[Editor’s note: This review may contain spoilers.]
“The Once and Future Flash” (Season 3, Episode 19)
Director: Tom Cavanagh
Writer: Carina Adly MacKenzie
Stars: Grant Gustin (Barry Allen), Jesse L. Martin (Joe West), Carlos Valdes (Cisco Ramon), Tom Cavanagh (H.R. Wells), Danielle Panabaker (Caitlin Snow)
As Caitlin Snow goes on a Killer Frost rampage, knocking down one more temporal marker on the way to Iris West’s murder at the hands of Savitar, The Flash decides to race into the future to see if he can pick up any tips on who the Speed-God actually is, or how to defeat him. But while Savitar has indeed been defeated by 2024, Team Flash is disbanded, it’s disparate members in various stages of despondent, diffident, and disaffected.
Flash decides to return home, but find he can’t because Vibe is preventing his ability to work up a time portal, based largely on the fact that me misses his friend. But also because he wants to get the band back together. They do just that, learning along the way that an imprisoned Killer Frost knows the true identity of Savitar, and that the truth will wreck The Flash.
Afterward, Team Flash, with the aid of a reclusive future Barry, brings down Mirror Master and The Top, succeeding to such an extent that they elect to make the reunion permanent. Although none of them know who Savitar is, and future Barry really can’t say how he managed to trap Savitar in the Speed Force, he does give current Barry a data drive from the scientist who helped make it possible.
Finally, in the present, a wandering Killer Frost comes across Savitar, and instantly, one might even say eagerly, joins his team upon learning his true identity.
First off, can I just say how happy I am that Stephen Amell’s flashback wig from Arrow has found a new job, now that five-years-ago Ollie has got a haircut? I mean, seriously, I’m convinced that mop Grant Gustin is seen wearing as his 2024 self is the same scraggly hairpiece!
Anyway, I’m a sucker for these time travel/alt. future stories, so I was obvs predisposed to liking this episode, and it was pretty fun. Personally, I thought Gustin did a great job portraying his older self. With all of the others, it was like, okay, I accept that you are the you eight years from now, because you’ve said so. But Gustin really sold Wig-Flash as being a separate character from the one he normally plays. Sure, by adopting a deeper, gruffer voice, but also by having a worn and weary air of someone really beat down by all that life has taken from him. He was so good, in fact, that after the first couple of scenes I settled in and stopping seeing the hair first.
I also liked that fact that Flash not doing his Flash thing appeared to have real consequences, although, TV budgets being what they are, that most amounted to one trashed apartment set, with Mirror Master and The Top running down back alleys, which, let’s face it, probably would have looked like back alleys anyway.
I do want to say that this episode was well directed and displayed some of the care and thoughtfulness that propels The Flash so far above the other CW/ DC shows. We have seen how Wally and H.R. have kind of bonded over the course of the season, and it’s interesting that when H.R. tries to get Team Flash to rally for an “On three!” — mirroring the future scene in which he was first to go all in on the big reunion — it’s Wally who, despite the definite lack of enthusiasm displayed by everyone else, nearly reaches in to take H.R.’s hand, backing off at the last minute only when H.R. not realizing he’s got one person, at least, willing to follow his lead, gives up the rallying effort. That moment, which took less than a second, really, was pure gold, I thought, and continued to pile on to the depth these characters have when the show is firing on all cylinders. So, whether that bit was by accident or design, hats off to Cavanagh. (I’m pretty certain this was his directorial debut on the show, BTW.)
It also was neat to see that Flash himself inspired himself to resume his heroing ways — a bit of self-mentoring that will pay off in just a few months, future time, when the Crisis on Infinite Earths begins, an event foreshadowed since the pilot episode of this series.
I was, however, highly confused by the math in this episode. From the beginning, we’ve seen on the newspaper in Wells’ time vault that the red sky event Flash apparently dies to prevent happens on April 25, 2024. Or, at least, that’s the date seen on the newspaper page that reports the event.
This episode, meanwhile, is set in Feb. 3, 2024. But the characters say eight years have passed since the present day. The even break it down by noting how Savitar was defeated four years ago, future time, which is said to have been four years ago present time. So, unless I heard them wrong, that should put this episode in 2025.
