NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “The Flash” are present in this review
After taking last week off, The Flash returned on a disappointingly uneven offering this week, with, “Shade” continuing to trip up Season Three as what has frustratingly been this show’s weakest season so far. The Flash is certainly still entertaining, and is definitely not bad, though at this point, the Alchemy mystery isn’t quite measuring up to the Reverse Flash and Zoom arcs that came before. Unfortunately, the season’s second major villain making his debut in this episode also felt like it kicked off on a disappointing whimper, rather than the bang that this new baddie deserves.
Things begin with yet another metahuman showing up in Central City to start attacking folks, this one being Shade, a longstanding Golden Age DC Comics villain that has battled original 1940’s Flash, Jay Garrick most notably. Shade has the ability to vibrate his molecules to the point of appearing as a shadow, and he uses this ability to hurt people. Why? Well, the show never explains that part. This leaves Shade as yet another disposable villain-of-the-week for The Flash, one whose motivations are non-existent, and whose potential is almost entirely wasted.
Fortunately, the good guys picked up the slack a bit for yet another wasted DC villain this week, as each lead character was given a fairly strong character arc to develop on. Only Barry felt like he was falling behind the rest of the lead personalities, likely due to an episode that wanted to flesh out the supporting cast a bit more, presumably before major events begin happening over the next several weeks that Barry will be a big part of. One of these character arcs even ties in with the villain plot this week, that being Wally’s, as he finally joins the new Flashpoint metahumans that Alchemy has begun to target and promise their old powers back to.
The way that this episode brought Wally’s struggles back to the fore, and even incorporated them into Iris, was pretty well done. The show addressing how the West family often function as bystanders amid Barry as the superhero and the S.T.A.R. Labs crew as the science experts was pretty interesting, tasking Barry with trying to remind Iris of her worth, while Wally still fails to understand why no one would trust him as a speedster. I really wish that Alchemy did more with Wally’s power obsession this week beyond torment him though, since there’s so much potential there that the villain just didn’t manage to effectively tap into in this episode, beyond using the Wally tempting as an excuse to bring Savitar into the mix.
Like I said, the introduction to Savitar, yet another speedster villain from DC Comics lore, was disappointingly underwhelming, with the so-called, “God of speed” merely showing up in the final seconds of the episode, and coming seemingly out of nowhere, after Wally touches Alchemy’s Philosopher’s Stone. The more interesting villain element actually came from Caitlin this week if I’m being honest, as she reveals to Cisco that she has manifested icy powers, and seems to be on the road to becoming just like her Earth-Two doppelganger, Killer Frost. Cisco insists that Caitlin has to tell the team, though Caitlin insists that they can’t know.
Eventually, the truth does come out about Caitlin however, with Caitlin eventually having to confront her fear of asking for help. Caitlin addressing this vulnerability that she was too proud to face up to wove together nicely with Detective West finally asking out the attractive attorney he’s had his eye on, even if their date is later interrupted by H.R., followed by Shade. H.R. actually found a pretty creative way to get around Earth-One thinking that Harrison Wells is a murderer too, by using Earth-Nineteen technology to pretend to be his partner, which would allow S.T.A.R. Labs to reopen to the public as a museum, helping to throw suspicion off them working with The Flash. This was actually not only a genuinely good idea, since it truly is hard to believe that no one in Central City has suspected that S.T.A.R. Labs and Team Flash are one and the same yet in this universe, but also served as a great tease for the Flash Museum, a staple of The Flash’s legacy in DC Comics lore.
Disappointingly though, there’s not all that much to dig into in this episode of The Flash, which had plenty of decent character arcs for the protagonists, but heavily faltered with the villains and stakes. In the end, “Shade” simply serving as a roundabout way to finally bring Savitar into this show feels like a huge missed opportunity, even as the efforts to further the arcs of H.R., Caitlin and the West family still went over fairly well. The Flash seems to be struggling to replicate that airtight storytelling recipe from the first two seasons again, though hopefully that’s something that changes soon, especially with big events like the major crossover with The CW’s other DC shows not being far away!
The Flash offered some fairly decent character arcs for the supporting cast this week, despite hugely botching its villain arcs.
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THE GOOD STUFF
The West family re-evaluating their place on the team
Caitlin having to fess up to her powers
H.R.'s creativity proving surprisingly useful
THE NOT-SO-GOOD STUFF
Shade is a terribly wasted throwaway villain
Not enough is done with the Alchemy/Wally struggle