[Flash] Recap • 318 Abra Kadabra

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By Chancellor Agard for ew.com

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At this point it’s a cliché to say that every hero is only as good as his or her foe, but it’s quite true. A strong villain, who challenges the hero in new and interesting ways, usually results in a pretty strong superhero story. This is something The Flash has struggled with this year. Thankfully, tonight’s episode of The Flash presented a nice change of pace. Abra Kadabra, the titular foe of the evening, was a pretty fun antagonist whose evil antics led to some pretty great action sequences. Unfortunately, that sense of fun is undercut by the fact that this is very much a stalling episode that continued to draw out Savitar’s identity.

The Flash has had a pretty big villain problem this season, on both a macro and micro level. We’re 18 episodes in, and Savitar is still infuriatingly shrouded in mystery, and the villains and metas of the week have been rather boring and forgettable. (Google reminded me that Team Flash went up against Magenta, some shadow thing, and Mirror Master this season.) So it’s fair to say that Abra Kadabra had to clear a pretty low bar to clear. However, from the episode’s cold open, it was clear Kadabra was a streets ahead of what both Team Flash and the audience has had to contend with villain-wise this season. The hour opens with Abra Kadabra breaking into Stagg Industries, magically trapping the two security guards in a conveniently placed glass case slowly filling with water, and absconding with a nameless piece of tech. It’s a short but sweet opening that reveals Kadabra’s skill set and establishes him as worthy opponent for Team Flash.

The resulting crime scene confuses Barry, Joe, and Julian because they can’t figure out where the water came from that drowned the two guards. They don’t have to wait too long for answers because Barry gets called away to stop a robbery at Kord Industries. When he arrives on the scene, he comes face to face with Kadabra, who gleefully reveals he knows The Flash’s “secret” identity and knows about his current conflict with Savitar, including Iris’ impending demise. This scene stood out for several reasons. First, I think it marked the first time this season that Barry has a dropped a quippy one-liner while crime-fighting (“You didn’t think I’d want to come meet the newest resident of Iron Heights?”), which is something he used to do quite often until The Flash started drowning in darkness. Second, it has one of the more visually interesting fights this season, too. Gypsy surprises Barry by jumping into the fight; however, Kadabra manages to make his escape by making it rain playing cards.

Back at S.T.A.R. Labs, Gypsy briefs them on Kadabra: He’s a criminal from the 64th century whose nanotechnology makes it seems like he’s done magic, and he’s at the top of the collectors’ list because his last crime spree on Earth-19 resulted in many deaths. Any fun to be had with Cisco and Gypsy being in a room together is hampered by the fact that Gypsy is solely focused on one thing: bringing Kadabra to justice because he also killed her partner.

So, Gypsy teams up with The Flash, Kid Flash, and Vibe to go after Kadabra when he breaks into Mercury Labs; however, by the time they get there, all that’s left of him is a hologram because he’s busy breaking into S.T.A.R. Labs to steal something else. Luckily, Barry speeds over there in time, knocks him out, and cuffs him before he has a chance to hurt Caitlin, Joe, and Julian.

Capturing Kadabra actually complicates matters for Team Flash because Kadabra offers to reveal Savitar’s identity if they let him free. Obviously, this generates some tension between Team Flash’s and Gypsy’s dueling objectives, but it also raises some interesting morality questions that return to this season’s interrogation of Barry’s heroism: Should they let a murderer go in order to save one of their own? It’s obviously a tempting offer, and it’s easy to understand why both Barry and Joe consider. Iris talks Barry out of it, but Joe decides to go through with it because his responsibilities as a father trump his responsibilities as a cop. So, he releases Kadabra from the pipeline. Gypsy tries to stop him, and Kadabra uses that moment to escape. As he flees the scene, he steals an orb from Evil Wells’ Chamber of Secrets and throws a grenade, which results in Caitlin being impaled on a pole.

