So Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) has “reset” the timeline from Flashpoint, but some little things (and some big things) are different. How different? Let’s dig right in to episode 3.02, “Paradox”:
#5: It’s the Little Things…
At first, it seems like it’s just a few little things that have changed around Central City when Barry returns. After all, they beat Zoom and closed the rift, right? So what’s different? First of all, Barry and Iris (Candice Patton) have taken a small step back – not a huge one, and they are back to where they were, more or less, by the end of the episode. Iris and Joe (Jesse L. Martin), as we already knew, are not speaking to one another. It turns out that’s because in this timeline, she didn’t forgive Joe for hiding the fact that her mother was still alive. Once again, this relationship is reset by the end of the episode. Wally (Keiynan Lonsdale) seems to be the same Wally, but who knows if there are some things we haven’t seen yet? On the other hand, there are a lot of other things that aren’t so minor…
#4: …and the Big Things
Cisco (Carlos Valdes) is pretty surly when we first see the “new” him. We find out that’s because, in this timeline, his brother Dante (played previously by Nicholas Gonzalez) was killed a few months back by a drunk driver. Cisco wants Barry to go back in time and save him, but Barry has refused, causing the tension between them in particular. When Barry breaks down and tells the team what has happened, that he altered the timeline, Cisco is really incensed. Barry would change time for himself, but not for his best friend? Despite some small steps toward reconciliation, I don’t think this relationship is going to be healed quickly.
Barry’s got an office mate, now, too: a surly, snippy Brit, Julian Albert (Tom Felton), who is actually the CSI for meta-human-specific crimes, while Barry is relegated to the everyday cases. The two get along like cats and dogs from the very beginning, and I suspect it won’t be long before Julian deduces Barry’s secret. That should be a fun storyline to see play out.
Over in the Arrow part of the world, John Diggle’s daughter Sara is now his son, John Jr. (Incidentally, please tell me “John Jr.” is a nickname, and his real name is John Stewart Diggle – because, c’mon!) I haven’t watched Arrow yet this season, but I’m hoping that change is really present on that show, and completely un-remarked upon, because otherwise they’re breaking the shared universe.
Other than that, besides the introduction of Dr. Alchemy (more on that below), the biggest surprise of the episode came at the very end. I didn’t expect this, but I probably should have. In Barry’s previous reality, Caitlyn Snow (Danielle Panabaker) was unaffected by the dark matter explosion that created all the other metas. In this altered timeline, however, she has begun manifesting the powers of her Earth-2 doppelganger, Killer Frost! Like I said, I should have seen it coming, but it floored me, and I’m excited to see if she becomes a villain or a hero with her new powers.
#3: Yay, Jay!
I didn’t think we’d see Jay Garrick (not the fake one, the real one played by John Wesley Shipp) so early in the season, especially since he’s supposed to be on Earth-2, or back on his own Earth (whichever one that is). So it was a fun moment of diversion to see him literally pull Barry from the Speed Force to have a little chat. Until that happened, I actually thought Barry was going to go back to the fateful night of Flashpoint once again, and maybe screw things up even more. I’m actually glad that didn’t happen. That said, a few thoughts on this scene:
- It looks like Jay got a bit of a costume update, and it is a vast improvement over the bulky, ill-fitting look he had in episode 2.23.
- Were John Wesley Shipp’s teeth always that white?
- Did Jay cross back to Earth-1 without using the Speed Cannon, or is he connected to Barry through the Speed Force across dimensions?
- How does Jay Garrick not know the correct definition of paradox? (see below)
#2: Dr. Alchemy has Some Weird Powers
I’m intrigued by this Dr. Alchemy character. (He just calls himself Alchemy, but of course Cisco can’t leave well enough alone.) It seems he has a multitude of powers of his own, plus he is able to re-awaken the memories and abilities of people who had meta powers in the Flashpoint timeline. And the way he does so is creepy. He puts them in cocoons, from which they then hatch, reawakened.
We’ve already seen him resurrect Edward Clariss, The Rival (Todd Lasance) (and then, apparently, kill him when he doesn’t get the job done against The Flash and Vibe), but Clariss’ husk is the fifth one the CCPD has already found, so I think we can safely say that more of Kid Flash’s enemies are on their way.
#1: Paradox: I Don’t Think That Means What You Think it Means…
Jay tells Barry that the “paradox” of time travel is that you can never put things back exactly the way they were. Um, no, that’s not paradox, that’s the Butterfly Effect. That would have a been a perfectly fine title for the episode, except that the movie The Butterfly Effect was produced, and therefore probably trademarked by, New Line Cinema.
Here’s a real paradox: Eobard Thawne, the Reverse Flash now apparently both did and did not get trapped in 1994 after killing Nora Allen. He both did and did not kill Harrison Wells and take his place. He both did and did not get erased from existence by Eddie Thawne’s noble suicide. But instead of exploring that actual paradox, instead we get a bunch of weird, incidental changes in the timeline, none of which have a direct cause-and-effect relationship with the events of Nora’s murder. With every passing episode, we see that The Flash‘s showrunners don’t have a coherent understanding of time travel. It gets even worse when you see that it doesn’t even share an incoherent vision with DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, either. I know I keep harping on this week after week, but it’s making me a bit crazy, and I keep hoping that the writers will make some attempt at reconciling these issues, especially in a shared universe like this. Alas, I’m fairly confident at this point that my hopes are in vain.
Catch up with me next week, when we see the return of Jessie Wells (now with super speed)! Take care, speedsters!
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