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The Flash Season 3 Premiere: 5 Quotes That Need Payoff This Season

the flash season 3 premiere flashpoint grant gustin candice patton barry allen iris west cw
The CW

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.

The Flash Season 2: Flashpoint Paradox

the flash season 2 invincible barry allen grant gustin cw flashpoint
CW

The last couple of minutes of The Flash season 2 finale turned everything on its head and raised a number of questions about what the third season will bring. Or even where all of the characters will be when it begins.

Even Grant Gustin has admitted he doesn’t have the answers, but there are some things we can assume – or at least hope to see!

Barry Allen

Of course, the whole point of the Flashpoint Paradox is that Barry finally gets what he thinks he’s always wanted, but it doesn’t turn out quite as he hoped. In fact, it impacts every character within the integrated universe and has such negative repercussions that Flash realizes he has to put the world back to the way it was for the greater good.

Certainly, I think we can expect that overarching plot next season – at least for the duration of Flashpoint. (I anticipate the universe will return to the one we’ve known in the epic crossover event in the winter.) But what does that mean for Barry?

As in the source story, I anticipate he will not have his abilities – though destined to become the Flash, Harribard confessed he had moved the timeline up to suit his purpose. Since Barry’s mother wasn’t murdered by the Reverse Flash and his father didn’t go to jail for a crime he didn’t commit, the Wests never would have taken him in. He may still be a CSI, but if he and Iris remain friends, their relationship will still be vastly different than it has been.

Of course, he likely won’t be friends with the crew at STAR Labs either, assuming that Cisco, Caitlin, and Harrison still work there. With no Harribard coming back to take the real Wells’ place, the original Harrison may be alive, giving Tom Cavanagh a chance to play the character we only saw for a few minutes in the first season.

It is entirely possible none of these people will know Barry – even Iris could be a virtual stranger to him if they grew apart after their school days. This would certainly give Barry the sense of isolation and despair he has in the new world in Flashpoint.

Iris West

Although Iris is married with children in the original Flashpoint material, I doubt they will go this direction in season 3. Iris’s relationship with Eddie would make the story somewhat redundant and caused quite a bit of hate towards the character (and actress) that I would hope they would avoid bringing on a second time.

That said, Iris doesn’t have to be married to someone else to make Barry miserable; she just needs to not be in love with him. He had been closer than ever to being in a relationship with the woman he’s always loved, only to have Flashpoint take that away from him. The memories of their kiss and confessed feelings will stay with him, haunting him in this new reality.

Since Iris is a reporter and the CW doesn’t have the authority to use characters from the Superman mythos, Iris will take on the role that Lois Lane had in the story and act as intrepid reporter. The nature of her investigation would obviously have to differ, but it would be an amazing way to integrate her into the story.

Cisco Ramon

Cisco has spent the last season developing abilities he may not have any longer. It is likely Barry will want to track him down to get his help trying to return the world to the way it should be. How his storyline may play out otherwise is a giant question mark.

However, if Flashpoint is to go on for several months, the show will need to have some bright moments through the darkness. Not only is Cisco likely to bring some undoubtedly needed levity to the show, but they could also give him happiness in romance, which he doesn’t have in this world. Giving him love – or even a family – would make the return to our world bittersweet. While we should all want the world to return to the one we know, the act of doing so will have more meaningful emotional impact if there are some things we will regret leaving behind.

Plus, Cisco needs a little love.

Caitlin Snow

It’s clear at this point that the show likes the idea of occasionally playing with Killer Frost, but they don’t seem to want to commit to that storyline on our Earth. Of course, since it’s the primary story people are interested to see, drawing it out helps keep up the interest.

However, Flashpoint would give them yet another ability to have their cake and eat it, too. Caitlin could be Killer Frost in this new world – possibly even with Ronnie as Deathstorm at her side – without committing to a story that would impact her in our world.

If they do go down this path, one hopes they would refrain from killing Ronnie off again. Whether he’s a hero or a villain, it would be nice to have at least one reality where he doesn’t die.

Harrison Wells

Harrison could be one of the more interesting characters in Flashpoint. Not only is there the potential for the original Harrison Wells to make an appearance, but Harry from season 2 was on Earth 2 when Flashpoint happened. It would make sense for the reality shift to have impacted only our Earth and not any parallel universes.

This means that Harry and Jesse could retain all of their memories from season 2. More than that, Jesse may have the speed she may have been given but didn’t have a chance to discover over these last few episodes.

With Barry being out of commission as the Flash, Harry and Jesse could return from Earth 2 in order to help set things right, as well as to allow Jesse to stand by his side as a hero.

The Flash: The Importance of Iris West (and Westallen)

the flash season 2 the runaway dinosaur westallen barry allen iris west grant gustin candice patton cw
CW

As much as we sometimes complain about them, people love love stories. There’s a reason why romance is an interwoven plot point in movies, television shows, and books of all genres. From Star Wars to The Mummy, Bourne Identity to X-Men, love stories are so often woven through the threads of our narratives that we don’t even think about their prevalence anymore.

