“Shade” (3×06) features a slew of characters, yet it’s titular villain is put away at the end of act two. The Flash writers instead focus on developing arcs for our already established characters, like Wally West (Keiynan Lonsdale) who continues to dream about being a speedster; literally. Meanwhile, Caitlin Snow (Danielle Panabaker) finally admits to Cisco (Carlos Valdes) about her growing powers and her fear looming overhead. Finally, the mysterious Dr. Alchemy (Tobin Bell) continues to restore all that was in Flashpoint; too bad another threat may steal the limelight. Suddenly, this episode is all about the villain’s story, even Barry Allen is suspect in some crimes, “The boy has been chosen Flash, and you will not stand before what must be, ever again.”
There’s an ignorance explored in Barry’s character this season that is really intriguing to me. I mean, it’s almost like he’s forgotten the feeling of being normal. In “Rupture” (2×20), Barry feels so powerless that he agrees to recreate the particle accelerator explosion, despite the risk involved. This is very similar to Wally’s episode arc, as Dr. Alchemy begins to torture him into submission. Keiynan Lonsdale rises to the occasion as he finds himself being psychologically tortured and lured into regaining his Kid Flash powers from Dr. Alchemy. “You’re not getting your speed the same way Barry got his, you’re getting it the same way Magenta and the Rival got theirs,” argues Joe against his son’s speedster ambitions. Jesse L. Martin gracefully balances his character’s paternal instinct with fear that he’s showing favoritism for one son over another. The performance elevates the surprising conflict for a storyline everyone saw coming since “Paradox” (3×02), especially after Joe admits to trusting Barry more with these powers than Wally. An admission that will definitely cause for some future West family heartache later on this season.
This episode continues developing the Killer Frost arc, and parallels itself with Barry telling everyone about Flashpoint’s fallen hero, Kid Flash. The writers show both ends of “the chosen ones” spectrum as Caitlin suppresses her powers due to fear of what she may become, and Wally craves the speed. I have speculated about how the Killer Frost arc would drive a wedge between Barry and Caitlin, but according to Cisco it’s, “Full on Vibe vs Killer Frost, it’s like we’re meta frenemies.” I am really interested to see if the future battle shown in this episode will serve as a call back in a later episode. Over the last three seasons, The Flash writers often separate Caitlin and Cisco for a B-storyline in an episode. I appreciate that these characters have been given a much more interesting storyline than in seasons past. Even before Team Flash, Cisco and Caitlin were working at Star Labs as partners and were also friends. Too bad power can destroy even the best friendships.
Presently, all central Team Flash members are metahumans and theoretically received their respective powers in the same way; yet each have taken very different paths. This allows for the universe to continuously be expanding instead of viewers insisting that only in Central City are metahumans in the majority. In this episode, there is a very powerful WestAllen scene that embodies this human frustration, “All Wally wants to do is help people, and he has to stand by and watch you do that everyday, it’s hard being a bystander some days,” explains Iris (Candice Patton). This revelation continues the sentiments shared between Julian Albert (Tom Felton) and Barry in “Monster”(3×05). Iris West is often an underutilized character, but this season her character moments are hitting all the right feels, and not distracting viewers from the hero’s journey. During a season about the consequences of having extraordinary abilities, viewers are also learning that there’s an inadequacy felt when you have to hide behind Star Labs closed doors.
The episode concludes with our first major showdown between Flash and Dr. Alchemy. The plan quickly falls apart as we get closer to the end credits, and then suddenly we see a new speedster appear, “I am Savitar, the God of Speed,” end scene. Rewind. There’s intentional mention that Julian Albert is absent from work. During the final scene Wally does decide to take his speedster power from Dr. Alchemy; we only saw him turn into a husk, right? Another villain, another evil speedster villain, but have no fear because this one looks like a transformer. I don’t think that we should judge this villain on the poor CGI quite yet. Savitar will expand the speedforce mythology, and flesh out the differences between Gods and men with extraordinary abilities.