They all quickly realize they can’t take Caitlin, a.k.a. the team’s doctor, to the hospital because she’s a wanted meta. Cisco suggests they remove her necklace and let her powers heal her, but Caitlin refuses. The only other option is for Caitlin to walk a desperate Julian through surgery, which sends this episode into Grey’s Anatomy territory. Despite some complications, Julian manages to remove the pieces of shrapnel from her abdomen.

After saving Caitlin’s life, the team returns to the matter at hand and realizes that Kadabra build a time machine to return to the 64th century. Honestly, this is probably what made me like Kadabra as much as I did. Despite his hatred for The Flash, who apparently routinely beats him in the future, he wasn’t out for revenge, which seems to be the main unimaginative motivation for most villains on this show. Like Evil Wells, he was simply trying to get home. That’s something all of the audience can understand. That being said, the show doesn’t try to use that to humanize him in anyway because it’s too concerned with using him to tease the Big Bad mystery.

The Flash, Kid Flash, Vibe, and Gypsy head back out to stop Kadabra’s time ship from jumping through the temporal wormhole. This is another fun and impressive sequence that finds the entire team running and breaching around Central City trying to stop Kadabra. Eventually, Barry succeeds by phasing through the ship and pushing Kadabra out of it before he can escape, which was pretty awesome to see.

Despite this victory, Team Flash comes down with a case of the sulks because the right thing to do is to let Gypsy take Kadabra back to Earth-19 to be executed for his crimes. Before Gypsy leaves, though, Barry appeals to what little goodness is inside of Kadabra and begs him to tell them something that can help them defeat Savitar. It doesn’t work, and Kadabra gleefully heads off to his execution with a sense of accomplishment because not helping Barry means he kind of plays a hand in the biggest heartbreak of his life.

That night, Iris comforts Joe, who feels completely powerless because he has no idea how to save his own daughter. As always, Jesse L. Martin is freaking heartbreaking. However, Barry offers a sliver of hope: He says he’s going to travel to the future to find answers about Savitar. That sounds like a great idea, right? I mean, traveling to the past always works out well, so the future should be no problem, too, right?

The episode doesn’t end there, however: Julian accepts Caitlin’s apology for lying to him; however, the joy of their reconciliation is tempered by the fact that Caitlin starts seizing and stops breathing from complications of her injury. Julian and Cisco do everything they can to save her, but it’s for naught. So, Julian does the one thing Caitlin asked them not to do and removes the necklace that suppresses her abilities, which allows her powers to heal her and forces her to go Full Killer Frost. You remember how Savitar said one of them would suffer a fate worse than death? I think this is it, since Caitlin specifically says she would rather die than trigger her powers to save her life. The episode ends with Killer Frost towering over Cisco, Julian, and H.R. (Again, I still don’t understand why her powers automatically make her evil, but I feel like I’ve gone on and on about that already).

Overall, this was a fairly weird episode that felt like it was at odds with itself. There were moments where it was clear it wanted to have fun — most notably in David Dastmalchian’s scenery-chewing performance as Abra Kadabra — but that came into conflict with the dark cloud hanging over the show’s head. In the end, this episode ends up being kind of disappointing because it delays the Savitar identity reveal yet again.

Wall of Weird:

H.R. was noticeably absent from tonight’s episode until the final scene. In the show, his absence is explained away by H.R. revealing he’s been on a two-day love romp. But we can assume he was really absent because Tom Cavanagh needed time to prep for the show’s next episode, which he’s directing.

Kadabra may have revealed season 4’s big bad. For more information, check out this post from my colleague Natalie Abrams.

[SPOILER ALERT for the Comics]: I really enjoy the (I’m assuming) unintentional synergy between the Berlanti-verse and the comics. Abra Kadabra played a major part in the first Titans arc in DC Rebirth. Similarly, Mr. Mxyzptlk, who was recently featured on Supergirl, was just reintroduced into continuity in the comics this month.

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