The effects of Flashpoint are far worse than Barry anticipated, with Iris and Joe now estranged and Cisco oddly angry at him. Of more immediate concern is a new CSI - Julian Albert- who has taken an immediate and inexplicable dislike to Barry. This and the fact that The Rival has somehow reemerged in this timeline along with a mysterious new villain called Alchemy, who has the power to awaken superpowers in other people!
The comic mini-series Flashpoint (the idea of Barry's efforts to save his mother creating a much worse alternate timeline for his friends), the film The Butterfly Effect (hero makes things worse for his loved ones by trying to fix things with time-travel) 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) and The Flash comics of John Broome, Mark Waid and Geoff Johns (the various versions of Doctor Alchemy and Mister Element)
How is Wally part of Team Flash - much less on speaking terms with both Iris and Joe - given that he didn't come into their lives until after Joe first admitted that he'd lied to Iris and both of them had to work on him to join their family?
Tom Felton doesn't get much screen-time in his first appearance as Barry's work-rival Julian Albert. Yet he manages to establish the character as a snobby professional with little interest in playing nice - at least at this point in his relationship with Barry. Comparisons to his most famous role as the equally elitist Draco Malfoy are inevitable but Felton does distinguish the character as being someone different if for no other reason than Albert is very good at his job and can back up his superior opinion of himself
John Wesley Shipp returns as Jay Garrick and all but steals the episode. He plays the character as something close to the original comic character, acting as a mentor and the voice of bitter experience to Barry Allen. The character is immediately made distinctive from Henry Allen and Jay is far less patient with Barry than his father was while being more friendly than Harry Wells or the Thawne/Wells in Season One. It's a brilliant performance and a highlight of the episode.
Carlos Valdes is beloved as the series' comic relief but he's proven capable of showing his dramatic chops when necessary. That being said, it is scary how completely different he seems as he plays a Cisco Ramon that has been torn apart by grief and anger. Cisco almost seems like an entirely different character - not just because his ever-present smile is gone by his entire physiology and the way he carries himself seems to have changed too.
The direction and special effects in the sequence in which Rival crashes and burns after Barry tackles him at super-speed. It's a neat twist on the usual super-speed sequences to watch the characters bouncing out of control.
The use of Soul Asylum's Runaway Train during the diner scene is a perfect choice of music. The title suggests a speeding object moving out of control which is an apt description of Barry at that moment but the song is about coping with depression. The lyrics also make references to keeping secrets, breaking promises, becoming jaded and going where no one else can go and knowing what no one else can know.
The Vibe and Flash fight vs. Rival for both the special effects and fight choreography.
The episode name - Paradox - may be a nod to The Flashpoint Paradox - the animated movie based on the original Flashpoint comic series.
Emily Bett Rickards has a cameo appearance as Felicity Smoak in the first segment of the episode
The scene in which The Flash disassembles the vehicle of a robber at super-speed whilst in the middle of a chase is taken directly from various comics.
We discover that several things have changed in the wake of Barry's altering the timeline once again. These changes include...
* Iris and Joe are no longer speaking, due to Iris not forgiving Joe for having lied to her about her mother still being alive.
* Iris and Barry never kissed before Barry went back in time to try and save his mother.
* Cisco has lost his sense of good humor and joking personality.
* Cisco's brother Dante was killed by a drunk driver and Cisco is in therapy to deal with the loss.
* Cisco is angry at Barry for refusing to go back in time to save his brother.
* Barry is now sharing his lab space with Julian Albert - the CCPD's Meta-Human CSI Specialist.
* Julian Albert has apparently been working with the CCPD for nearly a year.
* Julian Albert does not like Barry and the feeling is apparently mutual.
* John Diggle's infant daughter Sara is now an infant son named John Jr.
* Caitlin Snow seems to have acquired the heat-draining powers of her Earth 2 counterpart, Killer Frost.
