This review contains spoilers.
A lot of people were quite upset with Barry at the end of last season. Not only had he been at the head of a second season of The Flash that hadn’t come close the heights of its first (I watched the finale again last night, believe me it was rough) but a series of increasingly bizarre events and character motivations led our hero to essentially wipe his friends and family out of existence in its final moments.
By going back and saving his mother from Eobard Thawne, which a year before he had chosen not to do, he created a brand new reality in which he had grown up with his biological parents, didn’t know Iris or Cisco, and didn’t have the weight of the world on his shoulders.
I wasn’t a fan of this choice, either from Barry or from the show’s writers. For me, it erased the truly transcendent moment from the first season finale – one motivated by all we had learnt of Barry, his heroism and his love for the imperfect life he had ended up with. But the real test was what the show would do with it, and how it would execute a storyline from the comics that is divisive at best.
So, Flashpoint. True to its title, that’s what the season three premiere is concerned with, and it wastes no time throwing us into the thick of this brave new world, opening on Barry doing some light stalking of Iris at Jitters. Barry’s had his creeper moments in the past, but it’s fair to say that this episode really doesn’t show him in a great light. He definitely has some making up to do.
There’s very little hand-holding outside of a flashback to the night Barry’s mother wasn’t killed, and we’re expected to work things out as we go. Iris is still a reporter and has been working with Wally (Kid Flash) in a brother-sister crime fighting duo, Joe is a drunk who doesn’t speak to his kids, Caitlyn’s a paediatric eye doctor and Cisco is the richest man in America.
Some logistical questions – if Barry hadn’t seen his mother killed and his father wrongly imprisoned when he was a kid, would he still have become a CSI? And why does he still have his speed, if the particle accelerator never exploded? And why would Cisco’s life have been so different if he hadn’t got the job at STAR Labs?
Regardless, it’s all very fun. Season two got so bogged down in angst and false revelations that, aside from Earth-2 visits, we didn’t get much of the silliness that made The Flash so appealing in the first place. In this regard, Flashpoint is the absolute perfect thing the show could trot out, as it grounds Barry’s journey back in what we care about – the Wests and his friends – at the same as giving it a shot in the arm, energy wise.
I loved almost everything about this episode. Iris got loads to do, Carlos Valdes got something slightly different to play, Wally got to don the costume and, crucially, Barry was the bad guy. We at no point were encouraged to think that this might have been a great idea after all, and our hero’s decision to steal people’s lives without their consent and mould them to his liking was at all okay.
There’s a sinister undercurrent to everything, from his shift in disposition when he enters the warehouse in which he’s keeping a man imprisoned (not unlike Zoom kept Jay Garrick, so I guess his prophecy came true?), to his treatment of Iris. I’m not sure whether it was down to the director or was Candice Patton’s choice, but her fear and sadness when Barry tells her she won’t remember this life – her life – was really effective.
When Barry returns to his timeline, we learn that Iris and Joe still don’t speak. I love that there were ongoing consequences, the nature of which we don’t yet know. Flashpoint as we know it may have been short lived, but echoes of Barry’s dumb decisions from season two may yet appear. If that’s the case, and season three follows the fun/emotional formula of this premiere, there’s a lot to look forward to.
Read Caroline’s review of the season two finale, The Race Of His Life, here.