This article contains major spoilers for The Flash Season 2 finale and possible spoilers for The Flash Season 3!
The Flash Season 2 finale, “The Race of His Life,” certainly took things in an unexpected direction. I have to confess, this wasn’t my preferred scenario for a season-ender, but there’s no questioning the show’s willingness to shake things up. And boy, did they ever.
Barry has been pushed to his breaking point in recent months, and the last straw was the murder of Henry Allen by Zoom. While Team Flash ultimately won the day against Hunter Zolomon, the victory felt hollow for Barry, as it didn’t bring his father back to life. Barry took off into the past to do what he once decided not to: prevent the murder of his mother at the hands of Eobard Thawne.
This isn’t the first time Barry has revisited the moment of his mother’s death. He was all set to change the past in the season one finale, but ultimately didn’t. One of the reasons he didn’t was because another version of himself from the future (and we know it was the future because that Flash had a white emblem, which Barry didn’t adopt until season two), quietly warned him that it was a bad idea. My reading of this has always been that it was inevitable that at some point Barry would do this, there would be adverse consequences to the timeline, and it would then be set right. How else could there be a Flash here to warn Barry against doing it, right?
The show attempts a bit of misdirection here, duplicating those moments from the season finale almost exactly, and perhaps we’re supposed to believe that season one finale Barry did indeed see season two finale Barry. I don’t think that’s the case at all. There’s actually a third Barry in here (well, fourth if you count child Barry), one who has already seen the aftermath of these events, and one who knows to warn his eager self off from doing it. That’s the Barry who warned off red emblem Barry during the season one finale.
In fact, “Fast Enough” did illustrate Barry’s decision from “Race of His Life.” It might be season two Barry who temporarily stops Reverse-Flash in the season one finale. It was a blink and you miss it moment, but here it is…
That could be “Race of His Life” Barry tackling Reverse-Flash back during “Fast Enough.” Or it could be yet another version of Barry, getting Thawne out of the way so that the events of the end of “Race of His Life” don’t transpire. However, the Flash who gave Barry the “don’t do this” look in “Fast Enough” is definitely a Barry from later in Season 3…
So this other future Barry would then have to stop season two finale Barry…before warning season one finale Barry not to do the thing that season two finale Barry ended up doing.
Hoo-boy. Now I have a headache.
So why would Barry be telling himself not to do this? Here’s why…
What is Flashpoint?
Flashpoint was a comic by Geoff Johns, Andy Kubert, and Sandra Hope. In it, Barry wakes up, powerless, in a world where his mother never died at the hands of the Reverse-Flash. His elation is quickly tempered by the realization that all kinds of things are wrong with this world (Atlantis and Themiscyra are at war with each other and they’re dragging everyone down with it, to name just one thing in this kinda bonkers story) and that he needs to get his speed back in order to set things right.
I’ll be perfectly honest, I was never a big fan of Flashpoint, despite Geoff Johns being one of my favorite Flash writers and some wonderful art by Andy Kubert. If you want to experience this story, you’re better off with the Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox animated movie adaptation, which could give you an idea of the potential consequences of Barry’s actions from the end of “The Race of His Life” in an economical 70 minutes or so.
Barry initially suspects that the problems with the world are the result of outside interference, and his mind immediately goes to his old nemesis, Eobard Thawne. But it turns out Thawne wasn’t the cause of the problems…as expected, something as simple as Barry saving his mother broke everything. “You traded the life of your mother for the rest of the world,” Thawne tells him.
And he’s right.
But here’s where things get weird.
Are we to believe that the entirety of The Flash Season 3 is going to be spent in an altered timeline where Barry’s mother survived? The potential consequences here (such as Barry never even becoming the Flash in the first place, something that is hinted at by season one Barry fading out at the end of “Race of His Life”) are plentiful from a storytelling standpoint.
Whether they’re wise decisions or not is another matter entirely.
The Problem With Flashpoint as The Flash Season 3
For one thing, the show spent the majority of its second season dealing with alternate versions of familiar characters, and we even got a few excursions to Earth-2 out of the deal. A Flashpoint-esque scenario in which Barry has to navigate a slightly off world where people behave in some unfamiliar ways because of an altered timeline seems like it would be a little too close to the doppleganger stuff from Season 2 for comfort.
