The Flash S03E06 “Shade” REVIEW
Essential Plot Points:
- Wally is having dreams about being Kid-Flash. This sets all kinds of alarm bells ringing as that’s similar to what happened to Frankie Kane before she made contact with Alchemy and became Magenta.
- Wally, who just wants to be a superhero like Barry, has a bit of a teenage strop, and tries to deny he’s going to go all evil, before coming to his senses and going to team Flash to ask for help.
- They lock him in the pipeline because that’s their answer to most problems. He seems uncommonly cool with this.
- Meanwhile a villain called Shade who has a shadowy MO (sorry) appears to be randomly terrorising the city.
- Team Flash defeats him with astonishing ease by turning on a load of car head lights.
- But let’s not get picky about that because Shade is only a distraction anyway, so that Alchemy can try to get to Wally.
- Wally almost busts out of the pipeline, but is stopped by a mighty fine right hook from Iris.
- Meanwhile, Caitlin comes clean to Cisco about her powers and asks him to vibe on her to see her future.
- He does so and sees her as Killer Frost, fighting him.
- Cisco lies and tells Caitlin her future’s all fine. She accepts this for about two scenes before going, “You’ve looked really shifty ever since that vibe,” and he relents and goes, “You’re going to turn EVIL!”
- Cisco then tells everybody else and Caitlin has a strop, so Barry tries to comfort her. But because he isn’t Joe he doesn’t do a brilliant job. She starts wearing some power-dampening cuffs Cisco has handily just invented.
- Joe’s relationship with sexy DA Cecile seems to be going well until HR, who’s disguise himself using a high-tech face-changing gizmo invented by his business partner on his own Earth, starts turning on the charm (we think she’s just being polite and actually thinks HR is as much of a dick as the rest of us do).
- After Alchemy’s first attempt to lure Wally fails, Team Flash decide to let him try again, and thus use Wally to lead them to Alchemy. Taking no chances they invite a SWAT team along for back-up.
- It’s not enough.
- They find Alchemy in his hide-out but when they capture him, his body seems to disappear from beneath his cloak and he’s replaced by a blue-sparking speedster moving so fast only Barry can see him – he is invisible to everyone else.
- Wally touches a glowing rock left behind by Alchemy and is immediately encased in a cocoon.
- The invisible speedster takes out the entire SWAT team then pins Barry to the ceiling (did we mention he’s very tall as well?) and announces that he is, “Savitar – God Of Speed!”
NOW the season has kicked into top gear! It turns out “Shade” is the biggest misnomer ever, as Shade is about as important to the episode as HR’s endless cups of coffee or Joe’s date with the DA. If not for the fact that it would be a great big spoiler, this episode should have been called “Savitar”, because although he’s only on screen for a matter of seconds, his entrance is the one thing you’re never going to forget about this story.
In a nasty, brutal, short and (one assumes deliberately) disorientating final scene, this new big bad speedster manages to make Reverse-Flash and Zoom look like Boy Scouts. To be honest, the idea that the main villain for the third season in a row is yet another Speedster should have us all wearily sighing at the predictability of it all. But there’s immediately something about Savitar, something that says, “This guy is different. This guy is exciting.” And it’s not just the invisibility shtick. His sci-fi look, the way he announces that he’s the “God Of Speed” and the way he throws around the SWAT team guys like rag dolls all combine to formidable effect on screen. You can tell this guy is going to have an MO different to his evil speedster predecessors.
So what about the rest of the episode? Does anyone really care? Actually, that’s a bit mean. Before Savitar appears it’s a perfectly decent episode, even if a lot of it does feel like necessary maintenance on existing plots to keep them ticking over. So there are small steps forward in Joe’s romance arc, Caitlin’s “I’m growing evil” arc and HR and Cisco’s “we’ll be friends one day” arc. Wally’s “I want to be a speedster (though not necessarily one with Kid in his name)” arc takes slightly bigger steps and it’s a solid episode for Keiynan Lonsdale who manages to make Wally’s strop, then acceptance of his fate, feel natural. Iris is still feeling a little underused so far this season; now she and Barry are an item the writers seem at a loss what to do with her, which is slightly irritating because Iris should never be just “Barry’s other half”. Her little speech about feeling like a bystander hopefully indicates the show has some plans for her.
The Shade plot is pretty much disposable, the very definition of filler material, designed to inject some requisite action into the episode. Does Shade even have an MO or has Alchemy just asked him to attack anyone to keep the Flash busy? But hey, he does the job, efficiently if with no great style.
