The Flash S03E18 “Abra Kadabra” REVIEW
Essential Plot Points:
- A villain called Abra Kadabra – who appears to have powers bordering on magic (cue that old Arthur C Clarke quotation: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”) – is stealing specific tech from various major companies in Central City, and casually killing anyone who gets in his way.
- The Flash intercepts Abra Kadabra as he’s breaking into KORD Industries. Abra says he’s from the future and knows all about Barry, Savitar and what’s going to happen to Iris.
- Gypsy portals in – she’s after Abra Kadabra too – but Kadabra escapes them both in a shower of playing cards. Very pretty.
- Back at STAR Labs, Gypsy briefs Team Flash. Kadabra is from the 64th century, uses nanotechnology to create his “powers” and he’s at the top of the Collectors’ Most Wanted List.
- (Turns out later he’s at the top of Gypsy’s Most Wanted List for a different reason; he killed her ex-boyfriend a while back.)
- But while Gypsy is all “Execute! Execute!” Barry wants to capture Kadabra alive… at least long enough to find out what he knows about Savitar.
- Kadabra lures all the super-powered members of Team Flash away from STAR Labs with a holographic ruse, then teleports into STAR Labs himself, sending Joe, Caitlin and Julian scurrying into the corridors.
- Caitlin sends a “HELP!” text to Barry, who runs back and slaps some power-dampening cuffs on Kadabra (Cisco has clearly updated the tech to deal with nano-enhanced humans as well as meta-humans – there’s forward thinking for you).
- Kadabra pleads with Barry for his life, saying he’ll reveal who Savitar is if Barry doesn’t hand him over to Gypsy.
- Barry knocks him out and places him in one of the containment cells… of course.
- Cue lots – we mean lots – of agonising about whether letting Kadabra go free in exchange for him spilling the beans about Savitar is morally acceptable.
- Caitlin tends to some injuries Julian suffered during Kadabra’s attack and they start to settle their difference… it looks like Caitlian could be BACK ON!
- Iris convinces Barry she’s rather die than let Kadabra go free…
- …But then Joe takes things into his own hands and secretly bargains with Kadabra. He opens the containment cell, and Kadabra is about to reveal the identity of Savitar when…
- …Gypsy portals in and scares him off.
- Kadabra makes for the Time Vault and nicks an energy source none of Team Flash has previously known about.
- On his way out, he lobs a bomb that seriously injures Caitlin.
- They take her to sick bay where she refuses to use her Killer Frost powers to heal herself. Instead she forces Julian to operate on her while she remains conscious and giving instructions.
- It works! Hurrah! Caitlian is now definitely back on!
- Gypsy has worked out that Kadabra is stealing the parts necessary for a time machine. He wants to go back to the future.
- Gypsy, Barry, Wally and Cisco team-up to prevent Kadabra piloting his time ship through a wormhole. There’s a frankly brilliant speedster vs time ship chase through Central City and Barry wins, capturing Kadabra.
- Barry agrees to hand Kadabra to Gypsy to be taken for trial on Earth-19, but tries to appeal to Kadabra’s better nature. Kadabra will only reveal that Savitar is the only villain who ever really broke Barry.
- Barry decides that the only way to stop Savitar now is to run to the future and find out more about him.
- In the med bay, Caitlin has a relapse and dies.
- A distraught Julian – despite Cisco’s warning that, “This is not what she wants!” – rips off the necklace that holds back her Killer Frost powers…
- She regenerates and comes back to life… as Killer Frost.
Four stars may seem a bit generous for an episode which we get very nitpicky about in “The Bad” section below; and especially for an episode which features a villain who appears to be a mutant hybrid of David Blaine and David Copperfield (the stuff of which nightmares are made). But “Abra Kadabra” also boasts some utterly brilliant action sequences and a subplot – about Caitlin – that provides one of the most genuinely emotional moments in this season so far. While viewers are never in any doubt that Killer Frost is going to re-emerge, Tom Felton, Tom Cavanagh and Carlos Valdes absolutely nail that scene, to show how desperate Julian must be to take the necklace off Caitlin.
And blimey, when Killer Frost does arrive, she looks more bad-ass than ever.
Here at BUZZ we’re totally sold on the Caitlin/Julian relationship in exactly the way we aren’t with Barry and Iris, so maybe we’re biased. But their whole throughplot this week was lovely to watch. Well, apart from that ending which was exquisitely devastating.
Less entertaining was the Cisco/Gypsy relationship with Cisco coming across as a complete idiot for most of the episode. It wasn’t just his weirdly stalkerish attitude towards Gypsy; his quip about Caitlin and Julian being “frosty” was well out of order. Has he secretly been replaced by a malfunctioning android double?
Abra Kadabra had more to do than a lot of Arrowverse guest villains, and provided a good excuse for some infodumping and an impetus for Barry to (finally!) consider visiting the future. It’s a shame he was’t a little less bland, though.
We also got some fine acting from Jesse L Martin; we’ve missed his heart-to-hearts with Barry recently, but here he had a whole load of great scenes taking him through a variety of emotions.
