This review contains spoilers.
3.7 Killer Frost
I’ve been saying this over and over whenever the issue of Caitlin’s heel turn to Killer Frost comes up or is hinted at on this show: they’re getting it right. And holy moley, the actual episode, Killer Frost didn’t disappoint in that regard. The Flash was an absolute masterclass in how you toy with the long-term fate of a beloved character, bring her all the way to the brink, and give fans heart conditions in the process.
There are simply so many ways that they’ve managed to nail the Killer Frost transformation, but there’s one key here: patience. Comic book fans knew what was in store for Ms Snow from the minute we met her in the first episode, and everyone else caught on eventually, mostly because comic book fans never know when to shut up. But it was the revelation that she had an evil doppleganger on Earth 2 last season that really brought things to the forefront. But luckily, that wasn’t what we got tonight.
It would have been so easy to have Caitlin just “switch off” and suddenly “become” Killer Frost, particularly the version of the character that we met in season two. But it also would have been a tremendous cheat. I didn’t expect that we would lose her for the season this year, at least not yet, so it was somewhat less surprising that this was more an extended tease into the villainy to come.
One of my favourite things about this was how they resisted the urge to inject any kind of bullshit sexpot nonsense into Caitlin’s turn. There was no “she’s a baaaaad girl” moment, and even at her “worst” she was considerably toned down from the excesses of the Earth-2 version. There have been, on occasion, hints of playful flirtatiousness between Barry and Caitlin over the years, but none of that was suddenly emphasised over what’s more important: their actual deep friendship and mutual respect. Yes, there was the kiss, but that was more a practical way for her to freeze him than anything else, and a fine dramatic cut-to-commercial moment. The overall effect was appropriately cold and creepy, and not the kind of over-the-top villainy I would have expected last year. I suspect even as this evolves (and it will!), this is what we’re getting, and not a cartoon character.
I suppose, if I’m going to nitpick this (I’m not, I promise), I don’t see why the manifestation of her cold powers needs to be a Flashpoint thing, though. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m not a huge fan of that particular villain engine this year. Now, correct me if I’m wrong, has it been explicitly stated that this is tied to Flashpoint? Or could it be simply the non-Flashpoint explanation that was floated earlier, which is that her powers have simply been dormant since the explosion? I think that’s far more sensible, and it removes the actuality of Barry’s “guilt” (even if he never needs to really know that). The way that she used Flashpoint to drive a wedge between Barry and Cisco was great, though, and I suppose I should have seen that coming.
More importantly, Cisco’s reaction (and Carlos Valdes was tremendous tonight, perhaps delivering his finest performance ever) felt natural and human. I get the impression that he would have totally accepted it if Barry told him Caitlin was lying to him about the fate of his brother pre-Flashpoint. He would have at least tried. I feel like last year, the show would have turned this up to eleven for maximum angst, but his “I don’t know” response to Barry at the end rang true.
I guess I need to get to the elephant in the room. I was wrong about Julian Albert. But… I don’t mind. I’m cool with it. I’m not sure I would have been quite as okay with this reveal had it not come in as strong an episode, but here’s the thing: The Flash season 3 has given me no reason to doubt it. If they’re going to tell me that the most obvious dickhead on the show is the show’s mystery second baddie, then I’m gonna trust them and say they have a damn good reason for it, and a compelling story to tell. It’s still clear that there’s more to Julian than meets the eye, and I think when we get to whatever the reason is that he’s trying to manifest a speed god, it’ll be a good one, and there might even be some redemption for him down the line. I get the feeling that this is still far more than a character you “love to hate,” and Tom Felton has been far, far too good (seriously, so good) to just sign on as a moustache-twirler. That scene with him and Barry in the hospital was absolutely top notch.
And just as I think there’s still much more to Julian’s story, I really, really doubt that things are just going to start going easy for Wally. “You’re a speedster now!” Barry said. Yeah, I don’t buy it. I mean, he obviously is, of course, but this seems too neat and tidy, even given the route they’ve taken so far. I did like his eerie vibrating state after his emergence there, and it might be cool if that’s a sign of complications to come. We haven’t seen any ill-effects of someone becoming a speedster yet, so it might be something if this doesn’t agree with Wally’s physiology. There’s a little precedent from the comics for that, too!
Savitar is cool, and I’m into it so far. That opening sequence (which was killer, I might add) reminded me quite a bit of the early days of season two (which was good) and when Zoom was a genuinely scary presence. I still think they have to be careful here not to just turn him into a Zoom-esque monolithic powerhouse who can throw Barry around like a rag doll. It’s been done. But again, I have no reason to doubt this season so far, and until they give me one, I have to just assume everything is as it should be.
What’s really great, though, is that Killer Frost allowed Kevin Smith a more traditional episode of The Flash to play with than he got the first time around. Smith made his CW superhero TV debut with last year’s The Runaway Dinosaur which was one of the few standout episodes of the latter half of season two. But that was also an offbeat, surreal piece of TV that had little to do with the show’s usual formula (to its benefit), and didn’t offer the noted superhero fan any real chance to actually play with the toys. Not so with Killer Frost. This was pure Flash from start to finish, and one that didn’t go anywhere near a villain-of-the-week format, and instead paid off on three long boiling stories. Smith will be back on our screens to direct Supergirl Lives later this season, and if he brings the same kind of energy that he brought to Killer Frost that might also be one of the strongest episodes of a show already delivering a strong season.
No gimmicks here, folks. Just another example of this show being all it can be, and as you might expect from the title, Danielle Panabaker got to be the star of the show in a way we’ve never seen before. She deserved it. Holy moley, they packed enough in for two episodes, didn’t they?
Read Mike’s review of the previous episode, Shade, here.