Well, Flash fans (Flashites? Flashinators?), we’ve made it to the end of The Flash‘s junior year. Another evil speedster defeated, another cliff-hanger. But, is it just me, or………does anyone else feel unfulfilled?
**Spoilers for Season 3 of the Flash Follow**
The third season of the Flash was an up and down affair for both Barry & the team at STAR Labs, and for reactions from fans & critics alike. While, to an extent, this season followed the “Flash formula” (evil speedster, “twist”, cliff hanger….and repeat), this season didn’t quite seem to fire on all cylinders in the way that Seasons 1 and 2 did. So I’ve compiled a small (…relatively…) inventory of highlights and lowlights from this past season, and a series of questions raised for next season, in a cohesive, yet oddly scatterbrained, fashion…
Barry Allen: Or more specifically, Grant Gustin. Say what you want about the story line itself, only an actor of Gustin’s calibur can be called on to play 3 different variations of the same character, and bring a different type of emotional connection to each one. Grant also crushed it during the musical episode, which was not at all an easy feat, as most of that episode was bats— crazy. The character of Barry Allen may have had his fair share of stumbles this season (see: this article…but later), but Grant Gustin was at the top of his game, as per usge (<- how the kids say “usual”…I know, I think it’s stupid, too).
New Additions to the Scooby Gang: One thing The Flash does almost universally well is casting its characters, so when news broke that Tom Felton was going to have a reoccuring role in Season 3, you just knew he was going to be a dick (because, Draco Malfoy). But, something happened along the Savitar road. I mean, he sort of stayed a dick, but in between being a completely worthless plot point as the mind controlled villain “Alchemy” and falling in love with Kaitlyn Snow, I found myself liking Julian Albert! He brought a new dynamic to a group of diverse personalities, and I was very happy to hear he’s coming back for Season 4.
And speaking of Season 4, I’m sure we’ll be introduced to a new Harrison Wells when we’re reintroduced to the gang in the Fall. Now, I’m going to let you in on a little secret that isn’t a secret at all because I’m telling you… Evil Harrison Wells/Eobard Thawne combination galore has been my favorite Flash villain to date. And then I dug the crap out of the gravely voiced Earth-2 Wells. But, here’s another little secret (dammit, no it’s not. Everyone knows!) Our favorite science fiction author/drum stick twirler HR Wells might just be my favorite Wells so far. There was something so earnest about Tom Cavanagh’s portrayal of the lighthearted Wells that made it that much harder to take when he sacrificed himself to save Iris West. And all of those words above I said about Grant Gustin? The same sentiment could be applied to Mr. Cavanagh as well. The man could act his way out of…a…situation that required some grade A acting. Shut up, I’m tired. But yeah, HR ruled.
Iris West: Are we being honest, here? I’d like to think that with all we’ve been through together, we’re being honest with each other. Confession: I hated Iris West throughout Season 1. This, in no way, is a reflection on Candice Patton as an actress (as I will get to soon enough). The way she was used throughout the inaugural season, and parts of season 2, was frustrating, to say the least. She was not given strong story arcs, nor intelligent dialogue when conversing with Barry. A shift began in Season 2. It is possible that the writers noted a few things:
- They had a hell of an actress in Ms. Patton, and she deserved better to work with.
- They realized that the Barry Allen/Iris West relationship is one of THEE quintessential comic book love stories of all time, regardless of how…kind of…weird…it…is?
- The romantic garbage fire known as “Olicity” worked as a cautionary tale…in reverse. The character of Felicity was essentially abandoned when the writers paired her with Mr. Queen, losing everything that made her character a bright spot through Seasons 1 & 2 of Arrow. With season 1 using Iris as a frustrating plot point more often than not, was it possible to ELABORATE on her character when it came to her relationship with Barry?