Alchemy appears to be based, in part, on the classic Flash villain Doctor Alchemy.
The original Doctor Alchemy was a chemist named Albert Desmond, who suffered from a split personality. One personality was evil and became a villain dubbed Mister Element and used Desmond's knowledge of chemistry to create elemental based weapons and devices (i.e. bullet-proof car paint, a new anti-gravity element he used to throw The Flash into space). In prison, Desmond learned the secrets of The Philosopher's Stone and adopted the name Doctor Alchemy.
The Philosopher's Stone offers its wielder a number of powers. By pressing the stone in certain places, the person holding the stone can transmute matter from one form to another, such as changing clean air into toxic gases or steel into rubber. The stone can also be used to transform the human body, as Dr. Alchemy once used the stone to transform The Flash's body into water vapor.
The DCTVU version of Alchemy seems to have powers of a similar scope to his comic book counterpart. We see him holding a stone as he fights The Flash and he certainly had the power to restore Edward Clariss' memories and his powers from The Flashpoint Timeline. He also releases an energy blast capable of knocking The Flash off his feet.
Both Alchemy and Doctor Alchemy have costumes featuring hooded cloaks. Alchemy's costume includes a full face mask that obscures all his features, whereas Doctor Alchemy wore a mask that left his eyes and mouth uncovered.
While Albert Desmond is the only criminal to go by the name of Doctor Alchemy and wield The Philosopher's Stone, his equipment was used by other criminals. Alexander Petrov - a CSI assistant in Keystone City - became the second Mister Element using Desmond's old weapons. Later, STAR Labs scientist Dr. Curtis Engstrom took on the name Alchemist after stealing a fragment of the original Philosopher's Stone Desmond had created.
Given that two other villains with the same gimmick were employed as police lab technicians or scientists at STAR Labs, there is some speculation that Barry's new enemy at work, Julian Albert, is also Alchemy. They do share a common name - Albert - though it's a first name for the original Doctor Alchemy and a surname for the TV show character.
The television in the Motorcar Diner where Jay Garrick takes Barry is showing an episode of Dawson's Creek. John Wesley Shipp - who plays Jay Garrick - also played the title character's father on Dawson's Creek.
Again, reference is made to a sawmill on Williamson Street being Rival's hideout. This is probably a nod to Joshua Williamson - the writer on The Flash comic book at the time this episode aired.
Mention is also made of the Rival husk being found in Leawood. According to the DCU Atlas, Leawood is a working-class neighborhood in Central City.
Cisco's super-suit - once we see it - resembles his costume in the New 52 comics. With it, he is able to released focused blasts of vibration energy as his Earth 2 counterpart Reverb did and as the hero Vibe does in the comics.
A paradox is anything made up of two conflicting elements that nevertheless remains true. One of the most famous of these is The Liar's Paradox - "Everything I say is a lie."
One popular paradox regarding time travel - The Grandfather Paradox - dictates that it is impossible to go back in time and kill your grandfather, because otherwise you could never exist to go on to kill your grandfather.
The epidermal husks that the CCPD keep discovering are fully-intact human pelts comprised of nothing but the stratum corneum.
Barry notes that spalling can be caused by toxic epidermal necrolysis or by some kind of moist desquamation from intense radiation exposure.
The husk sample Barry stole from Julian Albert was mostly touch DNA - a forensic method used for analyzing small samples of DNA left at a crime scene, like minute skin cell samples left on an object that was briefly touched.
The fifth husk tests positive for Speed Force energy by not dark matter. This suggests that whatever Alchemy did to activate Rival's powers came from a different power source than the STAR Labs Particle Accelerator Explosion.
Jay uses the metaphor of a broken china coffee cup to explain how time-travel breaks the space-time continuum, noting that while you may glue the pieces back together in a way that works, it still won't be the same.
Another term for the alternate timelines of Flashpoints created by Barry's time-travel is mirror universe.
