By stopping Eobard Thawne from killing his mother, Barry Allen has rewritten time. His parents are both alive and well and The Reverse Flash is safely locked up. He's finally free to live the life he dreamed of - particularly since a new Flash - Wally West - has risen up to replace him in this new timeline. Yet Barry's actions had unforeseen consequences that may imperil everything he has fought to save.
The comic mini-series Flashpoint, the film It's A Wonderful Life (Thawne describe's Barry's life in the new timeline as the reverse of the movie, where a man named George Bailey sees how terrible the world would be without him.) and the film Back To The Future II (the scene of Barry trying to explain divergent timelines mirrors Doc Brown's attempt to do the same as does the general plot of the hero's actions while time traveling accidentally causing bad things to happen.)
I believe this may be Matt Letscher's longest turn as Eobard Thawne. It's certainly his most effective. For the first time he truly projects the same sense of menace as Tom Cavanagh in portraying The Flash's most vicious enemy along with the same twisted sense of humor and honor that causes him to enjoy Barry's suffering and the irony that he gets to be the instrument of saving the universe because of Barry's screwed-up attempts to fix things.
On that note, Candice Patton - who has probably been the most poorly served out of all the show's regular cast - gets a fantastic turn here playing a version of Iris West who possesses the spitfire attitude of the character from the comics and gets to show it off as The Flash's partner (albeit a different version of The Flash) and as the assertive woman Barry Allen fell in love with. The writing forced Iris into a passive role far too often in the first two seasons. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come.
While Grant Gustin is forced to play the fool for much of the episode, I dare you not to share Barry's joy as he sees his parents, happy and grown into middle age together or to not be touched as he says goodbye to them for the last time.
The editing effects used to indicate Barry losing his memories.
The special effects in Wally's fight with The Rival and Barry's fight with him afterward are amazing and the fight choreography is good.
The episode's title - and basic plot - are taken from the DC Comics crossover event Flashpoint. Written by Geoff Johns, the story focused upon Barry Allen using his powers to travel back in time to save his mother's life, inadvertently creating a divergent timeline where the lives of most of his friends were changed forever and the DC Universe was a generally more awful place.
To give some examples of the changes in the Flashpoint timeline apart from Nora Allen never dying at the hands of The Reverse Flash, Bruce Wayne was killed by Joe Chill as a child instead of his parents. The nations of Atlantis and Themyscira were at war and threatening to destroy the rest of the world in the process. Oliver Queen was still a prominent weapons manufacturer and Hal Jordan had never become Green Lantern.
The Flashpoint reality of the DCTVU is similarly altered by Barry's saving his mother's life. These changes include...
* Nora and Henry Allen are still alive.
* Barry lives with his parents.
* Wally West is The Flash.
* Wally got his speed powers after his car was struck by lightning while he was testing a new nitro formula.
* The Flash's greatest enemy is a villain called The Rival.
* Barry Allen was not raised by Joe West.
* Iris Allen hasn't been in touch with Barry since elementary school.
* Barry's supervisor at work is Captain Mendez rather than Captain Singh.
* Barry is well-liked by his boss.
* Joe West is an alcoholic and not well-respected at work.
* Joe's relationship with Iris is strained rather than loving.
* Joe does not like Barry at all and likes the idea of him dating his daughter even less.
* Iris is aware of Wally's secret identity and has been helping him with his crime-fighting since the very beginning.
* Iris and Wally were apparently raised together.
* Iris dubbed Wally Kid Flash in the press rather than The Streak (her first name for The Flash).
* Joe is not aware of his childrens' vigilante activities.
* The STAR Labs building is now Ramon Industries.
* Cisco Ramon is the richest man in America, based on his various tech apps.
* Cisco wears glasses.
* Cisco designed The Flash's costume under duress.
* Cisco has no interest in dealing with metahumans.
* Dr. Caitlin Snow is now a pediatric optometrist rather than a bio-engineer.
* Caitlin doesn't know Barry, Iris, Cisco or Wally.
* Joe West saves Barry by shooting The Rival rather than the first Weather Wizard.
Another change from the comics to the DCTVU is that Barry lost his powers immediately in the Flashpoint comics. Here, Barry's power loss is more gradual. The amnesia as the new timeline solidified was gradual in both the comics and the TV show.