So overall, a rather oddly-structured episode, which largely seems to be concerned with positioning the main characters for the next chapter of the season, but which ends with a scene that pretty much leaves everything else a distant memory.
- The last five minutes are phenomenally good. Hairs-rising-on-the-back-of-your-neck good. Savitar is the business.
- HR continues to be the most entertaining man who you’d hate to have to put up with in your real life. His highlight has to be, “What do I need cuffs for? I just got to this Earth. I came alone. I haven’t met anyone yet; it’s gonna take a while, even when I do meet them, to get to the cuff stage,” which leaves Cisco and Caitlin not knowing where to look.
- Using Wally to find Alchemy is actually a good plan. Taking along a SWAT team is eminently sensible too. But characters in TV shows are only ever this sensible when the odds are just about to be unexpectedly raised.
- Iris’s right hook was a beauty. You go, girl!
- We also liked Iris’s, “It’s hard being a bystander sometimes,” speech because it rang so true. But please writers don’t give her superpowers too. With a right hook like that, she doesn’t need them, and it’d be more satisfying seeing Iris come into her own using the natural skills she does have. Let’s see her do some proper investigative journalism!
- Cisco’s vibe was well ominous, wasn’t it? (Though did nobody consider that Cisco had turned evil and Killer Frost was the trying to defeat him?)
- Oh, and like Wally, we liked the skateboard…
- Shade was an even flimsier villain-of-the-week than normal, which we didn’t think was possible. Okay, plot-wise he was just supposed to be a distraction, but surely he could have been slightly more interesting? And harder to defeat.
- The CG effects for Shade had an off-the-peg feel about them too (he looked like black clouds we’ve seen time and time again on Once Upon A Time).
- It’s a shame that after the softening between Barry and Julian last week, Julian has hit the reset button this week.
- HR’s poster for STAR Labs Museum makes it look like the dullest tourist attraction ever.
- This is really, really picky but also really, really irritating when you spot it: when HR changes his face back from Randolf’s the first time, their eyes are looking in different directions.
And The Random:
- 52-Spotting: We haven’t actually done much 52-spotting recently as most of the sightings in this season have been things that make regular appearances on the show anyway (Channel 52; that 52 in the corner of screens at STAR Labs; outlet 52 in the pipeline, etc). But we just thought we’d point out that this is the 52nd episode of The Flash.
- The Shade (later just Shade) first appeared in the DC comics universe in The Flash #33 (1942). Created by Gardner Fox and Hal Sharp he was a thief called Richard Swift with a cane who could manipulate shadows. As a supervillain he battled the Flash and other DC superheroes throughout the Golden and Silver Age of comics, before being reinvented in 1994 as a morally ambiguous Victorian era immortal with the ability to manipulate shadows. In this guise he moved from being villain to anti-hero, as a major supporting character in James Robinson’s acclaimed run on Starman.
- In the DC comics universe, Savitar (below) was mainly an adversary for the Wally West version of the Flash. Introduced in Flash (vol. 2) #108 (1995) and created by Mark Waid (writer) and Oscar Jimenez (artist), he was a pilot who, after his plane was struck by lightning, discovered that he had super speed. He then became obsessed with unlocking all the secrets of the Speed Force. He named himself after Savitr, the Hindu god of motion and discovered creative new ways of using his powers (such as making himself invisible to all but other speedsters) and tried to kill every other speedster on Earth, transferring their Speed Force connections onto himself. Oddly, his real name has never been revealed (which leaves all sorts of opportunities for the writers of the TV show).
- Defeating Shade using car headlights appears to be an in-joke based an ancient horror movie called Invasion Of The Saucer Men (1957) in which the aliens were killed in the same way; the film was a favourite on the drive-in circuit, and the open-air “Horror At Hofherr Park” (where the Flash/Shade fight takes place) is pretty much the modern equivalent of a drive-in.
- Did you spot that Cisco was wearing a “Here’s Kitty” T-shirt to the open air screening of The Shining in the park, a reference to the famous, “Here’s Johnny!” scene from the film?
- HR reveals that there are multiple talking gorillas like Grodd on Earth-19.
- HR calls his Earth-19 coin a helbing; this is obviously named after Todd and Aaron Helbing, two members of the writing team on The Flash.
- Cisco calls HR’s pen-shaped, face-changing device a “neuralyzer”, which is a reference to the similar-looking memory-wiping device used by Agents K and J in the Men In Black films.
- This is the first time that we get to see Vibe and Killer Frost in the superhero/villain costumes on screen. Not that we get a particularly good look, to be honest.