Series 3, Episode 16
Into the Speed Force.
Let's call this episode what it is: A protracted excuse to surgically remove every other speedster in the story except Barry and Savitar from the equation. It is thorough, too: By the end of the episode, Jesse has gone to Earth-3, Wally is traumatised and not up to being Kid Flash, Jay is trapped in the Speed Force, and even Zoombie was destroyed (temporarily, presumably, he's still needed for Thawne's motivation).
When writers do this, I'm always a little confused by it, because it reeks of putting the cart before the horse. Instead of building a storyline based on having three or four speedsters who can go up against Savitar, it instead takes them all out of the picture in the most contrived ways possible, so it can have its one-on-one fight at the end.
Anyway, in this episode, Barry is vibed into the Speed Force by Cisco, and searches it for Wally -- only to find that the Speed Force is unwilling to help him, having taken issue with him relying on other people for help, viewing it as him not taking responsibility. Meanwhile, Jesse tries to find Savitar, despite the protestations of HR, and in doing so discovers that under his suit of armour, he's vulnerable and can be harmed.
Okay, so Jesse's interactions with HR and Savitar in this episode add another level to my theory that HR is going to become Savitar. Because despite calling Wally 'Wallace' and Cisco 'Francisco,' Savitar calls Jesse 'Jesse Quick,' which is a nickname. HR broadly does the same thing -- Wally is always Wallace to him, and while Cisco is just Cisco these days, HR used to use his full name as well (and Barry's). Jesse is the only person he consistently uses a nickname for.
It also seems like a very HR thing to do to wear a literal suit of armour to protect himself from attack: Savitar's the fastest character in the show by a massive margin, has telepathic powers that he can use to manipulate people, and appears to have enhanced strength -- he shouldn't need a suit of armour. But HR's major character trait is that he's a coward, so taking every step possible to reduce risk to himself is absolutely something he'd do.
The A-plot, meanwhile, provides much less in the way of interesting stuff to think about. I've taken issue with the presentation of the Speed Force in this show before, and I outlined in my The Runaway Dinosaur review how I think the 'people from Barry's life show up and chat to him' format could have been improved upon. It's slightly more tolerable this time around, since it brings in a bunch of actors we've not seen for a while, and has a general creepy ghost story vibe, but it's still not much to write home about.
The idea that those imprisoned in the Speed Force relive the worst moment of their lives again and again is an interesting one, but it would have played better, I think, if we'd seen more of Wally going through that -- or even if it had been expanded out (reliving the worst day of his life over and over again) and then made into a full episode. It's also never really explained why a speedster has to take the place of the prisoner: When Savitar kidnapped Wally and explained that he needed someone to take his place, I kind of assumed this episode would tell us why that is. Instead, it just takes it as read, without explaining it at all.
It was nice to see Jay back, too, but I actually really expected that to turn out to be a trick, since we didn't see Cisco going to Earth-3 to get him. As it is, it felt hasty and abrupt, a shallow attempt to close off a plot thread while also getting another speedster out of the way of the story.
I enjoyed this episode well enough, but from a critical standpoint I find it quite underwhelming, and that's a little bit of a problem at this point in the series, where events are meant to be kicking into high gear.
Next week, we have a crossover with Supergirl, which is also a musical episode, because of course it is. Even now, the terrifying clawgrip of Joss Whedon's influence on the industry is felt surprisingly keenly. It should be fun, at least, and apparently Victor Garber's also in as Stein, which is always nice. I guess. I suppose.
(Is this why we didn't get a Supergirl episode this week?)