[WARNING - This review contains SPOILERS for The Flash season 3, episode 15.]
Now that the rampaging gorillas of Earth-2 have been dealt with, The Flash season 3 turns its attention back to a more pressing issue -- Savitar. Ever since Barry flashed forward five months and witnessed Savitar killing Iris, it's become Team Flash's mission to stop that future at all costs. And while they work to pinpoint and change the events which may lead to that grisly encounter, they've also been ignoring a pretty large piece of the puzzle -- how does Savitar come back?
In tonight's episode, 'The Wrath of Savitar' -- written by Andrew Kreisberg and Andrew Wilder, directed by Alexadra La Roche -- Savitar returns as all villains do: with a vengeance. Though he's not back fully, still locked away in his box and hurtling through the Speed Force, he can still mess with Team Flash. Specifically, Savitar is toying with Wally's mind, feeding him visions that have Wally questioning what's real and what's not. Even more alarming, if Savitar can get inside Wally's head, has he been spying on them through him? Can he control him? Seems to be that having your powers "gifted" to you by Savitar isn't without consequences; a lesson that Wally and Team Flash are about to learn the hard way.
Considering The Flash is a show on The CW, it should come as no surprise the series puts a strong emphasis on romance. For the most part, the romantic entanglements are balanced with the show's other interpersonal drama and superhero action, but in this episode, The Flash's many romantic relationships receive extra attention, exposing an ugliness in each of them.
Primarily, 'The Wrath of Savitar' exposes the hard truth at the center of Barry and Iris' recent engagement -- Barry didn't just propose because he loves Iris, he did it to save her. And while, sure, that's kind of sweet, it's also selfish and a little cruel, forever tainting what should be a special moment between the two of them with yet another dishonest action. For as fated as the romance between Barry and Iris feels, it isn't something to rush, and especially not for another last ditch effort to change the future. And not asking Joe's permission? Bad move, Barry.
Additionally, Caitlin is also exposed as having selfish reasons for bringing Julian around -- she's desperate to get rid of her powers. So desperate, she goes as far as to steal a piece of the Philosopher's Stone and keep it a secret from everyone, not even considering how it would affect Julian. Like Barry, blinded by his need to save Iris, Caitlin is blinded by her fear of becoming Killer Frost. And rather than accept her powers and find a way of controlling them, she'd rather risk everything in removing them.
Wally and Jesse's relationship also suffers a setback, though to blame it on either's selfishness seems a little unfair. Then again, Wally was so desperate to have powers he never questioned the cost.
Fate Worse Than Death
Prophecy has had a large role to play this season on The Flash, from Barry witnessing a moment in the future to Savitar ominously predicting the fates of Team Flash. Savitar's prophecy specifically outlines three destinies: "One shall betray you. One shall fall. One will suffer a fate far worse than death." And in 'The Wrath of Savitar' two of those fates came to pass. The first is Caitlin's betrayal in keeping a piece of the stone, though in an interesting twist, her keeping that fragment was the only thing preventing Savitar from escaping his Speed Force prison -- so was it really the betrayal his prophecy foretold?
Either way, her keeping that piece of the stone plays right into Savitar's plans, leading Wally to suffer a fate worse than death -- being trapped in the Speed Force for all eternity (made all the more terrifying thanks to the effects of his suit being ripped to shreds). The moment is not only shocking but tragic, with Wally believing he'd found a way to save everyone, especially Iris, only to instead be punished for ever thinking that he could.
But the fault doesn't lie solely with Wally. It was Barry who first introduced the idea of Wally even becoming a speedster, seeing it first in the Flashpoint universe. At first Barry hid that Wally had been a speedster in Flashpoint, then he discouraged Wally from trying to become, and then once Wally had those powers, it was Barry who pushed him to get faster, seeing Wally as just another way to save Iris. Hate to admit it, but Savitar is right -- Barry is often selfish and cruel.
Fear's The Reason For All Of This
Barry's selfishness and occasional cruelty is all rooted in something else: fear. It's the reason he's been so focused on saving Iris, it's the reason he's pushing Wally, the reason he proposed -- but most of all, it was was the reason he went back in time and started this whole mess. It's a deep-rooted fear that's been nagging him all his life -- losing his mother.
In fact, 'The Wrath of Savitar' makes a strong case for fear being what "makes us do a lot of things that we shouldn't," as Barry so poignantly puts it. It's the motivation for many of Barry's mistakes leading up to now. Wally was afraid of being significant, of never finding his way to contribute, leading him to his present fate. And Caitlin, so frightened of turning into Killer Frost, displays that she'll go to any lengths to prevent her transformation. Chances are, Savitar's descent into madness and villainy all started with the same thing -- fear.
The Flash season 3 continues next week with 'Into the Speed Force' @8pm on The CW.