The Flash Season 3 Recap And Review – Episode 15: ‘The Wrath of Savitar’
This week’s episode of The Flash, was a bit of a mixed bag for me. While it finally started moving the Savitar plot forward, it also incorporated a lot of “CW” elements that felt less than organic. Even so, “The Wrath of Savitar” was still a solid episode that finally answers the question we’ve all been asking: if a speedster gets sucked into the Speed Force, are they required to leave their uniform behind? The answer is yes.
There’s a trope in writing that has always bugged me: positive destruction. This allows a writer to create a wave of positive events in order to destroy them to create drama, and yes while the basis of good drama is conflict, positive destruction can feel manipulative. For instance the first season of The Flash was a beacon of hope and full of joy when compared to other DC properties. Over 22 episodes, The Flash rode high on idealism and hope, a cornerstone of the property, and flourished. Even when (spoilers) it was revealed that Harrison Wells was the time-travelling Reverse Flash, there as a feeling of optimism.
In fact, if season one of The Flash was about wide eyed optimism, then season two was about the loss of innocence. This has placed season three in a weird transitional mode that has tried to move away from dour skepticism in search of some hopeful fare. Unfortunately “The Wrath of Savitar” felt like a solid case of positive destruction that has really unraveled a lot of the positive events from the past 4 or 5 episodes.
A perfect example was the engagement of Barry and Iris. This was a huge deal to the Flash Family as well as the viewers at home. After last week’s cliffhanger of will they or wont they, the answer was big news. After a quick reveal that Iris had said yes, we have a very rewarding scene between the cast of characters. These are relationships that keep the show incredibly strong, even during weak episodes and this payoff was a big deal. Huge kudos to Jesse L. Martin who stole the scene as he had a quiet, but powerful performance, as Barry and Iris commit to one another.
Of course, now that we have a happy place, it’s time to renovate. And of course I mean, bring it all crashing down. Over the course of the episode Wally is plagued by visions of Saivtar, which begins to create doubt in Kid Flash. Will he be fast enough? Can he save his sister? What happens if he fails? This drives Wally to discover that Barry had ulterior motives when he proposed to Iris. Apparently Iris was not engaged in Barry’s vision of the future, so he saw it as an additional step to help change her gruesome fate.
This, for me, was a pretty huge sin. After three years of slow, organic growth Barry and Iris had finally reached a point where an engagement felt natural. More than that, it felt earned. To tack on this secondary motivation completely guts the sincerity and robs us of this genuine moment. It’s no surprise then that upon discovering this piece of information, Iris decides to call off the engagement. So what was that? 30 minutes of happiness? Great.
Even if Barry proposes again sometime in the future, the moment will lack the sincerity presented here. In fact, the organic growth will be replaced by a sense of inevitability. Of course Barry and Iris will get married one day. Instead of a happy moment unmarred by storytelling shorthand, it will become the “Ross and Rachel” moment: something we knew would happen but not before the series finale. That simply doesn’t feel earned, in fact it feels exploitative. Regardless, that’s where we stand now, for better or worse.
Despite this, I think the writers are working up to a new golden age in The Flash. By slowly unraveling this convoluted knot of Flashpoint and the subsequent changes to Earth-1, I think we’re building up to something I’ve been predicting all season: a return to optimism for Barry and Team Flash. Of course, in order to get there, we have to show just how screwy the world is and why Barry can’t just leave things be.
Part of this theory stems from Savitar’s torture of Wally during the episode. By the end of the hour, he was absolutely convinced that Savitar was about to break free. His only choice was to head things off at the pass, which brings us back to another theory I’ve been waving around for months: Wally is Savitar.
After it was revealed that Caitlin had kept a piece of the Philosopher’s Stone in hope of removing her Killer Frost powers, Wally was convinced that it had to be thrown into the Speed Force. With persistent visions of Savitar, Barry insisted that Wally stand down from active status so they wouldn’t reveal their plan to a potential enemy. Alone, and isolated Wally had to battle his own demons and missed some pretty crucial information, such as Savitar’s claim of self fulfillment.
In a tense argument, the God of Speed insists that he creates himself, and that it’s all Barry’s fault. This turn of phrase seems to hint that through his own actions Savitar accidentally creates this evil persona and that if Barry had not altered the future, none of it would come to pass. When Wally decides to throw the remaining shard of the Philosopher’s Stone into the Speed Force, it would seem like this would be end of the argument.
Unfortunately no. Savitar’s imprisonment was because the Stone was not whole. By delivering the final piece, Wally gave Savitar the power to transmute his prison into a gateway. But in order to free himself, Savitar needed a replacement. Enter Wally. Now trapped inside the Speed Force, Wally is stuck in a realm of thought and emotion. Bound to an endless round of “what if”, it makes sense that Wally goes mad and eventually breaks free, far faster than when he went in, twisted by years (centuries) of hate and loathing.
The bad news is, we can’t confirm any of it! Unlike previous seasons, the writers have kept Savitar’s identity a tightly held secret and I think it’s hurting the narrative. Unlike Zoom and the Reverse Flash, Savitar has no real connection to the team. Well nothing beyond a creepy disembodied voice speaking through poor Julian. The point is, that as a “big bad” Savitar is falling short because the mystery is being drawn out for far too long. Sure, we’re getting little hints at mythology and intimate knowledge of his adversaries, these fact is these tid bits dont fit anyone exactly. So, while I’m happy that Savitar is free of his prison and can really tear some things apart, I think it’s time to deliver his long hidden identity.
And let’s be honest, a lot is riding on this reveal. If handled properly, Savitar could easily outstrip Reverse Flash and Zoom in terms of dramatic weight. However there needs to be a payoff to this long buildup. If it shorts out too late, we feel robbed of dramatic weight. If it becomes too obvious, we feel robbed of any real shock value. Pull the trigger guys, let Savitar unmask. Then, maybe, we can finally get a more streamlined outfit.
PS: the new live action Savitar outfit looks fantastic, but he’s just too big.