THE FLASH Review 3.22 “Infantino Street”

Well, that was unexpected.

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Season 3 has been quite a ride, all things considered. After a handful of episodes indicating The Flash has got its groove back, the penultimate entry “Infantino Street” continues that upward trend, bringing back old favourites and tying things up in rather surprising fashion. Yes, the ending poses some… interesting questions, ones that we might not fully be able to get into until they’re resolved next week, but up until that point, we’re treated to one hell of an episode on pretty much all fronts.

Carmine Infantino drew the iconic The Flash of Two Worlds story, so it’s fitting that his namesake episode takes us back to Earth-2 for a quick excursion. The West family (Joe, Wally and Iris) are hiding out while Barry and Team Flash try to come up with a plan – as the episode’s opening titles indicate, Iris will die in 24 hours – and it’s here that we’re reminded of the show’s heart and soul. It’s a quiet moment between resilient characters, as father and daughter come clean about frivolous skeletons from their past; Joe’s secret Blues Cruise getaway, Iris switching bedrooms so she could sneak out as a teen, all amidst the realization that this might be the last day they spend together. And so they dance.

We’ve been so caught up with Barry’s Savitar story that we’ve barely gotten the time to see things through Iris’ eyes. She knows the exact time of her death. She has for some time now, and that kind of knowledge weighs heavy on the soul… but there is no Flash without Iris West, and there is no The Flash without characters trying to maintain a positive outlook, even in the darkest of moments.

The episode opens sans dialogue, scored fittingly by Aurora song Murder (5, 4, 3, 2, 1) as clocks in everyone’s apartment or workplace count down to Iris’ final moments. Cisco nears a point of helplessness as even the resourceful Felicity Smoak can’t help him. H.R. and Tracy stop for their millionth cup of coffee while toiling to save a woman they barely know. Joe absorbs old photographs before comforting his son Wally, who’s on the verge of losing a family member for a second time, and Barry lies awake in bed, pensive as ever. Iris on the other hand, smiles right next to him. It’s early in the morning on the day she’s to die and she’s never tried caviar. Barry obliges without a fuss, rushing presumably half way across the country to get some. In his absence, she begins recording a video message on his phone. She knows this is the end.

Elsewhere, despite being questioned about his convictions by Killer Frost, Savitar knows it too.

It’s not all doom and gloom, though! The plan is still an outrageous one – finding an energy source strong enough to power something called a “Speed Force Bazooka” – and after Cisco and Barry’s attempts to convince Lyla fail (you know shit’s getting real when there are TWO Arrow references), Barry decides that stealing the Dominator tech from ARGUS requires an unlikely ally. Namely, former The Flash villain and Legends of Tomorrow anti-hero Leonard Snart.

It’s always good to see Captain Cold back. Always. Wentworth Miller’s joyful scenery-chewing is a welcome addition, whether it’s amidst a daring heist or while dolling out snarky life advice. In the case of “Infantino Street,” it’s both! Leonard may be long dead, but the Legends are time-travelers, so it’s not too hard for Barry to pluck his former nemesis out of a random time period and enlist his help, although there are multiple people who need convincing. One, Joe & Iris, who know just how much Barry’s time travel can mess things up. Desperate times, and all that. And two, Snart himself, who isn’t the sentimental type (or so he claims) but is undoubtedly up for the challenge of stealing alien tech from a heavily guarded government facility.

Barry’s powers are dampened inside ARGUS, so he uses H.R.’s face-changing tech to disguise himself as Lyla. His Wookie-prisoner plan fails (as the handcuffed Snart would tell you, that’s always likely) and the uncanny duo have to take out the guards the old fashioned way. Speaking of fashion, Barry’s choice of attire and hairstyle are a pretty big deal here. Whether or not it’s intentional on his part, it’s certainly the intent of the filmmakers to dress him up ever so close to his evil counterpart from the future. This mission, as fun as it is, might be the ultimate test of his moral fiber.

Another unexpected return comes in the form of the villain King Shark, the half-human half-Great White who ARGUS have now turned into an alien tech guard dog. Despite a handful of Jaws references and a cheeky visual gag of the King’s fin sticking up through mist, there are moments of seriousness that rival any on The Flash till date. First, what Barry is or isn’t willing to do to get King Shark out of the way. And second, what Barry decides to do when Snart gets left behind.