And speaking of hearing things, the name as I heard it for the lady scientist who eventually helps Flash trap Savitar in the Speed Force was “Tina Brand.” That’s kinda close to Tina McGee, but otherwise not anyone that popped up on the first few pages of a Google search. At least not associated with DC Comics or the Flash.
While the besties forever vibe between Vibe and Flash was touching, I had to keep asking myself why Barry was not an any point, like, “Look, buddy, trust me. I’ll change things, you’ll have your hands back and none of this will even happened.” I mean, why labor and emote over getting the gang back together for the big team-bonding, “On three!” when the whole idea is to make is so no one ever reaches this sorrowful state they have to be lifted from? Saying that but of plot-unplottery might have prompted an exchange like,
BARRY: Cisco, man. Why can’t to trust me to prevent all this from happening?
CISCO: Because . . . you already didn’t.
Instead, the Barry/Cisco dynamic this episode is relatively conflict free and Cisco, who went full-throttle Grodd over the loss of his brother, seems surprisingly well-adjusted to the loss of his hands.
But then, Killer Frost hits the nail a little squarely on the head when she says, “Secrets were always our thing.” It’s the one big eye-roll I have with this series, that the characters always act so unheroic. I mean, yeah, it’s not Rick & Co. murdering The Saviors in their sleep, but with the various members of Team Flash forever hiding things from the others and/or trying to go it alone, and never, never, never ever learning the lesson on this, it’s like, seriously, are you sure you guys aren’t from Earth-3 Classic?
But then, some of the actors do play better as villains. Danielle Panabaker, bless her soul, was in line for the coveted Honorable Wife No. 2 job, but she was drop dead boring as sweet dependable, pure-as-the-driven snow Caitlin Snow. She is INFINITELY more interesting as Killer Frost.
And finally, the 2024 Flash suit, and most may be surprised to see me list this under “negatives.” Most fans online seem to be geeking out over the new suit, with its lightning bolt belt and brighter colors. Me, not so much. I thought it too bright, kind of ridiculously so given that, unlike the comic book printing methods of 1956, the real world has more than four colors to work from. And the belt? I dunno man. Yes, I do wish more movie and tv costumes were more faithful to the source material, but not everything translates. Every time Flash 2024 was on screen in costume, I had bad flashbacks to the 197o Legends of the Superheroes specials.
Yeah, go ahead and Google that one, if you dare.
A fun and poignant episode that, nonetheless, needlessly pulled by out of the story here and there. But all will be forgiven if Monsieur Wig gets its own show.
Mindless Speculation Dept.
So, of course, the big mystery all Flash fans are tying to solve is, “Who is Savitar?” We learn via Killer Snow two vital clues in this episode: The identity will be a true shocker to Barry once he discovers it, and it’s someone Killer Frost throws in with immediately upon finding out herself. Also, when Wally learned who Savitar was it scared him just short of getting the Jacques Foccart/Pepe LePew streak in his hair. So, who are the suspects.
CISCO: Would be a shocking reveal and is most trusted by Caitlin. Plus, that suit didn’t look all that big inside when it opened up. Sure, Carlos Valdes is no Kenny Baker, but he is compact enough to wear the suit. However, it seems doubtful as he’s seemingly too in the tank for Barry to ever turn to that degree.
JULIAN: In the comics Dr. Alchemy had a duel identity in that he was also Mr. Element. It would be a nod of sorts to the comics to have Julian be both Alchemy and Savitar. However, while he is trusted by Caitlin, the revelation of him as the Big Bad probably would not do much to knock Barry of his foundation.
WALLY: It would surely fry Wally’s circuits to learn he killed his own sister. Plus it would likely shake Barry to his core to learn Wally is Savitar. But are he and Caitlin all that close? Sure they’ve shared several scenes, but I’m struggling to recall a single exchange of dialogue they’ve shared, ever. Plus, we know Savitar is from somewhere in the future between 2024 and Abra Kadabra time. So, Wally would have to recover from his shock in order to become the reason for that shock. Ugh, time loop.
