Thursday, 16 March 2017

Review - 'The Flash', S03E16 - 'Into the Speed Force'

The way in which Savitar had managed to manipulate Wally West into setting him free, at the end of the previous episode, would have to be the villain's most effective moment, so far – and, what would have to count as both a positive and a negative. On the plus side, it was great to see the mysterious villain using his intellect, as he skilfully goaded Wally into making a terrible mistake. On the other hand, though, it simply should not have taken as long as it did to reach this point.

For much of the season, Savitar simply hasn't been a terribly interesting, or particularly effective, villain. Sure, the idea of a speedster capable of moving so fast that only other speedster can even see him sounded interesting enough, but his first action sequence looked like something that could have been drawn straight out of a video game (and, not a particularly good one, either) – and, the same could be said of his overall design. Those scenes in which he spoke to the rest of the cast through Julian were pretty great, of course – but, they amounted to little more than some fairly standard villainous posturing.

Honestly, the mystery of exactly who Savitar really is, and what he is planning, hasn't really been interesting enough to carry the entire season – especially considering how similar it feels to the previous two seasons. It really wasn't until he set his sights on the inexperienced, and somewhat naive, Wally West that we had the opportunity to see anything more from this mysterious figure – as he was able to play on the young man's fear in a legitimately clever way.

So, now, with Wally West trapped in the Speed Force, and Savitar free once more, the rest of the team are left to try to clean up the mess. Barry, perhaps naturally enough, seems fairly determined to place the blame for everything that has gone wrong firmly on himself. He is determined to find a way to rescue Wally, though, and soon settles on the idea of taking another trip into the Speed Force, itself.

Much like with his previous trip, last season, Barry's journey into the Speed Force proves to be an entertaining, and somewhat surreal, affair as Barry finds himself confronted by visions of those who have previously died. It seems that the Speed Force (or, whatever form of intelligence exists within it) was angered by Barry's decision to travel back in time and save his mother, thus creating Flashpoint. Now, it is determined that Barry should finally take responsibility for his own decisions.

It's an interesting premise, certainly – one which, along with creating the opportunity for some great scenes, also provides former cast-members with the opportunity to put in another appearance. Rick Cosnett, Robbie Amell, and Wentworth Miller are each given the opportunity to return, throughout the episode, and the separate scenes that they share with Grant Gustin are easily the strongest element of the episode. The idea that, through these people who were each moved to sacrifice themselves by Barry (even, as it turns out, Leonard Snart), the Speed Force would attempt to challenge Barry is definitely a strong one.

Unfortunately, while these individual scenes are strong, when taken on their own, there are still some issues with the execution of the episode, as a whole. For one thing, Barry's decision to place the burden of saving Iris on Wally's shoulders wasn't actually an act of cowardice or selfishness – it was pure pragmatism, inspired by the fact that Wally clearly has the potential to become faster than Barry. That fact makes the Speed Force's insistence that Barry needs to be the one to stop Savitar, and save Iris, feel a little contrived. But, at the same time, I suppose I can just accept the idea that the Speed Force has a particular interest in pushing Barry – so, I can get past it.

What I can't get past, though, is how easy it actually seemed to be for Barry to find his way to Wally, especially given the fact that the Speed Force, itself, was supposed to be working to prevent exactly that. It was great to finally see Barry encounter the Black Flash, after his introduction on Legends of Tomorrow, of course – and, that brief encounter did provide another entertaining example of the show's typically well done 'speedster vs speedster' confrontations. But, the ultimate resolution to this whole dilemma just felt underwhelming – especially given the fact that the whole thing hinged on the sudden, and somewhat random, appearance of Jay Garrick.

Meanwhile, while all of this was going on in the Speed Force, Jesse found herself consumed by a desperate need to track down, and confront, Savitar on her own. Despite having every single character point out exactly how foolish this was, she was adamant – even to the point of knocking out H. R. when he tried to stop her. Even though we were clearly meant to see her behaviour as reckless, and driven by her fear for Wally, I still found this to be a rather frustrating sub-plot. For one thing, it just felt as though the consequences for this reckless decision should have been a little more extreme than simply being knocked down once. For another, the fact that her recklessness was ultimately justified, by having her find a way to actually wound Savitar, felt a little contrived. In both cases, based on what we have already seen of Savitar and what he is capable of, it just felt like a bit of a stretch, to me. But, on the other hand, this probably counts as Jesse Quick's first truly heroic moment, in her time on the show – so, I suppose I can let it pass.

In the end, what we had with the season's sixteenth episode was an interesting premise let down by somewhat shaky execution. The scenes shared between Barry Allen and those former cast-members given the opportunity to return were each a strong point in the episode, as the Speed Force used them in an attempt to teach Barry an important lesson. I just wish that the apparent ease with which Barry was able to resolve the whole situation didn't leave the rest of the episode feeling so underwhelming.

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