The Flash: Season 3 Episode 21 review – Cause and Effect
This review contains spoilers.
This show is no stranger to falling into plot holes, but usually the average viewer lets these slide, due to how adeptly the show handles everything else (its characters and so forth). Usually these plot holes are changes that don’t happen as a result of time travel, even though they should have happened, according to what we know about the temporal laws of the universe.
This week went one step too far, for me. The very episode title is ‘Cause and Effect’ and the writing repeatedly preached the fact that any action has a reaction. This is a highly ironic slap in the face to fans, because the writers don’t obey the laws of cause and effect themselves, including within this episode.
The glaring plot hole this week was the fact that Savitar’s memory loss caused a previous event (Savitar giving Wally his speed) to become undone, but all of the other things that happened within this period failed to become undone. Savitar losing his memory from the point of Barry losing his memory onwards is accurate. Therefore it is correct that Wally never got his speed – because Savitar never had the motivation (memory) to give it to him.
But this also means that Savitar should never have come into contact with our team at all. Remembering that Savitar is Barry, if Savitar has no memory from the point of Barry losing his memory onwards, then Savitar never had any reason to approach our group in the first place. If he never approached our group in the first place, then our group wouldn’t even know who Savitar is and everything we’re seeing would be undone – in a Flashpoint-style unravelling.
This is what every SF fan knows is called time paradox. I understand that it’s very difficult for writers of SF television not to step one foot in time paradoxes now and then. If they purely played by the rules of time, then they would have to keep drastically changing the show’s narrative over and over, which is a terrible adversary to serialised television. Shows like Legends of Tomorrow continually suffer time paradoxes, but we forgive that show its errors, due to the slightly more jovial feel of the show and the fact that it very literally has to deal with time (it’s in the title) on weekly basis, so it’s bound to make errors along the way.
The Flash is a little different. We’ve seen Flashpoint happen as a result of cause and effect – the affects of which were sombre (including the time-remnant Savitar being created). I feel like the show should be a little more adept at avoiding plot holes, especially when an episode is literally titled ‘Cause and Effect’ and the writers are attempting to preach that law to us. In light of the errors, that preaching feels very hypocritical, given that the writers can’t even abide by that law themselves.
I think Cisco’s sketch on the board and HR’s line about this being a “classic chicken and the egg scenario” were not only placed to explain Savitar’s existence to viewers, but also as a way of explanation from the writers as to why the show holds so many errors. They are essentially saying: “we know some things shouldn’t exist (don’t make sense), but according to our lore, sometimes they simply do.” It’s not a strong enough answer to this episode’s flaws, in my view.
Add to this the fact that amnesia is a very over-played and tiring trope in any show and what we’re left with is a very obvious filler episode that didn’t really hold anything of real value. Yes, it showed that there is perhaps some small room for Killer Frost to turn back into Caitlin, yes it was nice to see Iris’ sad puppy eyes at getting to witness a happy and carefree Barry, and yes it closed with the return of a great villain (King Shark has always been superb).
But those are small merits, sprinkled among this weak episode as an attempt to make it appear as something more than it is, which is simply an amnesia episode (with the amnesia rather laughably being caused by our team). It also held a small flashback that made Iris and Barry’s coupling seem more incestuous than usual. I’ve always found the pairing slightly creepy (they’re not blood-related, but they grew up together, like siblings), but Iris made it worse this week by stating that the moment they fell in love was in their childhood years.
Hurling filler episodes at us so late in a season smarts, because this is the time when the show should be building up into an impressive crescendo (like Supergirl is), ahead of its finale. Let’s hope that the King Shark episode is better; if he aligns with Savitar then that would make Savitar’s side a formidable force to reckon with.
Image credits: The CW