After dropping the huge plot twist of Savitar’s true identity last week, ‘The Flash’ struggles to explain and justify it. Even if you can buy the show’s rationale for that, other plot-points this week don’t make much sense at all.
This is a recurring problem for the series. Every time the writers paint themselves into a corner, their attempts to script their way out inevitably create of morass of contradictions and errors in logic that just make the show more confusing and frustrating for viewers.
As we learned at the end of the last episode, Savitar is Barry. More accurately, as we’re told at the beginning of episode ‘Cause and Effect’, he’s a time remnant copy (or “temporal duplicate,” as he insists) that Barry will create in the future to fight Savitar, only for that duplicate to travel through time and eventually become the very villain he was created to stop. If you’re confused by this, you have every right to be. The show’s rules for what time remnants are or how they’re created are loose and changeable from episode to episode.
After failing to defeat Savitar or save Iris, Time Remnant Barry will be shunned by real Barry and by the team, leading him to become bitter and resentful, and finally evil, to the point that he relishes the chance to kill Iris and ruin real Barry’s life, thus creating a closed loop that will cement his own creation and existence. When Barry asks if their having this conversation about the future will change the outcome of that future, Savitar dismisses the suggestion, insisting that some events are fated to be and nothing can change them. The episode will then contradict this just a few minutes later.
Savitar’s goal is to become invincible and control all of time. With Savitar outside his suit and yapping away, Barry rages out and tries to kill him right here and now before he can murder Iris. Unfortunately, it turns out that Savitar’s robotic suit can function autonomously. It pulls him off Savitar, who then jumps into the suit. Barry and Savitar each run in circles to build up electrical charges, and fly toward one another, causing a huge shockwave blast that knocks them both back.
After Savitar escapes, Barry tell the team everything he just learned. Cisco graphs it out on the glass board, as if he understands any of it. In addition to the obvious threat Savitar represents, Barry worries about the darkness within himself. If Savitar has all of original Barry’s memories and feelings up to the point of his creation, that must mean that Barry already has the capacity to turn evil inside him.
Cisco has an idea: If Savitar has all of Barry’s memories from this time period, he’ll know what they’re planning to defeat him. The only way to stop that is to stop Barry from creating new long-term memories. To that end, Cisco invents a neuron disruptor device that should give him a touch of the ‘Memento’ disorder. However, without Caitlin to help, Cisco kind of bungles it. When Barry willingly volunteers to undergo the treatment, he’s left with total amnesia. He has no idea who he or anyone else is. Finding the name Bartholomew on his driver’s license, he wants to be called “Bart.” He also doesn’t know that he’s a superhero or how to use his speed. This is a problem.
While Cisco, Julian, Iris and Joe deal with that, H.R. attempts to help Tracy (Anne Dudek) build a weapon to trap Savitar. They call it a “Speed Force Bazooka.” Tracy is struggling with it, and H.R. is preoccupied flirting with her.
Because he’s not burdened with any emotional baggage about his mother’s death or Iris’ impending murder, Barry has a happy-go-lucky attitude about everything. Iris likes him this way, and asks whether restoring his memories would really be a good thing.
Barry’s amnesia has its first consequence when Joe’s girlfriend Cecile needs him to testify at the trial of an arsonist who goes by the moniker Heat Monger. Despite Julian’s attempt to cheat him through it by typing a script onto a pair of special teleprompter glasses, Barry flubs his testimony and the judge dismisses the case, freeing the criminal.
Due to Cisco’s screw-up, Barry isn’t the only person with amnesia. Savitar has it too. He doesn’t recognize Killer Frost and nearly kills her. (Umm…. Let’s just hold off for a moment on picking this apart. We’ll come back to it later.)
As a result, Killer Frost travels to S.T.A.R. Labs to call a truce. (Wally tries to fight her, but he has no speed because amnesia Savitar never gave him powers.) She suggests that Barry’s amnesia is a big problem for both sides of the conflict, and proposes that they work together to fix it and restore the proper order to things. While doing so, Cisco tries to jog Killer Frost’s memories of the good times they had together before she turned evil, hoping to bring out her original Caitlin personality.
Barry has a speed-seizure and realizes that he has super powers. Iris brings him back to the lab to let him run around the test track for a bit, and Wally offers to train him on how to be a speedster. That process gets expedited when Heat Monger attacks an office building and sets it on fire. Barry has to suit up as The Flash before he’s ready, and races off to rescue people, only to panic when he gets there.
With Killer Frost’s help, Cisco sends an electrical shock through Barry’s suit to stimulate his neurons. When that alone doesn’t do the trick, Cisco suggests that he needs a visceral memory to kickstart his brain. Caitlin tells him about his mother’s death. That does it. Both Barry and Savitar instantly regain their memories. Wally also gets his speed back and rushes to the building to help Barry put out the fire and capture Heat Monger.
That crisis resolved, Cisco appeals to Caitlin to stay with the team, and Julian professes his love to her. She spurns them and leaves, but seems to be affected by their words.
Tracy and H.R. reveal their completed Speed Force Bazooka. It only has one tiny limitation: It require more energy than the sun to work. That seems like a design flaw.
The episode ends with an epilogue in which meta villain King Shark is seen with a glowing red thing that I assume must be an alien or futuristic or supernatural power source. I’m sure we’ll learn more about that in the next episode.
Follow me on this: If Barry has amnesia, that wouldn’t mean that Savitar gets amnesia too. What it should mean is that Barry never creates Savitar in the first place, because he has no need to. This show’s rules for time travel are highly contradictory, but one of two things should happen: Either Savitar should disappear into thin air, like Eobard Thawne did when his ancestor Eddie killed himself, or he should be completely unaffected, given that he’s already a time remnant living in an alternate timeline outside the one he came from. How Barry’s amnesia gives Savitar amnesia too makes no sense to me.
Even with the amnesia stuff resolved, the fact that Barry now knows how he creates Savitar should make the solution to this problem exceedingly easy – just don’t create any time remnants that might turn into Savitar. No time remnant means no Savitar, which means that Iris lives. Right? Or am I being entirely too logical for this show?
The episode also never follows up on the fact that, if Barry’s memories are back, then Savitar should know everything about the Speed Force Bazooka and how to avoid it.
We’re coming up on the end of three seasons here, and I’ve come to accept that this show’s plotting fundamentally doesn’t make sense very often. Nevertheless, some plot holes seem more egregious than others, and this one is a doozy.
Setting that aside, the dramatic elements of this episode work pretty well. Barry’s amnesia provides an opportunity for humor that was much needed in the midst of the doom and gloom of the Savitar storyline. I also appreciate that, when he gets his memories back, Barry finally reconciles that the pain and darkness inside him are part of who he is but shouldn’t define him. That being the case, however, wouldn’t his eventual time remnants also be less inclined to go evil?