Season 2 saw Iris break out, but Season 3 saw her shine. I often found myself glued to the screen when she was on, showing the full spectrum of emotions towards her love, her father, her friends, that one would expect of someone who has just found out she has only months to live. Relationships tend to kill shows, but what if that relationship is an essential part of who these characters are? “WestAllen” is now a foundation of this show, and I’m intrigued to see how Season 4 elaborates on them.
Comic book level insanity:
CGI work for a television show usually leaves much to be desired, and there’s only so much one can expect out of the visual effects of a TV show on the CW (no offense, C dubs). With that said, the Flash, despite CGI replicas of the characters that look like the hero, if only the hero stepped out of the Russell Crowe/Denzel Washington “classic” Virtuosity (Google it. Watch it. Thank me later.), tends to hold its own. This is a good thing, as many of the things I side eye throughout the show, I then go back and take a deeper look into for this reason, and this reason alone: This is the kind of s— we see in actual comic books all the time! Take for instance in the finale, when Barry phased through the Savitar armor to push time remnant Barry out, then vibrated to the point of the suit exploding. At first it seemed laughable to me, but then I realized it was not laughable, but comical, literally. I could close my eyes and picture a page of panels depicting that same exact thing. Bravo to the showrunners for keeping the show what it actually is: a live-action comic book.
Lowlight within a Highlight: The Savitar armor. I was on board with the Savitar suit at the beginning of the season, as he seemed to tower over everyone, and his speed was shown in an original way, compared to the other speedsters. But by the end of the season, he looked like a slightly impressive cosplay of the same character, or an updated version of Lord Zed (Power Rangers quota filled). He no longer seemed imposing or impressive, and for me it took away a bit of the overall pizzazz (Jesus, I’m sorry for that) of the overall menacing factor of the villain.
The Twists Everyone Saw Coming: Something the Flash did well throughout their freshman and sophomore seasons were plot twists. Some were easier to figure out than others, but overall they always felt impactful. Junior year of the Flash gave us more twists than we were accustomed to. The problem is, they either fell flat in their emotional punch or were seen coming from a mile away. Let us review, shall we?
- Julian Albert is revealed to be Alchemy: Uhhhh yeah, who else would it have been, despite the 9 inch height difference
- Savitar is revealed to be a version of Barry: Right, because Berlanti & Co. dropped madddd hints all over that season. And by hints, I mean Savitar actually uttered the words, “I’m the future Flash.” Granted, I’m sure not many guessed that he’d be a time remnant, but still, it was almost most certainly going to be Barry, in one way or another (I wanted it to be future Emo Barry, if only to bring that glorious wig back).
- Iris lives: Well yeah, that was a given. The Arrowverse gods know better than to kill off a comic book love intere-…. oh, sorry Laurel. But still, we knew Iris was going to live, it was just a matter of how. By the end of the penultimate episode, most astute fans were looking at each other like, “…..so, it’s HR, yeah?” The use of the transmogrifier (sp? Also, is that a real word?) earlier in the episode, along with HR’s “hero” talk with Cisco, lent credence to the theory that HR was indeed in Iris’ place at the end of Savitar’s blade. And can we talk about how HR was able to do all of that in 12 minutes? Damn, pulling that off alone gets you hero status. With all of that noted, the show did set the stage for a twist I doubt many saw coming to fruition…
The Twist NO ONE Saw Coming…Nevermind, Just a Fake Out: In the finale, for a brief moment, it seemed as if Barry and Iris were going to essentially rehabilitate Savitar/time remnant Barry, and I said while watching, “Holy s—! I did not see this coming!” Maybe I didn’t see it coming because it was a 12 minute diversion as part of Savitar’s evil plan. Oh man, a villain who’s evil. Brain breaking stuff, right there. Part of what made Wells/Thawne such a memorable villain was his emotional connection with not only the other characters, but with the viewers. Imagine where that episode goes if they continue along that road of redemption for TR Barry. In the end, would it make any kind of sense? I don’t know what the specifics would have been, but it would’ve been a hell of a lot more interesting than the last 20 minutes of the finale we got.
