In The Flash episode "Killer Frost," H.R. (Tom Cavanagh) posited that Barry's (Grant Gustin) true superpower is hope and that the guy just has great reservoirs of it within himself. While I've argued that it's really his love for the Wests, I don't think H.R. is wrong, either. I'd rather offer a refinement on both our claims regarding Barry's superpowers and then extend it to the show itself: Everyone's superpower is their ability to believe in one another. It's the power of friendship!
The Flash has never made it a secret that this particular concept is what drives the show. From the first "Run, Barry, run!," to Barry and Joe's (Jesse L. Martin) heart-to-hearts, to having the confidence necessary to throw lightning, to staring down a metahuman with a icicle dagger by basically asserting that friendship trumps mind-twisting cold powers, the show has always emphasized how powers play second fiddle to believing in ones' friends.
Even in its third season, The Flash clearly believes this. The metas that Team Flash encounter are often offered the chance to be helped first before Barry tornado-arms them into submission. It's the defining contrast to its mothership show, Arrow, on which criminals are more likely to be killed instead of dropped off with the police — especially this season, as criminals are just dropped left and right, be it by arrows or by bullets. It's what makes Central City a place of optimism while Star City is basically The CW's Gotham City, but with more threats of nuclear annihilation.
So, as Caitlin's (Danielle Panabaker) powers got the better of her this week, Team Flash's recourse was not to give Caitlin the Speed Force run around, but to talk her back from being Killer Frost. Sure, Cisco (Carlos Valdes) hit her with a little sonic burst, but force was always the last resort. Even that was just a means of submission, though. The real stopping of Killer Frost came from Barry tapping into his friendship with Caitlin.
Normally these sorts of trust exercises don't involve any icy weapon of death, but this is The Flash's M.O., and so, of course it worked. Barry giving Killer Frost the patented Barry Allen eyes of "I believe in you, I believe in me, I believe in us" melted her villainous impulses long enough for Caitlin to return and help save Wally (Keiynan Lonsdale) from vibrating out of control.
However, there are limits to how often faith in one another can serve the show on a couple of different levels. Admittedly, there were failures earlier than this. For example, everyone at S.T.A.R. Labs was so very bad at rehabilitating metahumans, ostensibly the point of locking them up in the pipeline; it was not a great (meta)humanistic endeavor.
Additionally, while the reliance on pep talks and so on is really the defining characteristic of the show, it give the show a degree of predictability that doesn't do it any favors. Of course Barry's chat with Killer Frost was going to work: Barry wasn't going to die — he's the show! — and Caitlin can't go full Killer Frost yet since it's only Episode 7, and three bad guys may be more than the series can handle.
The one interesting thread so far in Season 3 is that the writers seem aware that this approach can only be pushed so far before it breaks everything. Talking things out did solve the Killer Frost problem, but only temporarily. Caitlin still runs the risk of losing herself to Frost, and if the random Savitar acolyte is to be believed, Caitlin has a glorious and chilly future ahead of her. Friendship and faith in one another is only a stopgap measure in this case; it's not the solution.
Along similar lines, Cisco was back to being (rightfully) angry with Barry due to Flashpoint being the reason for Dante's (Nicholas Gonzalez) death, a bit of information that Cisco wasn't aware of until now. Here, Barry's attempts to right that wrong by apologizing (and by a superhero team-up) failed to fix things, at least for the time being. Hopefully, this won't will linger a bit longer than Cisco's resentment that Barry wouldn't go back in time to save Dante but was happy to do it to save the Allens.
Iris (Candice Patton) can tell Barry to stop playing What If by playing, well, What If again — "What if I didn't do Flashpoint?" "What if Dante died anyway?" — but all of this is on Barry after a fashion. At some point, apologizing won't be enough, and the bonds that Team Flash has formed may not be enough. It poses an interesting possibility for The Flash as it continues Season 3, but it's an open question if the writers will fully embrace all the broken friendships that could occur as a result.
The Flash airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on The CW.
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