From the countless love stories that have existed from the time the very first stories were told, there are a relative few that are integral to the narrative. Few love stories stand out not just because they teach us something about the nature of love (as other stories have done) but they speak to who we are and teach us about ourselves. And, for those with a more romantic outlook (or even cynics who secretly want to believe), they show us what is possible in love.
If one were to list love stories so integral that the narratives themselves wouldn’t be the same – in fact, may not make sense, work, or be memorable – without them, the love story of Barry Allen and Iris West on The Flash has to make the cut. Iris West is such a key part of Barry Allen’s narrative that his story as the Flash wouldn’t be the same without her.

In the comics, and now indicated in the series, Iris is Barry’s lightning rod. As described by Geoff Johns in the comics, “When a speedster pushes themselves to their limits, the Speed Force draws them in. Without an emotional lightning rod to return to, a speedster can be lost forever. Without Iris, Barry Allen would have been lost to the Speed Force long ago.” Of course, Iris’s in the Flash narrative isn’t exclusive to Barry’s story. She’s also mother to the Tornado Twins, Don and Dawn. She’s Wally West’s aunt, and as Wally himself explains, Barry taught him how to be Kid Flash, but Iris taught him how to be Wally West. She is also Bart Allen’s grandmother. Each of these characters exist because of or were shaped by Iris West.

It’s also notable that Iris West was introduced in the comics in 1956. Cut from the same mold as Lois Lane, and, like Lois, very much a groundbreaking character of her time, Iris helped pave the way for the strong female heroines and superheroines in the comics today.

We have come a long way from the 1950s, but Iris West on The Flash is still groundbreaking. It is still groundbreaking for an African-American woman on television to be a female lead in a love story, particularly with a Caucasian man. It is even more rare for African-American women to be romantic leads in superhero love stories, when so many of the most beloved characters come from an era where interracial relationships were not seen as acceptable, even in fantasy fiction.

Little girls who look like Candice Patton have seen for decades that they grow up to be the best friends or, perhaps more often, canon fodder. Iris West as depicted on The Flash shows little girls today that they can dream of being any part of a story because every role in a story can belong to them. They can be the superhero, the love interest, the best friend, the loving daughter, the supportive sister, and so on.

I adored “The Runaway Dinosaur” for a number of reasons too numerous to expand upon in this article. Barry was allowed to put the sorrow of his past behind him to look into the future. As someone who has lost a parent and experiences my own guilt over it, the scenes of him confronting that guilt and getting absolution from the reflection of the parent he loved so much absolutely tore my heart out.

But one of my favorite things about this episode was how it recognized and celebrated the importance of Iris West, not just in the past canon but in the current television landscape. It reveled in a love story that can belong to only Barry Allen and Iris West, and which so defines the hero’s narrative that his story would be incomplete and far less meaningful without it.

It was one of The Flash’s most memorable and powerful hours, and I cannot wait to see the series move forward in this new direction. I also eagerly await the next time writer Zack Stentz and director Kevin Smith collaborate on an episode of my favorite television series. (Kevin Smith has been announced to return in season 3, at least!) If it’s anything like this one, it’ll be an hour not to be missed.

The Flash Season 2: Once More With Feeling

the flash season 2 back to normal barry allen grant gustin cw
CW

As we move towards the end of The Flash season 2, I’m taking some time in my weekly articles to give a brief overview of certain aspects of the season and the show as a whole. This week, I want to take a look at the four main characters and the primary emotional arcs for each that have carried through both seasons to get an idea of what worked and what didn’t.

Barry Allen

The first season of The Flash wasn’t perfect, but it was critically acclaimed for good reason. At the heart of the season’s success was the emotional stories they told, primarily with Barry, with beats that carried through the season. Of course, Barry had two major emotional arcs in the first season, and most if not all of his subplots fed into them: his determination to get justice for his father and his love for Iris.

With the former arc resolved in the premiere of season 2 and the latter on indefinite hold at the start of the season while Iris ostensibly grieved Eddie (largely off-screen), they needed to set up similarly compelling emotional arcs for Barry this season to keep the audience engaged and invested to the same level they had been the previous year.

Unfortunately, I don’t think the arcs they’ve given Barry this year have been as compelling. Barry’s arcs this year have revolved primarily around a desire to be faster in order to defeat Zoom. Like the majority of Zoom’s story, this was a little repetitive – he also searched for ways to grow faster in the first season. However, his desire in the first season stemmed from his need to take down the man who killed his mother so he could get his father out of prison. This season, he wants to stop Zoom – who is admittedly evil and should be stopped – but that story has lacked the same level of emotional resonance. Zoom needs to be stopped as any villain would need to be. As a hero, it’s admirable that Barry wants to stop him from being a threat on any world, but practically speaking, Barry could have wiped his hands of the entire issue the moment the breaches were closed without leaving an emotional arc unfinished – for either himself or the audience.

On a more personal matter, his arc has purportedly been to deal with the question of whether he can ever truly be happy. His entire relationship with Patty was reportedly to set up an emotional arc for him, in which he would try to fool himself into thinking he could find happiness with someone who is totally outside of the “Flash world” until realizing that doing so denies a part of himself. The audience was presumably supposed to watch him realize the inherent problem in that level of self-deception and grow from it. And now, it’s clear we were supposed to see that story come full-circle as the story returns to Westallen in the back half of the season, to show a more mature Barry realize he has never let go of the feelings he still carries for the woman he’s always loved and return to that relationship with a new level of self-awareness.

