After two seasons of very little development, “The Flash” finally gives Caitlin something more to do. Ever since the show decided that the multiverse existed and went off to Earth-2, Killer Frost has proven to be intriguing. On Earth Prime and post-Flashpoint, Caitlin’s powers have emerged and the more she uses them, the more evil she becomes.
As much as I’m happy that Caitlin finally feels more three-dimensional, there were several things about the episode that didn’t feel quite right, including her inability to carry the weight of the episode. Her turn to the evil side began and was resolved too quickly. And while the episode had several good moments, the show’s refusal to explain why she’s suddenly evil (she literally tried to kill three people in this episode) is a problem.
“Killer Frost” kicks off where “Shade” left off. Barry is in a choke-hold by Savitar, who Joe still can’t see. Savitar looks more like a monster than any other villain on The Flash has before. Not unlike Zoom, Savitar takes Barry for a little tour of the city, except instead of simply running, it seems Savitar is location-hopping due to how fast he is. Cisco and Caitlin are at a loss of what to do and Iris takes charge immediately, prompting them to get a move on and save Barry before Savitar kills him. With the help of Cisco’s ability to vibe to Barry’s location, Caitlin uses her power to freeze Savitar. For a second anyway. He breaks free and gets away before anyone can blink.
You keep messing with everyone’s lives, wrecking everything, and we’re left behind to pick up the pieces from your mistakes. Some things you break can’t be put back together.
After this, Caitlin quickly (so quickly that I believed her sharp turn to the dark side was a shapeshifter pretending to be her) finds her way to the precinct to interrogate one of Savitar’s acolytes. Her goal is to track down Alchemy so he can take her powers away just as easily as he bestows them on others. For all the reasons Wally wants powers to be able to help people, Caitlin is the opposite in that she doesn’t want to use them at all. Instead, she’s terrified of becoming a villain that she’s only ever been told about.
The show could have had a throwaway line about how the cold powers affect her heart and brain, wiping away any trace of goodness that Caitlin has. But the show would rather have us believe that everything Caitlin says under the influence, so to speak, was all Killer Frost and only Killer Frost. I think that what was said was all Caitlin hidden under layers upon layers of never really being able to bring voice to any of it. All her anger at Barry, her situation, her need for a quick fix, and sudden attempts at murder screamed repressed emotions and not some dual personality. Some of these things came to the forefront because of her powers and didn’t just manifest out of nowhere, as the show would have us believe. This is lazy writing in that it gives Caitlin an out and the blame goes to her new powers instead of letting her acknowledge how she’s really feeling. With that said, “The Flash” will sweep it under the rug until it’s time for Caitlin to go full Killer Frost. This show isn’t subtle and when it drops hints about something that will happen, we know that “The Flash” tends to go through with it.
To prevent her from trying to hurt anyone else, Team Flash locks her in the pipeline, but not before damaging words have been spoken. Through Caitlin, Cisco finds out that Dante was alive pre-Flashpoint and the tension between him and Barry is now at an all-time high. The repercussions of Flashpoint are still eating away at Barry. The weight of Caitlin’s words (some truthful, others spiteful) and situation, combined with Cisco’s resentment and Wally’s post-Alchemy predicament, bring all his guilt to the forefront.
Barry: Why didn’t I just follow you inside the house?
Iris: Because you were hurting. You would do anything to make the pain go away. That’s why Caitlin is so lost. And Cisco. We will do anything to make the pain stop. That doesn’t make you a bad person. That makes you human.
A lot of it is valid, but as Iris reminds him, the damage is done, his actions were human, and that he isn’t a god. After all, who’s to say that Dante wouldn’t have died or that Caitlin didn’t already have powers pre-Flashpoint? All logical points, and since at least Barry isn’t without remorse regarding what he did, it was nice to see someone who wasn’t busy stockpiling more onto his shoulders. There’s only so much guilt and darkness one episode can hold and it almost felt like the entire episode was set up to tell us just how much Barry messed up, which is something we already know.
Interestingly enough, the power of Killer Frost was stopped by the power of friendship, even though Caitlin herself talked about her altered DNA. The storyline ended so abruptly that it felt entirely mishandled. One of my frustrations with the episode is that Cisco wasn’t the one to talk Caitlin down. Although they’re both friends with Barry, the show has shown us time and again that they have always been closer to each other. By making Cisco and Caitlin turn against Barry, and in trying to bring Caitlin back to the good side, the show lost the opportunity for Cisco to lead in a situation where it would have made sense to do so. Just like on Earth-2, where he talked Killer Frost down, Cisco could have done the same here by highlighting the reasons of why/how she isn’t evil since he knows her best.
Having said that, now that Caitlin is back to being just Caitlin, how long will it take for her to acknowledge what she did, if at all? And how long before she, like one of the acolytes mentioned, joins Alchemy and Savitar? More intriguing than anything is the shift in dynamic of Team Flash, primarily with Cisco and Caitlin. The show is pushing a wedge between their friendships with Barry and it’ll be interesting to see if the show will continue to explore this or try its hardest to revert back to the way things were. I’m glad that the show hasn’t forgotten Cisco’s anger (which is now more ever-present) after new information about Dante was revealed and I hope they don’t just sweep what Caitlin said under the rug, either. Perhaps this will move the show away from being so S.T.A.R. Labs-focused and force Barry to rely on himself and his own intelligence more.
