TV Review: The Flash (Season 3, 2016-2017)

Please note: there are very minor spoilers here, just because some characters/plot points don’t come to light until roughly episode 7.

Season 3 of The Flash takes place almost immediately after the end of the previous season, with Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) living an ideal life with his mother and father both alive and well. This soon proves to be a mirage, a phantom life dubbed Flashpoint, and Barry is forced to return to his old timeline, and once again work with Cisco (Carlos Valdes) and Caitlin Snow (Danielle Panabaker) at STAR Labs, as well as father-figure Joe, girlfriend Iris and close friend Wally West (Jesse L. Martin, Candice Patton and Kaiynan Lonsdale, respectively). The team must deal with residual threats from the universe breaches, as well as the continuation of Caitlin’s slow turn into the villainous persona Killer Frost, not to mention the various changes brought on by Barry’s failed attempt at changing his past – most notably in the form of Julien Alpert (Tom Felton), Barry’s new co-worker at the Central City Police Department.

+ for the first time, none of the main characters (looking at you, Iris) were overly annoying. Some early story points frustratingly pitted Barry and Cisco against each other, but that was all resolved and the gang was back to their normal selves. Tom Cavanagh as various Harrison Wells, but specifically an alternate Earth “H.R.” Wells is the standout, and often defaults to the comedic relief. New cast member Tom Felton is used sparingly at first, but once he becomes a main player he was a very welcome change to the team
+ while the main villain of Savitar was yet another speedster, this time there was a bit of a twist. It was good to not have the enemy simply be ‘person you thought was a friend’ (though, if you know the twist, that may be stretching it). The character of Alchemy was also intimidating, and the connecting between Alchemy and Savitar was clever. Alchemy having Tobin Bell (aka that dude from Saw) certainly helped
+ the larger cast, intimidating villain and time-travel shenanigans on show both here and in Legends of Tomorrow made the crossover episodes (“Invasion“) were all fun, thanks in no small part to Barry, Cisco and the villains from Flash.
+ the episodes focused around introducing new foes were the highlights, such as “The New Rogues”, and the introduction of Flash villain mainstay the Mirror Master, and the titular villain of Abra Kedabra. Though as well as the new blood, it was good to see classic enemies such as Gorilla Grodd and King Shark return

– it bothered me all season that the concept of Flashpoint – an important lesson to Flash in the comics – was made into a single episode here. The consequences could have spread far and wide across the Arrow-verse, but instead were limited to Arrow’s John Diggle having a son, instead of a daughter, and Iris/Joe not talking to each other (and, sure, the character of Julien as a whole): but all of these things were essentially non-issues, and were resolved in just a handful of episodes
– similarly to the above, it also never made sense to me why the rules for time travel were different in Flash compared to Legends of Tomorrow. Rip Hunter in Legends clearly states they can’t meet their past selves for fear of time folding in on itself, but Barry apparently can just freewheel it to whenever he wants to have a chat with himself? I know the answer is ‘the speed force is mysterious’, but some internal continuity would have been nice
– I said it on the Supergirl review, but I was very disappointed with “Duet”, the much advertised musical crossover with Supergirl. Music Meister (Darren Criss, a former Glee co-star of both Gustin and Supergirl‘s Melissa Benoist) was not what I had imagined, and the whole episode was a bit too serious for it’s own good

> the titular villain of the episode “Abra Kadabra” mentioning “Thawne, Zoom, DeVoe” as The Flash’s greatest rivals has some great ramifications. Hopefully it means the next season won’t have a speedster as a villain, and will instead feature Clifford DeVoe, aka The Thinker

Should you watch this show: It seems to be a running theme that the third season of these CW superhero shows is the weakest. This season was the most serious and bleak, and far and away the least lighthearted, which for a show that built itself as the lighthearted alternative to Arrow is not a good sign. The best episodes were when things were allowed to be a bit comedic, or at least when team Flash did more than just stew around in their lair looking glum. This was still worth watching, but if things don’t change (and, Arrow season four certainly did not) then it might be time to let this one run into the sunset.

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