We’ve had three episodes of season three of The Flash so far on the CW, and this is a quick catch-up before episode 4, “The New Rogues,” that airs this Tuesday at 8 PM.
With last year’s cliffhanger, we knew we’d be in for something different. We know the consequences of going back in time. And this is exactly how we enter “Flashpoint.”
Those familiar with the comics know how far-reaching the effects of Flashpoint can be. What we’ve received is a much smaller, more intimate look. We open with the refresher of the finale’s penultimate event, Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) preventing his mother’s death. Then we discover the differences and similarities of this new world. Thankfully, this isn’t the first time we’ve visited alternate realities on The Flash, so we know to be patient.
Barry got what he wanted: both parents alive and well. Things seem great, and Wally West (Keiynan Lonsdale) is the Kid Flash, so Barry doesn’t need to fight crime. But Iris (Candice Patton) is practically a stranger, Joe (Jesse L. Martin) hates his job, and the Rival (Todd Lasance), a new speedster, is more than a match for Wally. At least Eobard Thawne (Matt Letscher) is locked away in a special cell, although he warns Barry of the dire consequences of his actions.
We see Barry try to get the old team back together, with mixed results. We also get the next snag in the story: Barry’s disappearing memories, as a result of staying in this timeline. Determined to not let go of his newfound happiness, he tries to help Wally defeat the Rival. But of course, things don’t go as planned, and Barry has to make things right, by once again letting Eobard kill his mother.
Back in the restored timeline, Barry’s prepared to go back to life as normal, but soon finds that it’s not quite right, starting with the rift between Iris and Joe. We also see the man who was the Rival in the other universe get a chilling vision.
It was an interesting way to start a season, cramming three months of alternate universe into one episode. Where do we go from there? And please don’t tell me I wasn’t the only one who caught how Thawne said that things were back to how they should be, for him. This is definitely not the last we’ve seen of the Reverse Flash.
Episode two, “Paradox,” has Barry visiting the Arrow’s universe, and chatting with Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards). He discovers that his time traveling has also affected their reality, although in smaller ways.
With Iris and Joe at odds, and Cisco (Carlos Valdes) blaming Barry for his brother’s death, Barry is thrown off balance with navigating these new changes. One would think that as much time traveling and universe jumping he’s done, he would handle this better.
One of the major changes in Barry’s life is the inclusion of a new co-worker, Julian Albert (played by Tom Felton). Julian, the Meta-human CSI specialist, has been working with him for almost a year, sharing lab space. I hate to say this, but I keep waiting for Julian to be a bad guy somehow.
We get introduced to Alchemy, the mysterious person who is able to give people powers from (supposedly) Barry’s Flashpoint universe. We meet the Rival again, who, thanks to (Dr.) Alchemy, remembers the other timeline. What’s interesting, is there have been these human husks turning up recently; Edward Claris, now the Rival, perhaps the fourth source.
Once again wanting to fix things, Barry tries to go back in time yet again, but is prevented by his father’s doppelganger, the real Jay Garrick (John Wesley Shipp), who conveniently explains the dangers of time travel and the butterfly effect of his actions. Armed with this knowledge, Barry confronts his friends with the truth. Of course, Cisco is the most affected by this revelation, since he lost his brother.
But all is not lost, because while Barry tracks down the location of the Rival, a pep-talk from Iris bands the team together, and gets Cisco to go and save Barry at the last minute. Everyone starts to play nice again, and it feels like their little team is going to slowly get back to normal; except for a little secret that Caitlin Snow (Danielle Panabaker) is hiding, in the form of frosty fingers.
We’re left wondering at the end of this episode, just what are Alchemy’s powers?
Next, with “Magenta,” we see Barry desperately try to have his first date with Iris. The writers really love dragging out the Star-Crossed Lovers trope between these two. How many first kisses have they had by now? Barry’s attempts to give Iris a perfect date gave me secondhand embarrassment. Thankfully, an alarm breaks up their date for the return of Harry (Tom Cavanagh) and Jesse Wells (Violett Beane).
One of the elements that The Flash works well is the way they intertwine action with emotional challenges. The story around Jesse acquiring the speed force requires not only Harry to deal with his daughter wanting to fight crime, but also Wally facing the disappointment that he yet to develop powers, even though he was right next to Jesse when they got hit by the dark matter wave.
Meanwhile, we see a teen girl, Frankie (Joey King), deal with her abusive foster father in the form of magnetic powers manifesting alongside a split personality. Unsurprisingly, Alchemy is responsible for activating her powers, and he encourages her alternate personality, Magenta, to kill her foster father in order to suppress Jesse.
The parallel stories of Jesse and Frankie weave in and out as Harry deals with letting his daughter fulfill her desire to do what Barry does, as Frankie fights with her alter-ego Magenta. Plus, we have Wally coming to terms with his lack of powers and nearly getting himself killed in order to activate them. (Seriously though, since when are vehicles allowed to travel that fast downtown?) Barry’s story this episode is mainly dealing with Julian’s distrust and helping prod along the other character’s narratives.
Magenta’s magnetic powers seem more than a little overpowered, as she goes for overkill in taking out her foster father by lifting a couple thousand tons of tanker to drop onto an entire hospital. We need to suspend our disbelief a little more, with first Barry and then Jesse somehow… electromagnetically? repelling the tanker by running figure eights on top of the building. I know we have the limitations of Barry using his speed to solve problems, but… that one was a little difficult to look past for me.
Overall, it feels like they’re rushing the Flashpoint storyline; cramming the alternate universe into one episode, resolving his team’s issues to get them back to “normal” for the second, and then cramming all that talking and life lessons with Harry, Jesse, Wally, and Frankie in the third. It makes me wonder where they’re trying to take the story this season, and if they can keep up the pace.
Questions that I hope the series answers:
Will Barry and Iris ever actually start dating? Will Wally get to wear the yellow suit that the network had to pay for? Will he be tempted to turn to Alchemy to activate his powers? Where’s Eobard Thawne, the Reverse Flash, during all this, because he must be tied with Alchemy some way. And do we need three, maybe four speedsters in one universe? What other surprises do we have in store, in the form of the altered universe? I’m still hedging my bets that Julian Albert is more than just an arrogant Meta-CSI specialist. Also, can Harry please stop saying “Not?”