“Cause and Effect” is the most the lighthearted non-crossover episode of the season in a way that’s very meta. If you’ve been reading these recaps, then you know my main complaint about the season has been how dark and angsty it has been. The series addresses that issue head on in “Cause and Effect,” which, if we’re being completely honest, is a filler episode. However, it’s an enjoyable one that brings some much-needed levity.
Grant Gustin is very much the star of “Cause and Effect,” which asks him to play several different versions of Barry Allen from the moment the episode begins. And he handles it very well. His Savitar version of Barry Allen is cold, vengeful, and power hungry. Picking up where last week left off, Savitar explains to Barry how he came to be: He’s one of the time remnants that Barry creates four years in the future to fight Savitar, and Savitar let him live. After Future Team Flash defeated Savitar, they shunned the remnant, who eventually realized that “God feels no pain” and that he needed to become one by killing Iris, which would push Barry so far into the darkness that he became Savitar. If your head hurts, don’t worry; mine does too. If we didn’t know how scared Barry was, “Cause and Effect” confirms it when Barry tries to kill Savitar, which the episode definitely glosses over a bit too quickly after Savitar manages to evade being captured.
In case you didn’t catch all of that exposition in the first scene, which was nicely acted by Gustin, Cisco is here to recap it for you a second time, a storytelling tick that would be annoying in any other circumstance, but I definitely needed it. Short story shorter: It’s not clear if Savitar or the time remnant came first because of this closed-loop situation, which Cisco helpfully illustrates with a drawing on the whiteboard:
Anyway, learning that Savitar is a very pained version of Barry Allen clarifies a few things: It explains the message from Future Barry that the Legends found on the Waverider, why Caitlin trusted him so quickly, and how Savitar is always two steps ahead of them; he remembers everything. So, while Barry does some Iris-assisted brooding, Cisco comes up with a plan: Stop Barry’s brain from making new memories. Naturally, Cisco and Julian’s first attempt at dabbling with neurology goes awry, and Barry ends up losing all of his memory.
And now it’s time for us to get something else straight: Amnesiac Barry is both the best and most frustrating thing to happen to the show. Best because this Barry doesn’t have all of those painful memories, and he smiles for the first time all season. Most frustrating because we want our hero to succeed, but in this state he’s very incompetent, which leads to the release of a pyromaniac because this version of Barry isn’t able to properly testify in court to stop it from happening. But overall, Barry’s amnesia turns this into an incredibly playful hour that’s a lot of fun to watch.
I’m not the only one who loves this version of Barry. Iris does, too. Like us, this is the first time she’s seen him smile in a long time, and she’s enjoying it. It doesn’t take long for this version of Barry — who can’t believe how nerdy he is and is just goofy in all of the right ways — to fall for Iris, and once he finds out they’re engaged, he’s curious to know why they haven’t been planning the wedding. Hoping to keep this fairy tale alive a bit longer, Iris doesn’t tell him she’s supposed to die in the future. She also fails to tell him that he has superpowers and that both of his parents were murdered.
This is definitely where the episode gets a little meta, because Iris is basically a surrogate for the audience. Being around this version of Barry is great and provides a nice reprieve from the darkness of the current situation. Joe notices how much Iris is enjoying Barry and reminds her that this isn’t the real Barry Allen because his memories — both the good and the bad — make him who he is. In this case, Joe becomes a surrogate for the writers.
Unfortunately, reality ruins the current illusion. Killer Frost shows up at S.T.A.R. Labs because Savitar has lost his memory, too, which makes him useless to her. (And since Savitar has lost his memory, Wally loses his power because without his memory, he never goes through with the plan to create Kid Flash. #CauseAndEffect.) So Caitlin agrees to help Team Flash restore Barry’s memories. This brief alliance gives Cisco an opportunity to remind Killer Frost how well they used to work together, which ends up revealing what we knew already: There’s still some bit of Caitlin Snow left in there.
The need to restore Barry’s memories becomes even more important once the pyromaniac, Heat Monger (Julian is right; this name sucks), attacks an office building. By this point, Barry knows about his powers and decides that he needs to do something because he can’t just let all of those people die. Yes, Barry is still a hero even with amnesia. He runs out to the scene of the fire and is overwhelmed by what he sees.
Thankfully, Killer Frost and Cisco have finished a device that should allow them to jump-start Barry’s brain remotely — the device sends a signal to the sensors in his suit that will then electrocute him. Basically, it’s portable electroshock therapy, which SOUNDS TOTALLY SAFE, RIGHT?! But they have no other option since lives are in danger. They push the button, but it doesn’t work until Iris hops on the earpiece and reveals how Barry’s parents actually died and how she was there for him the night his parents died. (It’s actually a touching story that gave me many feels.) Barry’s memories come flooding back. That restores Savitar’s memories, too, thereby, thankfully, restoring Wally’s powers. So Kid Flash speeds out to the scene of the fire to help Barry put it out. Yes, the day is saved!
With the day saved, Barry and Iris reunite for their emotional debriefing, where Barry says that he knows he needs all of these painful memories because they push him to be a better hero. Again, this feels like the writers are attempting to defend this season’s choices, so it doesn’t entirely work, but I appreciate the attempt.
The other thing I’ve been complaining about a lot this season is how the show has handled Iris. While I appreciate that she played a bigger role in this week’s episode, the execution didn’t entirely work for me since Iris spent the entire episode worrying about Barry. Yes, I understand that Barry is the hero and lead of the show, and I’m glad that the episode revealed how Iris has been feeling about everything, but I wish it hadn’t been quite so Barry-centric. The fact that she jumps at this distraction from her impending doom makes complete sense; however, I wish the writers could’ve explored this via a story that revealed more about her, like a big story she’s pursuing. Iris is more than just Barry’s girlfriend or Joe’s daughter or Wally’s sister, and it would be great if the show would remember that.
The hour ends with HR and Tracy explaining to the group that the Speed Bazooka is finished; however, it won’t work because it requires a power source that’s stronger than even Earth’s sun. Thankfully, the episode’s stinger reveals what the power source will be: the Dominator’s mind-control crystal, which is being guarded by King Shark. Yes, I’m so excited for the return of King Shark!
Wall of Weird:
- I loved that HR and Tracy kissed in this episode. I found their entire flirty subplot incredibly charming. But I suspect that’s because I’m in the minority that has actually enjoyed HR this season.
- “I hate spin-offs,” says Cisco. God, if only he were aware of the fact that he stars on one.
- Team Flash let Killer Frost return to Savitar at the end of the episode.
- Amnesiac Barry insists on being called Bart, which is hilarious.
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