NOTE: The following post contains SPOILERS for The Flash and POTENTIAL SPOILERS for later episodes in the season - should Savitar's story follow the comics.
Episode 6 of The Flash season 3 introduced a new villain to the show: Savitar. Exactly who he is and what role he'll play in the season isn't known yet, but for long-time fans of the Flash comics the name is at least familiar. The version of Savitar that appeared on the show is quite a bit different than what comic fans are used to, however.
Just because they look different doesn't mean that the two versions aren't related, of course. While the TV Savitar is a major visual update for the character, there may still be several parts of the villain that wind up ringing true to his comic origin.
Who Is Savitar?
Savitar first appeared in Flash #108 back in 1995. A Cold War-era pilot living in a third-world nation, the man who would become Savitar (whose name was never revealed) was selected to test out a supersonic jet. The plane is hit by lightning while traveling at its top speed, causing it to crash and giving the pilot strange new abilities. Landing in hostile territory, he found that he could move at super speed and used his newfound powers to take down the threats he encountered. Unlike The Flash, who found himself compelled to do good when he gained his powers, Savitar became obsessed with speed and likened his newfound powers to that of a god.
These "godlike" powers led him to adopt the name of the Hindu god of motion, Savitir, and pushed him to try and gain an even greater control over speed. He faced off against the speedsters Johnny Quick and Max Mercury, leaving him lost in the time stream as a result. When he makes it back to the real world, Savitar discovers that a small cult that had sprouted up around him previously had really grown, and its members had been awaiting his return for decades. This cemented his position as the "god of speed" (at least in his mind), and he used his abilities to grant increased speed to some of his followers in hopes of eliminating The Flash and all of the other speedsters - except for him and his chosen few.
Powers and Abilities
Because of his connection to the Speed Force, Savitar is able to travel at nearly the speed of light. He has increased durability, superhuman stamina and both perception and reflexes that are fast enough to keep up with his increased speed. He can generate a vortex of air by running in circles or moving his arms in a circular motion, and can even phase through solid objects by vibrating the molecules of his body at the right frequency. Most speedsters have these abilities, though Savitar truly mastered them.
However, these aren't the only abilities that Savitar has and most of his powers are a little different than those of a standard DC speedster. Savitar can use his acceleration to heal his body almost instantly. He also discovered how to protect himself by creating "null inertia" force fields around his body, effectively stopping anything or anyone that tried to make contact with him. On top of this, he can use the Speed Force to generate electricity and either release bolts of lightning or channel the energy through his fists when he strikes someone. His mastery of the Speed Force and these abilities made him essentially invulnerable, and could possibly have made him functionally immortal as well, making those who worshipped him all the more sure that he was legitimately a god.
Perhaps the most impressive of his powers was the ability to manipulate the connections that others had with the Speed Force. He was able to give kinetic energy to people and objects, even if they weren't moving at the time, and likewise was able to strip it away. This played a major part in his plans once he returned after his decades-long absence, as he sought out speedsters in the hopes of stripping them of their powers and giving those powers to his followers instead. This made his worshipers even more loyal, and provided him dangerous super-speedy minions that he could use to achieve his goals.
Savitar and The Flash
Though Savitar is a Flash villain, he didn't actually face off against Barry Allen in the comics. Barry was "dead" at the time, lost within the Speed Force, so the Flash that Savitar fought was Barry's nephew Wally West. Wally was a major target of Savitar's plan to eliminate the world's speedsters and give their powers to his followers, but because Wally had a direct connection to the Speed Force, the attempt to steal his powers was unsuccessful. When Savitar was unable to steal Wally's power, he doubled his efforts to track down and steal the powers from other speedsters instead. Those speedsters worked together to stop Savitar, but Wally was the one that he laid most of the blame on.
As a result, Savitar took out a personal vendetta against Wally. He wanted to destroy all that The Flash held dear, so he drew Wally's attention and set out on a race intending to destroy everything in his path. With no real way to stop Savitar, due to his extreme speed and mastery of his abilities, Wally outsmarted him; he offered Savitar the one thing he truly wanted, direct access to the Speed Force. This led to Savitar becoming lost within the Speed Force itself, disappearing and ending his reign of destruction.
The Death of Savitar
Savitar met a fairly gruesome fate in 2009 in The Flash: Rebirth #1 (not to be confused with the ongoing Rebirth event in the comics). Emerging from the Speed Force, he found himself facing the original Flash, Barry Allen, for the first time. Barry had only recently returned from the Speed Force himself, and was trying to stop Savitar before he could become dangerous again. He reached out to grab Savitar while the two were travelling at super speed, but experienced some sort of energy feedback; this feedback quickly destroyed Savitar's body, reducing him to little more than dust and bone. All of the other characters who are connected to the Speed Force feel a painful jolt of feedback at that moment as well.
It turns out that the feedback was part of a "negative Speed Force" that Professor Zoom created to bring Barry Allen back as a weapon to destroy the other speedsters. Using the negative Speed Force, Zoom intended to travel back through time and kill the people closest to Barry before they can meet him. Barry and Wally manage to stop Zoom and sever his connection to the negative Speed Force (which also removes its affect on Barry), but Savitar and others killed by contact with Barry, while he was still charged with the negative force, remain dead.
The Flash airs Tuesday nights on The CW at 8/7c.