The Flash is back… except not as any of us know him. He is a totally different guy in a totally different costume, with a totally different relationship to the world around him.
Tonight’s season 3 premiere was titled “Flashpoint,” based on the 2011 comic storyline written by Geoff Johns with art by Andy Kubert that rebooted the DC Universe into The New 52. (That’s an early Easter Egg—or as we call them around here, “#DCTV Secret.” There’s more to come!)
By the way… in the CW DCTV Universe, we get expository info-dumps from Channel 52 (where we first meet the “Flashpoint” Flash), which is a definite tie-back into DC’s love of the number 52.
In this episode we learn that Barry Allen is no longer the Flash. The Flash is instead an African-American speedster wearing a yellow costume with an open headpiece. The thing about this version of the Flash is that he’s really, really good at his job. When Barry first encounters him, he vibrates his face constantly to obscure his identity and has a very friendly, healthy working relationship with the CCPD. These are two things that Barry does in half measures, which definitely begs the question: Is this a better Flash?
Before we race around the world and answer that, let’s take a look at some of the major changes in this episode:
From the opening moments of “Flashpoint,” Barry Allen and Iris West don’t know each other. West/Allen fans, I’m sorry, I’m sure this is a crushing blow. But something really cool about this is that throughout “Flashpoint,” we get to see their relationship build in microcosm, rather than having to hear about how their bond developed over the course of a long lifetime. The beginning of their courtship really recalls the nervous, adorable Barry Allen we all fell in love with during his introduction on Arrow.
A lot like the dissolution of his relationship with Iris, Joe West is also an absent figure in Barry’s life. There are obvious implications about how far Detective West’s life has gone down the drain. It’s a stark contrast from the character fans know and love (and even his Earth-2 counterpart). It’s a really compelling paradigm shift to have Barry be the stable one, lifting Joe up and convincing him of his worth in this world. It seems like Barry might make a good father in his own right if The Flash ever goes down that road.
Where the West family is in shambles, the Allen family is whole. However, by having two living, loving parents, Barry becomes a little bit of a shut-in. Even as a professional working man in his 20s, he still resides at home, with both Henry and Nora desperate to push him out of the nest.
This is a true case of failure to launch, and at about the halfway point in the episode you really start to realize how much being the Fastest Man Alive has shaped Barry’s life for the better.
Then things get really weird. Remember earlier when I made the case for a better Flash in “Flashpoint”? Awesomely, that Flash is WALLY WEST! If you are a child of the 90s, like myself, Wally West was THE Flash, and even though nobody seems to take him seriously (the nickname “Kid Flash” is employed liberally throughout the episode), there is definitely some childhood dream fulfillment in seeing Wally, in the classic Teen Titans-style costume, making it into live action.
…truthfully, though, it’s even cooler when Wally and Barry team up and we get another “Flash of Two Worlds” moment as they take down Rival.
Now, Rival is another #DCTV Secret in and of himself. He was created by John Broome and Joe Kubert as a villain for Jay Garrick, which may come into play later on in the season. For the purposes of “Flashpoint,” he was a great plot device to team Barry and Wally up and the first rogue to be recruited by Alchemy (which probably refers to Doctor Alchemy a.k.a. Albert Desmond, created by John Broome and Carmine Infantino to do battle with Barry Allen).
It was really cool to get the hint of an old school DC Comics villain as an important rogue this season and have it not be a speedster. There have been speedster villains done so well on the show (and it’s amazing to have Matt Letscher return to the screen as a baddie this season! Seriously, how fantastic is he?), and the possibility of having Barry branch out and have to defeat rogues that he doesn’t inherently understand could make for some very compelling storytelling.
“That’s great, Ashley, but what about Cisco and Caitlin?” I’m so glad you asked, reader! There are “Flashpoint”-specific versions of those characters that present an interesting view of who these people could have been. Cisco is a more socially adept version of Batman v Superman’s Lex Luthor. He owns Ramon Industries, is wildly successful and everyone actually likes him, whereas Caitlin Snow has smaller aspirations as a pediatric ophthalmologist. Both members of Team Flash are as integral in this universe as they are in the Earth-1 reality we are used to and must be collected by Barry in order to save the day…and the world…and the universe.
Cisco is not without his convention for naming the metahumans in Central City, even in the “Flashpoint” timeline, and when he spots Rival creating Flash’s signature wind tunnels he describes him as a “Weather Wizard,” a nice callback to The Flash’s pilot episode’s villain.
He makes another one when referencing that speedsters will put a “vibrating hand through your ribcage,” which recalls a very specific event from season one that launched his career as Vibe.
Ultimately, “Flashpoint” succeeds powerfully as a season premiere because it presents a collection of familiar characters, while highlighting different parts of their personalities. Not only does this cement that these are dynamic people with complex emotional lives, it may also be hinting at which parts of them will be most channeled or developed over the course of this season of The Flash.
Honestly, though, the revelation that we are going to be seeing Wally and Barry team up together is powerful, and the revelation in the final scene that Iris—previously the glue of the West family—is estranged and Barry Allen is now going to have to act as the glue in the familial unit is compelling.
Time travel and alternate realities (by my count The Flash is up to four), play a big part in “Flashpoint.” However, when you take a closer look, it’s actually about Barry’s relationships with the people around him.
Ashley V. Robinson covers The Flash as a part of the #DCTV Couch Club. You can find her on Twitter at @AshleyVRobinson and on the Jawiin YouTube channel. The Flash airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. (7 p.m. CST) on The CW.