The Flash is an amazing show. Its cast is diverse and talented. It has cool, special effects. It also manages to balance the emotional depth with plenty of humor. Like any long-running series, it is riddled with a few inconsistencies and continuity errors, most of which I overlook in an effort to suspend disbelief. It is a show about a man with super speed, after all. There is one thing that I just can’t let go, however. The show has totally disrespected Iris West and her emotional trauma in an effort to absolve Caitlin Snow of any responsibility for her actions.
Let’s back up for a moment, though.
During Season 3, Caitlin Snow went from good to evil once her dormant powers emerged. Killer Frost, her evil “alter ego,” took over and then aligned herself with Savitar, and went full steam ahead with his plan to break Barry Allen/The Flash beyond repair. How? By murdering the love of his life, Iris West. (Talk about cementing a character’s importance, but that’s for another time.)
Viewers have known since Season 2 that Caitlin’s powers turn her into a psychotic ice queen. What we didn’t know (and still don’t know) is why metahuman powers could turn a good person evil. The emergence of powers usually affects a person based on who their core self already was. Barry Allen, Cisco Ramon and Wally West, for example, became heroes because they were already good people when they got their powers. Zoom, on the other hand, was not, which is why he became a villain. Why Caitlin Snow seems to be the exception to this rule, is not only indicative of the writer’s inability to commit to the fact that Caitlin’s core self must be dark and self serving, and that’s why Killer Frost can exist and operate the way she does, it is a perfect example of how her character is treated in general.
Caitlin Snow is always the exception to the rule. No matter what she does, or how bad she messes up, she gets a slap on the wrist and a warm welcome back to the team.
Now would be a good time to state that, until mid-way through Season 3, I loved Caitlin. I respected the fact that she was a young, ambitious woman in STEM. Then, when her career was derailed due to the fallout of the particle accelerator explosion, she still did her best to make the world a better place in Star Labs with her friends, Barry Allen, Cisco Ramon, and some version of Harrison Wells. She did have a bit of a frosty side, but given everything she’d been through (having her career derailed, losing two love interests), she deserved to be somewhat reserved and guarded. Little did I know that that frostiness would come back to haunt me (well, Iris West) in the worst way after her dormant powers surfaced.
— Entertainment Weekly (@EW) October 26, 2016
When things got tough, Caitlin/Killer Frost wasted no time turning on the team, in favor of helping Savitar succeed in murdering Iris West. One would have thought that even though Caitlin and Iris were never established as friends, that there would have least had been some deep seeded mutual respect between. That respect should have been enough to have prevented her from going so far into the dark side. (Not to mention, if all else failed, Caitlin’s friendship with Barry should have reeled her in, being that Iris is literally his reason to live.) Turns out, that respect was one-sided.
If you’ve never seen the show, then you may imagine that she had a good reason to turn on Iris in that way. Not that anything justifies cold-blooded murder, but I could have maybe understood the sudden onslaught of bloodlust that occurred if Iris had slighted Caitlin in some way like perhaps, stealing her boyfriend, revealing one of her secrets, or causing her to lose her job.
You know, something. Turns out, Killer Frost wasn’t angry over any of that. She was angry that Barry running back in time and creating Flashpoint was the reason that she had been burdened with these powers. In turn, she wanted to help punish him by helping his most dangerous foe to date take away the person he loved most. Cisco Ramon lost his brother because of Flashpoint (at least that’s the way the writers framed it), yet his loyalty to the team never faltered. Iris West and Joe West were affected on a much lesser scale. You didn’t see any of them turn into homicidal maniacs who believed that their desire to rid themselves of unwanted powers took precedence over another person’s life.
Caitlin literally went on a “woe-it’s-me-I’m-going-to-kill-the-girlfriend-of-my-close-friend-because-I’m-sad” diatribe. (Not to mention, she also injured her other friends any chance she got.) She didn’t even allow the team, who would have been more than willing to hold her hand through this situation, to help her. She continuously hid her powers until they were too strong to be controlled. Even then, Barry Allen, Cisco Ramon, and Iris, too, though she was on the receiving end of her wrath, showed Caitlin understanding, her support for Savitar didn’t falter until the last possible second.
