[WARNING – This review contains SPOILERS for The Flash season 3, episode 16.]
The final moments of last week’s episode of The Flash saw Kid Flash sucked into the Speed Force, taking Savitar’s place and allowing the God of Speed to escape from his prison. It was a shocking and brutal turn of events for the young speedster, who was all the while convinced he was doing the one thing that would save Iris, only to instead free her future-murderer.
But there may yet be a chance to save Wally West, and in tonight’s episode, ‘Into the Speed Force’ — written by Brooke Roberts and Judalina Neira, directed by Gregory Smith — Barry does just what the title claims, traveling into the Speed Force in the hopes of returning with his young protégé. While there, Barry — joined by his friend and mentor, Jay Garrick (John Wesley Shipp) — will again converse with the Speed Force in an effort to get some answers. And like before, the Speed Force will manifest itself as some familiar faces.
In this instance, it’ll take on the visage of three deceased characters: Robbie Amell’s Ronnie Raymond, Rick Cosnett’s Eddie Thawne, and Wentworth Miller’s Leonard Snart. And judging by its choice of messengers — all of whom have some bone to pick with Barry — the Speed Force will use a more aggressive approach during this visit.
“Their Sacrifices Were For You”
The Speed Force is a strange thing. Both a place and an entity, not to mention the source of every speedster’s speed, it’s a tricky thing to explain or even fully understand. For the purposes of The Flash, the Speed Force functions as a giver of wisdom — that is, somewhere Barry goes to learn a lesson, or more specifically, come to terms with a mistake he keeps making. The first time Barry entered the Speed Force was in the season 2 episode, ‘The Runaway Dinosaur’, in where he was forced to accept the death of his mother. This time, Barry enters the Speed Force with the intention of rescuing Wally, but as he learns, the real reason he’s there is to accept responsibility for his actions.
Barry screwed up. He screwed up and created Flashpoint and he has been screwing up ever since. That’s been the throughline for season 3 — every time Barry creates a problem, he makes even bigger one trying to fix it. And the reasoning for this, as the Speed Force explains, is because Barry keeps passing the buck. He won’t take responsibility for his mistakes and he keeps allowing others to fight his battles for him. No where was this more obvious than in Barry’s insistence that Wally be the one to save Iris. And sure, it was encouraging that Barry took an interest in mentoring Wally, but pushing him to get faster only to prevent a terrible future of Barry’s own making wasn’t. In fact, the whole thing had a season 1-Wells feel to it, with Barry pushing Wally for his own gain.
That lesson, however, has been heard loud and clear — presented via three “ghosts” of the past who each, in their way, sacrificed their lives for The Flash — and Barry appears ready to “bear the burden.” That is, only after Jay Garrick makes one final sacrifice on Barry’s behalf, choosing to take Wally’s place inside the Speed Force prison because that’s still a thing that needs to happen apparently.
“On My Earth, I Am The Real Flash.”
When not following along with Barry’s vision quest, ‘Into the Speed Force’ puts Jesse Quick at the center of her own adventure. Uninvolved with rescuing Wally, Jesse decides to set her sights on finding Savitar, suggesting they use that chunk of Savitar’s armor to track him. It’s a dangerous proposition, but frankly, no more dangerous than anything Barry would insist on doing were he in the same situation.
And it works! That doesn’t make Jesse any less stupid for thinking she could fight Savitar alone, but her willful attitude leads to an important discovery (more on that, below). She may think before she leaps but she has the skill and heart of a true Flash, and it’s nice to be reminded of that. Especially since, seeing as Jesse took the first portal off Earth-1 (strangely choosing Earth-3 instead of her own Earth, which is also currently unprotected), we won’t be seeing her for a while.
“He’s A Man, Baby!”
And in a not-so-terribly surprising reveal, the important discovery Jesse makes is that Savitar can feel pain and is therefore not a god. “He’s a man, baby,” H.R. exclaims. And if he’s man, he can be killed. Again, not all that surprising, surely many viewers had already come to this same conclusion, but now the characters are certain of it, too. Now only the real question remains — who is he?
“Into the Speed Force” gave a couple of clues that when combined with earlier evidence, points to a strong candidate. But that’s just one option. With how this season is going (and with seven episodes remaining), there could be many suspects before the truth is revealed.
Unlike last week’s episode, where only the final minutes were of any consequence, ‘Into the Speed Force’ manages to balance the big picture narrative with the smaller, interpersonal plots — like the never-ending drama surrounding Barry and Iris’ romantic future. There were also some great performances — namely, the guest appearances from Cosnett, Amell, and Miller, plus a return from Shipp and some wonderful work from Violett Beane — that make up for much of the main cast, who were more or less going through the motions. Next week, however, should be something completely different, with the antics of the Music Meister offering a nice distraction from all this Savitar business.
The Flash continues next week with ‘Duet’ @8pm on The CW.