“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

The famous Arthur C. Clarke line that’s quoted in this week’s episode explains the remarkable stage-magician-like feats performed by villain Abra Kadabra. But does this new villain hold the key to defeating Savitar, or is that too just another of the magician’s illusions?

The Flash: Season 3, Episode 18 “Abra Kadabra”

Faustian Bargain

Barry and Iris are again forced to think about the bride-to-be’s impending doom after Joe’s girlfriend gives the couple tickets to see Hamilton in July. But Barry almost outruns her to the grave in his first run-in with Abra Kadabra until Gypsy emerges from one of her portals and saves the Scarlet Speedster. Kadabra is mysteriously robbing tech companies and killing anyone in his way. Worse, he knows The Flash’s true identity because he’s from the future.

Gypsy is after Abra Kadabra because he’s murdered people on Earth-19, and with Gypsy’s help, Team Flash apprehends him in a flash. Unfortunately, the magician has an ace up his sleeve. Being from the future, he claims to know all about Barry, including all of Flash’s biggest nemeses: Reverse Flash, Zoom, Savitar, DeVoe… Wait? DeVoe? Who’s that? SPOILERS! Guess we’ll meet him in Season 4.

But more importantly, Abra Kadabra claims to know all about the God of Time and Iris’ coming death at his hands. Kadabra offers Barry a bargain: free him and he’ll tell Barry everything he needs to stop “the first speedster,” including Savitar’s true identity.

Flash has been down this road before. In “”Borrowing Problems From The Future,” Barry briefly let the villain Plunder escape in an ill-conceived attempt to prevent Iris’ death by altering future events leading up to it. And for much of the back half of this season he’s been trying less extreme versions of that same strategy. So, on the one hand, this could seem like the writers spinning their wheels and retreading already covered ground. However, this feels like a bigger test of Barry’s ethical code because it’s less abstract. Though it’s unknown if Abra Kadabra will or even is capable of fulfilling his end of the bargain, a simple giving up of information is a more promising answer than just crossing your fingers and hoping defying a future newspaper headline will alter the course of future history.

Still, the conflict is fundamentally the same, and Barry must weigh the ethical consequences of letting a murderer loose to save his fiancé. And watching Barry wrestle with this decision allows Iris to do what she does best, operate as The Flash’s Jiminy Cricket and remind him to let his conscience be his guide. And while she persuades Barry to let Gypsy take Kadabra back to Earth-19 to await execution, it’s Joe who frees the magician from his S.T.A.R. Labs cell. But like so many magicians, now you see him, now you don’t. Kadabra alters the deal and escapes without revealing anything. But not before throwing an explosive that nearly kills Caitlin.

Winter Is Coming

At episode’s start, Caitlin observed that Julian was cooled on her ever since her betrayal over the Philosopher’s Stone was revealed. But now that Julian is the only one with even the slightest medical training, he must operate on Caitlin to save her life. Fortunately, she’s able to stay conscious during the procedure to talk him through it, and things seem to go smoothly.

Cisco and Gypsy’s relationship is going less smoothly. Gypsy has a personal stake in bringing Abra Kadabra to justice; he killed her partner. But despite now having legitimate concerns about whether she can trust Team Flash, she reluctantly works with them after they discover Abra Kadabra has used the stolen tech to build a time machine back to the future. Together, they once again apprehend him and, after one last attempt to appeal to Kadabra’s humanity to no avail before, Gypsy drags him back to Earth-19. Barry decides his next move will be to get answers about Savitar by traveling to the future.

Julian kisses the recovering Caitlin. Their reconciliation, however, is cut short when she starts seizing and suddenly dies of complications from surgery. That’s when Julian removes the necklace that suppresses her meta-human abilities, which revives her. But it’s not Caitlin; it’s Killer Frost.

The Verdict

These last few episodes have been largely on the better end of this very uneven season. The writers didn’t have as much fun with Abra Kadabra as I would have liked due to the Savitar threat looming in the background, but he’s a villain I’d like to see again in a lighter episode.

Gypsy’s increasingly regular appearances have been a welcome new element this season, though I look forward to a future episode where she meets Golden Glider, the previous object of Cisco’s flirtation.

Joe finally got some much-needed use his week. But the dragged out mystery of Savitar continues to be a frustration this season. It’s hard to care about a villain when you don’t know anything about him. Hopefully, The Thinker, presumably next season’s big bad (if that’s what Abra Kadabra’s mention of “DeVoe” was hinting at) will be anything but mysterious.

I’ve also expressed previous irritation with the writer’s inexplicable insistence on making a Caitlin with powers automatically evil despite lack of any true character motivation for it, and this episode ends with that implication. I’m, however, still clinging to the theory that it will be Cisco on the opposite side of Team Flash, and not Killer Frost, when they finally have that dual Cisco vibed earlier this season.

The Flash: Season 3, Episode 18 “Abra Kadabra” Review
Abra Kadabra's a wonderful new edition to Flash's Rogues Gallery
Barry's ethical dilemma
Writers finally use Joe for something
H.R.'s brief comedic appearance and his love of lime Jell-O
No other meta-human simply becomes evil when their powers manifest; why is Caitlin alone denied agency and given no motivation for her turn to evil?
Though it's not technically the thing that revives Caitlin, it's annoying to see a modern TV show still using the tired defibrillator trope.
Savitar remains a mystery eighteen episodes into the season.
The Flash is on hiatus until April 25th.
7.5
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