Elsewhere in the episode, Wally is hibernating in a cocoon after having touched Alchemy’s stone. Joe is frustrated that the team can’t figure out what to do or how to help him. He and H.R. have a heart-to-heart and H.R. tells Joe to trust his gut. In the end, Joe finds a way to break Wally from his cocoon, but they’re quick to discover that whatever the hibernation entailed, Wally wasn’t done transforming. Of course, they find a way to stabilize him and it was exciting to finally see him with powers after he’s pined for them for so long. Wally was filled with such joy, but how fast he’ll suit up and start zipping through Central City is still unknown.
On the Alchemy side of things, it was revealed that Julian (so surprising, please note the sarcasm) is Doctor Alchemy and was serving Savitar. Since the reveal comes so early on in the season, there’s something more that will come of it, I’m sure. Especially since Julian never misses a day of work and so far, he’s only missed one. Is someone else also serving Savitar while wearing the same mask? Does the new detective in town have anything to do with it?
Barry’s real superpower isn’t speed. It’s hope. Kid’s got an endless reservoir. Believes everything’s gonna work out.
Kevin Smith directed “Killer Frost” and he really does a good job in this genre. His last episode, “The Runaway Dinosaur,” didn’t have that much action in it, but this episode was full of it and he does a good job in making it as thrilling as possible. The lighting and setup in the episode were well done as well, with the most beautiful shots of the episode going to the scene in the speed lab. Danielle Panabaker did a decent job with the changes to her character. Being evil suits her and she does a far better job with this material than with what she’s usually given. However, her acting still isn’t at the same level as the rest of the cast and it’s the most clear in instances like this where she has to carry an episode and can’t. Her scenes could have been elevated by interacting more with Cisco, who always brings out the best in her, but it was a missed opportunity on the show’s part.
Ultimately, “Killer Frost” wasn’t as dynamic as expected and the entire storyline was done a disservice in the attempt to bring it about and wrap it up too quickly. I’m glad Caitlin got more to do, but the show shouldn’t have ignored most of the other characters in this episode. If “The Flash” is going to eventually turn Caitlin completely, it’d be nice for the writers to actually acknowledge why she’s turning evil to begin with. Otherwise, everything in this episode, from the sudden change to her being evil and back, feels like a complete cop-out. Having been promised a lighter tone this season, let’s hope that “The Flash” doesn’t get way too dark.
Next week, Team Flash and the rest of the Arrowverse have to contend with aliens!
- I loved Joe’s “I don’t know science” speech. Paired with Iris’ comments last week gives me hope that the show will actually tackle the “you don’t have to have superpowers” to be a hero storyline.
- I’m still bitter that Cisco wasn’t the one trying to reason with Caitlin.
- Julian tells Barry that his moral compass is broken. I get it. Barry isn’t all that great at his job because he’s never at his job and if this was real life, we’d want members of the police force to be held accountable for their actions, but Julian is also a hypocrite. He’s using blackmail, after all.
- Loved the little bit of lightning we saw as Barry exits his lab. It was a nice touch and callback to when he was struck through that same ceiling in the pilot.
- Ask me now and I can’t tell you the reason Caitlin kidnaps Julian.
- I understand that Cisco lost his brother and finding out he was alive pre-Flashpoint is cause for him to be angry with Barry, but I wonder if he’s more angry that they weren’t that close and then died before they got that chance.
- Savitar still looks like a monstrous Transformer. Is he actually human or a part of the speed force?
- Wally is Kid Flash. I’m really happy for him. And for the team-up that will come of this.
- I wonder if Iris will investigate Julian now that she’s pissed that he forced Barry out of his job. This is a thing I didn’t realize I needed to see until after I wrote this sentence. It’s a great way to tie in her journalism with the season’s arc.
- It has been confirmed that Wally is a butterfly. Thank you, strange cocoon!
- H.R. gives helpful and thoughtful advice. Who would have thought?
- Joe kind of scared me in the interrogation room.
- I did legitimately believe that someone else was posing as Caitlin when she told Joe that Wally had woken up to get him to leave CCPD. Everything she did after that was… cold. I had to say that after realizing the whole review went without a cold joke. Who am I?
- I do like it when Caitlin does the little head-tilt thing when she’s saying something as Killer Frost. It always look menacing.
- So, now that Barry is jobless and probably without a home again (living with Cisco would be weird after this), does this mean he and Iris will move in together soon? My theory that this will happen in episode nine still stands.
- Wally is also faster than Barry was when he first got his powers. So, that makes him, Savitar, Reverse-Flash, and Zoom faster than “the fastest man alive.” Looks like Barry might have to change his title.
- Does Caitlin’s hair color now change at will?
Ultimately, "Killer Frost" wasn't as dynamic as expected and the entire storyline was done a disservice in the attempt to bring it about and wrap it up too quickly.