The Flash Season 2 and What Parallel Universes We Might See
When The Flash season 2 arrives in October, it's probably going to visit a host of parallel universes...
This article contains big spoilers for The Flash’s season 1 finale, Fast Enough.
The Flash season one finale wreaked havoc both on fans’ emotions and assumptions about the show’s future. More than any superhero season finale in recent memory, “Fast Enough” appeared to shatter its show’s status quo to smithereens.
Eddie Thawne is dead, and as a result, Eobard Thawne should have been wiped from the timeline. Eobard, the main villain of the series – the character that gave Barry and so many others their powers – now no longer exists. Given that Eddie is his ancestor, Eobard should have never existed at all, now that Eddie has died prematurely and put an abrupt stop to the growth of his family tree.
In true Back To The Future fashion, we can only assume that Eobard has been erased from existence altogether, then. Unless, of course…we can’t. Although Tom Cavanagh is said to be returning for season two, we don’t know exactly which character he will be playing yet. He could just be the normal Harrison Wells, not the evil Thawne, after all. As for the matter of the Thawne boys, well…when a presumably dead body gets sucked into a gigantic time vortex, that probably means that you shouldn’t get too attached to the version of events you just saw, at least as it pertains to characters staying dead.
Regardless of whether the Reverse-Flash somehow returns next year, “Fast Enough” seems to have destroyed Barry’s world. In literal terms, Eddie’s last-gasp idea to kill the Reverse-Flash by killing himself appeared to cause Barry’s time-travel-enabling wormhole to reopen and for a spacetime singularity to begin engulfing Central City.
So, naturally, Barry has darted up a building and run into this black hole, attempting to somehow dispel the threat as he did with tornados, fires, and tidal waves earlier in the season. This – combined with Barry’s Speed Force visions and discussions of alternate timelines – has nicely set up the parallel universe concept that has been so key to DC Comics continuity, and The Flash in particular, through the years.
Here are the most obvious candidates for inclusion on The Flash season two.
Grant Gustin has already gone on record about two of DC’s key parallel universes popping up on The Flash season two. “What’s fun about this show is that there’s going to be multiple timelines as we move forward. I think we’re going to start showing Earth-One and Earth-Two in the near future.”
When DC introduced its Multiverse concept during the Silver Age of comics (think of it like the first “reboot” in history…long before there was actually a word for it), they needed a way to distinguish between them, and numbering the Earths seemed like the most efficient way around it. Earth-One was where the current generation of DC superheroes (including the Barry Allen version of Flash) operated, while Earth-Two was where the original versions of the characters (the Jay Garrick Flash, for example) lived. The fact that maybe the world that came first should have been called “Earth-One” apparently never occurred to anybody.
In the comics, as it seems to be on the screen, Barry Allen played the most important role in establishing the existence of parallel universes: he was the first character to cross over from Earth-One to Earth-Two in the events of “Flash Of Two Worlds” in The Flash #123 in 1961.
Now, to be fair, Gustin’s statement about “Earth-One and Earth-Two” is a little bit confusing. It’s possible that Mr. Gustin doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ll be visiting “Earth-One” but rather that they’ll be establishing that the show itself is the “Earth-One” of the DC TV Universe, rather than visiting a Mad Men style mid-20th Century Flash world. But you never know. But one thing is absolutely certain, we will visit Earth-Two. Which brings us to…
While Barry Allen first appeared in Showcase #4 in 1956, there had been a version of The Flash running around since 1939’s Flash Comics #1. That would be Jay Garrick. The winged helmet you saw during “Fast Enough” was his. There were other different versions of DC characters from the previous era, like a caped Green Lantern with a different identity, a vastly different version of the Atom, and a team of heroes known as the Justice Society.
A few years after Barry’s debut, Flash creator Gardner Fox and editor Julius Schwartz hatched the idea of resurrecting the older versions when they wrote “Flash Of Two Worlds” in 1961, the first story to unite a Silver Age hero with their Golden Age predecessor. In this iconic story, Barry Allen met Jay Garrick, the original Flash who first appeared in 1940. In Barry’s world, Jay was a fictional comic book character whose comic had been cancelled years prior. In Jay’s life on Earth-Two, he merely retired from superheroics and settled down with his sweetheart.