While I think that is an interesting idea, I think the show failed to really show Barry’s happiness, let alone investment, in his relationship with Patty. More importantly, it failed to really highlight the underlying motivation Grant Gustin discussed in interviews, that Barry was attracted to her as an “escape” from his life as a superhero and was deluding himself into thinking he could be happy by so denying that fundamental part of himself.

As a rehash of Barry’s story with Reverse Flash but without most of the emotional investment, the first of these arcs could not possibly succeed. Without investing in the story they were supposedly telling enough to actually crystallize their intentions, develop the story, and highlight the impact on Barry and his subsequent self-growth, the latter suffered from a failure of execution. Neither of Barry’s emotional arcs was successful this season, and so they could not be as compelling or as satisfying as his arcs last year.

Iris West

But what about the rest of the characters? That’s been a bit of a mixed bag. For her part, Iris has suffered from shameful neglect to varying degrees in both seasons. Last year, her main emotional arc revolved around varying aspects of self-discovery in her personal and professional lives. Professionally, she learned what she wanted to do with her life when she became aware of the Flash and grew determined to reveal his heroic nature to the people of Central City. On a more personal level, her arc dealt with her relationship with Eddie and her confusion and conflicting feelings for Barry – her awareness of Barry’s love for her, her admiration for her best friend, and then the added emotional complications that ensued upon her discovery of his secret identity.

As an Iris fan, I cannot say that either arc was as successful as I would have liked. Although I think they got the job done in showing her progress from Point A to Point B professionally, I felt the lack of her point of view and more significant attention to her role as a reporter – not just telling us why she chose that path but going more in depth to show her grow in that role and the impact her stories had on the people of Central City. That said, while I would have liked them to delve a little deeper into this arc, the show did not entirely neglect it.

The same could be said of her more personal emotional arc. Her internal conflict over her love for Eddie and her awareness – or willful self-deception – in her feelings for Barry similarly suffered form a lack of Iris’s point of view. This story was not entirely ignored, but I’ve discussed in an early article of the season how it suffered greatly from giving Iris a voice to express her own developing (or denied) feelings.

This year, her emotional arcs have been murkier. Ostensibly, her main emotional arcs have revolved around her relationship with her family and her struggle with grief over Eddie’s death and, now, her emerging realization that she wants to be with Barry. Again, neither story has been totally ignored, but I would argue that, to the extent neither has been as successful as it should, the failures have been in the same ways and for the same reasons as last season. In neither have we been adequately given Iris’s point of view.

Iris’s emotional arc with her mother, Francine, was used to introduce Wally to the story and to give the audience a reason to care about the mini-arc. Once Iris brought Joe in on Wally’s existence, she was largely moved out of the story – certainly of expressing her own feelings and perspective on the matter – and the focus primarily shifted to Joe’s feelings on having a son. While Joe’s perspective was certainly important, it was an omission to sideline Iris almost completely in her own arc, until it was time to kill off Francine because the character had served its purpose. Then Iris was allowed to give the audience a glimpse into her point of view (though we didn’t necessarily see her getting there) before Francine was killed off-screen and Iris was only allowed one or two lines after to convey the impact this had on her.

Similarly, Iris was sidelined in her emotional romantic arc for the majority of the season. Throughout 2A, when Barry was dating Patty and the show could have given a glimpse of some internal conflict on Iris’s part or, barring that, her grief over Eddie’s death, she was not allowed to convey either to any significant degree. Her previous romantic arc with Barry was completely ignored to the point when it would be have been hard if not impossible for a new viewer to know an emotional arc between these two characters had existed, let alone how important it had been to both characters in the first season. I have previously written on the flaws in their treatment of this story – this emotional arc, which had been pivotal in the first season, went from “slow burn” to “no burn.”

At the same time, she wasn’t allowed to really grieve for Eddie either – save for one mournful look for a few seconds and, eventually, a line that gave a glimpse into her point of view. It wasn’t until the recent episode in which Barry gave her closure on that relationship that her character was allowed to fully express to the audience where she was emotionally on that loss.  And, of course, it was only after that was done that she could begin to convey the extent of her internal conflict over Barry.

None of Iris’s emotional arcs have been complete failures, but absolute all of them would have been improved with more care in allowing her to express her point of view. Only time will tell if this is a lesson they have learned going into next season.

Cisco Ramon

I would argue that Cisco is the character that has seen a vast improvement in the treatment of his emotional arcs from last year to this. Perhaps due to his rather ignominious reputation in the comics, he was treated as primarily comic relief for a large part of the first season. It wasn’t until Cisco’s murder at Wells’s hands (and Carlos blew the audience away with his acting) that the show stepped up their focus on and began to fully develop his character. To the extent he had emotional arcs, they focused on his father-son relationship with Harrison Wells and the subsequent betrayal at his hands.

