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Thanks to Sid for covering while I was on Earth-53!
"He's shown us the future. I saw you there. You were glorious and powerful. My lord has special plans for you, Caitlin Snow.
Or should I say...Killer Frost?"
"Killer Frost" presents an interesting quandary: sometimes the lengths we go to in order to save ourselves set us on the very path that dooms us. Caitlin is so afraid of Killer Frost, so consumed with protecting herself from this inexorable change, that she comes closer to the villainness within than she ever has. She lies, threatens, kidnaps and harms in her search for Alchemy, clutching to the hope that he will be able to rid her of this unwanted self.
She is so, so angry at Barry, the person responsible for this frightening new reality. "You keep messing with everyone's lives, wrecking everything, and we're left behind to pick up the pieces from your mistakes. Some things you break can't be put back together." And she's right: Flashpoint is a mistake that Barry can't outrun. He put his own needs above the needs of his friends, of Central City, of the multiverse at large, and The Flash's third season appears to be all about the consequences of that selfish act.
It's to this season's credit that the fallout doesn't weigh down the series. For all of its meaningful reflection on the repercussions of self-interest, "Killer Frost," like the episodes before it, offers plenty of levity and kindness. No one's glowering here, or wallowing. Everyone's doing their best in a dreadful situation, acting with love and compassion amid their fear and anger. Barry isn't mired in self-castigation - he's doing what he can to fix what he can fix, and apologizing for the rest.
That includes a long delayed apology to Cisco, and though I wish Barry had had the courage to confess his part in Dante's death himself, it's still a relief to have it all out in the open. Cisco's response is admirable: he's devastated, he's heartbroken, he's furious - but he doesn't have time to indulge those feelings. Caitlin's safe retrieval is all that matters, and he'll deal with Barry later. Will they be okay? He doesn't know. But the fact that Cisco isn't outright rejecting the possibility offers more hope than Barry probably deserves.
Cisco comes so close to bringing Caitlin back, in a scene that's reminiscent of the "yellow crayon" moment on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. But in the end, words aren't enough to remind Caitlin who she is and who she isn't. In the end, it takes action, action from the person who broke Caitlin's life as it once was. Barry sacrifices himself, risks his life, knowing with almost utmost certainty that Caitlin could never kill him, but with the understanding that enough of Killer Frost may have taken over her mind that he could be wrong. It's a wonderful "rescue," because it's a rescue that relies on Caitlin's own goodness and fortitude. It works, because Caitlin is so good and so strong. After two and a half seasons, Caitlin's finally got a narrative worthy of her, and it's one of the most poignant arcs we've seen yet on The Flash.
In the end, it's not the only sacrifice Barry makes for Caitlin this week. After pleading with Julian not to tell the police what he knows about Caitlin's metahuman abilities, he agrees to quit Central City Police Department in order to keep her safe. Though Julian's manipulation certainly feels like the master move of a villain, it's hard to argue with his reasoning, or at least with the motives behind it:
I can overlook the unexplained absences, the constant disregard for the rules and regulations, but your moral compass is broken, my friend.
I point-blank refuse to work with someone whose sense of right or wrong is as flippant as the weather, someone who thinks friendship is more important than justice.
You are unfit to be CSI.
Barry Allen has no place in law enforcement.
Of course, it turns out that Julian is being driven by unscrupulous motives, after all: yep. He's Alchemy. Though it's disappointing that The Flash writers have resorted to yet another deeply unsurprising reveal (just once, I'd like these new characters to be who they say they are), it's a relief that the revelation comes only seven episodes into the season. That Julian is Alchemy is not the big reveal. We know that much, at least. The writers have two-thirds of a season left to surprise us.
And that leaves Wally, who spends much of the episode in his cocoon before being forcibly removed by Joe. Joe's desperation to save his son is stirring, and Wally's joy at finally becoming a speedster makes for a winning moment badly needed by this little loved character, but where the writers intend to go from here in terms of Kid Flash is a bit of a puzzle. It feels like we've been spinning wheels with Wally since he was introduced last season, but at last, we may be getting somewhere.
Oops, I forgot to talk about Savitar. That may be because I don't care about Savitar. Got it, he's another all-powerful speedster hell-bent on ruining The Flash and everything he stands for. No really, I got it.
Kevin Smith's return to The Flash directing stable had a lot to live up to after last season's high point "The Runaway Dinosaur," but "Killer Frost" has a great energy among all the pathos. It helps that it's finally, finally, an episode all about one of the very best characters on this show. More Caitlin, less Savitar.
Coolest moments this week:
Man, I love HR. I love how much everyone else doesn't love him. I love how Cisco cut him off and told him to put down his hand when HR suggested a plan, and I love Joe's face when HR said, "Hey, you and me all-star team, huh? All right, you know what? I'll make a couple cappuccinos for the road, right, so we're ready for tonight's adventures." Team HR!
Greg Grunberg! Wait, JJ Abrams didn't direct this episode.
"Being a doctor? That I'm always up for." That Caitlin returns with such enthusiasm to her chosen vocation is a beautiful, telling moment, one that reveals more about this character than any brief forays to the dark side ever could.