The Flash (The CW): S3 E9: "The Present"
The Flash, This Show Is Getting Really Good!
So, yes, I am doing recaps of The Flash (The CW) this season.
I 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 "Invasion" HERE.
As always, if you have not watched S3 E9 "The Present" come back after you have, in other words, * Spoiler Alert *
Let Cisco Whine!
Lately, as a response to fan complaints, in Silo-Pro-Trolls have been piling onto the "Cisco is too whiny," "I want the Flash to be like it used to be," "Flashpoint sucks" bandwagon.
I am begging you to please CUT IT OUT.
Flashpoint is the best thing that has ever happened to The Flash. Let me explain why.
1. The Flash was getting seriously boring.
In an earlier recap and also on Reddit I even talked about The Flash becoming a "Murder She Wrote" for Millenials.
Why would I say this?
Murder She Wrote was a really pleasant but repetitive and shallow murder mystery show for old people...substitute the word superhero for murder and the word young for old and you have the same show).
You may not want to hear it, but the truth was that The Flash was endlessly following a simple video game loop that was getting REALLY stale.
Each and every episode would pit The Flash against a barely important (and never memorable) area boss (who was usually never seen or heard from again) concluding each show with a new plot development in the chase for the bigger Level Boss.
In between the action, the central characters would make googly eyes at each other or tell jokes (rinse then repeat ad infinitum) .Sometimes, for a real kick, they might all go to jitters for coffee.
The writers seemed to be getting so bored that they weren't even fleshing out the villains anymore (Shade).
At least now, there is a new story and dramatic tension both inside the team and out.
2. Some of the best writing out of all 3 Seasons happened as the result of Flashpoint.
Just consider, since the end of last season Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) has created Flashpoint, learned the damage he caused by creating it, accepted the moral responsibility, promised never to create a new timeline again, and been faced with an incredibly strong incentive to violate his own prohibition in tonight's episode (the death of Iris West at the hands of Savitar).
Are you really telling me it was better when The Flash was just running really fast and putting an endless string of forgettable evil doers into "Pipeline Gitmo?"
Go back and read my piece on The Flash at the end of S2 and during the beginning of this season again. What I wrote was really a series of moral failings the show had created in its protagonist that he needed to answer for.
The total shocker, in the last few weeks, is that the show's writers have answered every single specific objection that I levied against The Flash. (they are still a bit shaky on why "Pipeline Gitmo" is okay IMHO, but they addressed everything else).
Is Barry still a "Friendly Flascist" at times, of course, but his character has much more depth and is no longer a total ethical lightweight (verging on being a propaganda engine).
Look, The Flash is a lot of fun, but if it was even starting to make theoretical physics seems boring and shallow. In this case, a bit of Cisco Ramon's whining about his brother's death and a timeline problem is a small price to pay from the prison of repetitive video game style story telling.
Good series have multifaceted characters and their characters ultimately face the consequences of their decisions. The Flash can still have a light and fun millennial feel while at the same time not becoming a more modern version of C.H.I.P.S.
Also, Savitar. Did anyone notice, they really changed up the Savitar story tonight (seemed like a pretty interesting new backstory)?
Anyway, Cisco's whining about his brother (or if you prefer, appropriate mourning and grief) is a small price to pay for the show to deepen and grow (and become more sustainable).
The Julian - Savitar Loop
First, there is a flashback with Julian Albert (Tom Felton), dressed a bit too much like he purchased an Indiana Jones outfit at Disney's Hollywood Studios for my liking, leading an archaeological expedition to look for what turns out to be a box that everyone else tells him not to open...So, of course, he opens it (he says that whatever is inside "needs to be free").
Meanwhile, Barry asks Team Flash to uncover some history on the Philosopher's Stone. Within less than one minute, Cisco finds not only a Doctoral Dissertation on a Brahmastra stone (which allows the wielder to convey powers on other people) but also a Doctoral Dissertation that is written by one Julian Albert Desmond about said Brahmastra.
FYI - I looked it up, there is a Hindu legend of a weapon called Brahmastra, but it did not convey powers on others (it just was used to destroyed things by the bearer using the power of God).
Anyway, we later find out that Julian found the stone after his recently dead sister started haunting him and telling him to find the stone.
We find out that Julian changed his name and ran away (all the way to Central City from India and England) because while he returned with the stone after the expedition, every other member of his family perished. Unfortunately for him, and for the rest of us, the internet has a long memory. So, we now know that Desmond is Julian's real last name (why does Google keep listing him as Julian Dorn? Not Albert or Spencer? Who knows).
