frost powers automatically turn her into a completely different person. Any kind of consistent explanation or rule here would go a long way in making this storyline work. And, with glimpses of Caitlyn slipping through the Killer Frost persona in this episode, it seems increasingly likely that she might be the true key to defeating Savitar. After all, because of Barry’s temporary memory loss, Savitar doesn’t know about Killer Frost’s brief stint with Team Flash. Might it change everything?
Meanwhile, Tracy Brand was hard at work on her Savitar trap during this episode (you know, actually trying to solve the problem instead of just goofing around with memory loss). Her work is slightly interrupted by some flirting with H.R. I’m really digging the dynamic Tracy brings to the show and the way she plays off H.R. so perfectly (#CoffeeLovers). S.T.A.R. Labs is getting pretty crowded with new friends, but the way it’s losing old friends, maybe Tracy will have a chance to stick around.
She’s definitely earned her place on Team Flash, coming up with a rough design for a speed force bazooka. The only hiccup? They need a lot of energy to power the thing. Like more energy than the sun. Like the kind of energy that apparently King Shark has in his possession. Wait a minute… I thought King Shark was supposed to be locked in some ARGUS black site facility? Lyla is not the best at her job, huh?
So it looks like King Shark will be back next week and Team Flash will be teaming up with Snart (who… isn’t dead) to steal the shark’s energy orb thingamajig. Like all of Team Flash’s plans, I’m sure nothing could possibly go wrong…