Likable characters becoming unlikable: Every mother f—ing time I write an article about the Arrowverse, this is a category. I’ll preface this chapter of the epic saga entitled, “But…but…I LIKED him/her!” by saying that in most cases, The Flash corrected their course by the end of the season with most questionable character decisions. By the finale, Barry was once again the hero we knew he was, despite almost an entire season of being a royal pain in the ass AND still having the nerve to get mad at ANYONE else. Cisco returned to the man who might be the most consistently relatable character on the show (mostly for our mutual love of pop culture references) after a brief dalliance with the dark side after the events of Flashpoint. But…what’s going on with Caitlin? I get that the Killer Frost persona eventually won out, but then…it didn’t, as she showed in the finale that she’s very much a hybrid of the awkward scientist and hardcore metahuman. So, when Julian offered her the cure, after an entire season of fighting the beast within, she decides she’s no longer Caitlin OR Killer Frost, and refuses the antidote. I don’t have any issue with anything I’ve written about Caitlin, but I suppose this is a preemptive strike in a sense to The Flash writers. Caitlin was a great character. Killer Frost, a great villain. Please make this combination worthy of both characters. I’d hate to use this subtitle for a 176th time next season.
Seriously? Holding hands with Mom? “Wait…uggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhh…nooooooooooooooooo” was my response to the last 5 minutes of the Flash season finale. It’s been an hour and half since you defeated what was essentially your evil twin, “saved” the love of your life, and buried one of your dearest friends. The foundation for what gives you your superpowers threatens the city, possibly the world, in which you all live, and you must sacrifice yourself for your family and friends. Yep, I’m on board. But…did Barry almost seem happy about it? I was confused by his reaction to the whole event. Everyone else around him reacted as you would think they would: tears, pleas to reconsider, emotional goodbyes…but Barry has a smile on his face half the time. Knowing Gustin’s performing abilities (as noted above), these HAD to have been directions coming from writers, directors, whoever, and I don’t quite understand them. Yeah, he was walking into the Speed Force with his dearly departed mother, but…… he knows that isn’t actually his mother! I’m just not sure what the emotional payoff the Flash showrunners intended it to have. And a brief side note: the Flash is kind of cheesy, yet it is endearing in its cheesiness, as it has become part of its charm. I genuinely like the heartfelt moments, pep talks, soliloquies to villains before officially “taking them out”…but the hand in hand with Fake Speed Force Mom was even too much for me, and in my opinion, an awful send off for a show that redeemed its shaky season during the last few episodes.
The Season finale leaves the fandom with a lot of questions pertaining to the future. First and foremost, in a show called The Flash, you need the Flash, so how is Barry going to be rescued from the Speed Force? Showrunners have already let slip that the “big bad” of season 4 is not a speedster (thank you, God), but as my good friend and Geekiverse co-owner Pete Herr relayed to me during our conversation on the finale, “The Speed Force needs a speedster, so you’d think they have to introduce one just to take Barry’s place.” Well said, well spoken, Pete. What’s in store for Kaitlin? With the return of Arrow’s Deathstroke, could we possibly see her join a new and improved Suicide Squad (ugh, wishful thinking, I know)? What will Wells Part 4 be like? Whose life will they ruin in Season 4? The questions never end, guys!
Long story short, Season 3 of The Flash saw the show go through some story telling ups and downs and questionable character choices, losing its spot as the crown jewel of the Arrowverse shows. With that said, this season was not at all “bad,” but just something to build upon for Season 4. (Please don’t be like Arrow Season 4, PLEASE don’t be like Arrow Season 4). The stakes are high for Senior Year of The Flash, and despite not being the biggest fan of this last season, I couldn’t be more excited to see where Berlanti & Co. take it in the Fall.
Lou Mattiuzzo is a full time teacher, full time husband, full time father & full time super hero enthusiast. Follow him @Sweetest_Lou for a bunch of stuff you probably don’t care about.
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