At first glance, episode 3×18 of The Flash, “Abra Kadabra”, seemed like just another filler ep designed to pass the time as we edged ever closer to Barry Allen (Grant Gustin)’s ultimate showdown with Savitar. Its titular villain (David Dastmalchian) certainly wasn’t all that distinguishable apart from the reveal that he was in fact a metahuman from the future – as well as arch-nemesis to a future version of Barry himself. It was particularly unremarkable at surface level, given that The Flash had mostly been meandering through episodes prior. Week after week, Barry and the rest of Team Flash continued to find themselves caught in the predictable loop of trying to make small changes in the present to redirect Iris West’s (Candice Patton) deadly fate – only to find that nothing they’ve done has changed the future. Rinse, repeat.
It’s why the big shake-up at the end of “Abra Kadabra” was so powerful – not just because it was an outwardly random casualty of Kadabra’s chaos, but because it managed to breathe new life (literally) into one of its most underused characters. After undergoing surgery to remove shrapnel caused by one of Kadabra’s bombs, Caitlin Snow (Danielle Panabaker) appears to be on the road to recovery – until an unexpected blood clot causes her to begin to slip away. In an act of desperation, Julian (Tom Felton) rips off the necklace that suppresses her metahuman abilities. While Caitlin’s powers healed her fatal injuries, they also had the unfortunate side effect of causing her to manifest into Killer Frost.
At the beginning of the third season, Caitlin’s refusal to fully embrace her metahuman powers made up a good portion of the drama towards the conclusion of the Flashpoint arc, but as time passed it almost felt as though the show was nudging her off to one side so that other storylines could take center stage. Some episodes seemed like a complete retreading of familiar territory, only utilizing her character when her scientific exposition was needed. After a series of storylines in previous seasons that solely positioned Caitlin as a tragic love interest, it was discouraging to see a significant lack of character growth when compared to other members of Team Flash. As Killer Frost, she has much more agency, finally making her own decisions and acting in her own interests. Her allegiance with Savitar, for better or for worse, was an engagement she made herself rather than as a reaction to someone else’s choice.
Now that Caitlin has transformed, the dynamic between the core group has shifted as well – and almost certainly for the better. We see some of her closest friends forced to reevaluate their relationships with her now that she’s been positioned in the role of villain (or, at the very least, antihero). Cisco in particular has struggled to reconcile the dividing line between how he relates to the woman calling herself Killer Frost and the one he remembers as his best friend, and his internal and external wrestling has led to some of the most moving character moments this half of the season – not just with Caitlin, but with Julian as well. We also know that Cisco and Caitlin are potentially destined to meet on the battlefield as enemies at some point in the future, but Cisco has held back from using the full force of his powers against his friend on multiple occasions already. When the time comes, will he be able to take her down?
Fans have been clamoring for more for Caitlin, and the good news is that “Abra Kadabra”, as well as subsequent episodes this season, delivered on several fronts. Not only did they shake things up from within Team Flash, they also provided a much-needed jolt to the latter half of the season – and, from an entertainment standpoint, Panabaker has also been way more fun to watch as Killer Frost. Fingers crossed that The Flash won’t write away this glimmer of a promising, complex character arc for her any time soon.
Images: The CW.