Although the latter eventually grew into a significant arc that impacted the character even into this season, the former remained little more than an emotional subplot, relegated to only the occasional episode with little to no closure. Although we saw his guilt and his grief, there was no eventual resolution for him upon Ronnie’s return. Perhaps to an extent this was intentional, as this has remained an undercurrent in a few episodes this season – most notably the episodes on Earth 2, where it was Cisco’s relationship with Caitlin and Ronnie that really allowed the team to get through to Killer Frost. There has been some speculation that Ronnie may return, as well. If this is the case, I hope that the show acknowledges the degree to which this arc has been important to Cisco’s character, even as a subplot.

This season, although Cisco was allowed a very brief romance, his main emotional arc has had to do with his powers – both his excitement over them and his fear about what they may lead to in the future. Of course, the treatment of this arc has had its own share of flaws – most notably in his realization of his powers and subsequent internal turmoil over revealing them to the team. While I think this arc had some potential for interesting character development, it turned into much ado about nothing. After several episodes of this preying on his mind, the actual reveal was anti-climactic as all of his fears ended up having no basis in reality. The team not only had no such concerns but they greeted the news with excitement and enthusiasm.

However, while this initial treatment may have undermined his emotional arc a bit, the show has rallied and fleshed out this arc in developing his character through fears over the potential for his powers to lead him to the dark side. This fear has not only been demonstrated for himself but for his friends as well, once he returned from Earth 2 with knowledge of Caitlin’s potential future. I don’t know what the last few episodes hold, but I can only hope that this arc will have a satisfying payoff and we will see how much the character has grown through it by season’s end.

Caitlin Snow

If Cisco’s arc has been handled the best, Caitlin’s has been the most poorly handled of any character, particularly when looking at the show as a whole. In the first season, Caitlin’s emotional arc had to do primarily with her loss of and reunion with the love of her life, Ronnie. This arc started out quite strongly and, unlike Iris, Caitlin was given sufficient perspective for the audience to understand her pain.

However, this arc faced stumbling blocks once the show decided to ship bait Snowbarry but didn’t bother to develop Caitlin’s character in doing so. Instead of making these episodes a part of her character arc and allowing her to learn something about herself and perhaps even grow from them, they had no impact on the character at all and, as such, undermined her emotional arc with Ronnie and made her seem fickle. In fact, Caitlin was allowed to learn and grow from and grow very few of the events that should have emotionally impacted her last season.

This was not improved this season, when Caitlin was allowed to mourn Ronnie in the first episode but then was unceremoniously thrown in Jay’s path in an attempt to make the audience care about his character. While this could have perhaps been improved if they tied this into last season’s arc and developed it as a poorly-handled but understandable reaction to losing Ronnie again, Caitlin was only allowed to remember Ronnie and grieve for him in episodes without Jay. It wasn’t used to develop her character as much as to give Jay a purpose and to try to give his story an emotional connection with the audience.

It is possible that now, at the end of the season, they will use this arc to develop Caitlin. It is possible this will be the catalyst to turn her into Killer Frost or have significant growth for her character. However, at only five episodes to the end of the season, Caitlin’s emotional arc is only even arguably becoming primarily about her character. This is definitely something that they need to improve upon next year, as the very least a character should have is key importance in their own main emotional arcs.

The Flash: Here There Be Spoilers

As we round the curve and head into the final third of this season of The Flash, I thought it would be interesting to break down the Flash spoilers we have and make some predictions for the key players in the show.

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Barry Allen

It’s a little messy to try to guess what’s going to happen this season, since the first 10 or so episodes were sloppy and they dropped the ball on a number of character motivations and plots during that time. However, while we don’t have a lot of spoilers for Barry, per se, the season is of course heading towards a face-off between him and Zoom. Personally, I hope it’s more satisfying of a conclusion than Season 1’s arc with Reverse Flash. Neither of Barry’s main goals last season – stopping Reverse Flash and getting justice for his father – were actually accomplished by him. It would be nice if he was allowed to stop the Big Bad of the season this year.

There have been some plot threads that what we might expect to get wrapped up. Barry’s been struggling with the idea of whether he can ever really be happy, ever since Harribard got into his head in the premiere. I don’t know that I really buy how much this statement got into Barry’s head – as a character, he had been pretty happy in general for a good chunk of the first season, although he certainly also had his share of struggles. Regardless, Harribard certainly got into his head this season, and we’ve definitely had a less happy superhero than we did last year.

There’s also the suggestion, teased during Patty’s last couple of episodes, that Zoom would go after the person Barry loves the most. Pretty obviously, they have and continue to set up Iris as that person. Of course…that leads us to Westallen. But more on that in a moment.

It’s very possible Barry will finally embrace his happiness, just to have Zoom come in to threaten Iris. Hopefully, if this happens, they won’t pull a Spider-Man and have Barry walk away from Iris “for her own protection.” That has never worked in any superhero show. Ever. Not even once. And since they’ve built the roster of his superfriends, one would hope at least one of them would point that out.

That said, I wouldn’t be surprised if they don’t kill off Zoom for good this season. With three speedsters (or potential speedsters) on Team Flash, once they all get their powers, the show will want to amp up the threat – and what better way than a team up with Reverse Flash and Zoom? Also, perhaps because I feel that almost the entire first half was wasted, I just don’t feel that we’ve gotten everything we could get out of Zoom as a villain to this point (though I have had more than enough of Jay, so I could see the argument both ways).

