The Flash (The CW): S3 E6: "Shade"

The Flash? Who Me?

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One of these things might not be like the others, but yes, I am doing recaps of The Flash this season.

have watched every episode of the show since its inception and I find it both a starkly different (lighter) take on Superheroes but also occasionally provocative (sometimes in ways that the writers might not have intended).

If you haven't read last week's recap, read about "Monster" here. 

Also, and I know this is off-topic (apologies), if you are also a Mr. Robot fan, I am doing a Teespring campaign for this Mr. Robot shirt based around my recap "Who Is Mr. Robot's Landlord?"  By clicking HERE, you can get a women's or men's shirt, a hoody, a long-sleeved T, or even a sticker in time to "Hack the Holidays." The campaign is only going for 8 more days, so act soon!

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As always, if you have not watched S3 E5 "Shade" come back after you have, in other words, * Spoiler Alert *

Wally Really Wants To Run Fast....No Really, He Wants To Run Fast

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Ever since the dark matter hit Jesse "Quick" Wells (Violett Beane) Wally West has been desperate to become Kid Flash (like he was in the Flashpoint timeline). "Shade" starts out with Wally (Keiynan Lonsdale) sharing a recent dream with his father Joe West (Jesse L. Martin). In the dream, he was Kid Flash and was using his powers to do good by helping kids and saving kittens around Central City (I can't make this stuff up).

Unfortunately, as Joe correctly suggests, this dream was less likely about Wally's powers manifesting and more about Alchemy trying to bring Flashpoint powers to one of the doubles from Flashpoint on Earth 1.

The good news is that at heart, although he goes kicking and screaming, Wally is a good fellow and does want to save kittens and help kids. The bad news is that, as I have been suggesting for three seasons now, good intentions can form the basis for very bad outcomes.

Good Intentions subverted by desire multiplied by impatience = a formula for horrible outcomes.

And Wally REAAAAAAAALLLLLLY wants to be Kid Flash.

In a sense, this kind of dilemma is the foundation of post-modern skepticism. How often have, for instance, our Legislative attempts to do really good things (save kittens) turned out to have really bad outcomes. The point here is that it is not enough to want to do good, you also have to have a strong system of ethics and a willingness to really contemplate all of the possible consequences of your actions. I believe the traditional colloquialism is, "Fools Rush In."

Wally is not a patient or particularly disciplined person. But, as I said, at heart he is good. Once Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) explains to him that he was Kid Flash in Flashpoint and that Wally and Iris West (Candice Patton) were a sister and brother crime-fighting team in that timeline, he seems to only want his powers even more (hard to believe since he has been whining non-stop about this since the end of S2). Even Barry telling him that he almost died doesn't seem to be much a deterrent to his desires.

Luckily, Joe takes him aside and explains why he is worried about Wally getting powers more than he is about Barry. Joe is worried that Wally will be reckless like he was when he was young. Good call by Joe. Wally seems to take Joe's council well and starts to try to resist Alchemy.

When sending Wally happy dreams doesn't seem to work, Alchemy starts sending Wally "evil migraines" that cause what appear to be a mixture of intense pain and desire (both to stop the pain and to find Alchemy). Wally tries to have himself locked in one of the cells in "The Pipeline" but talks Iris into letting him out (only to have Iris knock him literally unconscious in the process). Before Wally becomes Kid Flash he might need to learn how to roll with a punch and maybe learn some fighting skills too?).

Did the plan work? No, it did not. But it proved that even though Wally is mad at Joe for trusting his step-brother Barry more with powers than he trusts the idea of him having powers he still locks himself willingly in a Pipeline cell (to go back to my "Friendly Flashism" train of thought - calling these tiny cells, where "metas" were housed indefinitely, a nice oceanic name is/was quite Orwellian).  

Once he wakes up, Wally is still having the painful dreams, but he tells the rest of Team Flash and they go together to find Alchemy. 

Back to this later.

"Shade"

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When I was young, I used to marvel at my Mom's ability to watch every single episode of the television show "Murder She Wrote."

Even at that very young age, it seemed pretty clear to me that every episode of MSW was virtually the exact same formula as every other episode of MSW (Heck, forget MSW the same was true of Scooby Doo or a million other shows). 

I totally understand now that some people like predictability in story lines and the repetition of plot points. Jurassic World, for instance, was basically the exact same plot as Jurrasic Park (with all of the early and slow exposition cut out) but still was the #1 movie of 2015. 

