This review contains spoilers.
What to make of an episode like Shade? It’s very good, that’s for sure. But it also lacked a certain… I don’t know. I certainly can’t fault this one for not getting enough stuff done, because it absolutely did that, there’s no question about it. And considering what’s in store for poor Caitlin next week and then the fact that the week after we have the big annual crossover event, well, The Flash certainly can’t be accused of spinning its wheels this season, can it?
We’ve known for a while now that Wally is going to want to do whatever it takes to get the speed he feels he has coming to him. We’ve also known that he would probably go about doing it in the dopiest way possible. Both of these things were fulfilled, to be sure, but they did their best to not make Wally look like a total dumbass, even though he still kind of went for it at the end there.
But they did soften the blow a little, especially thanks to that Kid Flash opening. I could have totally bought that as the opening segment of a Kid Flash TV series, and having it then turn out to just be Wally relating his dream to Joe (rather than it simply being us following the dream itself) was kind of clever. Also the fact that Wally was in, y’know, agonizing freakin’ pain and having the equivalent of terrifying hallucinations probably makes me feel a little better about him going for the Stone even when he shouldn’t have. But c’mon, kid, you’re surrounded by superheroes and brilliant scientific minds. If they tell you not to do something, don’t do it!
I could probably just start a whole section for all of the things I love about Wells III, but I’m not going to do that. “Rascals?” “Scamps?” I feel like I should be as annoyed by him as Cisco (and especially Joe) is, but for some reason I’m not. And I definitely feel like I should be more suspicious of him, but they’re not really leaning too heavily on that, are they?
But for all of the Wally-building, and the continued creepiness of Alchemy, and the genuinely tense final minutes, I just feel like something was missing. Maybe it was the Shade. If you’ve been reading my reviews long enough you know that I’m not a comics purist, and I’m happy to let things deviate as necessary.
The reality is, though, Shade sucked. They could have used any villain as the distraction to keep Flash busy while Alchemy tried to get at Wally. Why not bring somebody else back to be disposed of so easily? I’m not talking like a Weather Wizard or a Captain Cold (c’mon, you know he’s coming back for real eventually), but somebody they’ve already established so it doesn’t feel like such a complete cheat when they introduce, and then dispatch, a metahuman with zero explanation. It’s not a dealbreaker, and it certainly doesn’t ruin an otherwise very good episode, but it feels far lazier than what this show is used to doing.
As proof of how not-lazy The Flash has been, exhibit A: Caitlin Snow. The way they’ve teased her out over two seasons plus, and the way they’re slow-selling her turn to Killer Frost is almost the opposite of fan service (that’s a good thing). This week was no exception, and the parallels between how she’s telling everybody what’s going on with her powers and say, a character learning that they’re terminally ill, are worth noting. How can this show just knock stuff like this out of the park and then think it’s okay to mail in a meta like Shade in the same week? We’d have been better off with no secondary villain at all!
But it’s fine. We’re cool. Even with exceedingly minor missteps like this one (or the pedestrian Magenta) this season has already delivered more consecutive high quality episodes than any other Flash season so far. And really, Iris belting Wally was pretty classic.
Read Mike’s review of the previous episode, Monster, here.