Synopsis of 3×18: Time traveler Abra Kadabra goes on a crime spree but offers Barry a clue to Savitar’s identity in exchange for his freedom. An injured Caitlyn is transformed into the monster she’s feared becoming.
The gang needs answers as to how they can finally make some notable effort in saving Iris’ life and a being from the future would solve it. That’s all it takes to bring a 64th Century criminal and time traveler into the mix. It’s the kind of wackiness that a superhero show never would have embraced just a couple of years ago and viewers wouldn’t have to look far to see how frequently other shows dodge.
Sadly, “Abra Kadabra” is mostly notable solely for its audaciousness. It’s an episode that mostly exists to advance the meta story, namely Caitlyn’s continuing battle with her villainous future and the continuing hunt for a way to bring down Savitar. Both feel like well traveled territory this season and beyond the inevitable reveal at the episode’s end, there’s not a whole lot of new revelations here.
Part of the problem is that The Flash has never handled more somber storylines or plot exposition particularly well. Abra Kadabra’s crime spree should feel like a triumphantly silly bit of future-magic insanity with the banter that sets this show apart from its contemporaries. Instead, it’s reduced to the same linear, plot-focused decision making that’s characterized the show all year; a bad guy offers the team a tough choice and Barry attempts to find a middle ground while his allies beg him to consider the absolutes.
It’s a structure that often lends itself to a tense beginning and exciting climax but a plodding, repetitive second act. That’s disappointingly what we get here. The best moment is Joe’s all too brief attempt to get answers and Abra’s escape from STAR labs, but it’s over all too quickly.
Snow’s transformation works a bit better. It’d be easy to blame her injury and surgery as just another female character sent into surgery to motivate the male heroes but she manages to hold onto her own agency more than well enough, directing the team’s surgical efforts and fighting to keep breathing while everyone else panics. Snow’s had arguably the most interesting arc this season, fighting against gaining powers while everyone she cares for desperately try to control their own. Her story hasn’t moved particularly quickly, often disappearing for weeks on end but it’s satisfying and makes the denouement here faintly tragic in a way the show hasn’t really been since last year.
“Abra Kadabra” suffers from, if nothing else, far too much exposition at the expense of what the show does best, lighthearted pulpy superhero sci-fi. It wastes one of the Flash’s most exotic villains to do little more than deliver reams of plot information that, by hour’s end, offers nothing and changes no one. It’s the rare rough episode this season that feels like a missed opportunity instead of a true failure and for that I’m thankful.