So, I guess I might be out of step by suggesting that The Flash is getting more than a bit formulaic. The structure is even starting to remind me of a side-scrolling video game from the 80's. To recap:

Season One: A particle accelerator explodes and gives a ton of people "meta" powers. One of those people is The Flash and he fights his way through life every episode until he confronts a level boss at the end. Throughout the entire season, he is building toward fighting the universal boss of S1 Harrison Wells.

Season Two: A set of holes is opened between Earth 1 and Earth 2. The Flash fights his way through life during every episode until fighting a level boss sent against him by the universal boss Zoom. At the end of season 2, the Flash takes on Zoom.

Season Three: The Flash opens up and then closes an alternative timeline called Flashpoint. Somehow, a bad guy named Alchemy either arrives here from Flashpoint or was awakened with awareness of Flashpoint. He starts trying to make this world perfect for the Universal boss Savitar. To make it perfect, he is giving Flashpoint powers to the people on Earth 1 who had those powers in Flashpoint. The Flash fights these new "metas" (or level bosses) as they start causing problems in Central City. Eventually, The Flash will have to defeat Savitar (the Season's Universal boss).

It is getting so routine, that this week, they didn't even bother to give the bad "meta" attacking Central City any, and I mean any, backstory. He is called the Shade, ostensibly was turned to his evil crime ways (although he seems to not even have a motive, he just shows up and randomly attacks people he doesn't know for no reason). At the very end, when he is defeated, we see that he had a face (looked like a young pissed off teenager to me).

Even the level bosses are getting reduced to bare life. They have no anima, no motivations, no humanity, reduced to only objects to be analyzed in a lab, defeated, and arrested. They are evil energizer bunnies (to paraphrase Dr. Oatman from Grosse Point Blank).

One of the main reason I accuse the Flash of being a fascist (albeit friendly) show is that it frequently reduces people to objects as part of its process of entertaining us. This episode may be named "Shade" but it might just as well be because the character Shade is presented as only a face, smoke, mirrors, and science. 

It is much easier to put people in tiny cells in a "pipeline" and throw away keys when all you see is a face, violence, and science. Reducing human violence to science and human beings to only bodies to be used as entertainment explains a lot of the current moral catastrophes we mostly ignore.

As I have said before, I have seen mentally ill human beings in jails (because we don't want to pay for treatment or care as a society). I have seen people who are kept for years in 23-hour a day tiny cells with nothing to do, no one to talk to, drugged to the gills, and being made even crazier by our continuing neglect and cruelty.

That is only one of many examples. Disposing of people in our "entertainments" is a reflection of societal norms or desires too and repetition makes what is problematic normal.

I do not think we should be involved in normalizing and producing fascism.

I know many of you will disagree, and that is totally fine, I get it. My point is just that it is precisely this way that movies like Dirty Harry paved the way for the tough on crime laws that obliterated our inner-cities as completely as any bomb.

It could have just been laziness, but if you have been following my writing on The Flash, you know this has become a pattern.

Either way, I like my dramas a little less predictable. I hope the show starts getting a little more daring again. 

With great television writing power comes great television writing responsibility.

Or, as I think I heard somewhere before...."Dare to be Different."

One quick aside, it is probably notable that The Flash did not technically take down "Shade" it was actually Cisco (by him magically hacking every car in a parking lot and turning every cars light's on simultaneously).

Killer Frost?

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One of the main subplots this week was Caitlin Snow (Danielle Panabaker) dealing with her fears that she is becoming "Killer Frost" (her truly evil counterpart from Earth 2). 

I have a good deal of hope for this subplot for several reasons:

* Caitlin is clearly suffering from PTSD from when she was captured by Zoom and forced to make many moral compromises. She was also traumatized and terrified by the many things she witnessed him do in front of her while she was a captive. She is carrying a huge amount of rage and dealing with a lot of trauma seems to be manifesting itself through her powers. 

Remember that Caitlin also lost her father, has a very cold and distant mother, and lost her husband not once but twice. Not only is she carrying all of that, but she had romantic feelings for Earth 2's Flash Jay Garrick (Teddy Sears) prior to finding out he was, in fact, Zoom.

As near as I can tell, she has never dealt with any of this through therapy and rarely talks about it even with her closest friends. Until Cisco (Carlos Valdez) forced the issue, she wasn't even going to tell anyone on Team Flash that her freezing powers were manifesting themselves and that she was starting to find herself losing control in fits of rage (usually accompanied by her using her powers on helpless inanimate objects around her).

