This review contains spoilers.
I have a feeling that the true success or failure of The Flash‘s Flashpoint experiment won’t become clear until at least the midpoint of this season, but this episode – Paradox – does at least clear away some of the emotional debris left by Barry’s terrible, terrible decisions.
While I didn’t necessarily have a problem with it, one main complaint from fans following the premiere was how short-lived Flashpoint turned out to be. All that hype for one week of story? Well here we get some permanent consequences, which act as much as an emotional catalyst as they do an excuse for the writers to speed up a few plotlines (*cough* Killer Frost *cough*) that have been teased earlier.
But as far as Barry knows at the beginning of the episode, the only thing different is that Iris and Joe aren’t speaking. We learn later that it’s because of the secrets Joe had been keeping from Iris about her mother, which in this timeline she hasn’t forgiven him for.
But other things start to pop up as Barry goes about his day – Cisco’s brother was killed by a drunk driver, Diggle now has a son instead of a daughter, and he and Iris never kissed on the porch before he went back in time.
He’s telling all of this to Felicity, an outsider to the mayhem he has wrought.
I love these kinds of casual crossovers, with one or two characters interacting just because those two people would, in real life, go to each other in moments of crisis. It takes a massive amount of manoeuvring and scheduling for something like this to happen, and some of that shows in the episode eight blockbusters. But episodes like Paradox, which just put Felicity in a scene with Barry because they’re friends, feel effortless.
The sequence really gives the beginning of the episode a jolt, before things take a turn for the serious. The Cisco stuff in particular is quite hard for long-time fans to watch, given that the relationship between these two guys is arguably only second in importance to that between Barry and the Wests. Cisco blames Barry for not going back in time to save his brother – a decision that stings even more now that he knows he did it for his own family.
I praised the first episode for leaning into the idea of Barry as a villain in his own story, so I’m glad that wasn’t undone here. Some things can be fixed, sure, but how are we supposed to feel about Diggle’s child being erased from existence because of one rash decision? Is he going to even find out?
Barry’s trip to the 90s is the best use of John Wesley Shipp since Henry Allen’s prison days, and I’m glad we finally got to spend some real time with his take on Jay Garrick.
As well as tying up loose ends, Paradox sets up some important players for the rest of the season. The first and most notable is Tom Felton’s Julian Albert – metahuman expert and lab partner to Barry unique to this timeline. He’s really great, and set up here as a potential foil to Barry who isn’t necessarily in the wrong. I have a feeling that this is what Eddie was in some early drafts of season one, and I’m excited to see what becomes of him.
Then there’s our villain, thankfully not another speedster. Alchemy, teased at the end of last week’s episode, is going to be the one handing out powers from the other timeline. Among other things, that means Kid Flash can’t be too far off.
We finish on a recreation of the Barry and Iris kiss, demonstrating that a lot of things that have changed in this third timeline can be put back with a narrative handwave. Let’s just rejoice in the fact that we don’t have to go through any more will they/won’t they from those two.
Flashpoint is over, but it’s going to have a ripple effect that could last for the rest of the show. As underwhelming and occasionally distressing as the process has been, let’s just ponder this – the reality Barry and his friends have ended up in is the darkest timeline of the three, and all they can do is live with it.
Read Caroline’s review of the previous episode, Flashpoint, here.