The Flash’s third season (episode 1, “Flashpoint”) is a solid episode, full of a good mix of setup and emotional weight. It hinges on the idea of who’s the bad guy and who’s the villain—in the sense that we’re all capable of being both. No one is perfect, not even my favorite precious cinnamon roll, Cisco Ramon (Carlos Valdes). Spoiler alert: in the alternate timeline, he’s still witty, but also kiiiind of a jerk. To wit: “No thanks. My money needs me.” How very Gordon Gekko of you, C.
Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) has his parents back. They’re adorable, loving. Barry manages to semi-stalk (a little ew there, guys) Iris (Candice Patton), steal her purse, and then manages a very manufactured meet-cute in which…he returns her purse. She accepts his offer to go out for coffee, but since this is a CW show, it’s not the same “coffee” as Luke Cage. It’s also iced tea. Do with that what you will.
What’s interesting about this episode is not necessarily how everyone changed and is displaced. Sure, the once tightknit team has managed to find ways to gravitate towards each other, despite all the different circumstances. Cisco made Wally (Keiynan Lonsdale) his (Kid Flash) suit. Caitlin doesn’t bat an eye when Barry kidnaps her (say it with me: Barry, no) for help. And while Joe (Jesse L. Martin) spends the majority of the episode scowling and being a mildly curmudgeon-y jerk, he still (in the end) shows up when it counts—and saves Barry’s life.
But here’s where things make me tilt my head sideways. Barry has the Reverse Flash (mad love to Matt Letscher, a fellow Snickerdoodle cookie lover) in a cage. It’s a magic cage, guys. (Seriously, guys: where did that cage come from? It isn’t really explained.) It dampens his powers, so he can’t escape. It also keeps him from the damage that the alternate timeline is doing to Barry, since Reverse Flash can’t use his speed. The fastest man alive is randomly hit with vision fits. Snippets of his previous timeline sideline him, as the memories are erased. Sure, it’s not exactly the memory-stealing machine from The NeverEnding Story II, but it does some damage. Reverse Flash taunts him that he’ll eventually forget who he is. The only solution? Reverse Flash has to go and kill Barry’s mom. Barry: “Go to Hell!” Reverse Flash: “You’re taking both of us there.” It’s interesting when the Villain becomes the Voice of Reason, no? I mean, we all saw the solution to Flashpoint coming, right?
Let’s talk about Old Yellow Suit, though, ok? At one point, he taunts Barry: “Now, who’s the villain, Flash? Now, who’s the villain?” And I think this raises an interesting point. Allen is a goofy, adorable sweetheart. But he can also act like a flaming idiot. Eventually, he comes to realize that everyone in this new timeline is paying the price for his fairytale: “I thought I could just make things better. But everybody’s been paying for my happiness.” I mean, Iris and Joe don’t even get along. Wally dies. Not exactly paradise.
Good people, even superheroes, do bad things all the time. And Barry’s desire is a real human wish. A fundamental, often grief laden, pull to revisit what our life might have been if. What our life could’ve been, but. It’s a very relatable desire. And while us mere mortals cannot travel back in time to try to live a perfect life, Barry did. In doing so, he came face-to-face with his own selfishness. Once he did, Barry did what heroes do: took steps to correct it.
But it might be too late. After an interesting exchange with Reverse Flash (Barry: “I hate you.” Reverse Flash: “And I hate you. But I sometimes wonder which of us is right.”), Barry returned to his timeline, which was largely the same. For a moment, he was blissfully grateful to have everything back to normal. But it’s not that simple. Have you ever broken a mug and then glued it back together? Sure, it might still work. Still looks like a cup, but you can see where the cracks are. For Barry, the crack he made was in the relationship between Joe and Iris, who no longer speak to each other.
The last thing Barry says is, “Oh god, what did I do?” Again, relatable. I mean, who hasn’t looked at the aftermath of a situation or a choice in horror/disbelief. Barry’s worst fault is his inability to think things through. He may be a Speedster, but that just means he rushes into situations without thinking faster than the rest of us.
On deck, it seems like we’re getting a new villain: Alchemy. Not gonna lie: I’m more interested in the relationships on the show than I am who the villain is. (And I need more Cisco quips, STAT.) Plus, I want Wells back. *stomps foot like Veruca Salt* Sorry, not sorry. I adore Tom Cavanagh.
See you next week, kittens. Unless, you know, Barry goes back in time and manages to erase me. *wink*