I think we can all admit that The Flash, once the crown jewel of The CW’s DC universe, has fallen on some hard times. The show is still very fun to watch thanks to its great cast, but this season the villain hasn’t been strong enough, the plots have been way too focused on a singular event, and everything is starting to get very repetitive. We saw Arrow go through similar growing pains in its third season, although it has turned things around recently by embracing its past (specifically Season 1 which, like The Flash, was arguably its strongest showing).
But it’s this rut (something all of The CW’s DC shows have fallen prey to) that makes me think that Wally West could in fact be the villain Savitar. Let’s look at some history: In Season 1, the group’s mentor and Barry’s third father figure Harrison Wells turned out to the Eobard Thawne / Reverse-Flash, an evil speedster from the future hell-bent on killing future Barry after he regained his speed. (He’s still around, though preoccupied with the Legion of Doom at the moment on Legends of Tomorrow). In Season 2, there was Jay Garrick / Hunter Zolomon / Zoom, who at least initially presented himself in the friendly form of Jay, becoming a mentor to Barry. But in the end, he too was a crazed speedster hell-bent on killing Barry after he regained his speed.
When Wally West shows up and later becomes a speedster in Season 3, the formula is slightly inverted. It’s Barry now who is the mentor (and he’s a terrible one). But we also have a villain who is a speedster from the future hell-bent on killing Barry once he regains his speed (or to be more correct, he is fast enough, but he can’t fully exit the Speed Force). The pattern of newbies to the group turning out to be bad guys was already satisfied in the first half of the season when Julian was revealed as Alchemy, but he was the lesser of the two villains (and since Julian was blacked out during his tenure as Alchemy, all was forgiven).
In “The Wrath of Savitar,” though, the God of
Exposition Motion was super chatty about his past and his motivations, talking about how he “created himself” and “lost his mind several times over” during his imprisonment. He also revealed that he was waiting on the final piece of the Philosopher’s Stone to come to him so he could break free of the Speed Force, something he knew was in the works because Wally’s hubris, speed, and love of accolades would send him right to Savitar.
What we know about Savitar so far is only what he has told us, plus some ancient lore via Jay Garrick (the real, Earth-3 one) that says he is the first speedster in the multiverse. But given that multiverse’s flexibility and the abilities of the Speed Force, what does that really mean? How do you really define “past” and “future” in this context? (Savitar, for what it’s worth, also refers to himself as “The Future”).
So let’s look at these clues through a Wally-related lens. Savitar said he created himself — is this the mysterious cocoon he used to give Wally the power of speed? Is it a kind of time loop that we’re witnessing? If he’s gone crazy from being imprisoned, could that be why he is deranged enough to kill his own sister just to punish Barry? (Towards whom he, oddly, has some empathy for and even says he never sought a conflict with him — that doesn’t feel like something a crazy speedster stranger would say, especially bringing up the deaths of Barry’s parents).
Wally has also always been obsessed with speed, and once he got his powers he did prove himself to be faster than Barry almost immediately. And how could Savitar guarantee that Wally would be the one to return the stone to him and take his place in the Speed Force unless he knew him well enough to be able to predict and manipulate his behavior?
Savitar also revealed a prophecy early on that “I know your destinies. One shall betray you. One shall fall. One will suffer a fate far worse than death. This is the knowledge I have for you about your everlasting damnation.” Right now, we can presume that the one to fall is Iris (at least, as far as Barry’s future vision showed, but you know that will change), the one to betray them could be Caitlin as Killer Frost, and the one to suffer a fate worse than death is likely Wally taking Savitar’s place in the Speed Force.
Each of these pro-Wally-as-Savitar points also comes with a pretty solid counterpoint. If Savitar is an ancient being that existed prior to Flashpoint, then he’s most certainly not Wally West (unless Wally somehow became Savitar in the original timeline and saw this as a way to change things). Even if he was, why would he kill his sister? Plus, though the show hasn’t known what to do with him, Wally West is a hero in the comics, which would be a missed opportunity for the character here (and yet, the show does have too many speedster). Further, losing him would also probably kill Joe, and it looks like Iris is already sans-ring because of Barry trying to change the future with their engagement, not even taking into account how he put pressure on Wally to save her without giving him any real support or direction (that has come, largely, in the form of HR, which is not a good thing).
But if Wally is not Savitar, well, who is? The pattern of these CW / DC shows is that the masked villain is someone surprising that we know, over and over again. Sometimes it works better than other times, but Barry trying to pull off Savitar’s head while saying “show your face!” seems to suggest that the reveal will be a familiar face. Otherwise it’s pointless to have him “revealed” at all — he is just a Decepticon / Power Rangers villain who is, like every other speedster, trying to kill Barry (now or in the future). The reveal adds something, but only if it also packs a punch.
In the promo for next week’s episode, we see that Barry is visited by three people (at least) as he confronts the Speed Force, something he also did in the past (and came out as a Speed Force Evangelical). The three shown in the preview are Iris’ martyred ex Eddie Thawne, Caitlin’s martyred ex Ronnie Raymond, and the Legends’ martyred frenemy Captain Cold. Are any of them Savitar? Err, pretty unlikely. So again, who is?
Wally West makes the most sense if we’re taking into consideration The Flash’s patterns of storytelling and that of the Arrow-verse at large. But if the show is looking to subvert that, save Wally, and reveal Savitar as someone else, we may be in for a big surprise that could jumpstart the series back into a good place. For now, it feels like through Flashpoint, Barry really did create the darkest timeline for his adoptive family as he tried to restore a world with his biological one. For a show that was the lighter alternative to Arrow, that’s a bold — and not necessarily a good — path to take. Let’s hope that future can be changed.
The Flash airs Tuesday nights on The CW.