Wally's costume as The Flash is modeled on the second Kid Flash costume from the comics. Originally, Wally West dressed as a smaller version of The Flash with an identical red costume.
While he had yet to don a costume in the comics when this episode aired, Wally's costume here also resembles the outfit he eventually took on when he became Kid Flash in the post-Rebirth DC Universe.
In the original comics, The Rival was the arch-enemy of the Jay Garrick Flash. He first appeared in Flash Comcis #104 (Feb.1949). His real name was Dr. Edward Clariss and he was a professor at the university Jay Garrick attended. Jealous of The Flash, Clariss attempted to recreate the experiment that gave Jay Garrick his super-speed. While Dr. Clariss was not able to permanently gain super-speed, he did craft a formula that allowed him to duplicate The Flash's powers for short periods. Dubbing the formula "Velocity 9", Clariss' claims were rejected the scientific community. This inspired Clariss to become a criminal, wearing a darker version of the Flash's outfit in an attempt to frame Jay Garrick for his crimes. He was later absorbed into The Speed Force and emerged 50 years later as a being of pure speed energy to plague Jay Garrick once more.
The DCTVU Flashpoint reality version of Rival is also named Edward Clariss. There is no indication that he is a doctor, however, or what his occupation was before becoming a criminal or how he gained his speed powers. Curiously, he is aware of the existence of The Speed Force.
The Rival is unique in that he is the only one of the various "Reverse Flash" villains whose costume does not reverse the direction of his counterpart's lighting bolt emblem.
Alex Desert - the actor who plays Captain Julio Mendez in this episode - also played the part of Barry Allen's co-worker Julio Mendez opposite John Wesley Shipp in the 1990 The Flash TV series.
When Wally shows Barry his "secret base" and Barry is surprised, he asks if Barry was expecting some kind of fortress. This is a reference to Superman's secret base in the comics - The Fortress of Solitude.
The story of how Wally got his speed powers in this reality mirrors that of Barry Allen, only instead of being thrown through a rack of chemicals after being struck by lightning, his car was struck by lightning while he was testing a new nitro formula.
There are some hints that the Flashpoint version of Cisco might have a weaker version of his Vibe powers. He's seen experimenting with a visor that enables him to see things as if he was really there. He also makes a reference to how he might be killed by a speedster which matches up to how various alternate versions of himself were killed by Zoom and The Reverse Flash.
The Rival's hideout is revealed to be the sawmill on Williamson Street. This is likely a nod to Joshua Williamson, who was the writer on The Flash comic book at the time this episode aired.
The movie Twister and the game Twister both exist in The Flashpoint universe.
The Rival doesn't leave any hair or skin samples at the scenes of any of his crimes.
Wally says that he got his speed powers after his car was struck by lightning while testing a new nitro formula.
Thawne theorizes that the reason Barry is losing his memories of the old timeline when Thawne isn't is that Barry's speed is accelerating the process of Time overwriting his memories.
While not stated directly, it can be inferred that the cage preventing Thawne from using his powers is also protecting him from the effects of Time in much the same way that a Faraday cage can shield something from electromagnetic influences.
Barry's explanation of The Flashpoint universe mirrors the astronomical theory of parallel universes and a shared multiverse.
Based on Caitlin's suggestion, Cisco is able to reprogram the city's speed/traffic cameras to register near-sonic velocities. This enables them to track The Rival to his hideout.
The Rival generates two tornadoes measuring F3 on the Fujita Tornado Damage Scale. This indicates winds between 158 to 206 mph.
Barry: (opening voice-over) There's only one thing I know about life. I know some things happen by chance. And some things happen, because we make them happen.
Wally: What have you got against my city?
The Rival: The city's just fine. It's the people in it who need to be educated... that I have no rival! Especially not you.
Iris: Barry Allen, you're very cute, you know that?
(Barry chuckles nervously.)
Iris: But you could try talking just a little bit slower.
Barry: Speed. That's always been my problem.
(Barry enters the warehouse where he's built Thawne's cage. He's holding a Big Belly Burger to-go bag.)
Thawne: There had better be curly fries in there.
Barry: Yeah, human beings can go almost three weeks without food. So I'd sound a little more grateful if i were you.