This retirement was in perfect synchronisation with the Earth-One cancellation of his comic, leading things to get meta when Barry claimed that Gardner Fox – the name of both the real life Flash creator and the fictional Earth-One writer who penned Jay Garrick’s adventures – must have somehow been mentally attuned to Jay’s universe.
Is your head hurting yet?
Don’t worry if it is – the main thing to know from the perspective of The Flash TV show is that Earth-Two is the home of an older Flash with a snazzy helmet. The big tease there, then? That Barry and Jay could well be bumping into each other on the show very soon, irreversibly introducing the notion of parallel worlds and alternate versions of The Flash. Exciting, huh?
Other Earths (Pre-Crisis On Infinite Earths)
The new idea of a Multiverse opened so many doors for DC’s writers, and it would seem that they weren’t restricted much with regards to the wacky worlds they invented.
Earth-Three was a biggie (and was also created by Gardner Fox, along with Mike Sekowsky) where most of the powerful metahumans had become villains, dubbed the Crime Syndicate Of America. Essentially, they were an evil Justice League, originally comprised of Ultraman, Owlman, Superwoman, Power Ring, and Johnny Quick, all of whome were distortions of other DC heroes (you can probably work out who is who). It also offered a mirror image to both Earth-One and real-life history (e.g. Christopher Columbus was an American who discovered Europe, not the other way around).
Naturally, Johnny Quick was an evil speedster, who – just to add to the confusion – used the same name as a heroic speedster from Earth-Two. Earth-Three’s Johnny Quick and the rest of the Crime Syndicate became regular villains for the Justice League, popping between realities to cause trouble on a regular basis. Perhaps that brief Speed Force vision where Barry is in prison is a riff on Earth-Three?
The ideas get a bit sillier the higher the number, though: Earth-Five has the interesting idea of sending Bruce Wayne to a superhero-free world where he can still save his parents; Earth-Twelve has the comedy superhero team The Inferior Five consisting of Awkwardman, Blimp and many more; on Earth-124.2, Clark Kent bullies people to hide his identity…you get the idea.
Crisis On Infinite Earths
In 1985, DC’s penchant for parallel Earths and big crossovers (often called “Crisis On Earth-[insert number here]”) had reached saturation point, and Crisis On Infinite Earths was written by Marv Wolfman, intended as the crossover to end all crossovers, literally. The task in hand was clear: simplify the confusing DC continuity.
We’ve spoken about Crisis On Infinite Earths before, in greater detail than we have room for in this article. You can see some theories on how this comic could influence the world of DC Entertainment by clicking here.
The basics are this though: a baddie called the Anti-Monitor wishes to “destroy all positive matter universes” while his counterpart Monitor gathers a team of iconic heroes from several universes to protect vital “tuning forks” in history from the villainous scheme. After a slew of self-sacrificing moments from several heroes, they eventually stop Anti-Monitor, but in the process all Earths still standing are combined into one.
We can envision a future many years down the line where universe-destroying schemes like these might be on the DC slate, but we doubt they’re on the agenda for The Flash season 2. Although Barry plays a core role in Crisis On Infinite Earths – he sacrifices himself towards the end – you’ve got to fully establish a Multiverse before you blow it up, so don’t expect this story any time soon…although keep in mind, that newspaper headline from 2024 that we kept seeing in Eobard Thawne’s secret science lair was explicitly referencing the events of Crisis on Infinite Earths, particularly the part about the “red skies” and Flash vanishing.
It was the events of Crisis on Infinite Earths that led to Iris’ nephew, Wally West taking on the mantle of The Flash. We’ll meet him next season, too…
Infinite Crisis & Final Crisis
From 2005 to 2006, Infinite Crisis was released – a direct continuation of Crisis On Infinite Earths, which brought back several heroes as villains desperate to reinstate their own versions of Earth (at the cost of the main DC Earth of the time). Barry only features briefly, travelling in via the Speed Force from a different dimension. His grandson Bart Allen does a fair bit of speedster work, though.
