Tuesday, May 9, 2017

"Cause And Effect" Diverts From The Threat Of Savitar For An Amnesia-Filled Love Episode Of The Flash!

The Good: Decent performances, Good special effects, Interesting character interactions
The Bad: Ultimately simple plot, Killer Frost's subplot is very unsatisfying.
The Basics: The Flash makes a satisfying, but contrived, amnesia episode with "Cause And Effect."

By the time "Cause And Effect" comes up in the third season of The Flash, you've either been watching or you haven't. But given that the Big Bad of the third season of The Flash was finally revealed in "I Know Who You Are" (reviewed here!), it is impossible to talk about "Cause And Effect" without references to the episode that preceded it. "Cause And Effect" very naturally deals with Barry Allen wrestling with figuring out Savitar's mundane identity and working yet again to change the future by stopping Savitar.

"Cause And Effect" finds the heroes wrestling with the threat of Savitar that is looming above Iris West and the immediate threat of Killer Frost. The plot cards are stacked for the resolution to the Savitar arc as Dr. Tracy Brand has come into the narrative and she is known to be the person who ultimately allows The Flash to defeat Savitar. So, "Cause And Effect" begins with bearing the burden of starting to explain in a satisfying way just how Barry Allen developed into Savitar. And "Cause And Effect" pretty instantly explains the nature of Savitar.

Barry Allen confronts the burned version of himself, who has stepped out of the Savitar suit, and recognizes him as a temporal remnant. The Savitar version of Barry Allen reveals that Barry attempted - much like he did with Zoom - to create temporal remnants to set against Savitar and one was left alive . . . in order to eventually become Savitar. Returning to S.T.A.R. Labs, Barry reveals Savitar's identity to his team and Wally worries that the temporal remnant has no reason to go after Iris or the rest of the team. Cisco decides that the best way to defeat Savitar is to prevent Barry from making new memories - thus preventing Savitar from having the memories that Barry is making in his quest to stop Savitar.

Unfortunately, the procedure goes horribly wrong and Barry loses much of his long-term memory. Iris talks down the freaking-out memoryless Barry, while Joe freaks out on Cisco. When D.A. Horton needs Barry for something at the CCPD, Iris and Joe take Barry to her. Horton needs Barry to testify in an arson case that Allen was the C.S.I. on. At S.T.A.R. Labs, H.R. and Dr. Brand bond over coffee while trying to figure out the new Speed Force Bazooka. Killer Frost is unsettled when she discovers that Savitar has lost his memory. Julian Albert and Cisco Ramon attempt to use technology to feed Barry information on the stand, but it goes very wrong for him. The S.T.A.R. Labs team gets unlikely aid from Killer Frost in getting Wally's speed back and restoring Barry Allen's memory. When Heat Monger attacks, Barry leaps into heroic action . . . even though he is not sure of exactly how to do what The Flash does!

"Cause And Effect" does more than simply explain the nature of Savitar. Barry Allen moralizes about all of the times he has wanted to repay the violence he encounters with further violence and that creates an interesting philosophical moment for Barry. Barry is now able to see exactly what happens when he steps over the line and seeing what he could become horrifies and saddens him.

When the episode moves into Barry Allen as amnesiac, "Cause And Effect" actually provides the viewer with the first truly substantive romantic episode for Barry and Iris of the third season. For the first time in an very long time, Candice Patton and Grant Gustin are able to illustrate their amazing on-screen chemistry. Patton is able to play Iris as very organically falling in love with Barry Allen in a way the show has not devoted real time to in the past. Recalling previous experiences together, Iris and amnesiac Barry begin to actually bond again and it is incredibly satisfying to watch in "Cause And Effect." Seeing Barry happy actually causes a fairly compelling conflict for Iris.

In a similar vein, when Killer Frost comes into the picture at S.T.A.R. Labs, Cisco attempts to revive Dr. Snow's good memories. In "Cause And Effect," Killer Frost insinuates that Savitar has something she wants. Until Killer Frost mentions that, Ramon's attempts to make Dr. Snow resurface seem reasonable and good. In fact, Ramon's calm conversation with Killer Frost, especially with Dr. Albert present and contributing makes Snow's failure to revert frustrating to watch. In fact, it is only in the rejection Killer Frost makes of the S.T.A.R. Labs team that hints at why Killer Frost would actually remain Frost instead of revert to Dr. Snow and, given the amount of time since Ronnie Raymond's death, it feels particularly unsatisfying and contrived.

Ultimately, "Cause And Effect" is a simple episode and the Barry and Iris moments save the average episode from being something less-than, but even in the episode's climax, attentive viewers are left with one nagging question that makes the Savitar arc feel inherently frustrating. Barry Allen was willing to go to the future to get information and in "Cause And Effect," Dr. Brand manages - with H.R.'s inspirational aid - to make a grand technological leap forward. But when "Cause And Effect" sets up one incredibly contrived solution to the problem, viewers are left wondering about the unasked contrivance; why doesn't The Flash just steal Dr. Brand's Speed Force Bazooka from the future?!

As such, "Cause And Effect" is enough to make viewers remember how they ever fell in love with The Flash . . . and then mortgage that by making us recall just what made us come to be indifferent to the convoluted problems faced by the S.T.A.R. Labs team.

For other episodes of The Flash with Tobin Bell, please visit my review of:
"Killer Frost"
"The Present"
"The Wrath Of Savitar"
"Into The Speed Force"
"The Once And Future Flash"

[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into The Flash - The Complete Third Season on DVD or Blu-Ray, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the third season here!


For other television 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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