‘The Flash’ 3×21 Review: ‘Cause and Effect’

The expression, “Don’t fix what’s not broken” is one that can apply to a lot of things. It can apply to household appliances. It can apply to sports organizations. It can apply to relationships. And it most certainly applies to television shows that have a recognizable tone that has defined it for three years.

Back when The CW universe existed of just Arrow and The Flash, there was a healthy balance and difference between the two. Arrow was the darker, more serious show that thrived in high stakes and darkness. The Flash was the lighthearted, optimistic show that thrived in its ability to delight even in the face of the most serious storylines.

Somewhere along the way this season, The Flash lost that tone that distinguished it from the bulk of superhero shows.

That’s not to say that The Flash lost itself entirely. But there was something that has clearly been missing from the start of this rocky third season that we finally got back in “Cause and Effect.” That lighthearted nature that has characterized The Flash and its titular hero for three years.

As Team Flash tried to find a way to get ahead of Savitar, they accidentally wiped Barry’s memory clean. And I’ll be damned if that wasn’t the best thing that happened to this episode.

It’s not to say that other superhero shows have a monopoly on dark tones, but from the very beginning The Flash has presented itself as the superhero show that had more fun than, say, an Arrow. And it boils down to the hero.

So, while I haven’t been a fan of this darker tone this season, it certainly reflects the nature of its hero. Barry Allen is someone we associate with hope and optimism. But events from last season and the weight of Iris’ potential downfall have affected Barry in a profound way. This is the picture of a hero that has darkness weighing down upon him just waiting for his back to give way. It’s not the hero we’ve recognized, but it’s certainly reflective of his current circumstance.

“Cause and Effect” was the perfect episode to bring back that tone in a season where it’s not only been absent but wouldn’t make sense given the severity of the circumstances. This episode progressed several storylines while also managing to go old school with the tonal shift given the circumstances of the episode. It was brilliant and reminded me how great this show is when it’s thriving in that light.

This episode had it all: thrill, humor, heart, and the best one-liners from Barry Allen, which made me realize how much I’ve missed Grant Gustin’s comedic timing at play. While you could call this a filler episode in some regard, this was an episode that I feel like the show needed to remind us of where it came from and hopefully where it’ll return home to next season.

As The Flash winds down its darkest season to date, here’s to hoping that it can find that light and optimism that made it a force to be reckoned with from the start. Give us the serious stuff, yes, but also honor the foundation that this show sits upon.

Let’s break this down:

The Flash — “Cause and Effect” — FLA321b_0190b.jpg — Pictured (L-R): Keiynan Lonsdale as Kid Flash, Grant Gustin as The Flash and Jesse L. Martin as Detective Joe West — Photo: Katie Yu/The CW — © 2017 The CW Network, LLC. All rights reserved.

Cause and Effect

This episode was oh so perfectly titled “Cause and Effect” for multiple reasons. Not only did it illustrate what happens when you mess with the human brain, but it also showed us the significant impact Barry’s decisions have on the world and the lives around him.

Following last week’s reveal that Savitar is Future Barry, we were left wondering: How? Also, why? Turns out, Savitar is the creation of – drum roll please – one Barry Allen courtesy of Flashpoint. Seriously, that damn storyline is never going to stop biting us in the ass.

Cause: Barry creating Flashpoint.

Effect: EVERYTHING THAT HAS GONE WRONG THIS SEASON.

So basically, as I’ve been saying all season, the whole reason that they’re in this Savitar mess and that Iris’ life is in danger is because Barry was selfish enough to go back in time and create an alternate timeline that created a killer villain that knows Barry better than he knows himself. Way to kick a man when he’s down. But, let’s be honest, Barry deserves that this season.

This whole idea of cause and effect is something that our Team Flash took into consideration. Savitar has been one step ahead because he has all of Barry’s memories – because he’s already lived them, including the ones that have yet to happen. So how do you get ahead of a villain like that? Prevent Barry from creating new memories, of course. I mean…what?

Cisco and Julian figured out a way to get ahead of Savitar from preventing Barry from maintaining any new memories, which would therefore keep Savitar in the dark. Only their plan worked a little too well…or bad.

Cause: Barry’s memory was wiped clean.

Effect: Savitar’s memory was also wiped clean.

Effect: Wally never got his speed.

Effect: There weren’t any Flashes to protect Central City.

Effect: A dangerous villain nearly burned a building to the ground.

Basically, wiping Barry’s memory – accidentally – ended up having a plethora of effects – seen and unseen – that were both good and bad. But they weren’t worth it.

Cause: Barry’s memory was restored.

Effect: Savitar’s memory was also restored and his evil intentions still threatening.

You can’t blame Team Flash for trying. They’re fighting a villain wearing the face of their friend, who knows them all inside and out, and who is always one step ahead of them. They’re trying something, anything to level the playing field. Well, onto the next one.

The Flash — “Cause and Effect” — FLA321b_0281b.jpg — Pictured: Candice Patton as Iris West — Photo: Katie Yu/The CW — © 2017 The CW Network, LLC. All rights reserved.

The Pain is Worth the Good Moments

With The Flash making Savitar a future version of Barry Allen, they’re created an intriguing parallel between the two Barrys. Our Barry is someone that has experienced heartbreak but has managed to maintain his soul thanks to the amazing people in his life. Future Barry is someone who has also experienced heartbreak but gave into his need to just wreak havoc wherever he goes.

Barry and Savitar are so similar. But they’re also so different. That hasn’t stopped Barry from seeing himself in Savitar. That pain that Savitar carries. That’s the same pain he felt watching his parents die. Savitar comes from loss, directly from losing Iris.

When Cisco and Julian accidentally wiped Barry’s memory clean, we were presented a happy go-lucky Barry Allen without a care in the world. A Barry Allen who hadn’t experienced tragedy. A Barry Allen that wasn’t real.

