[WARNING - This review contains SPOILERS for The Flash season 3, episode 21.]
In last week's episode of The Flash, the truth was revealed -- Savitar is a future version of Barry Allen. We didn't get the whole truth, that's been left for the remaining episodes of season 3, but having Savitar's identity finally confirmed is a big box to check off. Now all Team Flash needs to do is help the recently-introduced Tracy Brand create her Speed Force trap some four years before she's supposed to have even invented it and keep Savitar from learning about it -- something that is sure to prove difficult while present day-Barry is hanging around, collecting all those memories for future evil-Barry to pull from.
Tonight's episode, 'Cause and Effect' -- written by Judalina Neira and Lauren Certo, directed by David McWhirter -- will see Barry taking drastic measures to stop his evil future self from learning about their plan. But as was teased in the episode's "Next Time" trailer, stopping his future self from learning what his present self is up to is sure to have some major drawbacks. As for the Speed Force trap, H.R. continues to help Tracy in the only way he can: hoping he can instill in her some brilliant inspiration. Otherwise, they'll have no chance of trapping Savitar and saving Iris.
While Savitar is the most pressing issue, there's still the matter of their former teammate gone rogue -- Killer Frost. She proved to be a real pain last week, kidnapping Joe's girlfriend and threatening Tracy's life, but in this week's episode she'll come to Team Flash looking to make a deal. We don't yet know what that's all about, but chances are, it isn't good.
Savitar Creates Himself
The reveal that Savitar is actually a future version of Barry Allen wasn't all that terribly shocking; it had, after all, been the favorite fan theory for weeks. But leave it to The Flash to hold on to a few surprises, revealing in this episode that Savitar isn't just a future Barry, but a future Barry time remnant. It's an important distinction because it means Barry doesn't go mad and turn evil. Instead, the sole surviving time remnant from his fight with Savitar comes to feel ostracized by Team Flash for being merely a copy of Barry, goes mad and becomes evil. (Confused? We've got you covered with a more detailed breakdown.)
Having Savitar be a temporal duplicate and not the real deal is an interesting twist, and one that only a series like The Flash could reasonably pull off. Sure, their explanation for how this is all possible basically boils down to "wibbly-wobbly, timey-whimey", but seeing as time travel isn't yet a reality, that seems acceptable. Plus, it isn't as if the series created the concept of a closed loop (or more accurately, a causal loop) to explain away a plot hole. It actually fits the story being told here rather well, giving plausible explanation for motivations -- like why Savitar needs to kill Iris -- and allowing their hero to face the worst version of himself.
It also doesn't take Barry off the hook for ultimately being responsible for creating the circumstances which allowed Savitar to come into being. And that proves key to the lesson of 'Cause and Effect' -- learning to take the bad with the good; that "for every bad memory, there's a good one that will get you through it." Barry still screwed up, but learning to live with those mistakes is what needs to happen in order for him to grow and move forward; not blindingly jumping back in time looking for a quick fix. And for once, that lesson might actually stick with him.
A Burdenless Barry
Along with further elaborating on Savitar's true nature, 'Cause and Effect' featured yet another version of Barry -- one without the burden of being The Flash, who doesn't carry with him any personal tragedy or loss. The result of Cisco and Julian's attempt at preventing Barry from creating new memories (itself an attempt at stopping Savitar from knowing their every move), clean-slate Barry is happy, full of life, and shockingly carefree in comparison to the man Barry has become.
Seeing the dramatic effect removing those worries has on Barry is eye-opening; not only for Iris, but for us. The Flash may not be an especially grim hero who is constantly brooding, but being The Flash -- beginning with his mother's murder, a direct result of his being a superhero -- has certainly taken its toll on Barry. Still, even with that darkness removed, the rebooted-Barry reveals he has the same drive to help others. Meaning that matter what, Barry is a hero at his core and always will be.
Additionally, the 'Barry has amnesia' plot, while trite, is really amusing. The Flash has been fairly serious of late, what with the very future itself in jeopardy, so watching Team Flash scramble to cover for Barry's missing memories is a hoot. And it may have taken Caitlin's transition into Killer Frost for this to happen, but Cisco and Julian are really gelling as a comedic duo, with this episode in particular creating some hilarious moments. ("We don't want your kidneys!", "You want to cut it out with the emojis?")
'Cause and Effect' is a strangely light-hearted episode that still manages to tread through some emotionally dark territory. The comedy is a relief from the dire straits of recent developments, keeping The Flash from becoming overly grim and serious. There's also the subplot H.R. and Tracy's flirtation, which hilariously leads to her inventing the desperately-needed Speed Force Bazooka. It's pure romantic comedy and works well in contrast to the drama surrounding Killer Frost. With her eyes briefly flashing into Caitlin's natural brown, it's clear her transformation into the icy villain isnt' as a certain as she'd have anyone believe. But is just offering to cure her going to be enough to sway her back to the light side?
The Flash season 3 continues next week 'Infantino Street' @8pm on The CW.