The Flash 3×01: Flashpoint

Or: The Bitter and the Sweet

I think we all dream of a perfect life, where everything goes according to our wishes, and we don’t have to struggle or suffer. But alas, I don’t think one of us has ever truly found it. You can’t have happiness without sadness, and Barry discovers this in Flashpoint. He saved his mother at the end of season 2, and in doing so has created the “perfect” time line. but there is still a cost.

Barry’s voice over at the beginning of the episode mentions how some things happen by chance, and others we make happen. I’d like to know which one Nora’s death falls under, but I digress.

The current thing Barry is attempting to make happen is meeting and asking out Iris West, the girl he watches every day at Jitters and has been for a while. Of all the things that have changed, Barry’s scared-to-make-a-move trait has stayed. He’s been working toward asking Iris out for three months. I’m glad that Barry feels the difference, he and Iris have been so close until he changed everything, and now there’s a chasm between them he has to figure out how to bridge. It’s still Iris, but they don’t have the years together they had before. I have to admit, his nervous hand fidgeting and the mumbling of pep talks to himself as he approached her was delightful. Classic Barry Allen.

But instead, a speedster outside and breaking news on the television pulls him away without speaking to her. Iris, incidentally, was smiling as she texted with someone, then began texting fast and urgent after the Rival’s appearance. Any bets she was texting with a certain little brother named Wally? Of course, she was!

Speaking of Wally, who cheered when Kid Flash arrived on the scene? I did. The show has boosted their special effects some (well hello, increase in budget!) and it was thrilling to watch Kid Flash and the Rival race around/up buildings. Wally was awesome, and I can’t blame Barry for rushing to watch the new Flash in action. (But seriously Barry, why are you rushing to rubberneck at every Flash altercation? Are you trying to see what you look like to others when you run? Do you wish you had yellow on your suit? Are you just hanging around in case you’re needed? Maybe, as a good mentor, you’re trying to add extra civilian factors in to further challenge this new Flash and make sure he’s up to the task?)

It must be the last one because Barry manages to put himself in harm’s way and is saved by Wally Kid Flash, who then asks if he’s ok. Lol. Sidenote: I enjoyed how accepting and supportive the CCPD is with Wally’s Flash, it speaks to how established this hero is, and his youthful bravado is just cute. The Rival is a pretty generic blowhard at this point, we’ll see if he improves.

Barry books it back to Jitters and, after quickly stealing and returning Iris’ wallet to start a conversation, successfully manages to finally ask her out and she accepts. Their instant connection over grade school memories, his bumbling and babbling and Iris being instantly charmed by him all speak to the connection Iris and Barry share, no matter the timeline or earth. The show is consistently showing us that westallen is something that happens over and over again no matter the circumstances. They are meant to be because they connect in a way that transcends anything else. No mothers dying or being raised together, no coma or disapproving father-in-law, other relationships or time travel shenanigans (Barry’s or Thawne’s) can make it go away. I’m delighted to see this depiction. And because the show started with Barry and Iris already best friends we never got to see them meet for the first time or agree to go out for iced tea together as a first date and navigate the beginnings of what feels like a very promising relationship. This episode was a gift in that sense.

We also get to see Barry in action at work, with a new boss who actually seems to like him and doesn’t mind chatting. Joe is suspiciously absent and it’s clear that Barry is attempting to cover for him. Add that to the dimming in Iris’ eyes when Barry mentions her father and you realize all is not right in Flashpoint Land. The feeling intensifies when Barry leaves work early to take Big Belly Burger to Eobard Thawne, who is incarcerated in a speed-dampening cell in the warehouse district. Barry stays true to his jail-’em-without-a-trial-roots, something this show has never quite known how to navigate. But I digress again…

I know many who prefer Tom Cavanaugh’s Eobard Thawne over Matt Lescher’s. But sometimes Matt pulls out some really amazing moments with his version, and I can’t leave him out of the equation. I’ll never forget his creepy chilling version of Eobard Thawne when he was introduced in 1×17, and in this episode he delivers once again. While Barry pats himself on the back about getting his real life back, Thawne has just the right amount of snark, hatred, and chilling resolve as he warns Barry that they now have a common enemy coming for them both. He reminds Barry that he’s supposed to be the hero and that time is screwing with Barry’s life and Thawne too. When he tells Barry one day he’ll beg for Thawne to kill his mother again, I gotta say it’s quite intense. Matt is in top form in this ep.

