As the clock turns 12:03 in the opening moments of this week’s episode, everyone on Team Flash is acutely aware they now only have 24 hours left to save Iris from her date with the pointy end of the sharp appendage on Savitar’s armored suit.
Swimming with Sharks
Barry and Cisco’s appeal to Lyla to let them borrow alien tech ARGUS taken from the Dominators during the Invasion crossover to power Tracy Brand’s Speed Force Bazooka falls on deaf ears when Lyla admits Barry’s Flashpoint jaunt calls his judgment into question. So Barry’s now determined to steal it temporarily. Problem is the ARGUS facility that houses the device is a virtual fortress and even The Scarlet Speedster can’t crack their security without the help of a master thief.
So Barry decides to enlist the aid of his old nemesis Captain Cold from the past prior to Snart’s joining the Legends of Tomorrow to pull off the heist, planning to return Snart to that time after the job is done. Before the two begin their mission, Iris again reminds Barry not to lose himself in the process of trying to save her. Making use of H.R.’s facial transmogrifier, Barry poses as Lyla with Captain Cold in shackles as his/her alleged prisoner. And, in no time, the duo locate the room housing the device they need.
There’s only one problem. First, the door to the room is sealed with an impossible lock that no one can break Captain Cold can break into in seconds. Okay, as I was saying, there’s only one problem. Inside the room, King Shark plays guard dog protecting the McGuffin.
As Barry prepares to use Snart’s cold gun to kill King Shark, Snart opines that Barry recruited him of all people on the belief that Snart wouldn’t stop him from killing if he had taken the way his friends would. But, on the contrary, Snart recommends a less “murdery” approach. By adjusting the temperature in the room, they put King Shark to sleep.
When removing the object, Barry activates a booby trap when, fortunately, his speed allows him to escape the room before the door shuts and locks behind him. Not so fortunate for Snart, who’s left to become shark food. And though Barry momentarily considers leaving Captain Cold to die, his better instincts prevail.
That delay seems to doom his mission when Lyla catches him, until Lyla tells Barry his unwillingness to leave Snart to die proves his judgment is still sound enough for her to sign off on his borrowing the alien device.
As Barry returns Snart to his own time, his former nemesis says he knew Barry was capable of ruthlessness. Just like Barry sees the good in Snart, Snart sees the bad in Barry. His parting advice to Barry is to not play Savitar’s game, not succumb to his darker impulses.
Team Flash adds one member, loses another
After Barry trusted his secret identity to Tracy, H.R. took it upon himself to officially welcome her into Team Flash. And, upon news Barry got what they need to power the Speed Force Bazooka, H.R. accidentally told Savitar disguised as The Flash that Joe, Wally, and Iris were hiding on Earth-2.
There, Savitar breaks Wally’s leg. Joe tries to appeal to his humanity, but it doesn’t stop Savitar from kidnapping Iris.
H.R. blames himself and accepts that he’s useless to the team and has been kidding himself all along. But of course each Wells we’ve encountered has played a fatherly role to Cisco, and he’s not going to let H.R. wallow in self-pity. He says anyone could have fallen for Savitar’s trick and asks H.R. to hold the fort while the rest of the team goes after Iris because, even if for no other reason, H.R. is indispensible because he always shows up and is dependable.
Cisco vibes Killer Frost waiting in the forest for the duel he’d foreseen earlier this season. Barry reminds the team he can’t know their full plan so Savitar doesn’t know either and then everyone but Cisco heads off to Infantino Street for their 12:03am appointment with Savitar.
Circumstances leading to his very birth will never happen. The bazooka fails because Savitar reclaimed the Philospher’s Stone Barry hurled into the Speed Force. And then Savitar kills Iris as the audience hears a message Iris recorded earlier of her reciting her wedding vows to Barry in case she doesn’t live to deliver them at the altar.
This might be the strongest episode of this lackluster season. Not only did we get the return of Captain Cold and King Shark in a fun heist caper, but it’s refreshing to finally reach the payoff for everything that’s been built up for the entire back half of this season.
And now that Savitar is no longer a mystery and can actually be seen outside of his armor and developed as an actual character in his own right, it at least removes some of the narrative problems with the character. Sure, his being the third season-long speedster big bad who’s secretly connected to Team Flash can’t be changed now, but the scene where Joe reaches out to him at least humanizes him a little bit.
And at least now the season finale can take us past the Iris death that’s been dragged out for half a season now, so we can move forward again. That’s not to say I buy for a second that the writers really killed Iris West.
There’s been speculation on the internet that Joe might die this season and I half expected him to die instead of Iris in the scene he reached out to Savitar to spare his daughter.
Predictions: Barry rewinds the clock to save Iris and eventually the Joe does ultimately die for good in a variation of the scene on Earth-2 while helping to save Iris in the process. Perhaps Barry comes up with a way of trapping Iris in the Speed Force to keep her safe, making the different task of freeing her again a cliffhanger to be resolved next season.
And how is this season going to pay off its newest teammates, H.R., Julian, and Tracy? I suspect H.R. will do something epic to finally prove his worth to the team. Julian, whom I’d always marked for death by season’s end, will likely revert Killer Frost back to Caitlin with the blood sample he collected. Whether he lives or dies in the process is an open question though. And, with the bazooka being a bust, surely Tracy has to redeem herself somehow as well since she and H.R. make a cute couple. And hey, this season featured a lot of Gypsy, so I wouldn’t be surprised if she made one more surprise appearance before next week’s finale ends.