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The Flash finally unmasks Savitar, but is it worth the wait?

(It’s not.)

C
Danielle Panabaker/The CW
Danielle Panabaker/The CW
C

The Flash

"I Know Who You Are"

Season 3 , Episode 20

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The big reveal The Flash has been holding back all season finally arrives with only three episodes remaining. In an unmasking that “I Know Who You Are” treats as the most dramatic, mind-blowing twist imaginable, we learn that the evil speedster Savitar is actually...Barry Allen from the future. Or at least a Barry Allen from some future. (This one has what look like burn scars on his face instead of stringy emo hair.) The way this revelation is handled, it’s as if the creative team figured there was no possible way anyone would guess, when in fact future Barry has been the leading candidate for months (at least judging from the comments here and on Twitter). Audiences are more twist-savvy than ever before, and fans have puzzled out much tougher conundrums than this in recent years, so a lighter touch with the big unveiling might have been appropriate here. Instead it plays out as unjustified self-congratulation for dragging out the big mystery for much longer than necessary.

If “I Know Who You Are” had otherwise been a strong episode, maybe this wouldn’t matter so much. Alas, it’s an hour than leans into the show’s soapy side; by the time it was over, it felt like it had been 80 percent pep talks. One major subplot involves Joe’s love life and that eternal Team Flash tendency to hold onto secrets for too long. Admittedly, when the episode started with Joe and Cecile coming back from a long run, I briefly entertained the possibility that the show was hinting she was Savitar. No such luck. She lets an “I love you’ slip and Joe goes into a panic, because he knows taking the next step with her will entail coming clean about his role in Team Flash. Naturally he decides the only solution is to break up with her, at which point Killer Frost does him a favor by kidnapping Cecile and basically forcing Joe’s hand. The moment when Joe decides to remove his wedding band works because Jesse L. Martin can sell pretty much any big emotional moment, but this is all probably just building toward Cecile getting killed in Iris’ place, right?

More emotional angst surrounds Killer Frost. Danielle Panabaker is just about the only one having any fun in this episode, but you can sense the writers’ reluctance to go all the way with Caitlin’s transformation. If Killer Frost goes on a murderous rampage, that’s a bell that can’t really be unrung in terms of turning her back into Caitlin, member in good standing of Team Flash. (It might not be a problem on Arrow, granted.) Still, Frost delivers most of the hour’s most enjoyable moments, including her swooping, swirling ride through the streets of Central City on an ice-bridge of her creating. The angst comes from Julian and Cisco sniping over what to do about her. Julian notices that Cisco fails to pull the trigger on her several times when he has the opportunity to use his vibe powers. Cisco eventually confesses that he’s worried about killing her if he can’t control the vibe (and his powers are vaguely-defined enough where I can see that might be a problem). Julian gives Cisco one of the many, many pep talks this episode has to offer, and Cisco prevails in a battle of the blue beams with Killer Frost.

The primary quest this week is to track down Tracy Brand, the theoretical physicist responsible for figuring out how to imprison Savitar in the Speed Force. Since she doesn’t do that for another four years, the present-day Tracy is a grad student whose research has fallen on deaf ears. She’s also a target of Killer Frost, who has been sent after her by Savitar, who knows everything that’s going to happen for reasons that are now abundantly clear. HR takes it upon himself to serve as her caretaker and pep-talker (he delivers the 47th version of the “believe in yourself” speech we’ve heard this season), developing a crush on her in the process. She figures out that Savitar is wearing “strange metal” to neutralize the electric charge from his lightning, and that it can be used against him to trap him in the Speed Force.

That only leaves the reveal of Savitar’s true identity, which comes when Joe’s “what would become of us without love?” musings lead present-day Barry to surmise that his arch-nemesis is a future Barry deprived of love. (There’s also the matter of remembering when Savitar said “I am the future, Flash” and realizing there wasn’t a comma in there after all.) But...if Savitar kills Iris, than isn’t he the one who deprives himself of that love? Or does killing her prevent an even worse outcome further in the future? Here’s hoping the answers turn out to be more satisfying than the long-delayed unmasking.

Stray observations

  • Wally spent the episode on Earth-3, because when you know your sister is due to be killed in a few weeks, it’s time for a booty call on a parallel world!
  • “All’s Wells That Ends Wells” is not a great title for a self-help book, HR.
  • Is Tracy seeing HR’s real face? Is he still wearing his fake face out in public, such as when having coffee at Jitter’s? Or is this something the writers are just hoping we’ve forgotten about?