[WARNING - This review contains SPOILERS for The Flash season 3, episode 6.]
Many of the dilemmas (okay, basically all of the dilemmas) facing Team Flash right now are a result of Flashpoint -- the alternate and now non-existent timeline Barry created when he traveled back in time to save his mother. The repercussions of Flashpoint have been at the very center of The Flash season 3, from Caitlin's developing, out of control meta-powers to the latest supervillain tormenting them on a weekly basis -- Alchemy.
In tonight's episode, 'Shade' -- written by Emily Silver and David Kobb, and directed by J.J. Makaro -- Alchemy is again causing mayhem for Team Flash, and this time it's personal. Like with what happened to both Magenta and Rival, Alchemy is giving Wally back his Flashpoint memories, causing him to have dreams and visions of his other life, where he was Central City's speedster hero, Kid Flash. Realizing he has to talk with Wally in order to keep him safe, Barry decides to reveal to Wally, Joe, and Iris the whole truth of what happened in the Flashpoint timeline. But will his warning be enough to help Wally resist temptation, to reject becoming Kid Flash and avoid being Alchemy's latest puppet?
Though becoming a speedster was Wally's greatest wish, it's doubtful what occurs in this episode is how he imagined it would happen. And frankly, we still aren't even positive he actually receives his powers - instead becoming entrapped in a strange, molten column of rock at the end - but his bravery in confronting Alchemy is proof enough he's ready for those powers.
Wally becoming Kid Flash feels all but a given now, and this episode nicely sets up the transition. Not only do we have a moment between father and son in where Joe tells Wally how proud he is of him, but Wally also briefly shares a mentoring moment with Barry, with The Flash admitting that he too is scared of facing Alchemy. Both scenes seem to suggest that Wally's time has come, further establishing his desire to help and his willingness to put himself in danger to do so. (Plus, they surely didn't design Keiynan Lonsdale such great looking costume for only a single episode.)
Just how and when Kid Flash will come to exist in this reality still remains to be seen, because again, at the very end of 'Shade', Wally is engulfed in... something when he touches Alchemy's stone. Presumably, when he emerges from whatever he's encased in, he'll have been granted his speed powers, but the cliffhanger ending does seem to imply it won't be happening right away. Perhaps Kid Flash is placed on a back burner until after the forthcoming crossover? The Flash is currently juggling quite a few subplots at the moment, so it's understandable if this one is paused for the time being.
Speaking of season 3's many subplots, Caitlin continues progressing along the slow, glacial path towards becoming Killer Frost. In 'Shade', the truth about her emerging heat absorption powers finally comes out - first when she admits it to Cisco, asking him to vibe her future and see if he she turns evil, and then to everyone else when Cisco can't keep it secret from the rest of the team.
And honestly, the whole scenario feels like 'how to become a villain 101', with Cisco and Caitlin apparently forgetting the dangers of peeking at the future - like how learning of and then trying to avoid a certain future almost always guarantees that future will come to pass. Though they do make up by the end of the episode, their fight is just one example of something which wouldn't have happened had they not looked into the future, potentially even setting them up to become meta-frenemies later on. Now all they have is a vision of Caitlin as Killer Frost and Cisco as Vibe battling it out, but with no context or further explanation they're simply jumping to the worst possible conclusion. Will Team Flash ever learn to stop messing with and/or looking ahead at the timeline?
Like much of what transpires in this episode, Caitlin's transformation and possible decent into darkness isn't yet resolved, instead being left for an upcoming episode. At least in this case, we only have to wait until next week to see how Team Flash handles the "return" of Killer Frost.
The God of Speed
Along with teasing the emergence of both Kid Flash and Killer Frost, 'Shade' also introduced The Flash's real big bad for season 3 - Savitar. Sure, Alchemy has been the one tormenting Team Flash week in and week out, but with the arrival of Savitar, the god of speed, Alchemy sort of fades into the background. However, Flash showrunner Greg Berlanti did promise we'd learn Alchemy's true identity before too long (is it actually you, Julian, or is that too obvious?), so perhaps his unmasking marks the end of his reign of terror.
Whatever Alchemy is really up to, it's more than likely to be connected with Savitar, possibly with even acting as a servant of Savitar somehow - either that, or Barry is just that unlucky he's forced to deal with not one but two supervillains this season. But is there a significance to Savitar's appearance at this exact moment other than bad timing and want of a cool cliffhanger. He's clearly a speedster, and one that was teased as being the biggest threat Barry has yet to face, which suggests his evil plan could be more complicated than stealing speed or rewriting time. Then again, maybe not, seeing as speedster villains typically get stuck with one of those two motivations. (Also, though his design is very well-rendered for a CW show, Savitar does kind of look like Megatron from the Transformers movies, doesn't he?)
In what's becoming a trend this season, the titular villain of 'Shade' matters very, very little. Almost to the point of being lazy, but by finally moving forward with a couple of season 3's subplots, the episode gets a pass. Still, the success of this season hinges on whether or not Killer Frost, Kid Flash, and whatever's happening with Alchemy - and now Savitar - actually pays off.
Hopefully, The Flash manages to balance each element (as well as partake in that upcoming CW/DC crossover) without sacrificing too much of what makes the series so enjoyable - namely, the interactions of its characters, like the scene of Iris opening up to Barry about what she contributes to the team, or them forgetting to mention to H.R. that their Earth's Harrison Wells is wanted for murder. Those are personal touches that allow The Flash to be both a heartwarming drama and a thrilling superhero adventure.
The Flash continues next Tuesday, November 22nd at 8pm on the CW with 'Killer Frost'. Watch a preview of next week's episode, below: