The Flash – Season 3 Episode 15
“The Wrath of Savitar”
The Flash brings Savitar back into focus as the self proclaimed “God of Speed” engineers his escape from the Speed Force.
I’ve been really hard on The Flash lately and that’s largely because I no longer enjoy this show. This season has been bad from almost every angle and there’s no getting away from that. I like the characters and it coasts by on the chemistry of the actors playing them in the weaker moments but it gets to a point where the enjoyment just stops. Not that I’m planning to stop watching because I still find the other shows in this universe watchable and I personally want to be up to date with all the goings on. Not to mention the constant hope I have that it’ll pull an Arrow and return to form.
Episodes like this are maddening in so many ways because there is a lot of good in here but it’s built on a surface of repetitive storytelling an unnecessary unanswered questions. I’ve mentioned repeatedly that I’m really tired of constantly manufacturing drama from the team being dishonest with one another. The lesson that they have to stop doing this has been learned by every single member of the time on multiple occasions yet it still happens.
It’s Wally’s turn to be dishonest again -along with Caitlin but more on her later- regarding his sightings of Savitar that started with the cliffhanger ending from last week. The episode doesn’t spend too much time on him keeping that secret but in the timeline of the show it has been a week. We go through the usual song and dance when the truth comes out with the “you shouldn’t have lied to us” type dialogue making a proud appearance.
Barry banishes Wally from the team because he can’t trust that Savitar isn’t looking and listening to everything they say and this causes Wally to spiral down a path that eventually leads to causing the precise thing they wanted to prevent.
I will say that it was a compelling journey for Wally who has clearly been putting everything he has into reaching the speed that is necessary to save Iris from dying. He has been training non stop and the episode starts with a little good news when Wally had finally reached that speed. Naturally this was the pride before the fall and it raised the stakes nicely as the only counter to that would be to have Savitar nullify the solution that Wally represents.
He does this by appearing to him and only him in an attempt to knock him off his game and let his emotions get the best of him. It’s clear that Wally is feeing hurt and betrayed by Barry in this episode but his objective of saving Iris is still as clear as it ever was. Savitar preys on that by appearing as his mother and telling him that he’s not fast enough. It’s a really powerful scene and Keiynan Lonsdale delivers his best performance to date as Wally’s grief overrides his rational thinking to the point that he actually believes he is talking to his mother. On some level he must know that he isn’t since he knows that Savitar has done this in the past but the emotional punch to the gut that comes with seeing his mother forces him to forget that.
His reaction to Savitar’s manipulation is an emotional one. He throws the remaining piece of the Philosopher’s Stone into the Speed Force thinking that this will prevent Savitar from breaking free but this is exactly what is needed and Savitar escapes. What’s worse is that in order to restore the balance that is upset by him leaving Wally is pulled in and disintegrated just as Barry was last season.
Wally’s arc in this episode is a Shakespearean tragedy. He spends the entire episode trying to stop what ultimately happens and the actions he takes unwittingly cause it. His heart is absolutely in the right place but he does things without thinking and lacks the support of the rest of the team thanks to Barry casting him out.
This could all be attributed to Barry who makes one wrong decision after another which is definitely starting to cause everything he is trying to prevent. By “everything” I mean the death of Iris which seems to be all he can talk about lately. I understand that it’s a personal tragedy for him and that his energies are focused on keeping her safe but he is consistently losing sight of the big picture here. When Wally hides the truth from him he reacts angrily and casts him out rather than supporting him and trying to find a way to move past it as a team. I’m sure if Barry had been more reasonable then Wally would have agreed to go into the pipeline as a precaution. Obviously this is with the benefit of hindsight but if Barry was actually a character who learned and grew as the episodes progress then almost none of this would have happened.
Beyond that, Barry is a complete hypocrite because he is also keeping secrets from the team. I’ve mentioned that his relationship with Iris is moving far too quickly but had dismissed that as bad writing as the writers haven’t historically been good at doing realistic adult relationships. It turns out that at least some of that was by design as Barry wants to accelerate to the point that he and Iris are married so that the future might be changed. His entire reason for doing this is because she isn’t wearing her engagement ring when she dies.
I understand the logic of doing anything to alter the future but I fail to see what difference a small detail like that makes. Fair enough that Barry thinks it will be significant but surely someone else on the team could be flagging this issue. If it’s a simple case of preventing her death by changing small things then why not describe what she’s wearing to make sure that she wears something different on the day in question? I imagine it would only alter the death scene on a superficial level but it could be interesting to see Barry learn that he doesn’t actually have much power over this event as it would dial up the hopelessness and keep him second guessing his decisions to the point where he learns how to overcome this naivety he can’t get rid of. That would be character development and for some reason the writers aren’t interested in that for Barry.
Surprisingly I find myself siding with Iris on this one. She has every right to call off the engagement because Barry is marrying her for the wrong reasons. He does love her; that’s never in doubt but he’s rushing through milestones in their lives because of his misguided assumption. Iris points out that she wants to be his wife not a damsel who he constantly has to save and she makes a really good point. These milestones are significant for a reason and Barry is trivialising them by turning them into a “prevent the future” tick box exercise which is absolutely the wrong move no matter how well intentioned it is. Honesty would have got rid of this problem because they could talk about their relationship like adults and decide to get married or find some other way together.