After weeks of terrorizing her “friends,” Caitlin Snow was finally able to reign in her evil side when Cisco’s life was in danger. It’s great that she finally got over herself and remembered that Cisco’s support for her had been unwavering, but I felt zero sympathy for her at that point. That said, The Flash is a show about redemption and second chances, so I was eager to see how the writers would handle Caitlin’s redemption arc because surely, one was coming.
I was wrong. Caitlin’s redemption arc has consisted of the writers backtracking and hoping that people just forget about most of Season 3. All of a sudden Caitlin Snow and Killer Frost are two separate personalities, and neither side remembers much of what the other half does. This distinction has even become a source of comedic relief with Cisco and Harry Wells joking with Caitlin about the wild times they have with Caitlin’s uninhibited evil half.
Last season, this clearly wasn’t the case. There was no memory fog associated with the transition from Caitlin into Killer Frost and back again. Both “sides” were completely aware of the other’s actions, so I’m not going to accept this obvious attempt to infantilize Caitlin. As Savitar once said, “I remember everything.”
Jump to Season 4, and somehow Caitlin has gained more control over her “alter ego.” She’s been welcomed back to team Flash, and she’s even saved the day a few times. All should be well, right? It should be, and it would be if two major things had occurred.
One, Iris should have been allowed to be human for one moment (instead of the show’s emotional punching bag) and tell Caitlin straight up how much she hurt her. Knowing that someone you’ve worked with for three years was an active participant in trying to end your life is no small offense. It’s probably the biggest offense that someone you trusted could commit against you, but the writers have treated this like a minor inconvenience. Two, Caitlin should have apologized to Iris West directly. She didn’t. She apologized to Iris’ father.
Furthermore, the writers are also attempting to finally establish a friendship between Iris and Caitlin (though they have had plenty of other times to do so), but it doesn’t feel like a genuine attempt to remedy the show’s glaring lack of female comradery. This newfound friendship serves no other purpose but to undermine Iris’ trauma, in favor of Caitlin’s redemption.
On top of this, Iris is the one who is being forced to facilitate a friendship between herself and Caitlin. Not only did Caitlin not apologize to Iris, the writers have essentially had Iris chasing after Caitlin. Iris spent most of the “Girl’s Night Out” episode, which was supposed to be celebrating her for a change, trying to convince Caitlin and Killer Frost (since they’re apparently not the same person) that she cared about her. Imagine babysitting someone else’s feelings after they tried to murder you.
This came after Caitlin ruined Iris’s bachelorette party because she was still telling constant half-truths about the people she became entangled with during her summer of finding herself. (After the team proved that they would support her through anything, even when she was undeserving, she still wouldn’t just be honest.)
— The Flash (@CW_TheFlash) November 8, 2017
Few people would have been audacious enough to utter the that they were only “work friends” at someone who had been gracious enough to overlook the fact that they tried to kill them, and let them know that they were friends despite everything that had occurred. Caitlin Snow was because the writers allowed her to be and because Iris’ emotional well-being obviously paled in comparison to making sure the viewers didn’t stay mad at Caitlin for too long. I won’t go so far as to say that the writers don’t respect Iris as a character because they get a lot of things right when it comes to her. But they’ve definitely made her more forgiving than any person who’s been subjected to such traumatic psychological warfare would have been — especially of a woman who claims they were never actual friends, to begin with.
Let’s be clear, I’m all for The Flash having more meaningful, female friendships. Until Season 3, I was eager for that friendship to be between Iris and Caitlin, but not anymore. There really is no excuse for what Caitlin did, but I could have overlooked it if she had been made to not only apologize but to make a sincere effort to make things right. Instead, Iris’ overly forgiving nature has been used to justify why Caitlin was allowed to have a several-week-long tantrum. Until that changes, this friendship will always leave a bad taste in my mouth.