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Iris West

I don’t know how much we’ll actually get to see her as a reporter outside of these two episodes with Scott. Her role as reporter should be used as more than an impetus to move Westallen forward, however. As a reporter, she can open up the Flash world outside of the lab, broadening the world and offering an opportunity to reveal information and uncover solutions in more dynamic ways.

However, while it’s unclear how much she will get focus as a reporter, from spoilers (too many to enumerate here, but there are a number in this vein) it is clear that Westallen is set to full steam ahead. I do wish they hadn’t completely dropped that thread in the first run of the season (there is a difference between “slow burn” and “no burn” and they definitely did the latter), but I’m glad to see things are finally back on track. At the very least, it’s clear that Iris will start to come to terms with her feelings for Barry, and I think it’s likely she will have an epic confession of her own before the season ends.

Will they find a reason to make Barry take a step back, keep her at arm’s length, to delay the relationship? I hope not. If Flash has proven anything, it’s that they only have two gears when it comes to relationships: fifth gear or absolutely stuck in neutral. I have no interest in returning to the tedium of 2A, with its lack of progress in any main plot line. If they absolutely have to drag out a relationship, they should bring in Linda for a flirtation with Wally in season 3.

That said, I don’t think it’ll be entirely smooth sailing. I think it’s likely Iris will be the focus of Zoom’s attention, as he searches for the best way to hurt Barry. But I am all for it if the show takes the opportunity to once again show how clever and brave Iris is in the face of danger…as well as the irreplaceable and unbreakable bond she and Barry share.

At any rate, it’s clear that Candice Patton has been filming a lot in the last few weeks. Whether it’s focusing on her as an individualized character or just on Westallen is unclear, but fans of the actress and/or character should at least get plenty to see.

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Harrison Wells

The rest of the characters have barely any spoilers between them, and this may be the most enigmatic of all. It’s uncertain what they will do with Harry – or even if they have a concrete plan in mind. I’m still holding on to the theory that they will write off Harry and find a way to bring back Harribard. They really seemed to love him in Season 1, and they’ve never really given me an indication they have a concrete plan for his character.

Is there anything new they can bring to Wells in Season 3? It’s possible, but it seems unlikely. However, they really love Tom Cavanaugh, so I think they will find ways to reboot his character every year, if necessary, just to keep him around.

My only caveat to my theory is that his relationship with his daughter could provide an intriguing dynamic, but it’s just too early to tell what if anything they plan to do with those two.

Cisco Ramon

Cisco may be a fan favorite, but that hasn’t translated to too many meaty arcs focused on his character. It does seem likely that he will continue to dwell on what he saw in Earth 2. Reverb was, among other things, much more powerful than Cisco currently knows himself to be, and that certainly has to push him towards wanting to further develop his powers.

Of course, Reverb was also evil, and while that minor arc wasn’t handled as well as it should have been (dramatic tension was built up over several episodes only to be effectively waved away with the sound of a deflating whoopee cushion), the potential of going evil or being perceived as evil has preyed on his mind in the past. That will probably be the focus for his individual character arc as the season draws to a close. But I will say that I’m sad that their promises that he’d get some love this season came to so little. Cisco is adorable and deserves love, too.

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Caitlin Snow

This is maybe the most intriguing to me, not because of what we know about what she is doing so much as what it seems she has not been doing. She hasn’t been confirmed to be on the set in Vancouver since late February, so either she’s not in a run of episodes or she’s in them so little, she’s flying in to shoot a scene or two and flying out again.

While some think she may be killed off, I don’t think that’s likely. I do wonder if they’re setting up Killer Frost as her main arc in Season 3. If so, they need to do something to trigger that change, particularly given her recent declaration to Cisco that she wouldn’t be Killer Frost any time soon. It’s possible she’s either taken by or (more likely, given her connection to Jay) chooses to be with Zoom, not knowing he’s not the Jay she loves and hoping she can “save” him. It would parallel her storyline with Grodd earlier this season, and since she has failed to save the man she loves a few times at this point, her determination to try would make sense for her character.

Henry Allen

If Caitlin is going to turn into Killer Frost by the end of the season, the spot of medical doctor will be open at STAR Labs, at least in the short term. Since John Wesley Shipp has filmed at least a couple Flash episodes in the back of the season, it seems he may be stepping into that role. Whether they utilize him in that fashion into season 3 or kill him off because they apparently find him one too many father figures for the show to bear is anyone’s guess. If they do think he’s redundant, I would think the clock is ticking for Barry’s biological father.

The Flash Video: Alt-Barry Geeks Out in Escape from Earth-2

It takes a lot to out-nerd Cisco Ramon. But a new video clip from Tuesday’s episode of The Flash, “Escape from Earth-2,” makes it clear that alt-Barry is very capable of geeking out at the highest levels.

Apparently, Earth-2’s Barry is a big fan of the comic-book genre and uses that knowledge to make sense of his meta-human doppelganger. He gets really, really enthusiastic describing what happened in the story — so enthusiastic that even Cisco gives him a weird look.

Of course, Cisco immediately insists upon calling Zoom’s hideout a lair, so nerdiness is pretty much coming from all fronts.

Detective Iris West, impressively, barely reacts to any of this and instead focuses on just what has to be done in order to find Earth-1 Barry and Harrison Wells’ daughter. It’s probably good that she is on the team right now.