The Rival husk had above normal levels of hyaluronic acids and the androgen degradation was atypically low. Cellular regeneration seemed to occur at a staggering rate.
(The Flash disassembles a bank robber's motorcycle as he's making his escape.)
The Flash: You are not gonna get too far on that thing anymore, are you?
(The robber looks down helplessly at the disconnected accelerator grip he's still holding in one hand as The Flash walks around and opens the robber's backpack.)
The Flash: I will be taking these back to the jewelry store you stole them from, but ah... you can keep these if you'd like.
(The Flash opens his emtpy hand and drops all the bullets the robber shot at him on the ground, as we hear police sirens approaching in the distance.)
The Flash: Good luck with that.
(Barry just learned that he changed John Diggle's daughter Sara into a son named John.)
Barry: Okay, you know what? I don't want to know any more...
Felicity: Okay. I know this is a lot of pressure, but everything's going to be alright.
Barry: I screwed up everyone's life!
Felicity: Yeah, well maybe you should tell them?
Barry: I'm not going to tell them! I mean, how is that going to help? That's just going to make everything worse! I mean, I don't know how to fix this.
Felicity: Okay, we'll you're going to figure it out. If there's one thing I've learned from you is that with you, anything is possible...
Barry: Why? Because I'm The Flash?
Felicity: No. Because you are Barry Allen. And sweet, loving, kind Barry Allen, that everybody likes - the Barry Allen who is just like pudding - can fix this. So go. And fix this.
Barry: Yeah. Okay. You're right. Yeah.
(Barry continues to sit in shock.)
Barry: Right now?
Barry: Okay, alright.
(Barry gets up and begins to run.)
Jay: Having a loss like that in your life... I can see why you'd want to erase it. Who wouldn't try to save their parents? I understand that, Barry. Completely. But the thing is, there are consequences to time travel.
Barry: I have heard all of this before-
Jay: Not from me, you haven't! I'm not some doctor with a theory, Barry. I'm a speedster, like you, who's traveled in time. And made these same mistakes you are making right now. (picking up a ceramic coffee cup) Here, let me show you something...
Barry: Okay, you know what -
Jay: Humor me, kid. This coffee cup right here? Think of it as the space-time continuum. Whenever you go back in time, it breaks.
(Jay vibrates his hand rapidly until the cup cracks. He the tries to put the pieces back together.)
Jay: Now, you can reset the timeline. You can try to fix it. But no matter how hard you try, it's never going to be exactly how it was.
Barry: Look, I've learned... all this stuff that I didn't know before. And I'm not going to-
Both: - make the same mistakes.
Jay: Yeah. What you just said right there? That's the paradox of time travel. And also the paradox of life. I mean, If I only knew then what I knew now...
Barry: Why have these powers if I can't go back and fix what I broke?
Jay: We're not gods! We're men. And for whatever reason we've been given extraordinary abilities. The question you need to ask yourself is.. what kind of hero are you going to be? Are you just going to take a do-over everytime you make a mistake? Or are you going to live with them and move forward?
Barry: I'm really trying here, Cisco.
Cisco: Barry, I'm the one who's been trying. I've been trying this whole time to get you to do this one thing for me. But you kept saying "No, Cisco. I can't, Cisco. I would never do that, Cisco." And now you're telling me you went and did it for yourself
Barry: Were you listening? It went bad. It went... really bad-
Cisco: I don't care! At least I'd have my brother back!
Barry: Yeah, you would have him back. But because of it, somebody might have something happen to them that's just as awful as what happened to Dante. And trust me you don't want that on your conscience. It's a heavy burden to bear. (Barry starts to leave the lab then turns around) And I don't know how many times I've said this, but... I'm really sorry about Dante, man.
Cisco: Sorry doesn't change anything.
Barry: No, it doesn't. But I can't go back. I can't change it. All I can do is move forward. (pauses) I really hope you can too.
Barry: Hey, uh... I need your help.