Snart plays both the angel and the devil on Barry’s shoulders. He shields him from the decision to murder King Shark (with some Shark-Week advice about how to put him to sleep), and he also convinces Barry to give in to his darker side and leave Snart behind once he’s trapped. Barry complies with the first bit of advice. It’s not worth losing himself to save Iris, and he rejects the second for the same exact reason, even at the cost of being caught.

Lyla, seeing what Barry is willing to do, decides to lend him the technology anyway. It’s a bit of a silly move, but it pushes the plot along and allows The Flash and Captain Cold to have one final chat before they part ways. It’s here that Snart comments on how he thinks The Flash should always remain a hero, commenting on inherent goodness as his most powerful weapon, and it’s also here that he’s inspired with his own form of heroism. “There are no strings on me,” he mutters, the genesis of his eventual decision to use that line (and the justification of deciding his own destiny) when he goes on to sacrifice himself for the Legends. These two men have been sworn rivals forever, but seeing them inspire one another is really something.

Back at STAR Labs, H.R.’s continued struggle to find his place on the team results in a proposal to Tracy – it comes in the form of the whole “down on one knee” thing, but it really is just a proposal to work together! There’s romance and coffee too, of course. They’re a weird duo after all, and I’m going to miss H.R. once he’s presumably gone, making room for yet another new Wells next season. That said, the plan to send Iris over to Earth-2 without Savitar’s knowledge gets royally screwed up, when Savitar shows up to the Lab in full Flash gear and gets H.R. to tell him where she is. And boy, H.R. does not take his mistake well.

In previous months, Cisco would’ve berated H.R. for far less. Here, he’s come around to being supportive of this new buffoonish glue that keeps them all together. Where his support and inspiration were once discounted because they never added anything tangible, they’re now the most important ingredient when everything begins falling apart… but it’s not enough for H.R., and a quick peek at the Savitar scale the team once used to track the Speed god gives him some sort of idea. We don’t know what it is for sure yet, but we’ll get to that.

Savitar confronts the West family on Earth-2 and despite pleas from Joe, who’s sorry for whatever he does in the future to make this Barry turn evil, he still kidnaps Iris. Her death is necessary for him to exist. It’s what eventually drives Barry over the edge, and it’s what Barry and the team are trying to prevent right now. I, like many others, assumed we’d be left with a cliffhanger, and the actual “death scene” that’s been shown ad nauseam for the last six months would be a finale standoff. I guess I was mistaken. In fact, the resolution to “Infantino Street” was rather unexpected.

The Speed Force Bazooka doesn’t work. Savitar kills Iris West. And as she dies, we hear the message she recorded for Barry: wedding vows she never got to say. It’s the one thing we didn’t expect the show to do, despite it having been teased over and over and over again, while gearing an entire season around Barry working to prevent it, and Iris gets a pretty emotional send-off as well…

…but here’s the thing.

Potential spoilers for next week.

Okay, look, I don’t enjoy getting ahead of the narrative unless it’s to pick up emotionally satisfying breadcrumbs (like Savitar’s identity), and we’d all be fools to think Iris West is dead forever. Barry’s eventual defeat of Savitar could have some sort of time-ramifications with the power to undo this, and we could potentially get the best of both worlds when it comes to Iris: an emotional death scene, and an equally emotional return. My only concern is what the latter will do in terms of reducing the impact of a genuinely affecting death, but an even bigger concern I have is that it might be a ruse.

Sure, the reveal of that ruse could be an even more heartbreaking death – H.R. using his face tech to sacrifice himself as Iris would certainly work from a character standpoint – but it feels like something execution dependent, especially when it comes to trying to fool us into thinking Iris is actually dead, if that is indeed the case. Either way, how all this plays out with regards to Iris, H.R. and eventually defeating Savitar (I still think it’ll be an unconventional defeat, rooted in the season’s themes of love and redemption), is something that remains to be seen.

The Flash has really pulled things together during this recent block of episodes, and I feel like we could be in for something truly memorable with “Finish Line” next week.

Oh, and here’s the official poster:

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