The Flash airs Tuesdays at 8pm on The CW.

The Flash: The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same

the flash season 2 iris west barry allen candice patton grant gustin cw
CW

Alternate-Earth stories are always interesting to me. Creatively, they open a lot of doors for stories that may be impossible to explore otherwise. Since everything happens in a different version of the story’s reality, characters can learn important lessons without detrimentally impacting the intended long-term story.

But equally as interesting as what is changed in alternate-reality Earths is what remains constant. It can provide fascinating insight into what the writers (and others who drive the story) find absolutely pivotal to their universe, and, in so doing, it raises some questions about the concept of “fate” within that universe.

In the Earth 2 of this week’s The Flash, Barry encounters much that is different but several things that are – or the audience expects to eventually be – the same. On Earth 1, Iris is the great love of Barry’s life, and the show has already indicated they will one day marry. Of course, comic canon suggests a great deal more in their future, including an entire lineage of future speedsters. Caitlin and Ronnie also find and are drawn to each other romantically, finding something in their connection to each other that they seemingly don’t or can’t find with anyone else. And, tragically, Caitlin seems destined to lose him.

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CW

Of course, certain real-world considerations must be taken into account. The question becomes: Did Caitlin lose Ronnie in our Earth because they intended a story where she is always destined to lose him? Or is that simply a matter of juggling schedules with an actor who’s taking his career in a different direction?

Then there are the things that are different but in some ways are very much the same. Snart is mayor on Earth 2, and it’s arguable how big the leap from “criminal” to “politician” really is. Flash exists on Earth 2, as does Green Arrow – and presumably others. But at least for those two in particular, we know that this other world has such heroes, but they are not the men we know in this reality. In a previous episode, a news clip indicates that Oliver’s father became the Green Arrow, while Ollie presumably suffered his father’s fate. Whereas Barry is alive and well, but he never became the Flash, as that was Jay’s role.

This suggests that, in the course of this version of Flash, it may be destined that the superheroes we know and love exist, even if the man beneath the mask changes. Of course, this isn’t entirely a new concept, since different people pick up the mantle of the most beloved superheroes in the comics on a fairly regular basis.

But if the man beneath the mask can change, why are other things within Barry’s personal life destined, set in stone, unchangeable? Is there significance to the suggestion that every Barry pursues a career as a CSI, although he could have just as easily become one only in this Earth and only as a direct result of his mother’s death? Or, just as Iris always finds herself in a field where she pursues truth and justice, is that just the writers’ way to speak to a face to the character that they see as integral and incontrovertible?

If there is no Flash legacy to preserve, can we find added significance to the fact that Barry and Iris find, choose, and love each other in every reality? Is there more to the depth and importance of their connection than her position as his lightning rod – so much so that his character somehow needs hers, even in a world where his powers may never come into play? It seems that they find her integral to the story of not just as the Flash but of Barry Allen.

And what does it suggest about Caitlin’s character? Is she always destined to lose the man she loves the most? And in every world, is she destined to become Killer Frost – even if the circumstances leading to that fate may change?

Next week will conclude the show’s time in Earth 2… at least for now. However, these two episodes will likely end up leaving many hints and a few questions about the message they’ve intentionally or unintentionally sent regarding the concept of “destiny” when it comes to our favorite characters.

All I can say is, this trip to Earth 2 will likely feel woefully short for all the wonderful things it has given the fans. I, for one, can’t wait to go back.

The Flash Recap: It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad (Awesome) World

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CW

This episode of The Flash was so good, it’s making me wish we could have two shows – one for each universe so we never run out of sheer awesomeness. If you take nothing else from this recap, take this: This week’s episode was absolutely everything a comic book show in general and Flash in particular can and should be.

I can’t even begin to break it down by story, so this will actually be a rare chronological recap. Buckle up, because this was one awesome ride!

After weeks of putting the Zoom issue on the back burner (seriously, they did nothing about this problem for like 9 episodes before resolving the problem in a half an episode), Barry steps up this week to finish what he started last episode – he closes all the portals but one, and he, Cisco, and Harry gear up to take the battle to Zoom’s home turf.

We start off on a good note as one final thing Barry has to take care of before he goes? A family dinner with Joe and Iris. Iris is concerned that he’s going to escape this world, but he reassures her and she tells him to “Go win, and then come home.” A bit of foreshadowing because, Iris, he’ll always come home to you.

Unfortunately, once they cross the breach, things don’t go quite according to plan. Without the other portals, this one overloads and shuts down, leaving Joe, Caitlin, and Jay with only two days to fix the problem, or they’ll be trapped forever. With the track record of at least two of those three, the odds aren’t good. Of course, on the way they see many glimpses of other worlds (including Supergirl and Shipp’s Flash), which probably could be an article of analysis all its own.

Without making this recap about 18 pages, it would be impossible to get into everything. However, I would be remiss if I failed to point out that Cisco is an absolute delight throughout the episode. His terror going through the portal, his excitement (along with Barry’s) at this strange new world, his horror at seeing Henry Hewitt, his surprise at the end…? He’s an absolute gem.

