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“Abra Kadabra” is the best kind of Flash episode: silly, sincere and exciting. What’s more, its excitement isn’t so much in spite of its silliness, but rather a function of it, as it places its characters in ludicrous situations that challenge their every fiber, be it the titular teched-out villain from the 64th century who may as well be omnipotent, or Caitlyn Snow having to guide Julian through her own open surgery. What’s more, it moves Barry Allen definitively into a new square on the chess board after this season’s moral wheel-spinning.
From The Dark Knight to Ant-Man to Gotham to The Flash, David Dastmalchian is one of those “that guy” genre character-actors who adds an indelible touch without needing much screen time. Here he plays a futuristic murderer who masks his advanced technology with magical theatrics, using the nanites in his body to teleport, generate “fake” gag limbs, and use thousands of playing cards as a smokescreen the same way Batman uses smoke bombs. His task is simple: gather rudimentary time-travel gadgets from the likes of Kord and Stagg industries (neato DC Easter eggs in and of themselves) in order to return to his time, but like anyone who murders people on Earths 1 and/or 19, he comes face to face with Team Flash and Gyspy. It’s as simple a villain-of-the-week setup as they come, but Kadabra is a special kind of sinister, posing a major dilemma for Barry. While sending Kadabra back to Earth-19 for trial would be the just thing, the bleached-blond baddie has something of great value to offer the scarlet speedster: four thousand years of information.
He knows who Barry is. He knows about Iris. He knows how the future will unfold, but most importantly, he knows Savitar’s identity and is willing to give it up in exchange for his freedom.
Rather than harping on about future woes, Barry, Iris and Joe are finally trying to get on with their lives despite the looming specter of Iris’ murder in two month’s time. Joe’s girlfriend Cecile inspects Iris’ ring as they gush over Barry’s romantic musical gesture from last week, but when she brings up the four spare Browadway tickets she has for July, the realization that things usually get fucked up around May dawns on the Flash fam once more. (Iris doesn’t want to die before watching Hamilton. Can you blame her?)
While Barry proceeds with caution over the Kadabra situation, it’s Papa West who ends up facing down a literal prisoner’s dilemma. It took two vibers and two speedsters to take down the sorcerer, so Joe West knows full well he needs to show up armed to the STAR Labs pipeline prison. Kadabra won’t give up his leverage until Joe opens the cell door, and despite beginning his next sentence with “Savitar… is………” before being unceremoniously interrupted by Gypsy, can we really be sure he’d have been honest?
His escape from STAR Labs leaves Caitlyn injured, and taking her to the hospital to remove the shrapnel would lead to her arrest, given that she’s a wanted Meta. So of course, The Flash does the only sensible thing and has Caitlyn guide amateur field medic Julian around her kidneys and blood vessels via mirror, seemingly without anesthetic. It’s borderline hilarious to see this level of nonsense in an otherwise “serious” season, but that’s half the reason it works. The other half is Caitlyn and Julian having to rebuild their relationship over an operating table, because the only alternative is removing Caitlyn’s power-suppressing necklace and turning her into Killer Frost. The fact that this scene works is about as miraculous as Caitlyn not immediately dying.
Caitlyn’s fate is far less certain by the end of the episode. An extended bedside tête-à-tête over Jello with Cisco and H.R. can only mean one thing: SUDDEN DEATH MID-SENTENCE! Followed by the removal of her necklace of course, drawn out to the very last minute because becoming Killer Frost is something she really doesn’t want (nor does Cisco want it for her), but it’s also the only thing that’ll heal her. She and Julian had their own theatre tickets that would’ve gone waste because of the growing mistrust between them. For a brief moment it seemed like they’d have had that date since things were finally on the mend, but something tells me Killer Frost isn’t a fan of the opera. Seriously though, Caitlyn dies while saying “Cross my heart and hope to…” and it’s wonderful, because it’s completely sincere and the threat of her leaving us is real. Not because Danielle Panabaker will exit the show, but because she might stick around as someone other than the sweet, brilliant Caitlyn Snow.
Despite some awfully jarring visual mismatches, from cutting away from important lines or actions too soon, to a distinctly unfocused montage of the Team struggling to decide between bringing a killer to justice or preventing personal tragedy, the episode is pretty much a winner all ’round. There’s a chase through (and above!) the streets involving Time Ships and Wormholes, where Cisco gets to quote Gandalf in context. Dastmalchian is delightful, Jessica Camacho gets to add weight to Gypsy (talking about how a villain named “Abra Kadabra” murdered the man she loved is as big an acting challenge as any), and Grant Gustin takes Barry to an important place, reconciling his heroic dilemma by neither giving into a villain’s demands nor to his own personal mission, instead letting justice* have its stay, and reaching his conclusion through a real form of heroism: by appealing to the innate goodness he knows Kadabra still has deep inside him.
He fails to learn Savitar’s identity, so the battle with Kadabra is lost, but it’s still a personal victory for Barry. He and Iris collectively decide on refusing to compromise their heroic ideals in service of saving her life, which means Barry’s decision to travel to the future to finally gain the upper hand – which would’ve felt repetitive a few months ago – is more a strategic last resort than another instance of selfish time-meddling. Well, it still very much is that, but this time it feels both justified, and like it’ll have real ramifications when the show returns a month from now.
In the meantime, here’s the promo for what we have to look forward to:
*They’re going to have to deal with Earth-19’s capital punishment at some point, but I’m not too bothered by no one mentioning it in the case of a mass murderer.