The Flash Recap: Who Is Savitar?

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Danielle Panabaker as Killer Frost. Photo: Dean Buscher/Dean Buscher/The CW
The Flash

The Flash

I Know Who You Are Season 3 Episode 20
Editor's Rating 3 stars

The Flash has always been undergirded by the belief that love conquers all. Familial, platonic, and romantic love are all treated with the utmost importance. It’s love that makes Barry the hero and man that he is today; the love Joe bestows helped Barry adjust to life without his parents; and his love for Iris has spurred him to crisscross worlds. Without these people around him, would Barry still be the empathetic hero Central City loves or would he become just as dangerous as the big bads he faces? In last week’s episode, Barry traveled to the future and witnessed a brooding version of himself undone by the loss of Iris. This question of who Barry becomes without love in his life continues this week as the truth about Savitar is revealed. Finally.

“I Know Who You Are” is a wholly engaging episode. It has poignant character beats, goofy yet thrilling action, and a ton of plot development. But it’s an episode that should have happened weeks ago. Drawing out the reveal about Savitar’s identity didn’t create tension — if anything, it deflated the narrative. Trying to pull off a season that tallies more than 20 episodes is difficult. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine did it with aplomb, balancing with strong stand-alone episodes and developing its mythology in tandem. Buffy the Vampire Slayer pulled this off, too. But The Flash just hasn’t found the right balance since its stellar freshman season. Episodes like “I Know Who You Are” prove The Flash still has story to tell, it just needs to pace it better.

The episode keeps the Savitar reveal for the final moments. Instead, the main focus is Barry’s attempt to get help from physicist Tracy Brand (Anne Dudek), the scientist who built the Speed Force prison, according to his future self. But when Barry, Cisco, and H.R. visit Tracy, she isn’t what they expected: In the years before she becomes the Nobel Prize–winning scientist who worked with future Barry to stop Savitar, she’s a bit of a mess. She’s just failed her dissertation and is setting all her research aflame when Barry finds her. This leaves Barry and Cisco apprehensive about their prospects. H.R. is a different story. “So our hopes of defeating an evil speed god hinge on a grad student? Could be worse,” he says.

Tracy isn’t just any mess; she’s a quirky, blonde, kind of clumsy one. If she is giving you Felicity and Patty vibes, you aren’t alone. Tracy fits that character type with an extra helping of befuddlement and lack of self-esteem. H.R. is clearly smitten. Before anyone can explain why they need Tracy’s help, Caitlin crashes the party in full Killer Frost mode.

Danielle Panabaker has never been more thrilling than when she plays Killer Frost. With entirely new threads and a sharp-tongued attitude, this version of Caitlin is far more fun than when she’s a kindhearted good girl. Cisco doesn’t agree. He just wants his friend back. When facing off with Caitlin, he’s unwilling to use his powers against her, so it’s up to Barry to do so. (I loved the bit with him snapping his fingers to generate an electric spark to send a fireball hurling toward Caitlin with the help of a blowtorch. The episode is full of charming, memorable touches like that one.)

Despite having a vengeful meta trying to kill her, Tracy is surprisingly not worried. She can’t see why Caitlin would want to hurt someone as unimportant as her, so she refuses the the official police protection that Joe offers. That’s where H.R. comes in, tracking Tracy down at Jitters. With Cisco feeding him scientific lines, H.R. takes the opportunity to flirt with Tracy with bits of French and lots of charm. It’s H.R. who creates a rapport with Tracy — he even finds her when she leaves S.T.A.R. Labs after learning about the great future she’s supposed to have.

Everyone character’s narrative intersects with Tracy. That includes Joe’s wealth of development in regards to his relationship with Cecile, to whom he finally reveals the truth about Barry, Wally, and the entire West family. I’ll be honest, though: I’m not all that interested in H.R. getting a potential love interest, or even the exact mechanics of the Speed Force prison which Tracy begins planning. Still, Tracy’s struggle with her future accomplishments is fertile ground to cover. The Flash plays so loosely with time travel that it doesn’t slow down enough to consider how knowledge of the future would affect people, so her presence is certainly a new direction for the show.

But Tracy or not, the story lines that I most enjoyed in “I Know Who You Are” take place between the show’s established characters. My favorite scenes all involved Caitlin as Killer Frost. She’s the snarky, hilarious, conniving villain this season has so desperately needed. “Maybe there’s more Caitlin Snow in you than you led me to believe,” Savitar says after she fails to kill Tracy. That definitely doesn’t seem to be true. Caitlin has no qualms creating an ice slide through Central City, stabbing Barry with an icicle, or kidnapping Cecile to get the team to give up Tracy.

Meanwhile, Cisco struggles to protect others if it means hurting Caitlin. Julian gets oddly confrontational with Cisco, asking why he’s unable to use his powers on Caitlin. Julian is dense. It’s obvious Cisco doesn’t want to accidentally kill her. “She’s my best friend. I’d rather it be me than her,” he says. Of course, Cisco overcomes his fear, leading to a tense showdown with Caitlin. He’s able to overpower her, knock her unconscious, and grab a blood sample that may be the key to finding a cure — although I hope that doesn’t happen any time soon. Killer Frost is just too much fun to watch. Before Caitlin can be taken to S.T.A.R. Labs, Savitar swoops in to whisk her away.

Despite the welcome attention on Cisco and Caitlin, there’s one stalwart of Team Flash in desperate need of development who doesn’t get any. Considering that Iris’s death is supposed to be the emotional through line of the season, it’s a glaring oversight that she’s had little of her own narrative or growth recently. Even worse, the past two episodes haven’t had any tender moments between Barry and Iris. Candice Patton is a good actress, so it’s a shame she isn’t given more to do while everyone is supposedly concerned with saving Iris. Wouldn’t the reveal about Savitar’s identity be more effective if Iris learned the truth with Barry?

Iris is actually present when Barry has his epiphany about Savitar. After Joe gets back with Cecile and admits he told her the truth, the West family have a discussion at home. Apparently, Barry’s advice spurred Joe to cement his relationship with Cecile. “Love’s the only thing we got in this world; without it nothing really matters. Who knows what we would become if we didn’t have it,” Joe says. Hearing these words triggers a realization for Barry. He thinks back to his run-ins with Savitar, and how Caitlin predicted everything he was going to say when the team arrived to save Cecile. “You are more alike than you realize,” Caitlin says about Barry’s bond with Savitar.

Barry realizes that he is Savitar. To put it more clearly: A future, highly unhinged version of himself is Savitar. A time paradox and some lingering issues from Flashpoint are surely the culprit. “Like I told you from the beginning, I am the future Flash,” Savitar says. When future Barry steps out of the Savitar suit, part of his face is heavily scarred, but that isn’t the only detail that brings up a lot of questions. What is driving Savitar to kill Iris? How will the rest of the team react to this knowledge? Whatever happened to all those acolytes and meta-human husks from the beginning of the season? Will Iris ever get an active role in a narrative predicated on her death? Savitar’s true identity became clear long before The Flash revealed it. Now that it’s finally out there, will the show explore new territory or will it fall victim to the same missteps that undercut its previous season?

The Flash Recap: Who Is Savitar?