There’s also a serious probability that Barry will return from the past to a present where he never became the Flash in the first place, and thus is stuck without his powers. Again, having just gone through several episodes with a powerless Barry (itself not an entirely new concept), this wouldn’t feel like breaking new ground, either, even if he regains them by the second or third episode of The Flash season 3, there’s only so many times they can do this to us.
To be fair, I doubt this is going to set the tone for the entire season. Grant Gustin (who revealed that the official title of The Flash season 3 premiere is indeed “Flashpoint”) promised on Twitter that “We’re definitely doing this FP thing our own way.. I’ve read Flashpoint, I’ve seen the amazing animated film. This will be its own thing.”
The Potential Upside to Flashpoint in The Flash Season 3
On the other hand, this broken timeline could be the excuse for the massive crossover between The Flash, Supergirl, Arrow, and Legends of Tomorrow that the CW has promised us. While I don’t think a Flashpoint altered timeline scenario is ideal for a 23 episode season, it could work as a kind of mini-season to start things off, one that takes the rest of the CW heroes to set right. It could be a case of the Legends team showing up to help fix the broken timeline, or it could be an excuse to show “Flashpoint” versions of the key heroes from each of these shows (although this seems less likely, as, again, it would just be recycling the Earth-2 gimmick).
A possible side effect of this whole fiasco could be the merging of Supergirl’s world with the main CW world, but since (unless I hear otherwise) we’re dealing strictly with time travel and not multiversal anomalies, that might be a little tricky. But Flashpoint was indeed used as an excuse to reset lots of DC Comics continuity (don’t ask), so the Supergirl angle shouldn’t be completely off the table… and it wouldn’t be all that much more headachey than anything else we’ve discussed in this piece. Plus, wouldn’t it be great to have a DC TV Earth where everything is on the table, including Supergirl and Superman?
And since John Wesley Shipp makes it sound like the real Jay Garrick will return next year to mentor Barry Allen (and let’s face it, Barry seriously needs some guidance right now), he might be the key to helping set things straight. After all, Barry has probably only broken this Earth’s timeline (if you ignore the paradoxes with Earth-2 it sets up), so Jay should still be available to zip in from Earth-3 if needed. Maybe. I dunno.
Will the Reverse-Flash Return in The Flash Season 3?
Even more exciting would be the return of Eobard Thawne. The Flashpoint scenario does set up a Reverse-Flash return of some kind. The Flashpoint comic explained that Eobard, for reasons that I’m not going to get into, essentially exists outside the timestream, and thus exists whether Barry ever became the Flash or not. Yeah, it’s weird.
And while it’s awesome news that Tom Cavanagh will once again be back as a series regular, it might be as mistake to use him as Eobard again. The “real” Reverse-Flash, in his pre-Harrison Wells form (where he was played by Matt Letscher in one of season two’s better episodes) is where the potential is. The craziness about Eobard Thawne is that Wells/Thawne already had years of hating/fighting Barry Allen, before we met him in season one…and even before he murdered Barry’s mother. Basically, any time we see Thawne, he should be building up to that moment when he decides to kill Nora Allen. And that doesn’t even take into account that at some point, we’re going to have to see what is for Eobard his first battle with Barry, although for the viewers (and for Barry), the two will already have been at odds for years when that happens.
That headache is a full-blown migraine now.
But, look at it this way, using Eobard Thawne as a season-long villain again isn’t a cheat, as depending on where he is in the timestream, he’s going to have different motivations and different plans to wipe out Barry. It isn’t so much a “revenge of the Reverse-Flash for season 1” story as it could be a “revenge of the Reverse-Flash for reasons we don’t even know about yet.”
Of course, since The Flash season 3 doesn’t go in front of the cameras until July, it’s possible I’m dead wrong about all of this. I’ll update and correct this article as new information becomes available…assuming my brain can handle all of the paradoxes.
Mike Cecchini has become one with the Speed Force. Call out to him on Twitter.
This article originally ran on May 26, 2016. It has been updated to reflect recent developments.