Series 3, Episode 7
After several weeks of fairly mediocre episodes, this is probably easily the best episode we've had in the third series so far, balancing two major plotlines with surprising deftness, and managing to break out of the slightly tired meta-of-the-week structure. That's not necessarily surprising -- while episode seven is usually reserved for filler-ish episodes, the first series had its ninth episode as a massive watershed moment for the plot, revealing that Harrison Wells is the Reverse-Flash and giving us our first real Reverse-Flash vs Flash battles. Meanwhile, the sixth episode of the second series had Zoom's first real appearance, while ninth introduces Wally and reveals the new Wells' treachery. So this is about the time where we'd expect large scale plot beats for the series.
In this week's episode, after Caitlin uses her frost powers to save Barry from Savitar, a monstrous speedster who moves almost impossibly fast and whom Doctor Alchemy serves, she begins to experience more and more out of control power surges, and changes to her personality. After kidnapping Julian to try to find Doctor Alchemy, and wrecking Barry's relationship with Cisco, she ends up in the pipeline -- just in time for Joe to try to break Wally out of his cocoon early, leading to a problem that only Caitlin herself can solve.
Usually, every episode has about three plots running at a time, but this one actually sticks to just two -- and it manages them both pretty well, giving both a decent amount of attention and tying them together at the end in a way that feels like a satisfying resolution for both, while still setting us up to see both plotlines continue to develop in interesting ways over the course of the series.
For much of the episode, the emphasis is on the team trying to track down and stop Caitlin, who is seeking out Doctor Alchemy to try to get rid of her powers, and for some reason decides to do this by kidnapping Julian to make him write a search algorithm for her. As plans go, finding Doctor Alchemy, a man with proven power-giving abilities, isn't a terrible one, especially as an acolyte later confirms that he can indeed take away powers.
It's also interesting to see Caitlin slowly turning evil. Danielle Panabaker has pretty good villain acting chops, so she's a joy to watch as Killer Frost, and my only real problem with that is that when she goes back to being normal Caitlin, it feels far too abrupt, leaving me (and probably a few people) wondering if she was ever evil in the first place, or if she was just putting it on to distance herself from the group.
It's nice to see Barry's flashpoint shenanigans coming back to haunt him as well, with him finally having to face the music for Dante dying and for Caitlin ending up with powers. As Iris points out, both those things might have happened even if he hadn't changed the timeline, but it's still nice to see that, actually, Caitlin and Cisco don't necessarily forgive him.
|Stab him, Caitlin, do it.|
The Wally plotline, meanwhile, has Wally in an ominous cocoon, only to eventually be cut out and end up in a speedster-y fugue state where his mind can't keep up with his body. It's largely a catalyst to get Caitlin back in the team, but it's still nice to get progress on Wally's plotline, and gives us a view into how Alchemy's powers work -- well, how his evil crystal works, at least.
The end of the episode has Wally as a fully-fledged speedster, who's apparently even faster than Barry was when he first got his powers, and eager to go out superheroing, despite nobody else wanting him to.
|I like the white eyes, those are nice.|
The end of the episode also reveals that Julian is actually Doctor Alchemy, albeit not willingly, and that made me groan more than a little. People had been predicting that he'd be Doctor Alchemy since the literal second he showed up, so that is an enormously predictable plot turn. One has to wonder if The Flash is even able to do 'this character was a villain' twists that aren't incredibly obvious. It also kind of diminishes an interesting character, because now all of Julian's moral complexity is boiled down to 'and also he puts on a Jim Sterling mask and is evil.'
Still, this was a really good episode by and large, and next week (not this week, as I initially thought) we're getting the Heroes vs Aliens crossover. I think. Probably. We'll see, I might be wrong about that again.