Julian: It's the four words I seem to hear you most often say, Barry. That and "I hate that guy."
The Flash: And who are you?
Alchemy: I am... Alchemy.
The Flash: Okay, well, what do YOU want?
Alchemy: To help people achieve their true potential such as he has. (gestures to Rival)
The Flash: And why are you doing this?
Alchemy: Because I'm preparing this world.
In the original timeline, Iris learned the truth about her mother not dying in 203. Apparently she didn't take the news that Joe had lied to her as well this time around. Perhaps Francine West approached her before Joe this time around?
No date is given for when Dante Ramon died in the new reality, but a likely guess is around the time 220 originally occurred, as Cisco tried to reconcile with his brother in that episode and a sudden death then might be capable of pushing Cisco into the doldrums we see here.
Barry notes that he's kissed Iris twice and managed to erase it from history both times it happened. The kisses occurred in 115 and 223 respectively.
John Diggle having a son named John Diggle Jr. was telegraphed in LOT 106, where he was using the name Connor Hawke and was Oliver Queen's last ally in a post-apocalyptic Star City.
Iris's favorite one of Grandma Esther's recipes is "the noodle dish". She hates the chicken one.
An unseen figure is there to see Barry as he loses track of Rival while chasing after him.
The scene of Iris asking Barry to talk to her outside the lab because she knows he isn't telling her something mirrors a similar scene from 301.
Jay Garrick decided to keep an eye on Barry for a while after returning Harry and Jesse Wells to Earth 2.
As in 301, Rival hides out at the Prescott Sawmill on Williamson Street.
Rival repeats Barry's words about "quaking his boots" from 301 back to him.
Iris refers to Cisco giving Captain Cold Barry's secret identity in 116.
In his special suit, Cisco is now able to create focused blasts of vibrational energy as his Earth 2 counterpart did.
Joe and Iris reconcile by the episode's end, as do Barry and Cisco.
There are at least four other meta-humans created by Alchemy at loose in Central City.
Caitlin appears to be manifesting the same cold-generation powers as her Earth 2 counterpart at episode's end.
Albert says that he doesn't like Barry Allen because he doesn't believe his good-guy act and doesn't trust him.
Barry and Iris kiss for the first time in this reality.
Alchemy seems to kill Rival in his prison cell in the final scene of the episode.
The Motorcar Diner in Central City, 1998. It's unclear if this is on Earth 1 or Earth 3.
At least the last year's worth of events have changed, with Iris and Joe apparently not having been talking for the better part of a year.
Harry Wells told Jay Garrick about Barry's difficulties with Zoom and about the deaths of his parents and that Jay was the alternate universe version of Barry's father.
Jay Garrick refers to his own misadventures with trying to alter the timeline and making the same mistakes as Barry.
The Fridge Factor
Neatly averted in the case of Iris West, who continues to be depicted as both assertive and as a good reporter.
The Boomerang Factor
Most of the problems in this episode would have been solved instantly if Barry had decided to be honest with his friends and family or remembered that changing the timeline never solves anything.
The Bottom Line
Much like last week's episode, this is a good episode in spite of it feeling somewhat rushed. Once again, the supporting cast is under-utilized (Wally and Caitlin in particular, though at least Caitlin gets that scene at the end) and The Rival has apparently been disposed of as quickly as he was introduced. Of course the character seemed repetitive in the wake of Zoom and The Reverse Flash but his inclusion in the show given his connection to The Flash mythos seems incredibly pointeless now.
Despite that, most of this episode works well. Julian Albert is effectively established as a foil for Barry at work and the examination of the Cisco/Barry bromance is well-played. Alchemy is an immediately interesting villain - both visually and for his motivation. And it's a joy to see Iris being portrayed as a no-nonsense, smart woman after two years of her having little purpose beyond being the girl hostage or the Dulcinea to Barry's Quixote. And John Wesley Shipp's turn as Jay Garrick is something magical.