The Flash (The CW): S3 E7: "Killer Frost" Kudos
The Flash? Who Me?
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 "Shade" here.
Also, a happyThanksgiving to everyone reading this!!!
As always, if you have not watched S3 E5 "Killer Frost" come back after you have, in other words, * Spoiler Alert *
Welcome Back Kevin Smith, and Kudos to the Entire Writing Team
I don't want to be a prisoner of the moment, but this was one of the best episodes of The Flash ever filmed (and I have watched every episode). Kevin Smith has taken a lot of flack over the last several years (some of it from me) but this was a really enjoyable and even a satisfying hour of television.
Also kudos to the writer's room, who finally addressed many of my biggest concerns about the season and the series.
Remember my criticisms:
* Barry (Grant Gustin) has paid no real price for his capricious creation of the timelines (you could say that he lost his parents, but the creation of the timeline was technically an emotional response to the loss of both parents) - He started to pay a moral and actual price in "Killer Frost."
* Team Flash has fascism and impulsivity problems and get away with insane amounts of what I have called "Friendly Flascism" - Team Flash started to be faced with the consequences of their actions in Killer Frost.
* The story has gotten to a video game level of repetition (new universe boss and level bosses every season) - There were signs that characters were being deepened and storylines complexified in Killer Frost.
Good work, and just in the nick of time! This was well-done all the way around (As I say this Kevin Smith just "liked" my comment to this effect on Twitter - we have actually butted heads a few times before even though I am a huge fan of his early work - anyway, he deserves the kudos).
In addition, Danielle Panabaker is also excellent throughout this episode. I will not talk too much about the action, but she was truly transformed throughout. This was just an excellent episode of the flash!
So last week this is how I described Caitlin Snow's building frustration and anger manifesting through her powers:
"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."
But what I didn't consider, until this week, is that Caitlin (Danielle Panabaker) was serving as a metaphorical stand-in for the unspoken but justified frustration and rage that the rest of Team Flash (and all of Earth 1) was feeling about Flashpoint as well.
Anyway, at the beginning of the episode, Caitlin is trying not to use her powers (because the more she uses them the less she is able to resist letting out all of her anger through them).
Unfortunately, for her longer term health, she is called into action to stop Savitar from killing Barry. And, of course, once her chilly genie is released from its refrigerated bottle, all bets are off.
In other words, Caitlin becomes Killer Frost and starts on a mission to find Alchemy (voiced by Tobin Bell) for herself.
For most of the Killer Frost episode, Caitlin is not "Breaking Bad" as much as telling the truth (although she certainly does a few evil things).
The episode is mostly occupied by Caitlin publically calling Barry to task on his responsibility for what has taken place as a result of the Flashpoint timeline.
What she is saying is all true. If you go back to my first "Flashpoint" post after last season's finale, you will see I have been saying virtually the same things for over half a year now.
That doesn't make it okay that she kidnaps Julian (Tom Felton) or repeatedly subjects Barry to ice torture (although one of her ice tortures is kissing him - sure, it might kill you, but not a bad way to go if you think about it #snowbarry).
But, she goes out of her way NOT to do anything that she knows he cannot recover from. In addition, the goal of her whole mission is to get Alchemy to take away her powers so she can go back to her normal (non-dangerous) life.
If you want to be totally honest, the only real damage done in this episode was by Savitar and by Barry (he puts Julian in the hospital after clearly giving in to his dislike of Julian while he was trying to figure out how to spirit Caitlin away from him).
At the end of the episode, Barry sensing that her goal is not really to hurt people, he forces her to choose between freedom and killing him.
Because, deep down, she is not a "Killer," she does not give Barry the "dirt nap," and was able to regain control of her powers (at least for the time being).
There is an important lesson in this, even if you were a villain in Flashpoint, who you are as a person on Earth 1 probably still controls your personality (This should mean good things for Wally as he makes the transition into Kid Flash)
When we see her at the end of the episode, she is wearing the power-dampening cuffs that Cisco Ramon (Carlos Valdez) created.
The Ethics of Predictable Consequences + The Flash
This season of The Flash asks one of the thorniest of ethical questions:
Are we (or is Barry as our representative on screen, the protagonist) responsible for the unintended but predictable consequences of our actions?
* We saw this kindof question raised virtually non-stop by Fox News in relation to Black Lives Matter. Obviously, the founders of BLM only wanted extrajudicial killings of Black people to end, they did not intend for Police to be targeted.
Fox News seemed to be of the opinion that BLM was morally responsible for targeting of police (what they would say was a predictable consequence) of protesting against police.
I personally do not agree with that depiction, but that was clearly Fox's argument.
* On Mr. Robot, a good deal fo Season 2 was dedicated to showing and asking questions about the unintended but predictable consequences of the five/nine hack.
* I continuously argued with Jill Stein and her supporters throughout Election 2016 for what I saw as the predictable outcome of their protests against Hillary Clinton (and now we have that outcome as our President Elect).
Barry is faced with some of this style of hard questions throughout "Killer Frost."
Cisco's brother was alive before Flashpoint, Caitlin didn't have to confront Killer Frost, and all kinds of other messes (Alchemy/Savitar).
