Throwing "Shade" - The Flash S03E06

I remember when The Flash used to be fun and light-hearted and sweet, back in season one. And then we got kinda dark and dreary in season two, which was okay for character evolution, I guess, but it just wasn't as fun. Season three is trying really hard to strike some kind of balance between cheerfully light and srz bizness, I think, and it isn't always working. So far in six episodes, we've had some really great fun moments, intermingled with some "WTF!" times as well.

If I had to pin down one of season three's greatest weaknesses, it has to be that the writers this season have written all the freaks-of-the-week as entirely disposable. These are characters that, for the most part, they haven't cared about enough to develop in any way. That's okay sometimes for a show like this, but I think what's been particularly painful this season has been that some of the freaks-of-the-week have been classic Flash villains from the comics who have been tossed aside with no care at all. This week's freak was a prime example of this failing.

(spoilers beyond the fold)

Flash writers, can we talk?

 If you all want to make up throwaway freaks-of-the-week, like Magenta a few weeks back, cool. At least with Magenta, she had a backstory with an important social commentary attached. But then this week, we get Shade, who is a classic comic book Flash villain. I mean, we get a dude, who appears as a shadow, and kills people, and that HR Wells names Shade because there's a Shade on his Earth as well. But the resemblance to the comic book character stops with the name. I wish I could say there was anything at all interesting about Shade, but there isn't. We get zero backstory, we don't know who the person is beyond the shadow, and Shade's attack at the beginning of the episode was completely random. Even the guy he kills at the time--a random stock broker who sounds terribly bored as he talks to a client--seems uninterested in even being there.

He's actually on the phone with his acting agent: "Look, I know Hollywood doesn't hire Asians, but can't we do better than this crappy role? I'll even act like a ninja, if you want!"
Shade's other attack was on the movie-at-the-park event that Joe West takes his new date, along with Cisco and Caitlyn and HR. Since we are given no reason whatsoever for the random attack on the park, I can only assume that Shade was directed by Dr. Alchemy to attack, as a distraction to Flash, while Alchemy tried to entice Wally to go to him. But I mean, Shade apparently doesn't even warrant that much explanation from Alchemy's scenes either.

HR be like, "I halp!" for all of this episode. Tom Cavanagh's goofy useless writer from Earth-18 is the light-hearted aspect, and while in the last episode it fell flat and was obnoxious, this week HR's shenanigans were pretty amusing. He suggests to the team that they need to open up STAR Labs as a museum, and he offers to be the public face... until Cisco tells him that wouldn't be a good idea, since this Earth knows Harrison Wells as a murderer. At which point, HR reveals he's got a toy from back home to help with that:

Since everyone thinks I'm a murderer, I'll just put on a face that looks like Simon Cowell, so everyone will just think I'm an asshole instead!
I have no emotional attachment to HR, but I hope he doesn't turn out to be evil, because yet another treacherous Wells would be a genuinely obnoxious story. But it has not escaped my notice that the only two people who seem to refer to Wally West as "Wallace" are HR and Dr. Alchemy. I mean, last night the show tried really, really hard to make the viewers believe that Julian was Alchemy, since our man Draco disappeared suddenly and mysteriously right when Alchemy popped in, but it's too obvious.

Flash writers, please don't do this to us. Please, not another tired evil Wells story. And omg, please, not another big bad evil speedster!

Dammit. Another big bad evil speedster. Meet Savitar, the god of speed, who only Barry can see...
So the other two story threads going on here, besides Joe West finally going on a date with that hot DA (and HR totally ruining it by running his mouth the whooooole time), are that Wally finally starts having the Alchemy dreams about his Flashpoint alternate life. It starts out pleasantly enough, in that he dreams of being a hero.

Yay! Go Kid Flash!
 And Wally and Joe argue because Wally perceives that Joe trusts his precious Barry with those powers, but not Wally himself. There's a genuinely decent story happening here, some good character development between a father and son. Moreover, I think it's relatively rare for tv to show us a black father and son and work on their relationship. I am appreciating the character development for both of these characters, although I certainly wish Iris had more to do.

That said, for all that Iris had like two scenes total in this episode, she did have one short conversation that was super important. Barry is frustrated with Wally rushing headlong into seeking his powers, and Iris puts him in his place. She points out that it's very frustrating to look around and not be superpowered, scientist, or cop who can actually do something useful in being part of this team. She herself has yet to figure out what her role should be and how she can be useful to Team Flash. Barry quickly tries to assure her that he couldn't do this without her, which while we know it's true, Iris' expression says all: I don't want to just be your emotional support.

Iris, I feel you, girl. We all want you to have a more important role in this show. You could, if the writers would just figure out what that role is.

The other important storyline in this episode is Caitlyn coming out to Cisco about her powers, and only because she was forced to admit she took his anti-meta cuffs for herself.

A brief glimpse of the future, and it looks really COOL!
At her request, Cisco vibes her and sees a future where he and Killer Frost are fighting each other. Caitlyn doesn't want to tell the team, but Cisco ends up outing her anyway, because he feels they shouldn't be keeping secrets from each other.

There's certainly a story being told here about outing people before they are comfortable being outed, but I'm not sure The Flash's writers will ever truly have the nuance capable of telling that kind of story correctly, so I'm kind of glad that the "outing" is metaphorical and that no one is actually gay here.

Regardless, Barry, as usual, makes this about himself too, feeling guilty about Caitlyn's powers because he thinks that it was his Flashpoint meddling that caused it.

I'm not sure I buy that, personally. Nothing about how Caitlyn's powers are manifesting suggests that it had anything to do with Flashpoint. Everyone who has gotten their powers "because Flashpoint" has done so through Alchemy. Jesse Quick doesn't count because she got zapped by dark matter last season and Flashpoint did not affect other Earths.

I'm inclined to think that Killer Frost was inevitable since episode one of this show, when everyone got zapped by the dark matter wave that created Flash and others. Either way, next week is a heavily Caitlyn-centric episode, plus it was directed by Kevin Smith, so I am genuinely looking forward to it.

Maybe Kevin Smith can give Iris something useful to do, too! And do we finally get a genuine Kid Flash here? When last we see him, Wally has picked up the philosopher's stone and become encased in a cocoon, presumably to emerge with his speedster powers.

See you next week!

Ivonne Martin is a writer, gamer, and avid consumer of all things geek—and is probably entirely too verbose for her own good.