Cut to Barry taking a Cisco (Carlos Valdez)-enabled trip to find Earth 3's Flash Jay Garrick (Teddy Sears). He finds him and helps him quickly capture and defuse James Jesse aka "The Trickster" (Mark Hamill returning to The Flash - and to a role he played in 1990 - after slumming it over in some other Galaxy "Far Far Away" - FYI John Wesley Shipp who plays Garrick now was The Flash in the 1990 version).
Barry barely has to mention the name Savitar before Garrick agrees to return with Barry back to Earth 1.
So, they get a "Team Flash" alert and Alchemy is with the rest of the Cult of Savitar at a building called the Schultz Center that looks suspiciously like Disney's EPCOT Center in Florida (does Disney own the CW?).
Alchemy tells his minions that he is going to use the power of the Geodesic building to magnify the power of the Philosopher's Stone to transform every double from Flashpoint into whatever Meta-Human they were in Flashpoint thereby paving the way for the full return of Savitar.
Alchemy starts to concentrate and as a result, the building starts to light up like an eerie Christmas Tree (if the tree had lights that reminded you of the moon landing).
Garrick and Flash show up, knock the stone out of Alchemy's hands and the building powers down. Simultaneously, however, Savitar appears and begins kicking their red-suited and speedy butts.
Garrick tells Flash to "Get the Stone" and that he will take care of Savitar and for some almost incomprehensible reason, Savitar plays along and leaves to give Garrick a world-class beatdown.
So, left to his own devices, Barry easily out-speeds Alchemy and retrieves the stone and returns it to its box which forces Savitar to disappear again.
Barry pulls off Alchemy's mask and of course it is Julian's face looking up at us.
More "Friendly Flascism"
Julian wakes up in the Pipeline in one of the tiny one-person cells that for some reason everyone seems to accept uncritically as appropriate in the Flash universe.
On the good side, Julian, for the first time I can remember in the history of the show, makes two references to the extrajudicial nature of these cells during the resulting conversation ("I want my phone call"..."I want my phone call"). I am so happy that the writers are starting to pay attention to the happy Gitmo they have created inside STAR Labs (and yes, that is a nod to John Stewart...wherever he is).
Anyway, Julian has no idea that during breaks from terrifying the kids in Gryffindor House and financing archeological digs in India that he is also Savitar's minion Dr. Alchemy. He is actually very hostile to the idea.
Barry leaves confused but not before locking Julian down again (they have blast doors that cover the cells when the occupants aren't needed for interrogation, so Meta-Humans are forced to sit in a cell barely big enough to walk two steps in either direction cut off from everyone and everything, I can't make this stuff up). Then goes to watch everyone else (mostly Joe) berate "Good Old HR" (Tom Cavanagh) for admitting that he has been training Wally West (Keiynan Lonsdale) as a speedster.
At the end of HR's dressing down, Joe West (Jesse L. Martin) mentions that "sometimes that boy (Wally's) brain "goes to sleep but someone else is driving." Barry puts two and two together and returns to Julian's cell for some more waterboarding (I mean interrogation).
At first, Julian does not want to tell The Flash anything, and he says that he can't trust a man wearing a mask. Barry decides to do something insane (even on a show where it seems like half of Central City knows that Barry is the flash) and takes off his mask.
Okay, with that out of the way, Julian admits that he blacks out pretty often since the archaeological dig (meaning that Savitar uses him as a channel or medium to be present on Earth 1). He admits that his dead sister came to him and told him where to find the stone.
Meanwhile, back in the normal part of STAR labs where they don't extrajudicially imprison people for long periods of time...Cisco's brother Dante (Nicholas Gonzales) is telling him to "release the stone" so that he can be resurrected.
Cisco, under the same trance Julian was under, opens the box releasing Savitar.
What's In a Savitar?
So, if I am understanding this correctly, whoever has the philosopher's stone becomes a conduit through which Savitar's presence on Earth 1 is possible. Savitar takes over their bodies at times (when they black out) and can be summoned physically by the stone (as long as the stone is out of the box).
Okay, I am not an expert in Flash lore, but I remember Savitar as just a normal but incredibly powerful and vain super-villain. Savitar did have the ability to confer and take speed power from people, so the writers seem to have experienced his powers quite a bit here.
The entire mythology of the linkage between Savitar, the Stone, and Alchemy appears to be new as does his ability to possess people and make them do his bidding (in the books Alchemy was a person with a split-personality). I have some suspicions about this that I will get to in a few minutes.
So, Cisco has unleashed Savitar inside STAR labs and Jay Garrick is still too beaten up to help The Flash fight him off. So Savitar is beating the holy hell out of Barry until Wally goes to help out and Savitar proceeds to beat the holy hell out of both of them (because he is much faster and more powerful obvi).
