This week’s episode is a blast to the past. Grab your hoverboards and your sports almanacs, because it’s time to take a look at CW’s The Flash.
I think it’s fair to say that there’s probably something each of us wishes we had done differently. Or maybe it’s something you wished you had known earlier, so you could have reacted better. Or just to know, to be able to put the knowledge away and carry it with you.
It’s harder to say whether, given the chance, we would go back and change it.
How long ago was it? How much would change? Would I still be me? Would I even recognize myself from where I stand now, versus the person I might have been? How different would my life have been, and would it have been worth the changing? Would I even know what had changed?
And who’s to say, if we were given our chance, what our reaction would be? It’s hard to know that until you’re in the hot seat.
Spoilers under the cut.
We’ve been building towards this end the whole season. At the very beginning, we know Barry’s mother, Nora Allen, is murdered. We find out later that it was the Reverse-Flash who killed his mother, and finally we discover that the Reverse-Flash was there the whole time, pretending to be Harrison Wells. His name is Eobard Thawne, and he was trapped in the past due to an averted attempt at killing Barry Allen when he was very young. (Barry Allen from the future stopped the murder of the tiniest Barry Allen, but could not prevent Nora Allen’s death.)
At the end of the previous episode, with the help of Firestorm and the Green Arrow, Barry Allen finally trapped the Reverse-Flash. And Thawne/Wells, who has been using the stick most of the season to reach his goals, switches to the carrot. He tells Barry there is a way to go back in time and prevent Nora’s death.
This will get Thawne/Wells out of their time and return him to his own, and would change Barry’s life in ways that are too numerous to count, but they start with this: he would be raised by both of his biological parents, people he has missed since his mother’s murder, people who would certainly love and cherish him. (He was raised by a non-bio dad, a single father, which is why I made the distinction, not to indicate that biological parents are inherently superior.)
It is an unbelievable temptation to lay at Barry’s feet, and most of his friends encourage him to do it. And, god, who can blame them? A life saved, one that couldn’t have been, all those years ago?
The strongest dissenting voice is Henry Allen.
Henry Allen speaks to his son like a father. He tells Barry the events of his entire life are what led to Barry being the wonderful young man he is, and that if Nora herself were capable of having a voice, she would tell Barry not to do this thing. He is urgent and convincing, and it is so clear how much he loves his child.
Barry speaks to Joe, because he does not want to give up one parent to gain another. He hates the idea of losing Joe as a father.
Eddie (after Stein talks to him out of warmth and humility and kindness, and wow, does Stein ever make a great speech) pulls his head out of his ass re: Iris and makes up with her.
Ronnie has returned to Central City not just to help Barry, but to pick his life back up and marry Cait.
This show is about family, all kinds. Adoptive, found, biological. The show does not put one inherently above the other, but embraces them all. It is one of the things that draws me – and, I think, a lot of people – to the show. This episode hits all of those notes.
As the episode winds the tension up regarding the will-he-won’t-he about Barry saving his mom, it breaks it up with lighter moments. Cisco being incredibly salty about Wells, for starters. Cait and Ronnie getting married in an incredibly sweet and brief ceremony, performed by Stein. (Cisco was the ringbearer, which is perfect.)
Barry Allen does return to the night his mother died.
He does not save his mother.
Instead, he speaks to her and holds her hand as she dies, tells her who he is, tells her that her husband and son are safe, tells her that he loves her. It is his last chance to speak with her, the only chance he has as an adult. Instead of changing the timeline, he just offers comfort to someone who had died alone. To someone he loves and misses every day, to someone he knows he can never have back – he gave her comfort, and his love.
Honestly, I don’t have anything else to say. Over to Kevin.
“I could save Mom.”
“At what cost? You said time would change. What if it changes you?”
Stories with speedsters, especially stories with a Flash or three in them, will invariably be about time travel. It’s part and parcel of the Flash legacy, as my speedster guru frequently tells me.
You can’t have the Flash without time travel. It’s a package deal.
It’s interesting to watch this episode after having seen all of Season Two and up to the mid-point of Season Three, where time travel not only continues to be a plot point, but is also a major source of drama for the ensemble. It was inevitable, really, that the first episode of Season Three was entitled “Flashpoint” – ever since Geoff Johns took over from Mark Waid, that story became the central point of the comics and changed the course of the DCU for years to come.