Like Wally West, Bart Allen spent a long time as a sidekick before getting to suit up as Flash, and – despite spending the least time in suit of all the Flashes – Bart steps up in a big way during Infinite Crisis, absorbing the entire Speed Force at one stage, because Barry can’t (for reasons unstated). Although Bart is perhaps the least-explored Flash in the comic book world, we can very much imagine The CW introducing a descendant of Barry as a sidekick at some point in the future. Maybe something more like a great great great grandson, though. It’d be an interesting new dynamic, if pulled off well.
By 2008, DC was at it again with the big Multiverse-threatening crossovers. This time it was Final Crisis, which brought Barry Allen fully back to life after 23 years dead (and reunited him with Iris), as well as featuring iconic villain Darkseid (villainous scheme: brainwash the entire Earth, generally destroy everything), and tying in to the famous Batman: R.I.P. run. Barry’s return was built upon in The Flash: Rebirth, where Eobard Thawne was also reintroduced as a core villain, and that also set up lots of the groundwork that has now become familiar to fans of The Flash TV series.
Despite all of these crises and crossovers and parallel Earth stories from DC history, the big one that most fans are predicting to influence the show’s second season is Flashpoint – a 2011 limited series that teed up some huge changes for the world of DC Comics.
This story begins with Barry Allen waking up in a world where several big things have changed: Captain Cold (now Citizen Cold) is Central City’s greatest superhero; Barry’s mother is alive, but his father died of a heart attack; Bruce Wayne died in that infamous Gotham alleyway, so his father became Batman and his mother the Joker; The Flash, Superman and the Justice League are nowhere to be found; and, in their place, Cyborg is the world’s biggest superhero. Only Barry, Kid Flash and Booster Gold seem to notice that the world has gone topsy-turvy.
As his own memories begin fading, Barry begins to suspect Eobard Thawne’s handiwork. Barry no longer has his powers, though, and early attempts to restore them go very badly. As this twisty plot unfolds, a war is breaking out between Aquaman and Wonder Woman’s countries of origin. Everything, essentially, is going to hell.
Eventually, Thawne appears and reveals that this is, in fact, Barry’s fault, because he meddled with the timeline previously in an attempt to save his mother. Sound familiar? Here’s the major difference between this and The CW’s version, though: comic book Barry successfully saved his mother, whereas, on TV, he chose not to because he didn’t want to lose his family or friends.
Still, with Barry disappearing into the black hole at the end of season one, there’s still a very good chance he could reappear in a world gone wrong, where heroes have become villains, loved ones have perished and the world is at war. Or perhaps in a future season, Eobard Thawne returns to mess with Barry by giving him what he thinks he wants…a world where his mother survived. It could be like It’s a Wonderful Life but with superheroes.
Indeed, Barry’s original season one timeline now makes no sense at all, considering that Eobard Thawne should never have been born, and therefore couldn’t have killed Harrison Wells or caused the dark matter explosion to empower Barry, Ronnie, and every other metahuman in the show. Without Eobard manipulating the events as he did before, there’s no telling how events may have transpired differently. Indeed, we’re now entering a timeline that isn’t the original version of the past before Eobard went back and got stuck, or the series of events that made up season one of the show. It is, presumably, going to be another different version altogether.
Again, though…that might not be the case, since the two key components in the unraveling of the timestream, Eddie and Eobard, were sucked into that vortex, which probably leaves plenty of things open to interpretation. Either way, the timeline is now so drastically altered that we could end up in a world as subverted as Flashpoint when season two starts, if only for Barry to eventually reverse the process somehow. Perhaps the ramifications will have something to do with why the team from Legends of Tomorrow needs to get together in the first place.
We won’t be finding out until October, but in the meantime we’d be interested to hear your predictions.