[WARNING - This reviews contains SPOILERS for The Flash season 3, episode 22.]
Time is running out for Iris West as The Flash season 3 heads into its final two episodes. Having so far failed at changing the future or defeating Savitar, Team Flash needs to come up with a plan to prevent Iris' murder and fast. They at least now have the Speed Force Bazooka™ thanks to the quick work of Tracy Brand (and to a much, much lesser extent, H.R.), which is a huge boon since it's with this device that a future-Flash was able to trap Savitar. Only problem is the device requires a ridiculous amount of energy to work -- some 3.86 terajoules of energy, to be exact, which is more power than can be found in the sun!
Tonight's episode, 'Infantino Street' -- written by Andrew Kreisberg and Grainne Godfree, directed by Michael Allowitz, and with a neat reference to Barry Allen co-creator and celebrated comic artist, Carmine Infantino -- sees The Flash teaming up with Central City's most chilling thief to steal the item needed to power the Speed Force Bazooka™. The thief is none other than Captain Cold (Wentworth Miller), Barry's number one frenemy. The item is a bit of alien tech currently being held at an A.R.G.U.S. facility. The catch? The mysterious power source is guarded by King Shark and they only have 24 hours to get it!
Making this episode all the more curious is the very inclusion of Leonard Snart, seeing as he is at present very dead. Recently, a past version of Captain Cold teamed up with the Legion of Doom on Legends of Tomorrow, so there's a strong likelihood Barry digs up his own past-Cold for the mission. But how does Barry convince Snart to come back with him and steal a super battery from under King Shark's nose? And can it be done in time to save Iris?
When Hope Dies...
It was never a question of time or speed or, it seems, anything else that was ever in Barry's control. Iris West died in the final seconds of tonight's episode just as had been foreseen. In this new timeline -- one of Barry's own making, don't forget -- her fate appears sealed, Iris is destined to die.
At the very least, Barry and all those present are made to think so. And let's assume that is, in fact, what's happened. After trying everything in their power, from altering future events to building the Speed Force Bazooka™ early, nothing Team Flash tried made any difference at all. The last five or so minutes of 'Infantino Street' fly by in such a whirlwind, that undoubtedly, fans will be picking it apart for clues at to what could really be going on. But accepted at face value, it is a chilling sequence of events as the scene quickly finds itself falling in line with those fateful moments Barry first witnessed months ago.
In a way, having all of Barry's efforts be for naught strikes at a core tenant of this series -- that not every problem can be solved, not every person can be saved. When Barry caused Flashpoint, there were going to be consequences, and losing Iris is only the most painful consequence imaginable. How Barry responds to Iris' murder will be the true test. Will he be able to accept it and move forward, or will his grief only continue the cycle of Savitar?
All season long, The Flash has shown Iris getting stabbed through the back by Savitar. It's a grisly scene that the series has repeated almost ad nauseum and always to keep pushing Barry to save her and prevent a terrible future. So after so much setup that Iris would die this season, how likely is it for The Flash to just go ahead and do it? It's entirely plausible that Iris is well and truly dead, and that Barry facing his worst fear is a necessary step on his journey. But it really wouldn't be The Flash if there wasn't something more going on here.
There's also the chance that in reaction to Iris' death, Barry will again travel in time to prevent it, creating another and even greater crisis. It's unlikely the series would opt for again rebooting the timeline, even to save the life of a major character, but then there's really no telling what a distraught Barry will do.
A slightly more low-key explanation for how Iris survives, however, can be formulated from clues found just within this episode. There is the facial transmogrification device shown earlier in the episode when Barry imitates Lyla in order to enter the A.R.G.U.S. facility, which would allow practically anyone to appear as Iris. That seems likely an awfully convenient and key piece of technology to pull out in the same episode in which Iris appears to have died. Plus, there's H.R.'s immense guilt over leading Savitar straight to Iris and forcing the terrible events to unfold as they did. That makes H.R. a strong candidate for who could take Iris's place, allowing him to feel as noble as the heroes among him he admires.
Of course, for H.R. or anyone to have switched places with Iris, they would have needed to somehow get her away from Savitar. That seems nigh on impossible -- unless, Killer Frost's little speech to SaviBarry earlier on in the episode had an effect, and he found himself unable to actually kill Iris but, needing that outcome, made it appear as if she did. SaviBarry having a change of heart last minute seems a bit of a stretch, but if not him, then the only person who could save Iris is Killer Frost. That may be the real reason she wants to meet with Cisco, presenting him with the chance to save Iris and, in the bargain, find a way to redeem herself. Either way, it'd be foolish to lose hope now.
"Your Goodness Is Your Strength"
Though it's the final minutes of 'Infantino Street' which are destined to consume the conversation between now and next week, the vast majority of the episode centered on the team-up between The Flash and Captain Cold. And while having Snart around to tease Barry is always fun, his real function in this episode is to remind Barry of what he is -- a hero. Sure, Snart also isn't one to pass up the opportunity of breaking into the world's most secure building (something that didn't seem nearly as difficult as it should), but it's clearly the fact that Barry is so desperate he's reaching out to him that intrigues Snart the most.
Barry is definitely on edge during their mission, beating up the A.R.G.U.S. guards when they enter the facility and seeing no other option than killing King Shark to retrieve the power source. Snart immediately recognizes this change in his behavior, and when Captain Cold is scolding you for being "all murder-y", it's time to check your behavior. Barry has in him a potential for ruthlessness, but part of being the hero is not succumbing to those urges, no matter how easy or tempting they are.
That this time spent with Snart comes just before Barry experiences what is arguably the biggest setback of his life is sure to be key. It's hard not hear Snart's advice, to "stop trying to beat Savitar at his own game," when Barry confronts Savitar at the end of the episode and fails. "Your goodness is your strength," he explains, coming in direct contradiction with something Barry said last week about needing to be defined by his darkness. If Barry is to remain the hero and find a way of stopping Savitar -- even if this means Iris stays dead -- he'll need to rely on that goodness far more than the darkness.
The Flash season 3 concludes next Tuesday with 'Finish Line' @8pm on The CW.