BARRY: Well, now, this wold fit all the bills, wouldn’t it. Could future Barry become so full of self-loathing for everything he destroyed in carelessly creating Flashpoint that he someone reasons the only way to make things right is to destroy everything and start over? And we have been warned the season cliffhanger is going to go down as the most precipitous summer hang ever. Like, Lucille levels of, “Oh . . . no . . . you . . . DI’IN’T!”
JOE: He was certainly distraught enough over the loss o Iris that he might fall to the Dark Side and try to make Barry share his pain. And if the writers want to make it so, he might even reason that it’s okay to kill Iris to make Barry suffer because her death has already happened. Joe being Savitar would almost certainly drive Wally catatonic, and we can presume that, while never depicted as anything more than friendly, Caitling would presumably trust Joe implicitly, based on what she knows of his character.
HARRISON: During the season, especially early on, hints were dropped suggesting that H.R. may not be the affable buffoon he appears. Caitlin, as Killer Frost, might see enough of Harrison Wells in H.R. to side with him. And it would be a shocker for him to be Savitar, for sure. However, we’ve seen that in one alternate production of Iris’ death scene, H.R. is atop a building ready to fire a bazooka at Savitar. So, H.R. would have to have an ability to be in two places at once in order to be bazookerer and bazookeree. Of course, if Earth-19 Harrison Wells is also the Earth-19 Eobard Thawne, that’s not entirely our of the question. Also, we have not seen Jessie Quick in the future. She might have cone back to Earth-3, but would she abandon Wally if injured, or return to stay at his side? If she dies as some point in the future and Earth-2 Harrison Wells holds Flash responsible, he clearly has displayed the caricature traits it would take to go full-villain. And that would also solve H.R. needing to be in two places at once, although he’s still be trying to kill himself, in a way.
JAY: So what if, in 2020 Barry didn’t trap Savitar in the Speed Force for the first time? What if he was already there as Jay and, so, became fixated on being the God of Speed from his long entrapment, and with a mad-on for Barry to boot, for trapping him there. Oh, sure, Jay volunteered for the job, and you’d think he’d be madder at Wally than Barry for his long suffering inside the Speed Force, but that much pain over that many years could easily transfer Jay’s pain and turn it into hate. Caitling would trust him and Barry would undoubtedly be as shocked by this revelation as any other. However, after the creative team just barely rescued Jay’s character toward the end of Season 2, I somehow doubt they’d risk pissing off fans to mighty again, so soon. Plus, it seems unlikely the writers would put Jay in the Speed Force just to abandon him there. I think it was Chekov who said, “If you put a speedster on the mantle in Act I, you must make him run in Act III.”
HUNTER: Okay, so Zoom is dead, right? That would certainly make Savitiar-is-Zoom a shocking reveal. Also, note that Killer Frost clearly threw in with Savitar as a subservient, not an equal. Given the experience her EArth-2 counterpart had with Zoom, Caitlin as Frost probably would be quick to acquiesce to Hunter’s leadership, if only out of a sense of self-preservation. Plus, while dead, Hunter has proven adept at creating time copies of himself, or whatever it is they’re called. And this entire season of Legends of Tomorrow featured Thawne in just such a not-quite-dead-yet capacity.
IRIS: Okay, the most far-fetched possibility it would seem. But throwing it out there anyway.
JESSIE: Also, not very likely.
EDDIE: I can’t imagine a better reason to be angry with the Flash than getting erased from the timeline. Could Flashpoint have brought him back somehow? Caitlin would have good reason to fear him, he would come as a surprise to Barry and a shocking reveal to fans, and, driven insane, he might feel he has reason to kill Iris first, for moving on from his love so quickly, which would also punish Barry for stealing his girl. Plus, I haven’t seen Rick Cosnett in much since his playing Eddie in Season 1 and one guest spot this season, so he can probably use the work.
OLIVER: Could be. I mean, he’s got the killer instinct and he HAS to be pissed at Barry by now for constantly screwing with the timeline.
THE WIG: Admit it, you were thinking it, too. And there shall be one wig to rule them all! Bhwa-HA-haaaaa!!!!!
So, based on the above odds-making, my Top 4 picks to be Savitar are:
3. E2 Harrison
Longshot pick: Eddie.
Do you have a different guess? Let us know in the comments below!