The Trial Of Killer Frost On The Flash Shows This Series Still Has Something To Say
The past few seasons of The Flash have been divisive amongst the show’s fans. This is not a unique phenomenon. Starting with season 4 and through the series finale of Arrow, fans felt like the show lost a step from earlier seasons. Yet with the trial of Killer Frost on The Flash, audiences can see that even with all the strange sci-fi quackery, it still has something to say about living in a world with superpowers. Cursed by the comics history of the Flash, Danielle Panabaker’s Caitlin Snow was always set to break bad in some way. First, it happened via an alternate Earth, and then it happened via Barry Allen’s time-travel oopsies. Of course, the Earth-Prime version of Killer Frost never quite lived up to her name.
Yet, The Flash decided to address the problem of Frost’s troubled past after Flashpoint, when she briefly aligned with the villain Savitar. What resulted resembled a real trial only in that it took place in what looked like a courtroom. But in a show where the laws of physics are more suggestion than anything, what hope do the laws of humanity have?
Spoilers to follow.
Metahumans Provide Reasonable Doubt to Any Criminal
Image via Warner Bros. Television
Since the show’s inception, The Flash has had a justice problem. For the first few seasons, Team Flash ran a secret, extrajudicial prison out of S.T.A.R. Labs. Yet, in a broader sense, the addition of metahuman abilities in a legal sense is a problem. The U.S. standard of justice (of which it falls short often) is that a criminal must be proven guilty beyond a “reasonable” doubt. Only there is nothing reasonable about a world where people can possess others’ minds, shapeshift, and so on. Carmen Moore’s Sgt. Kristen Kramer has a point with respect to her vendetta against metahuman criminals.
As audience members, we know that Caitlin Snow and Killer Frost are, effectively, two identities within the same body. (At least, until recently.) We also know that there are extenuating circumstances to why Killer Frost did what she did. Even though she’s now acting as a hero, the show asks if she’s absolved of her past crimes. The addition of the metahuman cure, developed by Cisco in season 5. Both the Frost and Caitlin personae where not on-board with that idea, and they only agreed after the promise was made to never “force” the cure on anyone. So, despite the ridiculousness of life in prison without parole for Frost’s crimes, the choice to serve that sentence rather than take the cure is in character.
There is legal precedent in the real world for court-ordered medical treatments and procedures. However, I don’t think this is a commentary on that. Rather, the trial of Killer Frost is the storytellers of The Flash making a statement about nature versus nurture. It’s not the metahuman powers that make people do bad things, but rather they make those choices themselves.
What the Trial of Killer Frost Means for the Future of Team Flash
Image via Warner Bros. Television
If I am being honest, I never liked the storyline that Caitlin Snow and Killer Frost were two identities within in the same body. I always felt like it denied both characters agency and was unnecessarily comic-book weird when it didn’t need to be. Still, I did enjoy this episode and the potential for storytelling down the road. With series veterans Tom Cavanagh and Carlos Valdes both leaving The Flash in season 8, it’s Caitlin’s time to shine. Perhaps having Frost locked away until needed is a smart play. It’s possible she’ll end up with a pardon before the end of the season, but either way it poses interesting questions about how things like the law and justice work in a universe where superpowers exist.
Unlike Arrow, the problem The Flash faces is that its central hero is simply too powerful. There is no reason that every fight on this show shouldn’t be over in (I’m so sorry) a flash. Yet, that would make for a very boring teen superhero drama. If you’re parsing the logic of these match-ups you are missing the point of this show. The struggles that Team Flash faces are emotional ones, and superhero stories have always provided a great space for that kind of storytelling. The Caitlin/Frost arc was always more about how a person deals with the duality inside all of us than the sci-fi reasons of “why” or even “how.”
The Flash airs Tuesday nights at 8 PM Eastern on The CW.
What do you think? Did you enjoy the Killer Frost trial on The Flash? How do you think she gets out of life in prison? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Featured image via Warner Bros. Television
Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. The first books he read on his own were comics, and he's loved the medium ever since. He is the greatest star-pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend. His book "What I Learned: Stories, Essays, and More" is available in print from Amazon and from all electronic booksellers.