Barry’s antagonistic relationship with Savitar is still in its very early stages but was handled fairly well here. We have another dial-in sequence where Julian acts as the conduit and allows Savitar to speak through him. Most of the dialogue is either vague or a reworded version of what we’ve heard before but the disembodied presence of Savitar in the scene adds tension and the fact that he holds all the cards in the form of the information Team Flash need establishes him as a significant enough threat.
One thing is made clear; Savitar has a personal beef with both the team and Barry personally. He says that Barry took everything from him and turned him into what he is. Barry takes that to mean that he is the cause of Savitar gaining his speed but he means it in a more figurative sense. I wonder why Barry doesn’t ask what it is because I’m sure the cause will be a mistake that Barry makes in the future. Arguably it could be prevented if he knows it’s coming. Savitar could say no to that but I wonder why the question isn’t asked because they have nothing to lose by trying to find out. It’s yet another example of Barry failing to learn from mistakes and not thinking a situation through before acting.
The identity of Savitar is still an enduring mystery that is no closer to being answered. Not knowing who he is doesn’t make him more interesting and the constant overt hints that he will be someone close to the team are just becoming frustrating at this point. He says that he has been there “since the beginning” which can be interpreted as him being a member of the team or it could mean in a much grander sense in terms of the timeline. Either way I’m sure the answer will be underwhelming.
I’m almost sure that Savitar will turn out to be Wally even though the events of that episode seem to counter that. None of Savitar’s dialogue points towards that as he sees Wally as more of a tool that could be used to gain him his freedom. Flashpoint gave him the idea of giving Wally enough speed to be a worthy replacement to balance whatever scales the Speed Force has and it doesn’t seem to be anything more than that. I could see this being forgotten in favour of the shock reveal though. It would be interesting if Wally felt betrayed by Barry not saving him from the Speed Force when he was pulled in but the framing of the scene didn’t suggest that he thought Barry hadn’t done enough. If it does turn out to be Wally then the whole thing is an unresolvable paradox since Wally couldn’t become Savitar without Savitar forcing him to replace him but I wouldn’t rule it out.
Given how powerful he is I wonder what excuse the show will give for him not immediately acting on his threat to destroy the city. For now he seems to be eager to let events play out as we have seen them but I’m not sure why that is. He clearly knows enough about the future to throw it in everyone’s face so why do things have to wait another two months to play out the way we’ve seen them? I doubt this will be answered but it’s a question that should be addressed. As a complete aside, did anyone else laugh when Barry said “Where’s Wally”?
Caitlin’s dishonesty turns out to accidentally benefit the team. It turns out that she was keeping a piece of the Philosopher’s Stone because she thought it could be used to rid her of her powers. Julian is the most upset by this because he knows what the stone did to him personally and thought Caitlin would know better than to risk having something so dangerous near them. We get the usual platitudes of her being terrified to become Killer Frost and being overwhelmed by fear but it’s not a strong enough motivation because it comes almost entirely out of nowhere. It also further shows that the characters are basically learning nothing every week and enabling plot with this is not a good way to create compelling drama.
I did like that it was essentially dumb luck that was keeping Savitar from being free of the Speed Force but I feel that the team should have been more on top of the situation once they found that out. Wally’s actions could have been predicted for instance but him not interacting with the rest of the team for much of the episode prevented him from finding out that putting the Stone into the Speed Force was exactly what Savitar wanted which plays into the inevitable tragedy of everything that’s going on but I wish it wasn’t at the expense of the character’s actually developing.
Another thing the episode did well was the strong theme of fear that filled the episode. Most of the actions of the characters were motivated by fear in some way from Barry’s fear that Savitar was using Wally to spy on them to Wally being afraid of Savitar using him to escape. Caitlin is afraid of what she is becoming so wanted to use the Philosopher’s stone to remove her powers. This episode ended very negatively for Team Flash and as Barry says at the close of the episode “Fear is the reason for all of this” and it’s a powerful thought to leave on but will the characters actually learn anything?
A massive improvement on recent episodes that still has a lot of the same problems at the root of it all. The episode starts with Wally being dishonest about seeing Savitar which sets the entire plot in motion and results in Wally’s reckless actions freeing Savitar. This works because it plays on the fact that Team Flash aren’t a cohesive unit due to their secret keeping but it would be more impactful if there was a sense that the characters were learning from their mistakes. Wally’s journey was the most compelling and it allowed Keiynan Lonsdale to deliver a more powerful performance than he normally does. His scene where he is confronted by Savitar posing as his mother is brilliantly done and it’s believable that Wally is emotionally compromised.
Barry’s antagonistic relationship with Savitar is best seen when Savitar uses Julian as a conduit. He is disembodied, threatening and holds all the cards but Barry doesn’t ask some obvious questions. Another issue is that he’s also keeping secrets while telling others off for doing the same as shown by his reason for rushing into marriage with Iris. He does love her but isn’t proposing for the right reasons. Caitlin stealing a piece of the Philosopher’s Stone to try and remove her powers is another tired example of dishonesty that feels like it comes from nowhere but I like that dumb luck delays the release of Savitar. I just wish that characters were given the opportunity to develop rather than repeat the same mistakes.
- Wally’s powerful emotional journey
- excellent acting from Keiynan Lonsdale
- the disembodied Savitar being genuinely threatening
- more internal Team Flash secrecy
- the lack of obvious challenges being made or questions being asked at key moments