Do you remember the first season of The Flash? It was fun, optimistic, and overflowing with joy. However, we slowly started to lose that in the gloomy second season. Now in season 3, the show is trying to find a nice balance between both tones — and that quest continues in the somewhat sluggish “Shade,” which features some of the lightest moments we’ve had all season before hitting us with a pulse-quickening final scene.
Since Barry returned from Flashpoint, we’ve been waiting for Alchemy to start paying Wally West’s mind a visit, and the time has finally come. Tonight’s episode opens with Wally telling Joe about the Kid-Flash-themed dreams he’s been having, which worries Joe, since this is exactly what happened to Magenta and the other Flashpoint villains who have been popping up. Needless to say, Wally is upset by his father’s lack of support.
Even though Wally and Barry have come a long way from where they began, Wally still can’t help but compare himself to his father’s other son. Wally can’t understand why Joe has no problem with Barry — who has screwed up many times — having powers and not him. It takes Joe awhile to find the words, but eventually he explains Wally reminds him of himself when he was younger: fearless and reckless. Joe is just simply concerned about what will happen if Wally gets these powers this way, which is very reasonable.
Unfortunately for Wally, Alchemy’s attacks on Wally’s mind intensify. H.R., ever the ideas man, suggests they lock up Wally in the pipeline until they can figure out how to stop Alchemy. (Yes, H.R., a white man, suggesting the imprisonment of Wally for no reason whatsoever is as awkward as it sounds). Despite Joe’s objections, Wally agrees.
Detaining Wally does give Joe a chance to go on his date with Cecil, which brings some lightness to the episode. Watching Joe have a casual conversation with Cecil, a mom, about parenting was a nice moment and made me wish the show gave Jesse L. Martin more opportunities to explore the other sides of Joe West. There’s something touching about seeing Joe find time to make a connection with someone in this crazy, absurd, metahuman-filled world. However, there’s still a cloud hanging over their date.
Part of the gloom comes from Cisco and Caitlin, who accompany Joe and Cecil (along with H.R.) to see a movie in the park. Earlier in the episode, Caitlin stole some power-dampening cuffs Cisco was working on and when Cisco noticed, she finally came clean about her powers. Worried about her future, Caitlin asks Cisco to vibe her and tell her if she turns into Killer Frost. While vibing, Cisco sees himself, in full Vibe mode, fighting Killer Frost in a forest. At first, he doesn’t tell her what he saw, but she confronts him before the movie starts because she knows he’s keeping something from her. He comes clean; the news shocks Caitlin to the core and she knows she has to leave.
There’s obviously some connection between Wally and Caitlin’s journeys. They’re both having visions of who they could be or become; Wally accepts it and wants those powers, and Caitlin is scared and would give anything to avoid that future. At this moment, I find Caitlin’s story slightly more compelling because it raises the issues of free will and predestination. Does knowing she’ll turn out evil mean she can stop herself, or is she doomed either way?
NEXT: Season 3’s other big bad makes a big entrance