The Flash – Season 3 Episode 23
The Flash closes off season 3 by revealing the fate or Iris and delivering a final confrontation between Barry and Savitar.
I suspected last week that something would happen to undo or invalidate Iris’ death at the hands of Savitar. With an entire episode left to go it made sense that there was something extra to her death that was being hidden from the audience. One of my theories focused on the face swapping technology used by H.R. and that turned out to be the right answer. The mechanics of it were somewhat confusing as Team Flash could have used the piece of Savitar’s armour to find his lair at any time.
Killing off H.R. is something of a cop out because the Harrison Wells character has become defined by the fact that there are different versions of him. We’re on our third in three seasons so it’s pretty much expected that he would be the most expendable character. Tom Cavanagh returns as Harry mere minutes later though that doesn’t completely take away from the gravity of H.R’s sacrifice.
At the end of the day he has been in the show for most of the season so his death does have an impact. I would say that he is the most underdeveloped of the various versions of Harrison Wells that we’ve seen but he was often around to provide some much needed levity when the season was assaulting the viewer with grimness. His sacrifice also completes the small arc he had towards finding a way to be useful and redeeming himself for giving up Iris’ location in the first place.
With Team Flash in the middle of a situation there isn’t a lot of time to let the death sink in as Savitar is the immediate problem. Dealing with H.R’s death falls to Tracy who doesn’t have an awful lot else to do now that the Speed Force Bazooka is complete. Her reaction to his death falls somewhat flat as there hasn’t been enough time to develop their romantic connection as something worth investing in but Anne Dudek runs with it and almost makes it work. I suspect it’ll be up to Tracy to find a way to deal with that and decide if she can be of use to Team Flash.
H.R. does get a funeral at the end of the episode with everyone on the team in attendance and it’s reasonable enough. We get the usual platitudes about how much he meant to everyone and Iris seems especially grateful that he gave his life to save her.
With Iris’ death undone the loop that creates Savitar is broken so it’s only a matter of time until the paradox resolves itself and Savitar is erased from existence. Joe rightly points out that he can do a lot of damage in the time he has left so it is still an immediate problem that Team Flash have to deal with. Barry decides to take Snart’s advice about being true to himself as his morality is his greatest strength. Savitar has lost that but Barry can use that to his advantage.
This leads us to the most interesting part of the episode where Barry tries to appeal to Savitar’s better nature. He starts by talking about his favourite memory with his parents and it causes Savitar to reflect on the choices he has made. For a brief time it looks as if he might be open to changing his ways which provides some solid emotional moments. It’s fitting that Barry would reach out to him in this way because a large part of Savitar’s motivation comes from feeling abandoned by the team. By showing compassion and understanding Barry and Iris hope to get through to him so that he will stop.
An offer is made to find a way to stop the paradox from catching up to him so that he can survive but Savitar rightly points out that they don’t actually have a plan. He also raises several problems with the idea of having two Barry Allen’s around such as where he’ll live, what his role on the team will be and whether he counts as a guest for the bride or groom at Iris and Barry’s wedding. It’s a comical list of concerns but highlights how impractical it is to have more than one version of a given person existing at any one time.
There’s a huge disconnect between the scenes involving Savitar apparently reconsidering his plans and going full supervillain. It’s really jarring when he transitions from one to the other and doesn’t fully explore the idea of him reconnecting with the goodness that is clearly inside of him. For whatever reason he decides that he isn’t going to take their offer and goes back to his plan. If a reason had been given for him to reject this offer then it might have been better depending what that reason is but what we got definitely wasn’t good.
The scenes depicting Iris and Barry trying to awaken long buried feelings within Savitar were really strong and I wanted to see more of this as Grant Gustin delivers an excellent dual performance. Savitar especially is given layers when it’s clear that there’s more to him than simple vengeance.
Savitar’s plan feels very clunky and confusing. He essentially wants to spread himself across every moment in time so that the Speed Force can never correct the error that he represents. Since the rules have never been properly established this plan is largely meaningless as it amounts to little more than a collection of technobabble with no dramatic tension attached to it. His plan is undone by more technical wizardry when Cisco doesn’t do what Savitar asks of him and we’re apparently supposed to be shocked by it. Cisco is completely unsupervised and Savitar doesn’t bother to check what he has done in any way so the betrayal comes out of stupidity. Since it was difficult to understand what would happen if Savitar succeeded it has less impact when it’s averted.
Cisco’s intervention is equally confusing as he could easily have gotten away with doing absolutely nothing to the Bazooka therefore trapping Savitar in the Speed Force. It would likely have freed Jay Garrick and tied up that loose end though would have lacked the explosive punch that the ensuing action scene delivered. Common sense gives way for the desire to create a big action sequence.
The action sequence was mostly well done and made good use of all the characters present. Seeing three Speedsters work together against Savitar was nicely executed but the rest of the characters essentially fired different coloured beams at each other without any context given to how powerful anyone was.
Barry phasing inside Savitar’s suit and kicking him out of it was a nice touch and the suit changing to a red colouring looked so much better than the blue. This was an obvious metaphor for Barry’s potential to become Savitar before making the choice to cast that off. When he destroys the suit it definitively says that Barry will never let himself become that and Savitar conveniently winks out of existence shortly after that point. It’s obvious symbolism but gets the job done and isn’t terrible.
Caitlin’s arc is somewhat wrapped up when she makes a choice to not bend to Savitar’s will any more. She chooses to go her own way when she attacks him which puts an end to her wrestling with accepting her darker side. I still don’t buy into the multiple personality aspect of the character but I find it interesting that the end result is somewhere inbetween Caitlin and Killer Frost. She still has her powers and white hair but doesn’t quite identify as Caitlin. This could be a solid arc for her next season as she figures out who she is and where she belongs in the world. I’m guessing that will eventually be with Team Flash but who knows.