This Barry Allen was smiling without the weight of the world on his shoulders. It was infectious and somewhat comforting to watch. But was it really worth it? Was it worth watching Barry be happy if he wasn’t actually Barry?

“You didn’t fall in love with the Flash. You fell in love with Barry Allen.”

It was so easy for Iris to get lost in the potential of this Barry Allen. A Barry Allen that wasn’t hyper focused on saving her life, who cared only about being with her. Anyone would get lost in that. He looked like Barry and talked like Barry. But he wasn’t Barry. He didn’t have the 28 years of memories that shaped the man that she fell in love with.

Then there was the other side of the equation: Barry’s memory being wiped also resulted in Savitar’s memory being wiped which would result in Iris’ life being saved. Was Team Flash willing to sacrifice that to prevent Savitar from existing?

But without Barry Allen, there’s no Flash. Without Barry Allen, there’s no Team Flash. Without Barry Allen, the people of Central City are left helpless to defend themselves against the numerous criminals that have made their way there. Was it worth it? Hell no, it wasn’t.

As Iris struggled with this, she tried to justify it as Barry getting to live the life he was meant to. A life where tragedy didn’t mar his life. It was better to experience good than bad. Right?

“For every bad memory there is a good one to get you through it.”

Life isn’t easy. In fact, it’s freaking hard. But everyone has to live it. While there are far more bad things in this world than good, Iris made a damn good point in her inspiring speech that woke Barry Allen from his amnesia.

Yes, there are bad moments. But for every bad moment there’s a good one that will help you get past it. It’s about not getting lost in the darkness. If you get lost in the darkness, your eyes aren’t open to see the light that succeeds it.

And that’s the difference between Barry and Savitar. Barry has experienced an insufferable amount of pain. But he’s never let it overtake him. He’s always focused on the good in his life to overcome it. But Savitar is so hung up on the darkness that he never opened his eyes to the possibility of light.

The Flash — “Cause and Effect” — FLA321a_0085b2.jpg — Pictured (L-R): Keiynan Lonsdale as Wally West, Danielle Panabaker as Killer Frost and Tom Felton as Julian Albert — Photo: Jeff Weddell /The CW — © 2017 The CW Network, LLC. All rights reserved.

The Key to Melting Killer Frost’s Icy Heart

While saving Iris’ life continues to be the focal point as we wind down this third season, another storyline that is prevalent is the future of Caitlin Snow. Right now, she’s trancing around as her deadly alter ego Killer Frost as she threatens to overtake Caitlin completely. Although, I’m still confused as to how Caitlin getting powers made her evil. Was it because Killer Frost’s chill froze her heart or something? If that’s it at least tell us. Cause right now, I have no idea why. I’m still holding out for an explanation.

Anyway, Killer Frost is the epitome of an evil Caitlin, using her memories against her friends in a way that makes her as deadly as it does downright mean. But those emotions finally turned on her as she teamed up with Team Flash to get Barry and Savitar back.

As Cisco, Julian, and Killer Frost were working on something very scientific and hard to pronounce yet alone explain, Cisco took a trip down memory lane that ended up showing us one of the most important revelations of this episode: Caitlin Snow is still alive.

Cisco recounted a memory with him, Caitlin, and Ronnie as they were working on the particle accelerator. It was a funny moment that had Cisco speaking lively and with his hands, and it was a moment that held a lot of merit, so much so you could see it in Killer Frost’s eyes. It was almost as if you could see the key to melting that icy heart of hers.

Love.

Killer Frost, much like Savitar, is created by loss. For Caitlin, that’s the loss of Ronnie, Jay, and even her childhood. So how do you fight hatred? With love. The key to breaking through to Caitlin before she’s lost forever is conveying that love in a way that Killer Frost can truly believe it. And we nearly saw Cisco be successful in that attempt. Which shows that a) Saving Caitlin will rely on thawing Killer Frost’s chilly heart with love, and b) Cisco is most likely going to be the one to do it.

Five Things

  1. I’ve missed THIS Flash – the one where it’s lighthearted and humorous while also maintaining some semblance of seriousness. It feels like The Flash has been trying to embrace its inner Arrow this season with Barry essentially living in darkness. But Barry thrives in the light. Don’t forget that.
  2. How is it that Barry has made villains sound sane when compared to him this season? As Future Barry/Savitar taunted Barry, he was dishing out some serious truth tea about Barry being responsible for him in the first place – how he “played God” with Flashpoint and how the more you mess with time travel the less the rules apply to you, thus you’re not going to stop messing with it.
  3. “Bartholomew Henry Allen…that’s not a good name.” I cannot tell you how much I’ve missed this side of Grant Gustin’s portrayal of Barry Allen. The one-liners that are so simplistic yet leave me cackling for a good while.
  4. Iris telling Barry that story of how she let him cry in her lap as a child the night that his mother was killed…STILL CRYING HERE. Just when I think I cannot fall more in love with these two and their beautiful relationship. It also reminded Iris that it’s not necessarily about being completely happy and carefree as it’s about being happy alongside the bad with someone you love.
  5. Caitlin Snow is not dead yet! That’s the fear as we wind down the season. When comes the moment when Caitlin is lost to them forever? With them wiping Barry’s memory, is this something new for Caitlin that might help thaw her icy heart? Love. That’s the key. Always.

The Flash airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on The CW.

Alyssa Barbieri

Senior Managing Editor

Teacher by day, writer by every other free moment. Obsessed with sports, TV, books, movies, and superheroes. Proud shipper and supporter of strong female characters. TV Editor and Sports Editor. I write about DCTV, This Is Us and so much more.
Contact: alyssa@fangirlish.com.

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