For the majority of season 3, The Flash has teased the identity of its third speedster villain, Savitar. The self-appointed God of Speed is a hulking brute of a bad guy, and one who has delivered a chilling prophecy with regard to Barry Allen’s future and the lives of his friends and family. The plot structure may seem familiar to those who’ve been watching the adventures of The CW’s Scarlett Speedster, but the threat isn’t without weight. Savitar has already shown Barry Iris’s death, and he’s managed to trick other heroes into helping free him from his Speed Force prison, making the question of the Big Bad’s identity an even more pressing concern as the season cruises toward the finale.
After taking a short break to sing a few songs with Supergirl and battle Music Meister in ‘Duet’, The Flash is ready to run down some new leads on the God of Speed and to discover how Team Flash can best the villain without doing more damage to the time stream or inadvertently lending a helping hand in fulfilling his gloomy prophecy. As luck would have it, the team finds themselves confronted by a new villain in Abra Kadabra. Played by Ant-Man and The Dark Knight actor David Dastmalchian, Abra Kadabra is the kind of ridiculous, seemingly factory-made DC villain just waiting for his turn in the TV spotlight – both to lend the character a little credibility and to help put the series’ heroes on the right path with regard to Savitar.
For a season that’s seen its fair share of trickery over the past 17 episodes, bringing in another trickster villain is fitting. Hailing from the 64th century, Kadabra has a distinct advantage over his adversaries in 2017. He not only possesses some nifty tech, but his knowledge of Barry and the Flash goes well beyond having figured out who’s behind Savitar’s Megatron-like visage. That presents a unique challenge for Barry and his friends, as Kadabra must be stopped but, more importantly, the team needs his information, thus necessitating a defter touch when apprehending the rogue.
It’s probably too much to ask that The Flash speed things along with regard to revealing Savitar’s true identity. And while that points more to network-mandated episode counts than anything else, the series’ attempts to drag the question of who the Big Bad really is through yet another hour of television doesn’t service the narrative needs of ‘Abra Kadabra’ very well. And while the episode doesn’t want for things to do or conflict to see its characters embroiled in, there’s no escaping the feeling that The Flash is just stalling for time.
For what it’s worth, Dastmalchian is a lot of fun in the role of Kadabra. The character actor has been a charming presence everywhere lately it seems, so his appearance here almost feels like he’s doing The Flash a favor. After all, the episode doesn’t really give Dastmalchian much to work with other than a gray wig and some vaguely defined abilities that are explained by saying the magic word: nanoparticles. Not that it matters much; Kadabra doesn’t need to have his entire history laid out for the audience, but it would have helped if it felt like the character was there for a greater reason than to tease Barry or the audience with information those watching quickly figure out he’s never going to share. As far as villains go, though, Kadabra walks the line between old school robber-for-the-fun-of-it and being motivated by something greater, making the possibility of his return something to hope for. But because he’s there to underline the urgency of stopping Savitar instead of simply providing the episode with some villainous shenanigans Team Flash is tasked with stopping, Kadabra’s actions and his eventual capture wind up feeling only partially formed.
The weight of the episode, then, comes from Joe and Barry fighting with Gypsy over what to do with Kadabra. It’s a familiar sort of conflict, wherein the heroes find themselves at odds with one another because, deep down, they are motivated more by their personal agendas than the simple pursuit of justice. It brings the characters’ humanity to the forefront, something that can often go overlooked (or overplayed) when dealing with super-powered vigilantes. For the most part, though, The Flash mostly strikes the right balance between the characters’ increasingly hopeless quest to save Iris’s life and the question of whether the as-yet-unproven variable means they would be right in shirking their duty when it comes to capturing a murderous thief like Kadabra.
Elsewhere, the hour finds most of its intrigue in the smaller spaces where The Flash usually excels. Joe’s talk with Iris about how much he worried over her when she was a baby proves to be another reason why Jesse L. Martin is and will forever be The Flash MVP. Though its less successful, the hour finds other interesting character beats to explore when Caitlin is severely injured and Julian is tasked with operating on her while she’s fully conscious and giving him instructions. Although he saves her life (well, really, she saves her own life) that doesn’t stop Caitlin from pulling a Laurel Lance by dying while seemingly on the mend. This being The Flash, however, Julian merely has to pull the pendant from her neck to activate her metahuman powers, healing Caitlin but also bringing out Killer Frost at the same time. With their friendship (or more) having hit a rough patch of late, the violent arrival of Caitlin’s cold-hearted alter ego might be what Julian needs in order to see why the woman he has feelings for wanted him to stick around.
The episode ends with one killer entrance and two significant departures, with Gypsy leaving a brokenhearted Cisco behind to eat lime jello with HR. Meanwhile Barry intends to leave the present-day behind by running to the future in search of answers to his questions about Savitar. It’s a promising start to the season’s endgame, but so much of the episode is spent building up to that decision, the choice to speed into the future makes ‘Abra Kadabra’ feel like it’s standing still.
The Flash continues April 25 with ‘The Once and Future Flash’ @8pm on The CW.