Review: ‘Flash’ Leaps Into ‘Flashpoint,’ Immediately Regrets This Decision
Warning – FULL SPOILERS for Tonight’s Season 3 Premiere, “Flashpoint”:
Let’s get this out of the way – “Flashpoint” was a bad idea. I don’t say that to be objectively cruel, but The Flash itself says that with tonight’s premiere. The idea of Barry retreating from his father’s death by recklessly rewriting the lives of those around him made for a surprisingly powerful cliffhanger, but one Season 3 has little to no interest in following through on. Rather than build out a new reality, “Flashpoint” just wants to have its fun with a few heightened concepts, then walk back Barry’s actions to more manageable alterations of the timeline.
It’s early into the season yet, and Barry presumably returned to the moment of his departure in May, leaving ample room to establish more changes to the status quo in the intervening months than the brief hint of Iris’ family estrangement. Still, the decision to immediately undo “Flashpoint” does raise significant questions of what, if anything will come to bear on the current timeline. We met Wally’s
Kid Flash as a young hero cocky enough to wind up in mortal peril, but does his headstrong use of now-absent powers mean anything* for the Wally we’re left with? Will billionaire Cisco’s ambition reverberate through regular Cisco’s Season 3 arc? What about Joe, whose “Flashpoint” alcoholism was never quite explained – does the bitterness of that reality somehow relate to his and Iris’ current relationship?
*As long as I’m donning my tin-foil hat early this year, I’d guess that Tobin Bell’s Alchemy sought to “wake up” Edward Clariss into his alternate-timeline identity as The Rival, which could then extend to the main characters regaining traits of their “Flashpoint” lives. At least, that’s what I’d hope, rather than we completely waste those characterizations on a single episode.
Iris more or less serves as the linchpin of either reality, and I wonder if perhaps The Flash sought to alter hers and Barry’s relationship in either case; to finally do away with the brother-sister history that’s always added inescapable ick to their coupling. It’s no less morally vacuous of Barry to rewrite their entire history and subsequently stalk Iris in the first place, but the natural chemistry between Grant Gustin and Candice Patton feels so much richer without a sibling dynamic hanging around. It might also fit, given Iris’ apparent absence was the only post-“Flashpoint” change the premiere chose to highlight.
Obviously, “Flashpoint” was trying to do a lot at once; not only to set up a brand-new world and just as quickly undo it, but also fit in a heavy Back to the Future influence, and simultaneously call back to a number of moments from the pilot and series at large. I’d guess that producers wanted “Flashpoint” to serve as a re-pilot of sorts, as well as a victory lap of Barry’s most memorable moments, and I expect Matt Letscher’s Reverse-Flash was sent off, “end of an era”-style, for exactly that reason.
There were definitely a few bits that worked, especially with “Flashpoint” allowing Grant Gustin the ability to stumble through so many new character dynamics (Caitlin’s introduction and kidnapping line were probably as funny as the series will ever be), and the final showdown with The Rival made for some strong set pieces, between the one-take portions and the tornado resolution. Gustin also brought tremendous heartbreak to Barry having to say goodbye to his parents (without tipping them off too much), and I especially love the hatred in Barry’s eyes when Thawne makes him ask to re-murder his mother.
“Flashpoint” was a huge storyline in the comics, and tonight’s premiere didn’t make clear if that reality is already gone for good, or folding in more changes as Season 3 continues. Either way, our introduction to Season 3 felt incredibly rushed, even for The Flash. We’re literally back where we started, with even less information!
AND ANOTHER THING …
- One thing the premiere definitely failed to make clear on multiple viewings – was Joe’s “Flashpoint” alcoholism explained? Was he aware of Wally and Iris fighting crime? Iris’ answer could be read either way, as could Joe’s reaction when Barry points out Wally’s been hurt.
- Why would anyone call Wally “Kid Flash,” if he was never sidekick to a regular Flash? Even if the city perceives him as young, what a weirdly passive-aggressive way to identify your city’s hero.
- “Speed has always been my problem.”
- I think … maybe Reverse-Flash’s cell had a sink/toilet toward the back? Progress for metahuman rights!
- Basically all of Barry’s interactions with his parents, and the alternate timeline diagram were Back to the Future references, any others?
- I presume it was the faucet to brush his teeth, but you know your first thought was “shower” when Barry was getting Joe ready for work.
- Come on, we could have at least tried to give billionaire Cisco a more fitting hairstyle.
- Let’s all quietly agree to ignore The Rival’s self-sustaining tornadoes, or Barry running on air to unravel them.
- Is there a reason Barry won’t just explain to Joe “Hey, I messed up and made an alternate timeline, then undid it, but something obviously went wrong with Iris. Let’s work proactively to fix that, instead of awkwardly avoiding it!”
- Look, I want Season 3’s big bad to work as much as anyone, but don’t tell me Dr. Alchemy and Tom Felton arriving post-Flashpoint is a coincidence.
The Flash Season 3 will return October 11 with “Paradox,” airing at 8:00 P.M. on The CW.
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