A big spooky ghost is murdering folks around town, and only the man who is quicker than death can save the day.
Welcome to one of the first episodes of season three where The Flash seems to hit all the right notes without bailing on the big storylines. Or at very least, we've got a consistent core cast doing wacky science up against spectacle monster-of-the-week action, and what more can you ask for from executive producer Greg Berlanti and company?
Okay, that was rhetorical, but could I get one more full time character played by Tom Cavanagh? That's my Christmas wish.
Wally is getting visions of his life as Kid Flash from his alternate timeline in the Flashpoint universe, which majorly sucks for the guy whose only dream in life is to do Good Guy Stuff on the same scale as the other meta-humans. These dreams of "What If" are the go-to introduction of somewhat magical Doc Alchemy. Turns out that teasing normal folks with godhood unhinged them in the process. Taking the kind of unhinged former criminal street racer who is now resorting to near-suicidal stunts in an effort to kickstart potential super powers and giving him exactly like he wants — yeah this going to get bad. I am stoked, however, to watch Barry turn against an actual brother — even if it means we're falling into the trap of yet another rival speedster.
Speaking of friends in super powered flux, Caitlin Snow finally came forward to the team about her emerging skills in the least chill way possible. Barry has to sit her down for a heart-to-heart where the fear of accidentally turning evil has to be explored at length. Of everything that seems half-baked in this season, this plot seems like it never even made it into the kitchen. No one in this world turns dark unless they were already super-evil (or at very least), fueled by revenge since the start. For all the characters from this friend group, and an extended network of strangers, Caitlin is somehow the only one no one trusts to control herself once meta-puberty hits, and I think she straight up deserves super powers for all the unpaid internship work she's done in an exploded laboratory for the last few years.
In the levity portion on the episode, H.R. is trying to earn his keep by trying to deflect attention from S.T.A.R. Labs' obvious involvement in Barry's work. On account of him sharing a face with a wanted murder, he takes on a Men In Black flash-thing to change his appearance and begin pulling his own weight.
It's time for the show to recognize the characters and arcs its getting right
Then we've got this week's murder-ghost character, Shade. The stage is set for a big, complicated battle between The Run-Fast Man and a non-corporeal being ... akin to season one's showdown with the Mist which ended far too quickly. Instead, we wind up having a shockingly premature showdown with Alchemy that takes up no more than two minutes of screen-time before we're suddenly face-to-face with Savitar... a Transformers-esque speed God who growls some nonsense at Barry and calls it a night.
What. Is. Happening?
We've barely established what Alchemy and his cult are up to in this unholy world merger, and then we drop the Savitar bomb on their very first encounter. On both the protagonist and antagonist ends, this entire season has felt like throwing the entire deck of cards on the table and hoping a story emerges. We don't have anything to actually be concerned about and in the absence of stakes we have an overly complicated rogues gallery?
It's time for the show to recognize the characters and arcs it's getting right and trim some fat, because at this point we're wasting entire storylines on brief flashes of potential, and that's the sort of reckless burn that puts a show this great in danger. Maybe it's time to get back to basics before this becomes a bloated mess.