Thawne: Well, you wouldn't do that to me, Barry. After all... you're the hero. Or did you forget that? Too busy leading your reverse It's A Wonderful Life? (chuckles) Reverse, huh? That's irony for you. So what should we call this brave new world that you've whipped up for us? I was thinking... Flashpoint.
Barry: (holding up the Big Belly Burger sack) So you don't want this?
Thawne: You may have figured out a way to dampen my speed with this glass cage but I will get out of here and I will destroy your life, Flash. One way or the other.
Barry: No. You won't. Ah, you're never getting out of here. And you're never going to hurt anybody ever again. I have everything back that you took from me. I have everything Zoom took. I'm finally free. I'm home.
Thawne: This isn't your home, Barry. This is a mirage. A fiction that will end us both unless you let me the hell out of this thing!
Barry: Wow. You're not listening, Thawne. Why would I want to get out of here? I'm whole, here. There's even a Flash so I don't have to be.
Thawne: Yeah? And who is this dashing young speedster, huh? Do you know? You even care? While you sit around and hide like a lost, lonely little boy, letting someone else risk their life to protect the city, our common enemy is coming for us both.
Barry: What common enemy is that?
Thawne: Time. It's already screwing with you and everyone you love and pretty soon it's going to take me right down along with you.
Barry: (laughing) Wow. Wow! You know? You've got some nerve. I'll give you that. Warning me about messing with other people's lives?! You know the whole reason I did this is because of what you did to my life? My family? My mother?
Thawne: Yeah. Well, one day soon - BARRY - you'll be begging me to kill her again.
(After Barry shows unusual concern about him getting in trouble at work.)
Joe: And what the hell makes me so interesting to you, Mr. Allen? I'd really like to know.
(Barry starts to open his mouth.)
Joe: And remember I have a hangover. And a gun.
(After Iris asks Barry about his parents.)
Barry: They're like stupid in love. I hope I have what they have someday.
Iris: You just haven't met the right girl yet? Is that it?
Barry: That's the thing about the right girl. She's out there.Waiting. Just have to be lucky enough to find her.
Iris: Where did you come from Barry Allen?
Barry: ... I've always been here, Iris.
(Wally tells Barry his origin story.)
Wally: When I woke up, I was the fastest man alive - The Flash.
Barry: (muttered) More like Kid Flash.
Wally: Don't call me that.
Iris: I call you that.
Wally: Okay, how about nobody calls me that?
(After Barry refers to the Ramon Industries building as STAR Labs.)
Iris: Where have you been the past few years?
Barry: Running around.
Thawne: And here I was starting to think you'd forgotten all about me.
Barry: But I am forgetting! What's happening to me?
Thawne: I was wondering when you'd notice.
Barry: It's like I'll be thinking of a moment from my past and then it... it vanishes. And I can't get it back. Why?!
Thawne: Flashpoint. It's a side effect. See, I told you before - you don't know what you're doing. This new reality you've created is starting to overwrite the reality that you and I know. So your original life - your friends, your family - pretty soon all of that will just... fade away.
Barry: Why isn't it happening to you?
Thawne: Not sure...
(Thawne looks at the walls of his cell as if thinking.)
(Thawne starts laughing.)
Barry: What the hell's so funny?!
Thawne: Your speed! (laughing) The more you use it, the faster you lose your memories!
Barry: No. No, you're lying. You just want me to let you out of here. That's never going to happen.
Thawne: The you I know from the future? He's not this stupid. Pretty soon you won't even remember that you're The Flash. And when that happens, this world will become permanent. Time will set like concrete and nothing will be able to change it back to the way it was.
Barry: That's fine by me.
Thawne: You know what you have to do! You have to take me back to that night and let me finish what I started!
Barry: You go to hell!
Thawne: You're taking both of us there!
(Barry storms off.)
Thawne: Now, who is the villain, Flash?! Now, who is the villain?!
(Wally and Iris are suddenly standing in Cisco Ramon's private lab. Barry is there in costume.)
Iris: Who are you?!
(Barry takes off his mask.)
Barry: The man who's going to help you stop The Rival.
Iris: ... Barry?
(Barry runs into the room with Caitlin.)
Caitlin: Oh! (looking around nervously) What just happened?