On Earth 2, Cisco reveals himself to be a nervous Vibe-r – he can’t perform when others are crowding him. It turns out the frequencies of the realities aren’t the same, so his glasses won’t work. They aren’t set back for long, since Barry sees himself on television, talking about Zoom and “Detective West’s” taskforce. Everyone fails to notice the wedding ring and assumes he’s talking about Joe. But, of course, he isn’t, and Barry soon finds out that Iris isn’t just a detective in this world — she’s also his wife.

About that Westallen kiss? All I have to say about it is “hot damn.” I’m not even sure if cursing is allowed in reviews, but I honestly can’t think of a tamer reaction. Boy are they incredible in this episode, and seeing them together like this has certainly been a long time coming. Naturally, this unexpected revelation derails Barry’s plans a bit because it’s impossible for him to stay emotionally detached when it comes to Iris (and seeing her in her bra probably doesn’t help). She is every bit the badass, absolutely determined to stop Zoom and not letting anything get in her way. Barry also finds out his mom is still alive, and a glimpse at the phone suggests that not only is E2 Eddie also likely in the land of the living, but E2 Barry may be friends with Batman.

Not every revelation is good. Joe is a singer at Jitterbugs – E2’s version of CC Jitters. He and E2 Barry apparently don’t get along, since he thinks Iris is in the dangerous profession of detective to pay Barry’s school bills for CSI school. Caitlin is Killer Frost and hates the name Caitlin. Ronnie is alive and they’re together (even she says that the only person she can kiss is the only one she wants to). She likes killing “breachers” who cross over from other Earths, making me wonder how many she’s found. That could be an interesting story to explore, even if it would probably be impossible to do so.

Iris tries to take down Killer Frost and Deathstorm (DeathFrost? KillerStorm?) to save the innocent people at the coffee house, and they kill Joe when he tries to protect his daughter. I admittedly have a hot and cold relationship with E1 Joe, but I absolutely adored E2 Joe. I would love an E2 spinoff… but they’d have to bring Joe back. Barry attacks Killer Frost with one of Deathstorm’s fireballs, scaring them off.

He’s not the only one who has difficulty keeping his eye on the ball. Cisco is more distracted by the thought of who his doppelganger may be than focusing on saving Jessie. On Earth 1, a meta named Geomancer has appeared to challenge the Flash and Wet Blanket Jay protests against taking a serum for speed to stop him. Caitlin realizes that he never had the speed force and Zoom never took it – his speed was always given him by Velocity serum, and that’s also what’s killing him. She resolves to find a Velocity serum that won’t. (Pro tip for the future: When E2 is so amazing, don’t even bother distracting us by what’s going on with E1. I don’t know that anybody honestly cared about that story, with everything else that was happening.) He eventually does use it, but it wears off too quickly for him to do any real good, so Joe has to save the day anyway.

Finally, Cisco teams up with Iris to take down Killer Frost, while Barry is still distracted by wanting to protect the woman he loves. Cisco’s curiosity about his doppelganger is unfortunately satisfied when he discovers that on E2, he’s not only a bad guy, but he has an “unfortunate samurai [hair] situation” going on and is working for Zoom.

Or, rather, he was working for Zoom, but he tries to get Cisco to join him on the Dark Side. Cisco refuses, so Evil Cisco teams up with Deathstorm to try to kill Barry, but Zoom stops them just in time. And by “stops them” I mean “kills them.”

The episode ends with Barry trapped in a metahuman zoo. He’s now Zoom’s prisoner.

The Flash Season 2: The Old Flash Returns

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CW

The Flash season 2 may not overtly recognize that it’s been a different show than it was in the first season, but it’s something many have noticed.

As I’ve written before, I think that’s largely because the first part of the season had other priorities and was focused on launching a different series. This week felt like the first episode where they actually focused on where they wanted to go moving forward with The Flash, now that they’ve finished wrapping up loose ends from where they were treading water in the first part of the season.

I think it would be hard to argue that this was the best episode of the series. The Villain of the Week was hardly the most memorable, and Barry was still lacking a degree of that happy-go-lucky attitude of season 1.  To me, he lacked energy, even before Harry stole his speed, as though the actor was fighting off a bit of a bug. But, even with the occasional weakness, it was a breath of fresh air for the season. It finally felt like the old Flash was back.

To a degree, that was due to the renewed focus on the characters we came to know and love throughout the first season – and the reminder why it is we love them so much. Barry was at his absolute heroic best (and most mature) when he gave the team a much-needed reality check, pointing out that all of them would – and have – acted similarly in Harry’s position. If it is true that we judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their actions, it sometimes takes a hero to point out to one’s friends that the line between good and evil might not be as easily defined as they would like to pretend.

And, long overdue, Iris was finally allowed to step into the spotlight. After months of promises over a non-existent journalism arc, we finally got to see her step into that role, facing off against an irrefutably bad guy in order to both protect her brother and get her story. She was a delight in every one of her scenes and once again proved what a treasure she is for the show. It bears noting that the audience was given more insight into her perspective in the last two weeks than we’ve gotten since Barry’s confession in the first season. As I have written before, this has been a critical oversight for the show, so these are definite steps in the right direction.

