The Flash season 3 premiere ended with a giant question mark, as we are left to guess what has changed in the wake of Barry turning back time. While Flashpoint opens up all sorts of wild new plot opportunities for the show to explore, I hope that they take a few moments to remember to give a proper payoff to these plot threads that they previously set up.
“Suit or no suit that guy is a hero.” (Iris West)
“You don’t need a suit to be a hero” is a theme that has been touched upon in The Flash but not really explored as much as I’d like. The fact is that at the moment, there are more heroes in the show who do NOT wear suits (at least at present) than ones that do. Iris, as a reporter shining light on crime and corruption in the city, is heroic. Though we don’t see it nearly often enough, Joe’s work as a detective is heroic. Wells, Cisco and Caitlin are heroic when they do what is necessary to help the Flash.
Of course, the show has touched upon this theme on occasion. However, it is something that I think they would do well to highlight more significantly in the future. I always enjoy when any Superman series focuses on Clark’s ability to make a change as Clark Kent, a reporter for the Daily Planet. That you don’t need a cape – or a leather suit – to be a hero is a vital lesson in any superhero story.
Barry has a legion of supporting characters who aren’t superheroes (or aren’t superheroes yet). I would love to see an episode where the Flash is running around doing his thing, but the actual focus is on the ways the non-powered people in his life are also being true — if unsung — heroes. While we’ve had snippets, I would like the occasional spotlight.
“[H]e can do no wrong. And yet, they never fail to remind me that I can do no right.” (Cisco Ramon)
Cisco is one of the most interesting characters in the show to me, in the way he broke out of a rather bland and forgettable role as comic relief early on to become one of the best parts of the series.
At this point in the show, it’s hard to argue that Cisco doesn’t deserve a little love. He’s been a strong, steadfast friend to Barry and the rest of the team. He injects a little much-needed humor into every situation. And he has occasionally provided the pragmatic viewpoint that helps keep the team grounded. He has been, in his unwavering support and inventiveness, a true hero, but he likely doesn’t think of himself as one.
In the last season, Cisco has started to embrace his powers, which have even helped the team a time or two. He has also begun to mend the rift with his brother, extending an olive branch that I personally would prefer to use to beat some sense into Dante. And, of course, as part of Flash’s support system, he’s usually out of the spotlight.
For all the good he’s done, I think Cisco still thinks of himself as the less-favored brother. Moreover, I suspect he doesn’t see himself as a hero. This year, I would love to see him realize that he is a hero, even if he isn’t the one in the spotlight. Even if Cisco didn’t have his powers, his heart, along with his desire and ability to do whatever he can to help, make him a hero – and certainly make him the kind of son of whom any parent should be proud.
Also, get that man a girlfriend. Let’s be honest: he’s a hell of a catch.
“If Dr. Wells is who you say he is, then everything I’ve done since I’ve set foot in S.T.A.R. Labs has been a lie.” (Caitlin Snow)
It always annoyed me that Caitlin didn’t get a payoff to this line in the first season. After everything that happened in the last two years, it is even more important that the sentiment behind this line be addressed.
Everyone close to the Flash has had trials and tribulations in the past two years, and certainly Caitlin has faced her fair share. From the beginning, it was established that the life she was living was not the life she would have chosen, once upon a time. Losing Ronnie and facing Jay’s betrayal had to be bitter blows.
She has been more than one villain’s pawn, and her trust in the wrong person cost her a promising career and the man she loved. The show tried to sweep the latter under the rug last season, in her inexplicable and poorly developed romance with Jay. It’s time for the show to face these things head-on, and for them to give Caitlin’s character the respect of a proper payoff (and perhaps even character growth) for the things she’s been put through.
“[E]verything that’s happened to me the past few days is the best story I can never write.” (Linda Park)
For two years, fans have been clamoring for the show to give more highlight to Iris’s role as a reporter. As I’ve explored in other articles, she can play a key role in a story like The Flash, and as a reporter, she’s a hero in her own right.
But in a superhero story like this, being a reporter is a double-edged sword. True, her stories can help expose crime and corruption, every city’s more everyday (but in their own way, no less dangerous) villains. She can also continue to give the city hope in heroes like the Flash, giving them someone to look up to, to trust, to admire. It was, after all, what got her into reporting in the first place.
That said, she is no longer a reporter on the sideline, an outsider looking in. She not only knows the Flash’s identity, but she loves him. She knows his secrets, and she wants to protect him. Sometimes that will be at odds with the stories she needs to tell.
This push-and-pull was touched upon in the second season, when Scott wanted her to write a negative article about the Flash. She refused to do it then, but this will not be the last time she will be faced with such a task. She will also likely face moments in the future when she is privy to information that the people would feel they have a right – or even need – to know, but exposing it could put the man she loves at risk.
Seeing her struggle with her own dual identity, as the woman in love with Barry (and thus the Flash) and as a reporter, would be fascinating to watch. After all, heroes are defined by the way they respond to adversity, and Iris is a hero in her own right. Just as Barry has to balance his private life with his life as the Flash, so too does Iris have to balance her need to reveal the truth with protecting the man she loves.
“If Zoom finds out who you care for, who you love, who you live for, he’ll take them from you.” (Harry)
Talk about a line that had no payoff! Harrison Wells gave Barry this rather dire prediction last year, but it never came to pass, outside of a dream sequence. True, Zoom ended up using Wally to steal the Flash’s speed, and he did kidnap Caitlin. However, his motivations for kidnapping Caitlin were unequivocally to suit his own needs, his own desire for her. And was Wally the best way to pay off this line? I don’t think so, given that Barry and Wally were not terribly close at the time this happened.
Every superhero story has dealt with the question of how heroes keep the people they love safe. Everyone in Barry’s life has been endangered at one point or another because of their closeness to the speedster. However, there is certainly more depth to this plot than has been explored in the past. Just as I would like to see an episode focused on the team’s heroism, I would also love to see a sustained threat against the people closest to the Flash. I would love to see them have to acknowledge that what they are doing puts them in personal danger over the course of several episodes if not a decent chunk of a season, and for them to continue to choose to keep doing it.
And, of course, if one is looking for the person Barry loves and lives for, that person is Iris West, without question. As “Flashpoint” demonstrated, they always find their way back to each other. Of course, we have seen her ability to defend herself, but the threat of a villain that even Barry may not be able to stop would always be looming overhead. In the comics, characters like the Reverse Flash have tried to target Iris because of her relationship with Barry. Loving her may have helped him become the Flash, but the fear of losing her would also be his greatest weakness. Harry’s line offers a promise and a threat that provides the potential for such great drama, and I would love to see more payoff for it in the future.
“Flashpoint” offered a solid premiere that set The Flash on a very promising path in season 3, particularly after the comparative drudgery of season 2. If nothing else, it brought back the lighthearted, happy Barry that we so dearly missed last year. It is clear that they have definite ideas for where they want to take this season, but as excited as I am to see what they have in store for the future, I hope they haven’t completely forgotten these threads from the past.
If they can give these moments their proper payoff while moving forward into the bright new post-Flashpoint world, I think the show will be better than ever.