Kevin Smith makes a more-than-welcomed return in tonight’s episode, which he directed. In case you forgot, Smith directed season 2’s best episode, “The Runaway Dinosaur,” a pathos-filled hour that demonstrated he knew how to nail the show’s earnest tone. And, in “Killer Frost,” Smith hits those emotional beats again, eliciting some of the cast’s best performances. However, it’s a shame that this episode isn’t nearly as uplifting as “Runaway Dinosaur” and at times seems to continue this season’s spiral into the depressing abyss. (However, there is one moment at the end that points toward lighter moments to come).
The episode picks up where we left off with Savitar clutching Barry by the neck. In a very Zoom-like move, Savitar, who believes he’s a god, demonstrates he’s more powerful than Barry by rushing him around the city. Barry is clearly weaker than him. Thankfully, Cisco and Caitlin show up, via a portal created by Cisco, to save Barry. Even though she can’t see him, Caitlin uses her powers to freeze Savitar in his place. He quickly breaks free, but flees rather than continue his rampage.
Joe is worried sick about Wally, who is still trapped in that cocoon. Instead of sitting around and listening to Team Flash’s assurances that everything is going to be alright, he returns to the precinct to interrogate the Alchemy acolyte they apprehended at the scene. In his desperation to find answers, Joe gets physical with the suspect and only relents when Caitlin shows up and lies that Wally has woken up. Joe rushes back to the lab to see him while Caitlin questions him about Alchemy’s whereabouts because she wants him to remove her powers. Unfortunately, the police hear the suspect’s screams and come running in. As Caitlin makes her escape, she runs into Julian and kidnaps him.
If it wasn’t clear, Caitlin has gone off the deep end. She threatens to give Julian more than frostbite if he doesn’t run a fancy Google search to find more of Alchemy’s followers. With Cisco and H.R.’s help, The Flash tracks her down, but Caitlin has been on the other side of The Flash’s calming talks and won’t let Barry talk her down. Instead, she brings up his failures, revealing to Cisco, who is listening, that Dante was alive in the pre-Flashpoint timeline. The police show up guns blazing, but The Flash saves her from their bullets. However, Caitlin repays the favor by injuring him with an icicle and warning him not to follow her.
Obviously, Cisco is pretty upset about, and he can barely look at Barry. He tells him to stay at STAR Labs to heal while he, H.R., and Joe go after the two Alchemy followers that Julian found.
H.R. and Joe end up being paired together on the stakeout, which leads to an interesting scene between the two of them. It turns out H.R. isn’t totally an idiot, and he reminds Joe that Barry’s superpower isn’t super speed. It’s the fact that he never loses hope, even in the darkest situations. Joe’s gut tells him they’re wrong about that this time.
As you could’ve expected, Caitlin shows up at the home that Cisco was staking out. When she confronts the Alchemy follower, he tells her that Savitar has shown them all the future and that Killer Frost has a “glorious” position in it. Cisco interrupts their conversation, and Caitlin heads into the street to fight him. The Flash shows up, but ends up being pretty useless because he’s still injured — Cisco uses his Vibe powers to take Caitlin out. Watching Cisco and Caitlin fight might be the least fun I’ve had watching this show ever.
The team sticks Caitlin, who keeps threatening to hurt them each time she opens her mouth, into the pipeline. It’s a heartbreaking moment that highlights Team Flash’s chaos. But at the same time: Why exactly did Caitlin have such a personality change? Yes, I get that she’s desperate to get rid of her powers, but I don’t buy that leading to such a drastic change, especially since she knows Team Flash could help her. As far as I can remember, the show has never shown that this Earth’s Caitlin could be malicious like this, which makes all of this feel out of character. It feels like the show is saying that having powers simply turns most people evil. That’s pretty depressing and cynical for a show that we all praised for its optimism.
NEXT: Alchemy’s identity is revealed [pagebreak]
Caitlin’s snide comments about Barry’s failures send him into brooding mode, which means it’s up to Iris to cheer him up and remind him that he’s not god and all of this isn’t his fault. Her words get through to him, and he repeats that he couldn’t do this without her — which, if you think about it, is a little condescending. Iris has more to contribute than giving Barry pep talks, and I wish the show would let her do more.
Anyway, their conversation is interrupted because of a power surge caused by Joe deciding to break Wally out of the cocoon (he was worried about his son getting powers and becoming like Caitlin). Wally emerges from it vibrating uncontrollably and disappears. The team realizes that they’re going to need Caitlin’s help to get him back, so Barry makes one last-ditch effort to talk some sense into her. He frees Caitlin and tells her to kill him. Obviously, she can’t bring herself to, becomes herself again, and falls into his arms crying.
Caitlin immediately jumps into doctor mode and figures out that Wally’s body wasn’t finished reforming itself and now his mind and body are moving at different speeds. She creates a serum to help fix that. Joe figures out that Wally might be at his old home in Keystone, so they go there and inject him with it, saving the day.
The next day, Wally is fully recovered and running around the speed lab, enjoying his newfound powers. The joy that Wally’s powers bring him is this show in a nutshell: It highlights the thrill of being able to finally help people. While these powers are a huge responsibility, they aren’t a burden. I just wish this episode had contained more joyful scenes like this one.
The hospital notifies Joe that Julian has woken up. So, Barry heads off to convince him not to turn Caitlin in. Julian agrees, but only on the condition that Barry quit the force — Julian can’t stand working with someone who puts friendship over justice. (He has no idea that Barry’s loyalty and faith in people’s ability to overcome their demons is what makes him an incredibly just hero.) Being the good guy that he is, Barry agrees to the terms and packs his stuff. It’s a move that impresses both Joe and Iris.
The episode ends with the moment many people saw coming: Savitar pays Julian a visit and beckons to him to become his prophet once more — and by prophet, I mean Doctor Alchemy. I’m glad the show went where we were expecting and didn’t try any fancy business. (Part of me was worried Cecile would turn out to be Alchemy).
Overall, this was a strong episode, and the cast definitely nailed the most important and emotional beats. Danielle Panabaker and Carlos Valdes were particularly strong, especially Valdes in his final scene with Barry when he tells him that he’s not sure they will ever be alright again. My other favorite moment of the episode was when Cisco cut Caitlin’s apology off with a hug, which was quite touching. That being said, I’m still hung up on how Caitlin went from the Caitlin we knew to this evil being.
I’ll admit Team Flash was due for some intra-team discord, but I’m not sure I like the way the show has arrived at this point. It has taken the characters to such a dark place it might be hard to return. The thing that made The Flash such a hit when it first appeared was the respite from the Sturm und Dang of DC’s Cinematic Universe and, frankly, of the comics. Now, The Flash seems stuck in a dark rut akin to the one DC Comics was stuck in post-Flashpoint reboot. Hopefully, next week’s mega crossover will help course correct the season.