Beyond that, the newcomer on the scene, Wally, was given some background and depth. The audience was reminded of emotional stakes too easily forgotten this season with both the appearance of Zoom and the acknowledgment that Harry’s daughter is in peril every minute of every episode and that should mean something to all of them. Caitlin was even allowed to worry about something other than her romantic status with Jay and/or Ronnie. Even her determination in the last few episodes to stop Zoom has been because she doesn’t want to lose Jay the way she lost Ronnie. She should be more than just her romantic status, so she really needs to be given more to her arc this season.

Naturally, there were still flaws and places where the show needs focus. Although Zoom was absolutely terrifying in his face-off with Barry earlier this season, overall, he’s been an underwhelming (sadly forgettable and indeed often forgotten) threat. The purpose behind his actions is still unclear – in that “too murky for the audience to follow or care about” way, not in the way that the audience is on the edge of their seats, wanting to know more, as was the case with Reverse Flash. He wants speed because…he wants to be the fastest? Is that really it? So he wants to steal Barry’s speed so he can be the fastest, but he also wants to make Barry faster so he can get even more speed? So why is he stealing his speed now? Isn’t that counter-productive? And if he could steal Jay’s speed – and literally wipe the floor with Flash – without any help from Harry, why is he bothering with Harry at all?

There are still too many questions when it comes to the Big Bad of the season, so The Flash has some work to do if they want to build the tension and momentum that carried them so effectively through their first year.

However, this episode was a good start. We were reminded that there are emotional stakes this season. The tepid romantic drama between both Barry/Patty and Jay/Caitlin was put aside. And Iris was finally given a storyline worthy of a leading lady female character.

It’s good to have our old show back.

My Flash Christmas Wish List

It’s the season for Christmas wishes, and things were certainly eventful for the characters on The Flash this week. But while they were making wishes for what they wanted for Christmas, fans were making wishes of their own. Here are my wishes for what I’d like to see in the back half of The Flash season 2.

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The CW

Iris West (and Westallen)

Iris only had seven minutes of screen time, but she killed each and every second of it. Actress Candice Patton certainly has a deft hand at conveying emotion, but I admit I miss the more-lighthearted scenes from last season – whether it was teasing Barry about being the cutest dork she knows or poking fun at their foibles over a cup of coffee.

Of course, there is a lot of drama in Iris’ life, and we still need her point of view on a number of more serious things. But I also want to see her and Barry laugh more – both together and individually. I also just want to see more of her overall, because her lack of focus, point of view, and screen time has been shameful this year.

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The CW

Wally West

It’s hard to say what I want from Wally since we know so little about him. However, I will say that the New 52 version of Wally was generally disfavored, so I hope they don’t go quite so far with his character. That said, I want to see him getting to know Iris and Joe and learning how he fits in.

The Wally story has so far focused more on Joe’s emotions than Iris’ (even in the midseason finale, Iris expressed her torment over keeping the secret from Joe more than how she herself was processing the idea of a brother she’s never met). There needs to be a more equitable division of attention on Iris’s point of view and reaction. And, personally, I would like to see some friction – at least at first – between Wally and Barry. The STAR Labs crew has not had much interpersonal adversity this season, and (as I’ve said before) it might be good for Barry to interact with someone who doesn’t always have his back first and foremost.

It would be even more interesting if Wally admired the Flash before he found out it was Barry. It would be similar to Iris’s reaction to the Flash, but this dynamic would be different. Iris loved Barry before she knew he was the Flash, and her love for him was always greater than her appreciation for the Flash. This wouldn’t be the case for Wally.

Vibe

It’s unlikely that Cisco will truly come into his own as Vibe quite yet, but I would love for the team to start exploring the boundaries of his abilities in the same way that they’ve found Barry’s limitations. Cisco needs a connection to people to “vibe” on them, but how tenuous can that connection be? Can he only vibe on people with a connection to Earth Two – or his own experiences in other realities? Even if he can’t trigger his abilities at will, can we see him trying to figure it out, even if he fails for now?

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The CW

Jay Garrick

Jay was announced as a “mentor” to Barry, but that role has largely fallen to Harrison Wells. In fact, Jay has been utilized more as a love interest for Caitlin than as a hero in his own right and mentor to Barry. He is most often the voice in their ears telling them they can’t when they propose a course of action, and while it’s nice to have a measured voice in the mix, that can’t be the entirety of his role. If he’s going to keep shooting down their ideas, they need to start letting him suggest solutions of his own. As the characters themselves have pointed out, it’s easy to say no, but if nobody has a better idea, what are they supposed to do?

I also am curious to know what he does when he’s not at the lab. He’s from a different world and doesn’t know anyone from this one. It doesn’t seem like he even has an Earth 1 counterpart. Harrison spends most of his time in the lab with the few people he does know; Jay spends most of his time away from the lab, on his own. If they’re going to focus on him, it would be nice to get glimpses into how he’s dealing with his role as stranger in a strange land. Has he come across people in this world that he knew in his own? I think it would be interesting to see him run into someone he knows well in his world (perhaps even loves, if not romantically then as a friend) but who doesn’t even know another version of him in this one.

Harrison/Zoom

Obviously, we’re going to see more of this unwilling partnership, which will help keep Zoom’s presence around even on episodes where he doesn’t appear. I just can’t wait for it.