When its operating on all cylinders, no comic book show can touch The Flash’s ability to mix drama, high stakes action, humor and heart. Wally West is having dreams about being Kid Flash. Apart from some questionable villain design choices, Shade stood out as an exceptional episode that bodes well for Season 3 going forward.
As great as the series has been, the show runners have really dropped the ball developing Flash’s villains beyond Reverse Flash and Zoom. Shade became one of the more unique characters in the DC Universe following his involvement in the Starman series. Not a hero, but not so easily classified as a villain, Shade was flexible enough to be whatever was needed. The show’s version treated Shade more like a badly animated Shadow Man that was easily dispatched with some headlights.
That was disappointing, but despite the title, this episode really wasn’t about Shade. Based on HR’s reaction to the mention of Gorilla Grodd, it sounds like he left an Earth that would prove far more familiar to comic book fans. Maybe on that Earth, the Rogues are credible villains constantly keeping that Flash on edge.
It’s become clear that the writers don’t have a firm handle on the larger Flash universe beyond speedsters. If ever the movie version Flash had an opening to top the show it would be to focus The Rogues and Flash’s other adversaries.
But beyond Reverse Flash and Zoom, Flash is more about relationships and the Team Flash bond anyway. Shade was a major test on that front. Wally started getting visions of his Flashpoint existence as Kid Flash while Caitlin finally revealed her emerging Killer Frost abilities.
Caitlin finally has a storyline that’s not about some dude and it’s been killer (pun intended). I was glad the episode wrapped with all of Team Flash knowing her powers. Secrets on these shows can only go so long before becoming frustrating especially when Caitlin is withholding information from the one group that could help her. Cisco’s vision of Vibe battling Killer Frost doesn’t suggest things will end well sadly, but I appreciate this arc provides a genuine focus for Caitlin. And unlike the typical cheery response, Caitlin seemed angry that Barry’s time travel exploits put her in this situation.
Killer Frost had to wait another day though with Dr. Alchemy turning on the heat in his recruitment of Wally. Hopefully, we’ll get the reason Alchemy is so hellbent on fixing the Flashpoint wrongs. There’s got to be something shady with it, but so far, Alchemy hasn’t done anything wrong. Seeing it in full view this episode helped make sense of my problems with the Alchemy design clear. He looks like Batman villain Killer Moth. And of all of Batman’s villains, he’s not the best choice of inspirations for sinister villain designs.
Wally has been a character that would be so much easier for the show to screw up than consistently handle properly. He’s not a whiny teen constantly angry at Joe or jealous of Barry and Iris. Instead, his issues are understandable — he’s always been obsessed with speed and taking chances and saw a vision of his best self where he helps people. It’s an admirable goal and one that’s making Wally’s subplot extremely interesting.
Shade didn’t have to keep the spotlight on Barry as those around him had more than enough going on to keep the episode entertaining. I wasn’t sure what to make of him initially, but HR Wells might be my favorite version of Wells yet. He’s just silly enough to not be goofy and so pleased with himself that he keeps cracking me up.
Another reason Shade was so memorable was it presented a problem that couldn’t be wrapped up in an hour. The CW shows tend to stick to a strict format of each situation being resolved in one episode. There might be some lingering subplots and overall main season arc, but each episode is a one and done scenario. Mixing up that formula made sense here. Wally was fine being used as bait to trap Alchemy, but the trap had some complications — namely the arrival of Savitar.
While the comics’ version doesn’t have the best design ever, the show’s take was way off base as it resembled the love child of Ultron and a Michael Bay nightmare Transformer. Sketchy design aside, I’m curious what unique angle the writers will bring to Savitar and how his arrival will impact Team Flash long-term.
Rating: 9 out of 10
Photo Credit: The CW