Barry ignores his enemy and heads home, where we are treated to an aged Nora and Henry, happily married and alive. Did anyone catch the slower, dreamier quality of the music during that scene? Blake Neely has always composed stellar music for the Flash and he starts out this season in great form.

Barry is loving life with his parents, hugs his mom too much but she loves it, (sniffle) and is a bit surprised when it becomes apparent that his mom and dad want him to move out/have a girlfriend/be an adult. He happily informs them he asked out the girl he’s been stalking watching and she said yes. Nora and Henry are delighted. Honestly, the domestic bliss in the scene is just beautifully done and I can’t decide if I adore it or if I am bitter about the reality that the writers killed Henry for man pain. *Sigh* Sidenote: The look on Henry’s face when Nora first brings up a basement apartment for rent is a thing of beauty.

At the police dept. Joe is once again MIA and it’s looking like his job is on the line. Barry heads to the West home and finds him hung over, snoring and cuddling with takeout food. His breath alone could probably stun a yak, so Barry whooshes his ex-foster dad upstairs, cleans him up and delivers him at work, then offers him a breath mint. (I admit I giggled at the accelerated water and tooth brushing sounds upstairs.)

Joe can’t figure out exactly what just happened and he’s crusty and cranky in this timeline. I feel that way every day, Joe. His interrogation of Barry and why on earth this non-partner kid should care about him at all comes to an abrupt end when Iris shows up for lunch with Barry. (What is that adorable awkward wave, Barry? Could you have any less chill? Oh wait, look who I’m talking to.)

Joe does not approve, but neither Barry nor Iris seem to care. They are practically beaming at each other. Iris and Joe exchange tense and stilted words, wow these two don’t get along in this timeline. I demand backstory. Now.

Iris and Barry in conversation as they walk is such a simple and lovely scene. Grant and Candice have beautiful chemistry, and letting them shine in a simple scene like this was a wise move. Barry tells her it feels like he already knows her and then worries it was a wierd thing to say, but Iris confirms that she feels like she knows him too. Their conversation flows so well and really shows how easy it is for them to slip into a comfortable place with each other. Alas, it’s cut short by a disturbing episode as Barry experiences past memories of he and Iris together, then they disappear.  Iris is worried, Barry is out of sorts, and the police alert them that the Flash and the Rival are going at it again. Both quickly make their excuses and leave. If that’s not a giant sign that Iris is working with this Flash, I don’t know what would be.

Barry shows up just in time to see the Flash thrown out an upper floor window of a tall skyscraper. He manages to buffer the fall enough to save him, but loses control and drops him in the dumpster. Nice, Barry. Being the extra-curious nosey hero he is, Barry unmasks the new Flash and is astounded to find Wally. Wally, however, has no idea who Barry is.

We get to see Wally’s secret base of operations, complete with crime-fighting sister Iris who immediately suspects Barry was trying to get close to her because of her brother. Barry vehemently denies it and offers help. It is made clear Joe is out of the loop entirely.

So they go to Star Labs Ramon Industries to enlist help from the richest man in the country: Cisco Ramon. Oh yes! I always love watching the actors get to be a different charcter than the one they do all the time, and this was no dfferent. Cisco is rich, brilliant, caustic, and not at all interested in crime fighting. He did, however, uphold tradition and make the suit for Wally before telling him never to come back. Barry appeals to Cisco’s better nature, using memories from the other time line. But then they suddenly disappear, and Barry can’t remember what he was saying. Uh oh.

So back to Thawne he goes, looking for answers. Turns out time is now solidifying, and Barry soon won’t even remember he is the flash, much less that he had a previous life with the people he loves. (I have to ask. What did you think would happen Barry?!) Soon time will cement and nothing will change it back again. The discussion is charged and full of emotion, as any discussion will ever be between these two. Thawne tells Barry he knows what he has to do now, he has to let his mother die again. Barry responds with something that rhymes with glow foo tell, and Thawne asks him who the villain is now. It’s true, Barry’s not acting like much of a hero at the moment.