Iris West (Candice Patton) raises a strong defense in a moment alone with Barry towards the end of the episode when she suggests that he has no way to know if these things would not have happened outside of his creation of Flashpoint (in other words, Cisco's brother could easily have died in a car crash in the original Earth 1 timeline too).
And there is some truth to this, as Candace and Earth 2 Flash both have said this season, "you are a Man and not a God."
But, that absolution doesn't work entirely. As I have mentioned before, we know at least one baby was erased (John Diggle's, it was a boy now it is a girl). I am pretty sure that would not have happened in the unaltered Earth 1 timeline absent Barry's interference.
And why would it make any sense for this to be an isolated incident (if it has happened even within the scope of Barry's own circle of friends you would have to believe that these "translation glitches" happened throughout the entire reset)?
And let us not forget, opening Earth 1 to Flashpoint has inserted Julian which caused the granting of powers to several doubles of Flashpoint evil "Metas." It was this reset, by Barry, of the original timeline (from Flashpoint) which drew Savitar to Earth 1.
Is it even possible to argue this was likely to happen absent Barry's interference? Was it possible? Sure. Likely? I don't think so.
So, yes, Barry is not likely responsible for everything, but he is still responsible for many things.
It is certainly possible that the writer's room will say Mea Culpa and move on, but I hope not, because I believe that the show is actually at its best when it has real moral dilemmas of consequence to wrestle with.
When the show becomes paint-by-numbers it gets pretty stale IMHO.
There is no doubt that Barry has had a traumatic life (including losing both parents and a host of other things). I absolutely understand the desire to reconnect with his family that pushed him to create Flashpoint, but that doesn't mean choices are cost-free or that you can treat great power without displaying great responsibility (and humility).
Actions have consequences, it is good to see the Writer's room didn't just let everyone continue to pretend that everything was okay.
Julian, Wally, and Savitar
Okay, so, last week I wrote this:
"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."
Surprise, Julian is Alchemy.
In fairness, I took the other side of this argument on Google+ after the first episode of the season, but about a week later, I changed my mind. It just became too obvious and too many breadcrumbs were left behind.
If you are wondering how, it hasn't been entirely explained yet, but in the comic books Alchemy has a split personality like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde or like Batman's Two-Face. So, you have rule abiding Julian and his split-personality that subversive Alchemy.
Oh, and Julian makes Barry agree to resign from CCPD as the price of not fingering Caitlin for kidnapping him.
Anyway, Julian is Alchemy and Savitar is REALLY powerful. The entire first five minutes of Killer Frost is spent watching Savitar move so quickly that he appears as being in several places at the same time.
We are to Barry what Barry is to Savitar in terms of speed, and as I have mentioned before, he has lots of other powers too. If Cisco (Vibe) and Caitlin (Killer Frost) had not decided to intervene I cannot even imagine a way The Flash could have escaped.
To be perfectly honest, aside from a member of the Cult of Savitar mentioning later in the episode that Savitar has plans for Killer Frost, I am not entirely sure why Savitar didn't just defeat all three of them, instead of leaving, using his vastly superior speed (they wouldn't have been able to target him).
To be 100% honest, I am virtually certain that he has the power to make non-speedsters faster or slower, so he could have made Caitlin and Cisco even slower relative to himself before finishing all three of them off.
I think I also mentioned that there is NO reason for Savitar to be dressed in a Predator outfit that I can think of.
Who does Savitar need protection from? Why would he need to wear crazy military-style armor?
He can literally run circles around anyone on multiple worlds. In addition, he is really vain and thinks he is an actual God.
Why would a God wear protective armor? Immortality being what it is?
I suspect it makes the CGI easier maybe?
Last but not least, Wally has finally gotten his speedster powers. Caitlin has to concoct some special medicine that cures him from whatever caused him problems after being torn out of the Alchemy cocoon too early. But he seems to be okay (and as I mentioned earlier, he can probably fight against Alchemy and Savitar because at his core he is good).
So, after all of the events of this episode (and after the crossover event next week) the battlefield seems to be set like this:
* Savitar, Alchemy, The Cult of Savitar, and any new "Metas" that Alchemy creates (Savitar/Alchemy will also clearly be trying to recruit or manipulate Killer Frost and Kid Flash).
* The Flash, Vibe, Kid Flash, CCPD, maybe Jesse Quick, and the normal members of Team Flash.
Should be interesting. Even more interesting if the writers continue to endow the universe of The Flash with meaningful ethical consequences (and hire Kevin Smith more often to direct).
Even though I don't typically cover the other DC shows, I am planning to try to write about the crossover event next week, so stay tuned.
That is it for this week, if you are looking for more, check out my most recent Black Mirror Recap for "Hated In The Nation" or my deep-dive into the Mr. Robot companion book "Red Wheelbarrow" or my deep dive into the Game of Thrones companion book "The World of Ice and Fire."
I also put out weekly Spotify playlists on Tuesdays, here is a link to the most recent list.
Why do you think Savitar disappeared instead of fighting Team Flash?
Do you think Julian/Alchemy will be a split personality or one distinct character?
Let me know what you think about these questions or anything else on your mind! Leave a comment!