This article contains nothing but spoilers for The Flash Season 3 Episode 23.
Well, I have to hand it to the DC TV superhero universe. They sure do have some movement on their curve. Between the Supergirl season 2 finale (which I discussed in detail here) and The Flash‘s “Finish Line” the CW has left us with two surprisingly ambiguous endings. But the ambiguity surrounding that Supergirl finale had more to do with other characters and the potential villain for next year. The Flash gave us something a little more immediately pressing…namely, the actual fate of our hero.
There are three massive questions to be answered here. I kind of have an idea of what’s going on. Mostly.
Is Barry Allen dead?
What? No! Of course not. Don’t you worry about a thing.
For one thing, as we saw, the mysterious newspaper headline from 2024 still very much deals with Barry’s more famous and heroic death during what is surely the Crisis on Infinite Earths.
Now, in the comics, it was eventually (like, 20 years later) revealed that Barry was basically doing time in the Speed Force after his death in Crisis, so there are still some parallels here to that story (the red skies that preceded the Speed Force storm certainly made me think they were going there), but we’re not there yet.
I’m generally pretty fuzzy on the rules of the Speed Force, both on the show, and in the comics. They generally translate to “whatever the writer needs at any given time.” In this case, the show tied up an important loose end. With no Savitar to send to the Speed Force in place of Jay Garrick (and that was a welcome and triumphant return if I’ve ever seen one), they couldn’t just let that be.
One rule we can count on is that time passes differently in the Speed Force than it does here. What will Barry learn while he’s in there? I think the general implication here is that he’ll finally be rid of the baggage that made him create Flashpoint once and for all. More importantly, the creation of Flashpoint was a fairly selfish act, while his apparent sacrifice here is the opposite. And it will also make his willingness to run right at death itself six or seven years from now make a little more sense, since he has more of an idea of what he’s getting into.
Anyway, he’s not dead.
Will Barry be back for The Flash Season 4?
Yes. The question here isn’t when Barry will be back (because, c’mon, it’ll be the season premiere), but how will he get back?
When the Speed Force as a concept was introduced in the comics, it was during Wally’s tenure as The Flash. Whenever Wally would stray a little too close to his limits, and the Speed Force would threaten to absorb him, he would focus on Linda Park, his true love, and that would keep him grounded enough to stay in our reality. More recently, as DC started to correct its continuity with the Rebirth initiative, it was Wally’s connection to Barry that allowed him to escape the Speed Force and return.
So with that in mind, it’s Barry’s love for Iris that is going to keep him tethered here, even though he’s going to spend a few months of our time in that weird limbo. I am pretty sure we’re going to see that West-Allen wedding that you all want, if nothing else because the obstacles on the way to that could set up an entire future season of its own, and one that happens to be one of my favorite Flash stories of all time.
But yeah, true love, or deep friendship is usually a speedster’s “lightning rod” and when all seems lost and they begin to merge with the Speed Force, that’s what brings them back. Barry and Iris have earned that moment, don’t you think?
Does any of this directly relate to The Flash Season 4 villain?
Well, it shouldn’t. A few months ago, executive producer Andrew Kreisberg promised that The Flash Season 4 main villain won’t be a speedster. In the meantime, this season dropped the name of another potential villain, Clifford Devoe, the Thinker. So that’s that and it shouldn’t have anything to do with the fact that the Speed Force was zapping people all over Central City, right?
The idea of a Speed Force storm manifesting, and that I’m pretty sure I spotted at least one person actually get struck by lightning, feels an awful lot like events in very recent Flash comics. Last year, Flash readers met a speedster villain known as Godspeed, who was struck by a freak manifestation of Speed Force lightning, and in his wake, well, we ended up with a big Speed Force storm granting powers to a bunch of Central City residents. Incidentally, DC’s current Flash comics have been really good lately, and the whole Godspeed arc was a terrific story and you should totally check it out. It’s an easy entry point for fans of the TV series.
So who are we supposed to believe? What Andrew Kreisberg told fans about next year’s main villain not being a speedster? Or the evidence of our own eyes? I get the feeling that if they do decide to bring in Godspeed, they’re going to hold off until a later season. I suspect fans of this show will revolt if we have another speedster villain in season four.
Also, there’s one other thing I have to mention, even though it doesn’t resolve anything, I just think it’s kinda cool. In a recent issue of The Flash, which happens to see the return of Jay Garrick to the comics after being stuck in the Speed Force himself, Barry hears the voice of his mother calling to him as he tries to avoid getting sucked in. There are lots of little ways the comics have been lining up with the show recently, and while this one might have been coincidental, it was still a nice bit of synchronicity.
What do you think everyone? I think it’s going to be a long wait until October. In the meantime, if you need some fast-talking Flash news, hit me up on Twitter!