Determined to be a hero again, Barry doubles down on making this timeline work as he brings Wally and Iris to Cisco’s lab and reveals himself as another Flash. He explains what he did, and both West siblings give him incredulous looks. (Have I mentioned how much I love the West sibs? Cause I do.) Cisco is not on board, and Barry realizes they are missing someone so he looks up and kidnaps escorts Caitlin Snow to the lab. But she’s not a scientist, she’s a pediatric eye doctor. Okay, lol. Still, she does seem to come up with a good idea and locates the Rival. The team works well together in any timeline, willing or not.

Meanwhile, Iris asks to speak to Barry privately and tells him she does believe his story,  because she always felt something about her life was off and that feeling went away the moment she met Barry. (Oh! My heart!) That is a lovely moment and really cements that these two are always supposed to be a part of each other’s lives.

Flash and Kid Flash team up and head out to take on the Rival. They discuss flanking strategy (lol), the Rival blabs a lot of hot air (yadda yadda yadda), Wally goes Anakin solo and tries to beat the Rival himself. He still has to learn about teamwork. Wally pulls some impressive moves, which I enjoyed, and appears to beat the black dragon impersonator. (Seriously what are those spikes about?) I mean Rival. But with the true unsportsmanlike cowardice of a lame villian, the Rival spears Wally from behind with a makeshift spear. Tacky, dude. Wally! Noooooooo!!!!!!

So now it’s up to Barry to beat the Rival, and for a second he might just do it. Until he blanks out and starts losing memories of himself as the Flash at all. The Rival gets a bit over-excited and generates two tornadoes.

Wait wait wait! Ok, is this just some very unsubtle symbolism here? Why two? The absolute only reason for two would be to reference the Tornado Twins, Barry and Iris’ future children. Otherwise one would have been enough to remind us of the pilot and give some lovely callbacks to the other timeline. (I want to scream about fish in a pond here, but I’ll resist. Gold star to any one who knows what I’m talking about lol.) Cisco’s Weather Wizard comment was nice.

Anyway, Barry loses all hope and tells the team he can’t stop them. While Thawne himself disgused as Harrison Wells gave Barry the words he needed then, in a perfect twist Iris is the one on the other side this time. She is the one who unfailingly believes in him, and she is the one he needs to really be the Flash. It was a nice moment. So then Barry accepts his identity as the Flash and proceeds to break up not just one, but two tornadoes and vanquish the Rival. In what must have cost him no end of bruised machismo, the Rival admits Barry is indeed the fastest man alive. (Is this a first? Barry always seems slower than the bad guys.) The Rival will shed manly tears later, I’m sure. Well he would have, if he hadn’t been determined to be unsportsmanlike. When Barry turns to check on Wally, the Rival attempts to pull his same backstabbing move, but he didn’t count on Detective Joe West, who uses his gun in defense of the Flash once more. Now that was nice. Also nice was the fabulous look of surprise on Joe’s face when Barry pulled off his cowl, and his deep worry and concern when he realizes the injured speedster is his own son.

Wally does not recover, and Barry is starting to realize that his happiness is coming at a  steep price for other people. He enlists Iris’ help and takes her to meet his parents one last time. He has a lovely moment with them and tells them how happy he is to be their son. (See my notes below.) On their way out Iris catches Barry as he has another memory loss and they hurry to Eobard Thawne. Thawne is a gloating victorious jerk, and I don’t blame Barry for saying he hates him. Thawn confirms that he hates Barry too, but sometimes wonders which of them is right. That is a loaded statement that could take years to unpack, but I’m going to hazard a guess that it’s Thawne who’s wrong. Hero worship gone wrong is what started this whole problem. Sort yourself out young man!

Iris and Barry say goodbye, and while it’s a tender beautiful moment when Iris kisses him and says she’ll see him soon, it still tasted bitter to me because here is yet again another kiss Iris will have no memory of. Barry moves to run and seems to have lost all his speed. Thawne declares himself the hero on this occasion, but I don’t ever think killing an innocent woman makes you a hero. I watched the last few minutes with a curled lip because it was really kind of a dick move to make Nora think she was safe and then pull the rug out and kill her again. I feel like she is getting screwed left and right, and Henry isn’t far behind.

