Editor’s note: This post contains spoilers for the latest episode of The Flash! Proceed with caution, speedsters. For reals, if you haven’t yet watched this week’s episode, “Shade,” we highly suggest you do so before proceeding. Okay? We good? Let’s go.
It’s taken me long enough, but I think I’ve finally figured out why I like Wally West so much. Don’t get me wrong, the young man is likable enough on his own terms, but he seems to have fixed (and I say “seems to” because I don’t want to jinx anything here) Barry’s most annoying character trait: his vulnerability. There’s a line of reasoning that sees a vulnerable character as a relatable character and a relatable character as a popular character. I agree with that to an extent. But Barry’s been so burdened with guilt, loss, and sadness for most of The Flash‘s run, that it’s grown increasingly difficult for me to take seriously the repeated notion from the show’s producers that Barry is a hopeful, sunny, blue-skies kind of hero (as opposed to the brooding Oliver Queen). Within the DC TV Universe, that description suits Supergirl, but Barry? He’s too often the DC analog of Peter Parker, the poster child for comic-book angst.
But with Wally, particularly in the storyline that reaches a new peak in “Shade,” in which the young man’s craving for speed powers suits the plans of Doctor Alchemy, Barry has no choice but to be a wiser, more confident older brother. Not only to Wally, but to most of Team Flash. In this week’s episode, he lifts Iris’ spirits when she admits to identifying with Wally’s frustration at not being able to help people with super powers. (“There is no Flash without Iris West,” he tells her.) He also counsels Caitlin when she breaks down after Cisco informs everyone at STAR Labs that A.) she has Killer Frost’s powers and B.) he vibed her fighting him as her Earth-2 alter ego. It’s probably the most dickish thing we’ve seen Cisco do. But a few new flaws in the show’s characters can’t help but make them a little more relatable… Yes, there’s that word again. Fine, call me a hypocrite.
As its name indicates, “Shade” brings one of the DC Universe’s oldest villains to the show. Originally an enemy of Jay Garrick’s Earth-2 Flash, the Shade first appeared way back in September 1942’s Flash Comics #33 (in the story “The Man Who Commanded the Night,” by writer Gardner Fox and artist Hal Sharp). Usually portrayed as a tall, middle-aged gentleman who can manipulate shadows, he’s depicted here (as per usual with CW shows) as a blandly attractive young man. While it’s just as disappointing to see him depicted as a personality-free storm cloud, this episode makes up for it in the end. Not only is Alchemy made more diabolical than ever, as he gets Wally to touch his Philosopher’s Stone, resulting in him winding up in some kind of cocoon, but Barry is introduced to a more frightening enemy: Savitar, a.k.a. “The God of Speed.”
Created by writer Mark Waid and artist Oscar Jiminez for December 1995’s Flash #108, he’s named after Savitr the Hindu god of motion. The show’s producers are taking a chance in introducing a third evil speedster as Big Bad in as many seasons. Especially since Alchemy, while kind of creepy (albeit in a Star Wars alien spy kind of way), has thus far shown little in the way of personality. Which means ol’ Savvy may have to do the lion’s share of the work in the charisma department for the remainder of this season.
But if it’s personality we’re talking about, I have a feeling I’m gonna get it next week. Killer Frost is back, in an episode directed by Kevin Smith, who’s specialty is enriching characters with interesting tics and quirks. I’ll admit I wasn’t a huge fan of the Earth-2 Frost when we met her last year. (Her cold puns alone made me gnash my teeth.) But it already looks like the show is working to distinguish this version from her predecessor. Note, for example, her new costume in what we glimpse of her battle with Vibe,who also gets some spiffy new threads. It befits someone who’s looking more and more like the Dark Phoenix of this season.
The question that’s now lingering in my mind involves the character we see the least of this week, Julian. Despite briefly opening up to Barry a couple of weeks back, he now makes a point to tell him he doesn’t want a bromance. Instead, he dashes off to see his “girlfriend.” Who is this mystery woman? She’s bound to play some kind of role this season. Because no character is ever mentioned on this show, however vaguely, without having some kind of purpose, be it good or evil. Hey, wait a minute, didn’t Cecile mention an 18-year-old daughter? While that’s a little too young for Julian, he is kind of a creep. Hmmm…
— “Do you think everyone on Earth-19 is missing crayons in the box or just him?”
— Wally and Joe have perhaps their best moment as father and son this week, when Joe admits he sees more of himself in Wally than he’s comfortable with.
— “It’s gonna take a while, even if I do meet someone, to get to the cuffs stage.” HR is completely mad.
— Glad they finally figured out a way to get Tom Cavanagh away from the STAR Labs set. More group outings like this week’s trip to the movies please!
— “The Shining.” And car headlights were used to defeat Shade… Oh, those little scamps.
— Julian’s not Alchemy, right? I mean, that’s just too predictable… Isn’t it?!
What did you think of this week’s episode? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter (@JMaCabre).