* She asks Cisco to "Vibe" her after letting him know she is having problems and he sees a future when it appears that he (as Vibe) is locked in a deadly battle with Killer Frost. Caitlin, of course, assumes that means she will end up turning to the dark side of the speed force (couldn't resist) and become a villain. 

What is interesting to me, is that in context this could also mean Cisco has, in the future, gone full Darth Vader (instead of Caitlin). It could also mean they have a legitimate disagreement and it was so important that they were willing to fight each other over it. I find it interesting that Caitlin assumes that she has to be the one in the wrong and Cisco assumes that he has to be the one in the right (might give some insight into how things actually end up).

Anyway, most of the rest of the episode involves them bantering over her fears and his worries. At one point she steals the power-dampening cuffs he is working on only to return them so that Barry can use them to lock up "Shade."

Because Cisco forces her hand, she tells the rest of the team what she is struggling with. But it seems very likely that this story line will take off very soon (maybe even next week in the upcoming Kevin Smith episode).

The Showdown: Enter "Savitar"

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Look, I have no idea why this version of Alchemy (or Dr. Alchemy) needs a voice distorting mask and a crazy outfit since his only powers seem to be conferred or used mentally or are directly attached to his Philosopher's Stone. 

Here is my guess, as I resisted at first but ultimately agreed to, it seems likely that Julian Albert (Tom Felton) is the good half of the split-personality of Alchemy (Alchemy was traditionally like Batman's Two-Face). The fact that his weapon is literally called the Philosopher's Stone is just a little too much "on the nose" for it not to be true.

This is another example of casting requirements driving the plot, I am not a big fan of that.

But, anyway, Alchemy (voiced by Tobin Bell) is in his lair, Wally shows up, supported by a gaggle of police and The Flash, and they manage to disarm Alchemy (but not before he gives The Flash a serious butt kicking with the PS). Barry as the Flash tells him it is over, and Alchemy almost giggles as he says that it has "only just begun." 

All of sudden there is a speedster that seems to be MUCH faster than Barry zipping around the room disarming and dropping police officers left and right. The episode ends as this new Speedster pins Barry to the ceiling and tells him who he is...

"I am Savitar, the God of Speed."

Fade to black.

Not looking good for Barry, since Savitar has some nasty blades on his hands and Barry is helpless. But, given that there were previews for next week that seemed to include Barry, I am guessing Savitar doesn't kill him.

I am, I will admit, excited for Savitar, who was a pretty nasty bad guy with a bunch of cool powers from what I have read.

I am not entirely certain why he looks like "The Predator." 

From what I have read, he was so powerful that he was preening and vain (he thinks he is literally a God). It doesn't seem to fit his traditional personality to cover him in a bunch of defensive gear and nasty blades and helmets he doesn't need.

Oh well, I am sure we will find out more. But, I am still pretty excited to see what they do with one of the most powerful characters in the Flash universe. Yes, he is another speedster, but he has a bunch of other powers too (he is really powerful).

Odds and Ends

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A few odds and ends to mention:

* Barry tells Iris that he couldn't do what he does without Iris. She rightly says that isn't true. He insists that it is. Sure, she has always been around his life, and he has always loved her, but he was doing what he does for two seasons before they hooked up. They probably didn't want us to forget about the romance subplot and threw this in the mix. This is probably just nit-picking from  me.

* HR Wells (Tom Cavanagh) is SOOOOOOOO annoying. I am 100% with Cisco on this one. Can we please go back to either Harry or Harrison? Please? Even if he ends up being awesome in other ways, he is so unnecessarily over the top and intrusive. Maybe, this version of HW will grow on me, I sure hope so.

* Wally grabs the Philosophers Stone at the end (as directed by Alchemy). So we potentially have Caitlin and Wally as antagonists for Barry over the rest of the season, which is actually kind of interesting (or could be). I will withhold judgment until it plays out. But, this could be good!

Okay, that is the end of another exciting episode of The Flash on The CW! 

Do you think Julian is Alchemy?

How in the world does The Flash escape Savitar's grasp?

Who will go bad, Cisco, Caitlin, or Wally?

Was there even a reason for the Shade to exist?

Let me know what you think, leave a comment!

Grosse Pointe Blank
Starring John Cusack, Minnie Driver, Alan Arkin, Dan Aykroyd, Joan Cusack