Caitlin Snow (Danielle Panabaker) runs to find Cisco and convinces him to shut the box and banish faux-Dante back into Savitar's brain (we learn later Savitar knows about all of them and uses that knowledge to manipulate them).
Once he recovers, Cisco figures he can use the connection between Julian and Savitar to allow all of them to have a conversation with "The God of Speed."
It works (because of Geek Magic) and they are able to use Julian to talk to Savitar.
We find out that Savitar knows Barry from The Future and is fighting him now because the older Flash somehow managed to defeat and banish Savitar into a timeless void (it is possible that this is actually a reference to Garrick and Barry throwing the box containing the Philosopher's Stone into the Speed Force a few minutes later in the show, only time will tell).
Savitar lets everyone know that he knows all about them (ostensibly from their fights in the future) and prophesizes that they will face the wrath of Savitar meaning:
* One will betray you (I assume he means The Flash but kind of going biblical here)
* One will fall
* One will face a fate worse than death
And then he says something else that is really making me think. He responds to the question "who are you?" with:
"I am the Future Flash"
Which could either mean "I am the Future, Flash" or it could mean "I am the 'Future Flash'"
More on that in a second...
Anyway, Garrick and Barry throw the box into the speed force, but after he throws the box Barry is propelled into the future where he sees Savitar kill Iris West (Candice Patton).
Somehow, Garrick talks Barry into not doing anything rash and explains to him that the future is never set in stone (no pun intended), that it is always bending and changing until it arrives.
Julian returns to normal and is invited to the Team Flash Christmas Party (which seemed very nice), and Barry buys a house and asks Iris to move in with him.
I feel that this episode, Killer Frost, and Invasion have been the strongest and deepest multi-episode run this show has ever had.
I have to admit I am kind of sad we have to wait about a month to see the next episode.
Okay, Savitar has now cleverly worked "Future Flash" into his dialog twice, so while I used to be skeptical, I am starting to believe that he is actually the older and more bitter Barry known as the "Future-Flash."
Short form, Future Barry believes that he caused the death of Kid-Flash and decides that the only way to fix it is to go kill all of his rivals. He literally goes on a killing spree and after he finishes he ends up trapping younger Barry and Wally in the speed-force while he ends up trapping himself in the earlier timeline (the one we are watching now).
Obviously, this will probably not play out in the exact same way. And future flash did not have Savitar's powers. But, Savitar has said it twice now, and it would explain why he wears the protective suit (he would look like an older Barry).
I guess that it is possible that the role of Savitar, the very first person to get speed force, is passed along maybe in a more violent but similar manner to how the Dread Pirate Robert's title was passed down in The Princess Bride but who knows?
Geek Magic & Bond Villain Watch
So, last week, in my recap of the Invasion finale, I talked about The CW's "Geek Magic" problem. When I refer to "Geek Magic" I mean the notion that television characters who are good at programming or engineering can magically create or fix problems in seconds just by coming into contact with technology.
This week, Cisco had (at least two) Geek Magic moments:
* Figuring out everything about the Philosopher Stone and that Julian was Alchemy in about five seconds through one Google search. This is either evidence that they were all too stupid to never check on Julian or that Cisco has magic powers.
No matter which way you go, he apparently reads more quickly than Barry in full Flash mode (which also doesn't make that much sense to me, his brain isn't faster at processing information his body is faster).
* The mind-meld interface between Julian, Savitar, and the Box.
No seriously, he had some kind of nodes or electrodes attached to Julian's head and to the outside of the magical box only minutes before he had said that the box showed up on no known instruments.
.How would that work exactly?
How could he have figured out how to connect the two in like what seemed like five minutes of show time?
Also, why does Savitar keep slowing down so that people can escape? There have been at least five times where he should have killed Barry or a member of Team Flash only to slow down and wait for something to thwart his plans. And why would he go off to fight Garrick when he wants Alchemy to succeed?
Garrick and Barry together can clearly not defeat Savitar, so why wouldn't he just swat Garrick away and continue fighting Barry?
Savitar has apparently been trained by Dr. Evil. Just saying.
Those are just small complaints, on the whole, a very deep and provocative episode.
One last little tidbit, early in the episode Caitlin tells a story about she always remembers watching movies with her Dad before he died in the middle of a blizzard. At the end of the episode, she takes off the power-dampening cuffs and brings a white Christmas to the Team Flash Christmas Party.
That was a nice touch.
Ok, that's it for this week, and for about a month (sigh). I really hate mid-season breaks.
What do you think of Geek Magic and Bond Villains?
What do you think about Future Flash?
Will Iris Die?
Let me know what you think, leave a comment!