The Flash will be racing back to television tonight, as the critically acclaimed superhero drama begins its latest season. We couldn’t be more thrilled about returning to Central City. Last season left us with many exciting cliffhangers, including the fate of Iris West-Allen, who was still trapped in the mirror dimension. Will season seven finally reunite the Scarlet Speedster and Central City’s greatest reporter?
Long hiatuses are rough, but it gave us plenty of time to reflect on things…like Barry and Iris’s relationship. Right now, they’re separated by an entire dimension. That would be enough to doom just about any marriage, but Barry and Iris have come back from worse before. Think about it. Iris and Barry’s relationship has survived the destruction of the multiverse, losing a child and dealing with a dozen variants of Harrison Wells. It doesn’t matter what is thrown their way, they’ve always come out stronger than ever.
What makes Barry and Iris so different from all the other superhero couples out there? My mind keeps on going back to Iris’s speech from the season four episode “Mixed Signals.” In a moment that has been debated online since it aired, Iris tells Barry, “When I put this ring on my finger, it wasn’t just about you or me anymore, it was about us. You are not the Flash, Barry—we are.” That moment has inspired lots of discussion over the past few years, and it’s the perfect example of why Iris and Barry have continued to persevere.
Iris isn’t trying to take credit for Barry’s superhero successes—she’s telling him that she’ll share the burden. Every failure, tragedy and heartbreak that comes with being the Flash is no longer Barry’s alone because that’s not what marriage is. Barry’s life as the Flash is now Iris’s as well, and it’s about more than what happens in the battlefield. It’s about sharing the trauma of their dangerous lifestyle and working together to overcome all the challenges that entails.
Iris knew she was marrying the Flash, and she was prepared to be a part of that life for better or worse. You also have to give her credit for putting her money where her mouth is. It’s one thing to say that Barry’s no longer alone in his life as Central City’s greatest hero, but Iris is down at STAR Labs every day acting as team leader, and that’s in addition to juggling her life as a fulltime reporter. It must get exhausting, but true love can help you accomplish many things.
If you need another example of why Barry and Iris are the gold standard, compare their romance to other television couples. Unlike so many small screen romances, Barry and Iris never have arguments over jealousy, love triangles or other bits of soap opera drama. Iris has never become insecure about Barry’s friendship with Caitlin, and Barry has never tried to stop Iris from having professional success. This isn’t that kind of show, and their relationship isn’t a typical television romance.
In season four, Barry and Iris attended couples counseling, which is rare for superhero couples, but it shouldn’t be. In entertainment, people talk about characters getting together as an “endgame,” but really, it’s only the beginning. Maintaining a relationship takes a lot of work, and it isn’t always pretty or exciting. The choice of going to therapy added a great sense of realism and honesty to Barry and Iris’s relationship that I wish more television shows would embrace. I know they’re fictional characters, but I really hope Barry and Iris continued these sessions off-camera in later seasons, especially after losing Nora. Losing a child is one of the hardest things any couple can endure, and they couldn’t even grieve publicly because of complications surrounding Barry’s secret identity.
So, as we prepare for the season seven premiere, I encourage all of you to look back at a scene from last season. In the episode “Liberation,” Barry had just learned that Iris was trapped in another dimension and he grabs the nearest mirror. He knows that his wife can’t hear him, but he cradles the mirror and says that their love will endure.
“Across dimensions, across time, through the end of the world and back. And if I know you, I know you aren’t just fighting to find your way back home,” says Barry. Little does he know, over in the mirror dimension, Iris is giving a monologue of her own. “I still have hope because I know that you are there fighting to get me back home,” Iris says.
Watch that scene again and look at how Grant Gustin and Candice Patton deliver their lines. The actors are speaking to mirrors, yet they still manage to give a heartbreaking performance. When you get right down to it, the real reason that Iris and Barry are such a great couple is because they have two talented actors that bring a strong sense of emotional realism to the relationship. Watching that scene, you know that Barry and Iris will find their way back to one another. Not because it’s a superhero show, but because the two actors behind the characters have made millions of us believe in that relationship. That means their upcoming reunion will be a heartfelt moment for all of us at home, as well.
The Flash season premiere airs tonight at 8 p.m. (7 p.m. CST) on The CW. Looking for more on the Arrowverse's most enduring couple? Be sure to visit our official Flash page for all the latest news and conversation.
Joshua Lapin-Bertone writes about TV, movies and comics for DCComics.com, is a regular contributor to the Couch Club and writes our monthly Batman column, "Gotham Gazette." Follow him on Twitter at @TBUJosh.