This episode did a really poor job of throwing characters into the mix for no real reason. Jay Garrick made sense as having him stuck in the Speed Force has been lingering for a while now and freeing him sets up the end of the episode. He wasn’t used terribly well when he was there and faded into the background.
My only reaction to Gypsy being there is to wonder why that was? She saves Cisco from being killed by Caitlin and throws a few beams in the final battle. Her presence added absolutely nothing to the story as she wasn’t at all significant. It’d be different if having her there turned the tide in some way but it definitely didn’t.
The cliffhanger ending was something of a mixed bag. Jay Garrick being freed from the Speed Force prison does mean that someone has to take his place so there are no issues there but I couldn’t help wondering why Barry had to be the one to do it. As I mentioned earlier, Cisco could easily have forced Savitar back inside so I’m not sure why that wasn’t addressed. Jay and Wally just stand idly by and don’t offer themselves as a sacrifice which almost makes sense since they know what it’s like to occupy it but also counters their selfless natures. Jay in particular offered himself up in the first place to protect Barry so I’m not sure why he didn’t this time.
Barry making the sacrifice is something I don’t have an issue with. He feels that he deserves it for creating Flashpoint and making a complete mess of the timeline as a result. As he said, it’s his penance and he understands that his actions have consequences which unfortunately means that he has to accept his fate. Going by this episode it almost seems like he’s being rewarded as the Nora Allen image makes it clear that he won’t be in “Hell” suggesting that he’s moving on to some kind of Heavenly plane of existence.
This is all very confusing because the rules of how the Speed Force views the universe have never been established. At the moment it’s a Godlike presence that can do whatever the plot needs it to. If it needs to whisk Barry off to “Heaven” because he apparently deserves it then that’s what it does. There have been two episodes dealing with the Speed Force as an entity directly as well as numerous characters who have a working understanding of it so there have been plenty of chances to establish proper rules and motivations. The writers just haven’t taken them.
Another issue I had was with the red lightning storm doing damage to the city. It’s oddly reminiscent of the description in the 2024 article that the show frequently references. It’s also shown in this episode has has this event replaced that one since both involve red skies and the Flash disappearing? It feels like it should be a big event but isn’t quite treated as such so there’s a massive disconnect that isn’t dealt with. It’s also the third season in a row that ends with Barry heading into a portal of some sort.
Despite the uneven plotting the emotional beats land. Barry says a goodbye to everyone close to him and ensures that Central City will be protected by Wally. His tearful farewell to Joe where they solidify their father/son bond is particularly moving and wonderfully acted. Candice Patton brilliantly conveys someone who is having her world torn apart as well so the investment was there on an emotional level at least.
An uneven ending that did some things well but other things really poorly. H.R dying in the place of Iris feels like a bit of a cop out in some respects but the impact of it is somewhat felt. Dealing with Savitar is the immediate problem and his upcoming erasure from the timeline is handled reasonably well. Barry and Iris trying to appeal to his better nature makes a lot of sense but the transition from being tempted to take the offer to over the top supervillainy is jarring. Nothing is resolved it just goes away and gives way to a really confusing plan that could actually have been dealt with by Cisco doing absolutely nothing. At least the action sequence was mostly good though the non Speedsters firing various coloured beams at one another wasn’t that exciting. The end of Caitlin’s arc had the right emotional punch and I like that she is something in-between Caitlin and Killer Frost. Resolving the Savitar conflict by Barry proving once and for all that he will never become like that is a fairly obvious metaphor but works well enough.
The episode is really mixed in how it handles the characters it uses. Jay Garrick’s return makes sense and sets up the ending but why was Gypsy there? Her presence added nothing and she had no significant role so the episode would have been no different without her. The cliffhanger ending was a mixed bag in terms of plotting and how much sense it made but the emotional beats landed nicely with some stellar acting from the cast. I’ll see all you readers in a few months for what I hope to be a better fourth season!
It’ll be clear to anyone reading my reviews that I haven’t enjoyed this season. It has made some really fundamental mistakes and the constant reliance on a downbeat tone has been really draining for me to watch. Some ground has been regained in recent episodes towards delivering something a bit more fun but it’s too little too late. I get the sense that not enough thought has gone into the storytelling and the whole experience is a confusing, embarrassing mess. I’ve mentioned before that I no longer enjoy this show and I’m at the point where I’m only continuing to watch it because I’m invested in the universe. As long as I’m enjoying at least one of them then I will continue to watch and review all of the shows that belong to this universe.
Season 4 needs to do what Arrow did this season and rehabilitate the show to a level of quality resembling the excellent first season. The writers are capable of this and there is some potential in what we’ve seen here. I suspect the season will begin with a time skip and deal with Barry’s return. There will likely be a mystery around why that is that will be solved over the course of the early part of the season.
I’d like to see Barry gone for a few episodes though I know it won’t happen but it’d be a great way to allow the other characters to shine. I want to see Wally coming into his own as a Hero, Iris as a respected and tenacious reporter who actually goes to work, Cisco taking on a leadership role and Caitlin dealing with whatever she has to deal with. Without Barry on the team there’s real scope to give attention to the other characters and develop them more.
Having an arc that runs all season definitely doesn’t work for this show. This season felt especially drawn out with lots of repetition throughout so I wonder if the writers should borrow from the current Gotham or Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD model and use smaller arcs that resolve themselves but build into the other one. It seems to cut down on filler on those shows so might work well here. Whatever the writers choose to do this show definitely needs to get better and I want the tone to return to something resembling positivity.