Cisco: Stop bringing strangers into my lab! Who is this?!
Barry: This is Dr. Caitlin Snow. In my timeline, she's a part of our team.
Cisco: Did you...? You - you just kidnapped this woman!
Barry: No, I didn't... (pauses) Well, yeah I guess I... I... She's a scientist! We need her!
Caitlin: I'm not a scientist!
Barry: You're not a scientist?
Caitlin: I'm an ophthalmologist.
Barry: An eye doctor?
Caitlin: A pediatric eye doctor.
Wally: ... aaaaaand we're done.
Iris: (To Barry): Okay. Uh... can I talk to you in private?
Barry: Yeah.... yeah.
(Barry and Iris exit the lab.)
Caitlin (To Wally): Excuse me?
Caitlin: ... Have I been kidnapped?
Wally: ... Unclear.
Iris: I have a good life. I have a good job. I love my brother. But something has been off. Something has been missing. And that feeling that something is not right with my life? That went away the moment that I met you. (pauses) We're something else to each other where you come from, aren't we?
Barry: It's... escaped definition.
Iris: But it's love? Because this is what love feels like.
Barry: Since the day that I met you.
Barry: I thought I could just make things better, but everybody's been paying for my happiness.
Barry: We need to go back in time. To that night.
Thawne: To do what?
Barry: You know what I need you to do.
Thawne: Yeah. But I want to hear you say it.
Barry: ... I need you to kill my mother.
Thawne: With pleasure.
Barry: I hate you.
Thawne: And I hate you. And I sometimes wonder which of us is right.
(Barry and Thawne start to run but Barry trips and falls to the ground, his speed apparently gone.)
Thawne: God, I wish I could kill you.
(Thawne reaches down and picks Barry up by the back of his jacket.)
Thawne: But today... I get to be the hero.
(Open on a bedroom in a suburban house. We see a man and woman in bed together sound asleep.)
Deep Voice: Clarris? Clarris!
(The man sits up in bed, gasping.)
Clariss: Who's there?
Deep Voice: It's time to wake up.
(There is a scratching noise. Clariss gets out of his bed and walks to a mirror opposite his bed. Something scratches the word ALCHEMY on the inside of the glass.)
The footage of Barry's saving his mother from Eobard Thawne in 223 is shown twice - once in flashback before we see Barry taking Thawne to the present and once again as Thawne returns to kill Nora Allen.
Wally West's lightning is yellow, like Barry's.
The Rival's lighting is red, like Eobard Thawne's.
Like Barry, The Rival has mastered the trick of being able to throw lighting. Unlike Barry, he is capable of throwing multiple bolts in rapid succession.
Barry is able to construct a jail-cell that is able to cut off Eobard Thawne from The Speed Force. It appears to be similar to the cell Zoom used to hold Barry in 214.
Cisco specifically refuses to help Wally and Iris any more citing his fear of a speedster vibrating a hand through his rib cage. This is how alternate versions of Cisco were killed by Eobard Thawne in the alternate timeline of 115 and by Zoom in 213.
Barry knows a story about how Cisco in his reality used all the money he earned from his summer job as a pizza delivery boy when he was 15 to pay off his brother Dante's gambling debts. Luckily, the Flashpoint version of Cisco did the same thing.
The Rival is aware of the existence of The Speed Force.
When Barry returns to the present, he discovers that Iris and Joe are no longer on speaking terms.
The final scene of the episode seems to show the main-universe version of Edward Clariss. He is seen in bed with a woman and woken by a deep voice which tells him it is time for him to wake up.
An alternate timeline set in a variant version of Central City.
Barry spends three months living with his parents in the Flashpoint reality. During that time, Wally West fights The Rival several times.
The Boomerang Factor
While this story is well told, it is still dependent on Barry forgetting everything he's known about how screwing around with the timeline is bad. Very bad.
The Bottom Line
A solid opening for the third season. I wasn't expecting the Flashpoint timeline to be resolved this quickly but the episode ending suggests that things are far from over. The supporting cast is underutilized (Caitlin barely gets a cameo) and the Wally/Rival scenes could have used some beefing up. Still, The Reverse Flash has never been so menacing despite his lack of power and this episode has done more to define the Barry/Iris romance and make it convincing than any other episode to date.