Thawne drops Barry at Joe’s house and tells him things may not be exactly back to normal in his usual crytic manner before leaving. Barry enters the house and gives a very confused Wally a long hug. I’m totally here for Wally and Barry to be close buds! There is a  discussion and a toast to Henry (Oh do you remember him? Seems like he’s long forgotten) and then Barry asks about Iris. Joe is less than impressed and leaves. For a second I panic and think she might be dead even though I know she’s in later episodes. Wally shakes his head at Barry’s confusion and tells him he knows Iris and Joe don’t talk. Barry is left to wonder what exactly he has done. (Again.)

Meanwhile Clarence (the Rival) is awakened by a voice and scratching on the mirror that spells ALCHEMY. Ok then. But really, I’m more worried about Joe and Iris.

Tidbits:

  • “Gary, right?” L.O.L. That entire exchange was ADORABLE. Barry is never the same with anyone else like he is with Iris. Watching them connect and feeling the waves of chemistry they exude wash over me was really delightful. The cutest of meet-cutes.
  • “And remember. I have a hangover, and a gun.” LOL Crusty Joe is funny.
  • “It’s just a lunch. And truthfully, I wasn’t even sure you still worked here.” OUCH Iris takes no prisoners! I love her.
  • Wally’s story of getting his powers was perfectly him. Loved it.
  • “More like Kid Flash.” “Don’t call me that.” Wally, you could be 80 and your youthful exuberance would still shine through. Have a cookie.
  • “Cisco—” “Uh uh. I don’t know you, Stringbean.” “S—Mr. Ramon.” “Oh, yes?” Carlos Valdes is a treasure in every form.
  • “Don’t do that! I told you it freaks me out!” “That wasn’t me.” I like how Wally is settling into awesome speedster guy. Let’s keep him this way!
  • “Stop bringing strangers into my lab, who is this?”
  • “Excuse me, have I been kidnapped?” “Unclear.”
  • “We’re something else to each other where you come from aren’t we?” “But it’s love? Because this is what love feels like?” “Since the day that I met you.” Oh look, I’m melting.
  • I’m kind of miffed that Wally was relegated to secondary Flash so soon after Barry revealed himself. It’s good that Iris believed Barry so completely, but I don’t know, I kind of felt for Wally. I don’t blame him for wanting to prove himself to Barry. He’s been running the show for a while and then suddenly another Flash shows up and he’s all that and a bag of chips to everyone, even his own sister. I’ll make you brownies Wally.
  • “Is that a thing? Flanking?” Heeee!!
  • Ok, I’m sorry, but in what world or timeline is a villain stupid enough to willingly reveal his face and identity to two rivals? Overconfidence? Really? Why oh why? That makes no sense. I call shenanigans.
  • They take the time to include a reason why Barry is forgetting but Thawne isn’t, but they can’t take a millisecond to explain why Wally isn’t healing fast anymore? Huh? Come on guys.
  • As much as I love the idea of giving people inspirational words to help them believe in themselves and achieve great things, I feel like this show does it about every other episode. It is far past being overused, now it’s in saturation territory and I think they need to take a break from it, please. Not forever, but just lessen the use and bring it out when they really need a gut-punching feels moment. They’ve lost their significance now and it’s only the first episode of season 3. Geez Barry, lift yourself up now and then!
  • UMMMM for an eye doctor Caitlin knows a bit too much. Wally wasn’t stabbed in his eye.
  • “If it isn’t the future Mrs. Allen.” Dang right she is!
  • “But I want to hear you say it.” Cold, Thawne, cold.

Stuff I Wanna Complain About:

