Thursday, 11 May 2017

Review - 'The Flash', S03E21 - 'Cause and Effect'

The idea that The Flash would choose to follow-up the reveal of Savitar's true identity with what is, essentially, a light-hearted filler episode struck me as very strange – especially with the end of the season drawing so close. And yet, in the end, that is exactly what this episode is. Oddly enough, though, it also manages to be up there among the most purely entertaining episodes we have had, recently (not quite on the same level as the musical cross-over, sure – but, there are moments where it does come pretty close).

Following a tense stand-off his his evil doppelgรคnger, Barry is left understandably distraught by the revelation that it is actually some twisted version of himself who is responsible for Iris's death. The rest of the team, meanwhile, are just as understandably concerned about how they could ever hope to fight someone who already knows every decision that they are going to make, due simply to the fact that he can remember it.

While Barry broods on the fact that he will eventually be directly responsible for creating Savitar (evil-Barry actually being a time remnant that Barry will one day create to help defeat Savitar – but, who eventually goes on to become Savitar. It's the sort of convoluted weirdness you can only really get with stories about time travel), Cisco and Julian come up with a bizarre, and risky, plan that may finally give them the upper-hand.

Since Savitar was once Barry Allen, he can remember every decision that Barry made in what is, basically, his own past – which leaves the present-day Barry Allen at a distinct disadvantage. But, if Savitar can't actually remember anything that happened, then that advantage would be lost. So, Cisco and Julian propose a plan to, basically, mess with Barry's head – interrupting his ability to form short-term memories while they work to stop Savitar. It's borderline ridiculous, of course – but, there is also an odd sort of logic to the whole idea. After all, if Barry can't actually remember any of the decisions that the team make in the present, then Savitar can't possibly have any memory of them from his own past.

Of course, given the circumstances, it's also practically inevitable that something would go drastically wrong – and so, rather than preventing his ability to form short-term memories, Barry is left with complete amnesia. And, it's at this point that the episode takes what would have to be its most unexpected turn, and actually becomes genuinely fun.

Without the accumulated tragedies of his life, Barry is able to revert to the cheerful, and somewhat goofy, person he was back in the first season of the series – and, Grant Gustin does a great job with all of that. There is actually quite a bit of fun to be had in simply watching Barry's reaction to everything that takes place around him – from his somewhat incredulous reaction when Wally tells him that they are actually brothers, to his pure joy when he realises that he actually has super-powers. Then, of course, there are the quieter moments between Barry and Iris, where Iris finds herself guiding and supporting Barry – a new dynamic which provides some great moments for both Grant Gustin and Candace Patton.

Of course, there are other odd side-effects to this whole bizarre adventure, too. While Barry finds himself suffering from Amnesia, it seems that Savitar, too, has completely forgotten who he is, and what he is planning – leaving Killer Frost at a bit of a loss. Also, as a direct result of Savitar's own amnesia, it seems that Wally West has also lost his own power – since, without his memories, Savitar would have no reason to grant them, in the first place. Sure, none of this made very much sense to me. After all, without his memories, Barry would have had no reason to create the time remnant that would eventually become Savitar, meaning that Savitar should have ceased to exist entirely – which would have caused another catastrophic change to the time-line as all of Savitar's actions, over the course of the season, would have been erased. But, I suppose that's probably a bit much to take on in what was clearly supposed to be a fun, filler, episode – so, I suppose I just have to let it pass.

Besides, while the circumstances involving Savitar's own amnesia may not have made very much sense, it did provide us with some great scenes featuring Killer Frost willingly working with her former friends, as she attempted to undo the damage that Cisco and Julian had inadvertently caused. While I still have my issues with the way that the whole Caitlin/Killer Frost plot has been handled, over the season, I do have to admit that it served as the basis from some surprisingly effective moments of character drama, here. Having Cisco attempt to reach out to Caitlin, through the use of a fun anecdote about their past working together, was actually surprisingly touching – and, her decision to ultimately brush off his efforts came across as suitably tragic.

At this point, it is clearly a waste of time to continue complaining about how little sense it makes for Caitlin's meta-human powers to change her to such an extent (especially when we haven't seen anything similar in any other character). It is what the writer's have chosen to go with – so, I suppose all I can really do, now, is that they are able to turn it into something interesting.

In the end, this episode was actually a surprisingly tricky one to get a proper handle on. Sure, the basic premise provided quite a few entertaining moments but, when I attempted to take a step back to look at the broader context of it all, it just become a muddled mess. It felt as though the correct attitude was to simply enjoy it for what it was, and to not think too deeply about anything that happened – so, in the end, that is exactly what I attempted to do.

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