Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Savitar's Identity Is Teased In "Abra Kadabra"


The Good: Good performances, Engaging plot, Decent character moments
The Bad: Important moral questions are ignored, A few moments of melodrama.
The Basics: The Flash tap dances around the identity of Savitar in "Abra Kadabra," which manages to be surprisingly satisfying for such a tease!


Every year on The Flash, the heroic speedster gets menaced by a villainous speedster. After a good start in its first season, The Flash has devolved into a pretty formulaic television show. The Flash and his team of allies encounter a number of metahumans over the course of a season while trying to foil the Speedster Of The Year. For the third season, the Speedster is Savitar and viewers have been waiting to find out who Savitar is, given that The Flash has a well-established precedent of having the Speedter Of The Year be a known quantity from the show. Viewers were teased with the mundane identity of Savitar being revealed in "Abra Kadabra."

"Abra Kadabra" was preceded by "Duet" (reviewed here!) and it is impossible to discuss the new episode without some references as to where the prior episode went. Given that "Duet" climaxed with Barry proposing again to Iris, "Abra Kadabra" has some sweet character momentum coming into it.

Security guards at Stagg Industries are talking when they encounter a metahuman who utilizes almost magical abilities when he kills them. The next morning, Barry and Iris have breakfast with Joe and D.A. Horton to tell them about how Barry proposed to Iris. Cecile offers Barry and Iris tickets to Hamilton in July, after Barry has foreseen Iris being killed by Savitar. Cisco vibes the future in which Iris is killed, while tensions between Snow and Albert rise over Snow's past lies. Barry tracks the metahuman to Kord Industries, where he is surprised when the metahuman has intimate knowledge of his identity and his struggle with Savitar.

Gypsy arrives from Earth-19 and tells the S.T.A.R. Labs team that the metahuman is Abra Kadabra and he is from the 64th Century. After failing to apprehend the metahuman, Abra Kadabra appears at S.T.A.R. Labs where he terrorizes Joe West, Julian Albert, and Dr. Snow. When The Flash arrives, Abra Kadabra claims he knows Savitar's identity and will tell him the secret of Savitar's identity in exchange for his freedom. While Gypsy wants to take Abra Kadabra back to Earth-19, Barry and his team intend to get information from him first. When Joe attempts to get the truth from Abra Kadabra, the time-traveler escapes and steals something from Dr. Wells's time vault. In the ensuing escape, Dr. Snow is mortally wounded. Rather than risk turning into Killer Frost, Dr. Snow turns to Albert to save her life.

It is actually fairly refreshing to see the universe of The Flash get smaller through allusions to prior big players in Central City. Stagg Industries being the site of the murder that starts the Central City Police Department's investigation is a nice callback to the first season of The Flash. The reference to Stagg Industries is balanced against a visit to Kord Industries, but the Blue Beetle does not enter the DC Comics Television Universe in "Abra Kadabra."

At the other end of the spectrum, "Abra Kadabra" - like Supergirl before it - makes a reference to Hamilton and it seems like a desperate reach for The Flash to make a cool, hip, reference.

"Abra Kadabra" has an entire character thread that has Cisco hitting pretty heavily on Gypsy. Gypsy is determined to bring Abra Kadabra back to Earth-19 because he is a killer and it becomes clear pretty early on that he killed someone Gypsy cares about. "Abra Kadabra" has a pretty clear moral dilemma as Gypsy is collecting a bounty that carries a death sentence with it. Throughout The Flash, characters have moralized over the potential of killing a villain; in "Abra Kadabra," the S.T.A.R. Labs team seems to pretty much accept that Abra Kadabra can die without much reflection on the fact that Gypsy is ready to have him put to death. While the episode spends a lot of time debating setting Abra Kadabra free in exchange for the information which will save Iris's life, it does not spend real time debating that turning Abra Kadabra over to Gypsy is a death sentence.

There is something tremendously disappointing about "Abra Kadabra" on the production level. While it is delightful that Joe West takes steps to do whatever he can to save Iris's life by having him interrogate Abra Kadabra, the episode is notably lacking in H.R. Wells. Wells does not appear in "Abra Kadabra" for no storytelling reason; Tom Cavanaugh's The Flash directoral debut is next week and, like most directors, Cavanaugh needed a week prep time (usually they take a week for post-production work as well). For a change, Wells actually could have been of use in figuring out what Abra Kadabra was up to before it became apparent. While Cavanaugh shows up for the episode's final scene, he is noticeably absent the rest of the episode in an unsatisfying way.

The performances in "Abra Kadabra" are good, with Jesse L. Martin finally getting an amazing part to play on The Flash again. Martin plays Joe West as a father desperate to save his daughter's life and strong enough to do whatever has to be done. Jesse Camacho does a decent job of fleshing out Gypsy as well, but Martin steals every scene he is in.

"Abra Kadabra" had all of the elements needed to be a painfully formulaic episode of The Flash, but instead it managed to do what many of the recent episodes have failed to; it gets the viewer to entirely reinvest in the core characters of The Flash and the circumstances in which they find themselves.

For other works with David Dastmalchian, please visit my reviews of:
Ant Man
The Dark Knight

7.5/10

For other television episode and season reviews, please visit my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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