The following contains The Flash spoilers.
The Flash Season 9 Episode 2
As we begin the final season of The Flash, one of the biggest outstanding questions the show still had to answer was what exactly happened to Caitlin Snow. A the end of season 8, Team Flash’s resident scientist sealed herself into a homemade cryochamber to try and resurrect or somehow replicate her dead sister, Frost. But the being that exited the device in the season 9 premiere certainly didn’t appear to be anyone we’d ever seen before. But who is this woman? What does she want? And what has happened to Caitlin?
“Hear No Evil” certainly doesn’t waste any time giving us answers to several of those lingering questions, but fans may not like some of them. Because it appears that Caitlin Snow is dead, and has been replaced by a third, heretofore unknown Snow sister, a woman who has little knowledge or understanding of who she is or the superhero world she’s just been “born” into. And it seems as though much of her journey in this final season will be finding out her purpose—both as part of Team Flash and within the world at large.
“To be honest, when I found out I was playing another character—or that it was Eric (Wallace, showrunner of The Flash)’s idea—I didn’t know that would also mean the death of Caitlin,” Danielle Panabaker, who plays all three Snow siblings, says. “So, as with everything with this last season, it’s mixed emotions. I have a lot of affection for Caitlin and I loved playing her over the last eight years. But I’m lucky—-most people who’ve been on a television show this long don’t get the [chance] to play so many different characters and I’m glad that they’ve given me those opportunities.”
Of course, this is also The Flash, a superhero series in which a not insignificant portion of its main cast has died, found themselves trapped in an alternate dimension, discovered an evil doppelganger from another Earth, or gotten accidentally erased from existence, so you’d be forgiven for not immediately believing that Caitlin’s truly gone. But, according to the woman that plays her, it’s true. At least for the foreseeable future.
‘Everybody keeps saying that to me!,” Panabaker laughs when asked about whether anyone truly stays dead forever on The Flash. “Look, I think that is the beauty of these Arrowverse characters and of these series is I don’t know that anyone’s ever truly gone. But, I mean—-Caitlin’s dead.”
Instead, another being is now wearing Caitlin’s face, a woman who has decided to call herself Khione. And, according to Panabaker, Wallace has been planning her arrival on The Flash canvas for some time.
“I am really grateful that Eric was the one directing this episode because the idea of Khione — it was his idea to create this character and he had actually planted the seed for the character some seasons ago,” she says. “It’s the moment where all the characters are going through Thomas Snow’s office, and the character, or at least the idea, of Khione is brought up. So it’s something that had been in Eric’s mind for a long time. And he planted that seed years ago. So I was glad that [Eric] was the one directed [this episode], because he could offer a little more insight than what was necessarily on the page.”
For those that don’t remember, the first The Flash reference to Khione appeared in season 5 episode “All Doll’d Up,” in which Team Flash discovers Thomas Snow’s drawing of a mysterious woman, whom Sherloque Wells identifies as Khione, the Greek goddess of ice and snow. And while “Hear No Evil” doesn’t offer any direct hints that this new character calling herself Khione is also somehow secretly a mythological being, it seems safe to assume that there’s more to her character than initially meets the eye.
“I mean, I don’t think you’re gonna be disappointed how about I tell you that?” Panabaker laughs when asked if she’s going to be playing a goddess in season 9. “This season—it was really exciting to create this new character, but also [to do it] knowing that this was kind of a sped-up version of her story. We’re used to having 20, 22, 23 episodes a season, but we only had 13 episodes to wrap up the entire series. We’re going to get to learn a little bit more about Khione, we’re gonna get to see her learn more about people too because I think that’s something that’s different about her. She doesn’t really know how to have relationships with people and she’s still discovering who she can trust and you know, how to trust herself and, all while discovering who she is.”
But despite tackling her third version of her original character (fourth if you count the Earth-2 version of Killer Frost) over the course of her run on The Flash, it sounds as though Panabaker has been able to find some new layers to play with in this iteration.
“I have enjoyed getting to know Khione and sort of discovering her, though,” she says. “There’s a freshness to her that someone like Caitlin or Frost didn’t have because she hasn’t grown up in Central City where metahumans, you know, are just par for the course. Everything is new and exciting to her. And while both Caitlin and Frost had their struggles and their challenges that they’ve gone through, Khione has this incredible innocence and optimism to her, which I really enjoyed playing.”
But for all the sweetness in Khione’s personality, “Hear No Evil” is a surprisingly dark episode, an hour that asks the members of Team Flash to make a literal life and death choice between which of the three Snow sisters should get the chance to live which would die. These are hefty concepts for this show at any time, but that land particularly heavily here, in just the second episode of the season. (An hour that never gives Frost or Caitlin the chance to speak for themselves, and intimates that several members of the group vote out of guilt for the way they treated one or the other when they were alive. It’s awkward.)
“I truly don’t know how Caitlin would have voted,” Panabaker says. “Part of me wants to think that as a doctor and a scientist, she’s a big believer in progress and knowledge and learning. But…I truly don’t know. It was a little dark, and a little jarring to see Team Flash voting on something like that. But you know, it elevates the stakes. It means there are real stakes to the decisions that they’re making and big consequences.”
Speaking of the consequences that come with Khione choosing her own fate, Panabaker is predictably cagey when asked about whether this final run of episodes will offer Caitlin fans a satisfying conclusion to the story of a character who’s been part of the show since the series’ first episode. (It should be noted that The Flash showrunner insists that Caitlin will get a proper ending through this storyline, though he admits it will take most of the season.)
“I can tell you that I play Khione in every episode of this season,” Panabaker says, “Which is not at all an answer about Caitlin.”
Given that Panabaker played both Caitlin and Frost for the better part of four seasons, that’s really not saying much. But it feels almost impossible to consider The Flash ending for good without giving one of its original team members some much-needed closure. As for the actress who plays Caitlin, Frost, and Khione, she doesn’t yet know just how the show’s final moments will play out.
“I have not read the series finale yet,” she admits. “I’m not ready to do that yet, to sit down and read it. It’s the last first time.”