Thursday, 9 March 2017

Review - 'The Flash', S03E15 - 'The Wrath of Savitar'

Considering that he is supposed to be the main antagonist for the third season of The Flash, it is somewhat disappointing to have to admit that Savitar still hasn't been able to make much of an impression. He's had his moments, sure – and, he definitely seems to pose a significant physical threat. But, the vague hints that we have been given about his true identity, and his plans for Barry Allen, just haven't been all that satisfying. The indication of an intense rivalry that hasn't actually taken place yet, from Barry's perspective, just feels a little too similar to what we had with Barry and Eobard Thawne, back in the first season. Also, there is the fact that Savitar's overall design looks like something drawn out of a video game (and, not necessarily a good one, either) – which has made it a bit difficult to take him seriously.

It is definitely noticeably, after all, that Savitar's most effective moments were those in which he was speaking through others – either when he was talking through Julian, or when he created those so far unexplained hallucinations of various deceased loved ones. With this episode clearly being intended to bring Savitar back into focus, it probably makes sense that it would feature some of his strongest moments, so far. First, we have a couple of scenes in which Julian, very reluctantly, agrees to allow 'Team Flash' to use his connection to Savitar to communicate with the mysterious villain – with each scene providing some great moments of tense drama. Then, we have a genuinely emotional scene, later in the episode, where Savitar's continuing efforts to manipulate Wally culminates in him presenting a hallucination of Wally's deceased mother.

Even the scenes that featured Savitar, in person, came across as stronger, in this episode, than what we had seen previously. I'm not entirely sure whether it's because the quality of the CGI work that went into creating him has improved, in some subtle way, or if I've simply started to get used to his outlandish design, but these scenes felt like a significant improvement. Also, the simple fact that Savitar seems to be more talkative now, as we move toward the end of the season, has done wonders to allow him to feel like a more rounded character, with actual reasons for his antagonistic behaviour.

It was, admittedly, a little disappointing to see how easily the team can begin to fracture in the face of adversity, even after they have already been through so much – but, it's also difficult to deny that this did provide the episode with some of its most dramatic moments. The fear of Savitar's inevitable return, and the possible future murder of Iris West, is clearly playing on all of our heroes in different ways – and, that would obviously go some way toward explaining their behaviour. As a result, we have members of the cast beginning to make some of the characteristically terrible decisions that have caused so much trouble in the past, as the begin to keep important information from each other. Wally, for example, had apparently decided to keep his visions of Savitar a secret, until the point that it became impossible to hide. Upon learning of this connection between Wally and Savitar, Barry decided that the only sensible decision was to push Wally away – leaving the young man isolated and angry, and prone to make all sorts of rash decisions.

Barry, meanwhile, was forced to reveal that the reasoning behind his decision to propose to Iris, at the end of the previous episode, was little more than an effort to make another change to the future – something which, naturally, didn't sit well with Iris. While, seemingly worst of all, Caitlin is ultimately forced to reveal that she had actually kept a small piece of the Philosopher's Stone, in the hope that it might provide a way for her to remove her powers.

Of course, the fact that Caitlin's decision to keep this piece of the stone was, ultimately, the only reason that Savitar hadn't already escaped was an interesting twist of expectations – a twist which, also, left Wally in the perfect position to make a tragic mistake out of an earnest desire to do what he thought was right.

In the end, the season's fifteenth episode did a very impressive job of both bringing Savitar back into focus, for the later half of the season, and of allowing him to become the truly imposing threat that he was clearly always meant to be. More than anything else that happened in this episode, it was actually Savitar's subtle and skillful manipulation of Wally West that finally allowed him to come across as a legitimately effective villain. I've been mostly ambivalent about Savitar, until now – but, thanks to this episode, I find that I'm actually genuinely interested in seeing how things might developed from here.

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