But most of all, this episode was a good balance between action and ongoing plot; it wasn’t a classic slice of The Flash, but it was a solid, well-tuned, well-oiled, well-functioning slice of The Flash that does the job efficiently and entertainingly. With some great FX to boot.
- There were some absolutely beautiful FX/action sequences this week including the glorious shots of Barry running through Abra Kadabra’s shower of playing cards (at the top of this review) and Barry’s leap onto the time ship (below). Great work FX team!
- Julian’s little face when Caitlin came back to life was devastating to watch, knowing what was about to happen. In fact the entire will-she?/won’t-she go Killer Frost subplot was really well handled.
- Cisco being worried about HR’s absence was adorable and his reaction to HR’s explanation (“Her name is Rhonda, and she’s into new positions…”) is priceless.
- Joe’s heart-to-heart with Iris is very powerful; this is the first proper acting work-out Jesse L Martin has had in a while and he makes the most of it.
- Good grief Cisco comes across like some creepy stalker with Gypsy at some points in the episode. Writing it off as humour only goes so far…
- “Gypsy, darling…” Just unforgivable.
- Abra Kadabra’s hair is offensively terrible.
- Also, just one episode on from a story with a villain with seemingly the power to do anything, we get another episode featuring a villain with seemingly the power to do anything. And these two not long after Mister Mxyzptlk on Supergirl. Ho hum.
- So Barry’s only just thought about travelling to the future? A bit slow for the fastest man alive, isn’t he?
- Abra Kadabra’s swift change from sneering superiority to snivelling, desperate bargain-maker feels a little too much of a gear change. Maybe he’s supposed to come across as a coward when stripped of his powers, but the contrast was over-theatrical.
- It’s getting a little silly that Caitlin’s Killer Frost powers also seem to come with a miracle medical powers. We could just about handle the idea that her “frosty” powers could help prevent Iris from dying a few weeks back, by slowing down her metabolism, but here she appears to have full-on Wolverine regenerative powers.
- How come nobody on Team Flash – or Gypsy – wonders how Kadabra became trapped in our time?
And The Random:
- Abra Kadabra reveals: “In the future, you and I have been enemies for years. Oh, there have been others, of course. There was Thawne, Zoom, DeVoe…” Hang on? DeVoe? Yeah, we haven’t met him yet, but in the DC Comics universe he’s Clifford DeVoe, a supervillain called The Thinker (pictured right, in one of his many, many, many looks). First introduced in All-Flash #12 (1943), he started out as the secret brains behind a criminal organisation, but later went full supervillain when he created a piece of technology called the “Thinking Cap” which gave him telekinesis and mind control. Now we’re wondering if he’s going to be the big bad in season four of The Flash.
- Wondering why there was so little of HR in this episode? It was presumably because the Tom Cavanagh, who plays him, is directing the next episode, so he was probably away getting his prep done.
- Oh god, the Arrowverse crews are desperate to get free tickets to Hamilton, aren’t they? We thought that was just a running gag on Supergirl but now it’s infecting The Flash too.
- When Gypsy reveals that Abra Kadabra is from the 64th century we half-expected Joe to pipe up, “I bet Supernatural is still going.”
- Caitlin: “You going soft on me, Julian?”
Julian: “Absolutely.” Well, that’s no good, is it? Fnarr, fnarr.
- “Well, all bar one…” says Julian of the headlines they still need to cross off, apparently oblivious to the fact there are still two uncrossed-off headlines staring back at him. For a scientist, he’s rubbish at counting.
- Stagg Enterprises has existed in the DC Comics Universe since Metamorpho #1 in 1965. It, and its boss, Simon Stagg, previously appeared in The Flash episode 1.02 “Fastest Man Alive”. It was also mentioned in Arrow 1.06 “Legacies”. We’re wondering if that throwaway line about the company being bought out is a hint of a future storyline? Who might have bought the company?
- KORD Enterprises has existed in the DC Comics Universe since Captain Atom #83 in 1966. It is owned by Ted Kord, the secret identity of the superhero Blue Beetle. In the Arrowverse it has been renamed KORD Industries and has been namechecked on Arrow numerous times (it’s considered a rival to Palmer Technologies) and Felicity worked there briefly.
- Cisco yells at Abra Kadabra, “You shall not pass,” which is, of course, Gandalf’s line to the Balrog in Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring.
- There are also a couple of Back To The Future references, but they actually use the phrase “back to the future” so you probably spotted those.
- “It’s merely a flesh wound, as the Monty Python boys would say.” Julian is referencing this scene from Monty Python And The Holy Grail.
- The Stagg Enterprises warehouse looks like it’s full of equipment drawn from the imagination of artist Jack Kirby.
- If you think you recognise the guy playing Abra Kadabra, David Dastmalchian, then you’ve probably been watching Gotham season three where he was the Joker acolyte who resurrected Jerome.
- This is the second time recently when we’ve had Barry punching someone’s light out, shown from the POV of the victim, with Barry’s fist coming towards them (see also “The Wrath Of Savitar”). At this rate we’ll have to rename the Flash as One-Punch Man.
Review by Dave Golder