The Flash, Season 3, Episode 1: “Flashpoint”
Getting everything you always wanted isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, especially if you are Barry Allen.
The season premiere of The Flash is named after a revolutionary DC Comics storyline that set this particular universe on its ear. Batman was Thomas Wayne, not Bruce, who was the one killed in that alley; Superman was a lab experiment; and Wonder Woman conquered England with the help of her fellow Amazons.
Both the TV and the comics crises have the same origin: Barry going back in time to save his mother. The aftermath of the season premiere on the TV side was a shallower dive, yet, at the same time, much more personal.
Instead of dragging in the Green Arrow or any other CW Network heroes, time’s price is paid by Barry’s inner circle. While Barry is living out every millennial’s dream of living with his loving parents for all eternity, Cisco has turned into a d-bag billionaire, Caitlin has become the world’s most brilliant eye doctor for kids, Joe is an alcoholic on the verge of getting booted from the CCPD, and Wally gains speedster powers and teams with Iris to fight crime in Central City.
Barry thinks he is all right with this new arrangement, especially since Iris, who in this reality hasn’t given Barry a second thought since grade school, agrees to go on a date with him. However, since Barry is still Barry, he tries to literally have the best of both worlds: enjoying time with his not-dead parents in the new reality while forcing together the friendships he’d had in the old.
There is a catch to all this because time is a cruel mistress: whenever Barry recalls a memory from his past, those thoughts are overwritten by the new present, and Barry loses a piece of himself. Since we all know how sentimental Barry is, it’s no surprise that he is losing chunks of himself every couple of minutes.
It all comes to a head when Wally and Barry team up to fight this week’s evil speedster du jour. Wally is mortally wounded and, despite getting Iris to fall for him all over again, Barry knows he has to return himself and Reverse Flash (whom Barry has been keeping in a speed-proof plastic cage in Central City’s Abandoned Warehouse District) to the correct time so Reverse Flash can carry out the grisly mission of killing Barry’s mother in order to set the timeline back straight.
After a tearful goodbye to his parents (because it’s not officially an episode of The Flash unless Barry cries), the deed is done and Barry seemingly returns to his time at approximately the time he left it. All seems right with the world until in a Twilight Zone-worthy twist, Iris is estranged from the West family, providing another cosmic road block keeping Barry from hooking up with his foster sister.
Seeing these familiar characters spun in new ways was fun, but, ultimately, it was another somber adventure that shined a spotlight on a relationship that the show has slavishly been pushing since the beginning.
Titling this episode “Flashpoint” set the expectations for it way too high. Flashpoint is one of those comic stories that has defined The Flash and the DC Universe (for a good comparison/contrast check out The Flashpoint Paradox animated movie streaming on Netflix). So, the thought that this could be some brave new direction for not just The Flash, but for all four CW superhero shows (Supergirl, Arrow, and Legends of Tomorrow are in their own states of transition) was an exciting one. Something bigger may still come out of this episode, but it feels like more fizzle than sizzle.