  • You know, I used to think it was good flashpoint was one episode, but I now rescind that. I worried about flashpoint stretching too long, but I think a two parter would have been better. Far too much emotional depth was just glossed over in order to reach the finish line. Barry’s magical healing of grief over his father and parents in general was reduced to one line. “I feel closer to my parents than I have in a long time.” Oh. I was wondering if they’d actually give the grief and loss about having to let your mother die AGAIN time to be addressed. I see it will not. Having his parents for three months was wonderful, but I can’t imagine it would be easy as pie to revert back again, no mattter how much you know it has to be that way. But apparently it’s time to drop that and sprint forward. Typical.
  • Iris was lovely in this ep as always and the westallen connection was emphasized beautifully, but I admit I was disappointed I didn’t get even a little bit of her and Wally, crime fighting siblings in action. Here was a prime opportunity to show her using her journalism skills to actively help one or both Flashes safeguard the city, and instead it was reduced to one line and quickly skipped over. She was a beautiful love interest here, but is it too much to ask for her as a love interest/journalist? A fully realized person? Or is that only afforded to Barry on this show? I feel like a party pooper complaining, but I can’t help thinking a two-parter would have had more time to dig into this idea and really show it off. Wally could have benefitted too. Iris could have utilized her skills to find the Rival in the second episode instead of Caitlin entering as a deus-ex-machina-style plot point to do it with skills that don’t even apply to her field. The possibilities boggle my mind and I’m kind of let down.
  • Similarly, I feel that Henry and especially Nora were just window dressing. They were the whole point of flashpoint and while I will never turn down a depiction of westallen importance and development and I loved that part, Nora was just a pawn to be either alive or killed. There was no inclusion of Barry’s parents at all in the plot, from what I can see of the ep and the way they cut it Barry never even clued them in to any of it. He just did whatever he pleased and while he may have some angst over it, he seems to be the only one important enough to make such decisions even though they affect so many others. It bothers me on a certain level. There wasn’t agency afforded to either parent concerning their ultimate fate, and it felt really crappy to provide Nora with a moment of relief only to have it ripped away again and kill her. That’s more cruel than the first time around. She felt like emoional fodder for the angst cannon and she deserved more than that, as did Henry. But at least Henry got to sleep through that part. I feel the episode missed the poignancy and bittersweet beauty that could have been there had they taken more time to do flashpoint. I feel like a two-parter would have been beneficial. No longer, because that would be too long. But two episodes would have rounded out so much. So now I feel the show has failed both of Barry’s parents, and Francine West too.
  • Connected to that, it feels as if flashpoint was so short that they really glossed over why it had to be undone. Barry losing memories and Wally not recovering seems like a pretty shallow reason compared to two people dying. There is an ethical dilemma to each one chosen and neither consequence was enough to really tip the balance   completely. I appreciate that Barry realized everyone around him had it worse to make his life better, but in the comics the world was in chaos and there was death and destruction at every turn. It was a very compelling reason to let Nora die, even though it hurt. The good of many/the world over the few. I didn’t feel that here.
  • Flashpoint was fun and I know there are other changes as a consequence, but I can’t help feeling a bit frustrated that the thing they felt necessray to change at the end was Iris’ beautiful relationship with her father. While it has never been perfect, both characters have grown and changed over the past seasons and their strengthening relationship was always something I enjoyed. Now they are so estranged they don’t even speak? What? So Barry does his usual messing up of everything and every one else pays for it. You don’t live in a vacuum Barry! Everything you do affects everyone else and it’s time to pull yourself together. Right now the speed force is shaking its head. They gave god-like powers to a 2 year old. I blame the writing for this.
  • If Jay Garrick is arriving to advise Barry, why is Felicity the advice-giving guru showing up too? They only trot her out when Iris is unavailable, and Iris is right there. Talk to her Barry, for pete’s sake. I feel like I can check off Felicity Visit from the list of things they do every season. It is NOT a good thing that a checklist is starting to form, that’s formulaic writing and in the end it loses its heart.

Possibilities:

  • Dare I hope that Jay Garrick is showing up next week to kick Barry in the head and tell him to grow up? Barry needs some serious training in how to actully be a hero, and I  think Jay is a perfect candidate to teach him.
  • It’s time for Barry to own up and take some responsibility. I expect him to tell at least Iris if not others about his disastrous choice, and I’m ok if Iris and others are a little bit angry with him for treating their own lives and choices and relationships so casually. Iris has every right to be really aggravated there are kisses and memories she no longer has because Barry keeps messing around with time.
  • I have heard the phrase “Barry wooing Iris” applied to season 3, and after all this mess I expect it. I want to see some wooing, I want to see their relationship actually take off, I want to see westallen become non-erased canon and actually thrive. It’s time. No more playing around. If they can’t do it for real and make it stick I’ll have to take a very long break from the show. Same goes for Barry learning he doesn’t live in a vacuum. It’s too frustrating. These characters should be growing, not stagnating in their own mud puddle of bad choices.
  • Next episode brings Tom Felton as Julian, and I admit I’m curious. Bring it.
  • Honestly Thawne should really realize how important Iris is to the Flash, instead of going back to kill Nora left and right. Not that I want Iris in danger, but it’s pretty clear by now…

 

What did you think fo the ep? Feel free to hit the comments! 🙂