After spending a lackluster season serving as the launchpad for spin-offs while watching his world pulled apart, Barry Allen wound up losing everything. In the season two finale of The Flash, he took it all back by literally undoing the powerful choice he made at the end of season one. It's bizarre storytelling, but undeniably does succeed in painting the character as someone who went from finding control to losing himself in a whirlwind of desperation and a bit of a God complex.
The Flash, as a show, has become bizarre and muddled — just like the character. What the season three premiere needed to do was establish Flash's world in a strong, interesting way again. Instead, we wound up with one of the weirdest half-ass attempts at a temporary reboot that a show could possibly have. And, oddly, that doesn't bode poorly for this season of the hit show.
Barry Allen is in Heaven. After going back to prevent Reverse-Flash from killing his mother, a new timeline has been established where Barry has everything returned that was once taken from him. His parents are alive, there's a chance to redo his relationships with all those closest to him, and there's even a different Flash running around the city doing Barry's job. It's a flawless new world that even includes Barry keeping Reverse-Flash trapped in a cage. Ok that part's a little weird. Whatever, he's a bad guy. Screw him.
The Flash, as a show, has become bizarre and muddled
Then the cracks start forming. Joe West is a drunk, burnout cop, and while Cisco is a multimillionaire techbro, the team hasn't managed to find their way back to each other. Iris is falling in love with a Barry she's met for the first time, but she can also feel that her world is ... off. And everyone in this new timeline can sense it too. Is that what seasonal affective disorder is? God, I'm worried now. Point being, the world is wrong and Barry will do anything in his power to make this timeline (and his happiness) permanent.
"Whose the villain now, Barry?" Reverse-Flash shouts after him, as if we don't get what's going on.
Basically, the writers took on the comic storyline Flashpoint which resets the Justice League, and started season three with the idea of playing out that storyline, then immediately killed it off. Sure, there's a Kid Flash here in Wally West and another fairly standard Speedster in The Rival (which is an all-time stupid name on a show that includes a telepathic gorilla), but there's also nothing that exciting about rebooting a world in which our hero is happy. Especially the false kind of happy that stems from basically doing mind-control over everyone who ever trusted you.
There's a bunch of fun gags and alternate universe jokes, but the new Flashpoint timeline is unshakably hollow, and soon a dying Barry Allen realizes he must take his arch-rival back in time for the purposes of killing his mother.
You read that right. This is where we are. This is like Batman driving the Joker to Commissioner Gordon's apartment to make the events of Killing Joke come true. It is so goddamned dark, I love it.
It is so goddamned dark, I love it
Constantly returning to the well of "That Night" has made me feel like the show is running out of ideas, but now having seen it play out EVERY POSSIBLE WAY and ending on this dark of a note (which is particularly horrific for Barry's mom) convinces me that we aren't going to redo that moment in history again. I mean, they HAVE to leave it alone. That room has become like a party of time traveling assassins waiting in the birthing ward for a baby Hitler.
So the Flashpoint world is undone as quickly as it was introduced, and we are saved from spending a season watching Barry do things that don't really matter or affect a real timeline while battling his own happiness. It's a good call to reduce this major comics arc into a single episode, but it also gives us no idea of what to expect from the new season.
Barry Allen has been spiraling wildly in time travel, and as a man. He's also been paying the price for those decisions and now it's probably time for him and the show to move forward. After last season's debacle with Zoom, I think we're all ready for some new big bads and some new personal stakes that don't involve the repeated massacre of our hero's mom. In that way, this episode is surprisingly promising, because (like Flash himself) we see the writers looking down one possible storyline and realizing it's not worth our time.