The Flash S03E21 “Cause And Effect” REVIEW
Essential Plot Points:
- There is a lot of infodumping that goes something like this…
- Bottom line, Savitar is a time remnant who wants to Kill Iris to turn Barry into him. Maybe. Possibly. We think…
- They have a fight. Savitar runs off because he can’t actually harm Barry without causing all kinds of paradoxes.
- Cisco decides that the only way they can stop future Barry remembering everything that present Barry does (and therefore always being one step ahead of them) is to zap Barry’s brain so that he has no short term memory.
- Unfortunately, without Caitlin’s expertise to rely on, the process goes wrong, and Barry becomes a complete amnesiac.
- Iris actually likes this new carefree Barry, who has all her boyfriend’s good points but has no memory of the tragedies in his life that made him all emo.
- But without Barry’s specialist forensics knowledge during a trail, a criminal known as Heatmonger is acquitted.
- Heatmonger immediately goes on a crime spree, and though amnesiac Barry has learned about his powers, he doesn’t have the experience to use them to good effect.
- Luckily Caitlin/Killer Frost arrives at STAR Labs, ready to help Barry get his memories back. She has her own motives; Barry’s memory loss has also lead to Savitar having memory loss (something that doesn’t fit in with her unstated plans), which consequently means Wally loses his powers too (because an amnesiac Savitar would never have activated his powers).
- With Killer Frost’s help they come up with a method of returning Barry’s brain to normal; but it’s up to Iris to jump-start his memory by making him recall an intense moment from their past. Although she likes carefree Barry, she’s aware that his bad memories have helped craft him into a hero.
- Back in action, Barry and Wally deal with the chaos caused by Heatmonger.
- Meanwhile, HR has been encouraging Tracy to build a Speed Force Bazooka to take down Savitar (and they get very close in the process).
- She succeeds, but the bazooka needs a stupidly powerful power source to operate. Where are they going to find something more powerful than the sun that’s also handily portable and doesn’t melt your flesh?
- Apparently King Shark has just the thing.
Here’s a brave new tactic: make your opening scene so life-sappingly dull, anything that follows is going to feel like Guardians Of The Galaxy On Ice in comparison. Let’s be honest, after that jawdropping reveal at the end of the previous episode the last thing you want this episode to kick off with three-minutes of interminable continuity babble that sounds like a five year-old trying to summarise six seasons of Moffat-led Doctor Who.
Luckily things get a lot better. A lot. Okay, it’s a bit of a risk to follow the Savitar revelation with what’s essentially a comedy episode, but it works. This isn’t mere filler, but serves to remind us – and the characters – why Barry isn’t still the wide-eyed optimist of early episodes. Plus, the dilemma about whether or not Barry would be better off staying clueless and happy rather than complete and mopey brings out the best in Iris. She’s spent most of the second half of the season doing little more than providing feed-lines and occasionally reminding people she’s going to die soon, but here you genuinely feel for her quandary and cheer her on when she’s the one who brings Barry’s memories flooding back.
(Though… was this entirely selfless? Maybe she’d just remembered that Barry would probably be handier at preventing her death if he had his memory back.)
As a bonus… it’s very funny. Grant Gustin has a whale of a time wringing every ounce of comedy out of his amnesia (though would amnesia really turn an inherent geek into a geek-mocker?). Plus, now Julian and Cisco have stopped sniping at each other, they make a surprisingly effective comedy double act. Earlier this season we were worried that the rise of Julian might mean less screen time for Cisco, but actually, they work really well together. The court room scene could have been so embarrassing but between Gustin, Valdes and Felton play it perfectly.
So while the arc plot – like last season – looks like it’s vanishing up its own temporal backside in a puff of metaphorical paradox, this show still offers a lot to enjoy and savour along the way.
- Grant Gustin is great fun as amnesiac Barry.
- The trail room scene is very silly, but very amusing, especially Julian smiley face emoji.
- Cisco: “Please tell me you at least have Star Trek on your Earth.”
Cisco: “I hate spinoffs…” The joke here, of course, being that The Flash is a spin-off from Arrow.
- Iris: “You loved loved Dragon Ball Z.”
Barry: “I don’t know what that is.”
Iris: “Yeah, I couldn’t explain that show to you – even if I wanted to.” We actually feel for Iris here – we know exactly where she’s coming from!
- Barry hitting future Barry – a shot that’s milked for ultimate – ahem – impact.
- Future Barry: “I forgot to tell you. My suit’s cooler than yours.”
- Cisco: “I just came up with the best idea ever. Either that or it’s the worst idea ever. But… It’s an idea.”
- HR and Tracy bonding over coffee.
- Julian: “Such an embarrassing name.”
Cisco: “I like it. I think it’s great.”
- The infodump the opens the episode goes on and on and on, and you need an honours degree in Flashology to make any slight sense of it.
- That diagram helps how, exactly?
- Future Barry: “See, that’s the thing about time travel, Barry. The more you do it, the less the rules apply to you.” Nice try, but we’re not buying that as an excuse for making it up as you go along.
- A bead of sweat can fritz the super-glasses? That’s a seriously bad design flaw.
- If Savitar losing his memory means that Wally loses his powers, why is Julian unaffected? It was only because he was an acolyte of Savitar that he became involved with Team Flash, so surely he’s be all, “What am I doing here?”
- Cisco: “She wants to help.”
Iris: “With what?”
Wally: “With the fact that I lost my powers.” And Wally manages to make it all about him.
And The Random:
- Amnesiac Barry says he’d prefer to be called Bart. In the comics, Bart Allen is Barry and Iris’s grandson who becomes Impulse, then the second Kid Flash and then fourth Flash in succession. He first appeared in Flash #91 (June 1994).
- Cisco: “It’s like in Star Trek when the transporter splits Kirk into good Kirk and bad Kirk…” That’s be classic Star Trek’s season one episode, “The Enemy Within”.
- There is a minor villain called Heatmonger in the DC comics universe, but she’s a female member of the Aryan Brigade (whose alter ego was never revealed) introduced in Justice League Task Force #10 (1994) who has robotic arms.
- Barry: “So, what, I was like brooding all the time before?” Is Barry actually doing a Christian-Bale’s-Batman impersonation at this point?
- Barry: “You sure The Streak isn’t a better name, maybe?” The Streak was the name coined by Iris on her blog in the early days of the series. Barry was never keen.
- Separated at birth (and both called Wallace!):
Review by Dave Golder