Flashpoint has shaped this series from the very beginning. Right from the first episode, they told us where we were going and how we were going to get there.
To which Eddie Thawne says, “Screw fate.”
As amazing as it is in hindsight to see everyone talking favorably (or at least, not unfavorably) about Barry intentionally changing the timeline, it’s even more amazing to see Martin Stein geeking out about the concept of time travel, predetermination, and the fact that Eddie Thawne is, to all appearances, the most important person in the room. He’s the only one that Harribard literally cannot kill, the only person who Stein says is in full command of his destiny.
This did not go over Eddie’s head. You can see him pondering it right when Stein says so. It factors into his conversations with Iris.
Friends, I believe that Eddie considered killing himself right then and there. When everything goes to hell and the Reverse-Flash is about to kill Barry, the camera is off of Eddie the entire time, but I believe it was not a spur-of-the-moment decision.
My only question is, did Stein know what he was saying? He’s calculating and has been considering the ramifications of time travel all along, and we know he’s willing to do whatever he needs to get the job done. It’s happened earlier this season, and it happens in the future on Legends Of Tomorrow.
Was Stein planting the thought in Eddie’s head? Or did Eddie honestly come by it on his own?
We might never know. But regardless, Eddie Thawne has been a decent man this entire season, and he really came into his own.
Everyone has a part to play. Eddie just hadn’t discovered his yet.
- Fantastic subversion of the opening monologue. I’ve said before that I love when they play with the medium, and it’s so wonderfully done here.
- Every face-off between Barry and Harribard is so freakin’ tense. The lighting, the music, the acting.
- They still acknowledge that Harribard grew to care for the Science Siblings. Wasn’t enough to do anything about it. Wasn’t enough to stop him from trying to kill Barry at the end.
- Harribard considers himself to be one of Barry’s dads. It’s not implied; he outright states it.
- This will be the main difference between Harribard and the Eobard that shows up here and there in the future and in other shows. “Harrison Wells” is Evil Science Dad. The other instances of Eobard never had the opportunity to get there.
- It’s really interesting how everyone’s so favorable to Barry going back to save his mother, when, in future seasons, this will be a huge point of contention between all of them. Multiple times.
- Last episode was the big action episode. This is the big emotional closer. Wrapping up everything for the season – Barry and Joe, Barry and Henry, Caitlin marrying Ronnie, Barry resolving his friendship with Iris, everything with Wells.
- Great sinister reprise of the S.T.A.R. Labs theme mixed with the Reverse-Flash’s leitmotif as Harribard explains what Barry needs to do to open the wormhole.
- Get Cisco on board by letting him build a time machine.
- Harribard realizes that Cisco is a metahuman. This will be A Thing.
- Mach 2 at sea level is 1522 miles per hour. Barry’s Supersonic Punch, if you remember him needing 5.3 miles to get a run up to it, was at Mach 1. Barry doubled his speed between the middle of the season and now.
- Ronnie and Caitlin have a Jewish wedding! This is important to me.
- May the Speed Force Be With You. Cisco, never change.
- BARRY CALLS JOE “DAD”. SPECIFICALLY. I’m not crying, you’re crying.
- (I’m totally crying.)
- It’s interesting that Barry being back in the past, back in the house during the fight and the murder, is treated as this reverential, almost ethereal sequence. It’s shot like a dream, with the muted voices and the synth choir, until Barry opens the door and holds his mother as she dies. That’s when the soft filter disappears and it hits him, and us, with how real it is.
- Foreshadowing for S2!
- Caitlin as Killer Frost.
- Jay Garrick’s helmet.
- Rip Hunter’s time machine.
- THAT WAS KENDRA SAUNDERS.
Enjoy the cliffhanger. We’ll see you next week for the start of The Flash, Season Two: “Barry, No!”
Kevin O’Shea is a writer and wormhole enthusiast. You can find him on Twitter (@osheamobile), Tumblr (osheamobile), or absolutely sobbing after this episode. Barry just loves his mom so much, you guys.
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