Warning: This story contains major spoilers from Tuesday’s episode of The Flash. Read at your own risk!
Well, that was quick!
As fast as the Scarlet Speedster’s engagement happened, it was also put on hold during Tuesday’s episode of The Flash — and for good reason. It turns out, Barry (Grant Gustin) didn’t just propose because he wanted to spend the rest of his life with Iris (Candice Patton). It’s because he knew she wasn’t wearing an engagement ring in his original flash to the future, meaning he hoped that by asking her to be his wife, he could prevent her death at the hands of Savitar.
“That’s a moment that Barry then has to own up to the reality of, which is, he does love Iris more than anything, but he did propose because he wanted to save her life and change the future,” Gustin tells EW. “Initially, he denies that to himself and everyone around him. But Wally calling him out on that, it ticks him off and he pushes Wally away a little bit for sure. But I think he knows that it’s true and that he did have a motive that pushed him to propose that wasn’t necessarily just from the heart — it was out of fear.”
While somewhat noble in its intention, the move was part and parcel of Barry’s rash decision making in the wake of seeing a grim future. “Barry’s so desperate to save Iris that he is starting to lose it a little bit,” executive producer Andrew Kreisberg says. “So this beautiful engagement, which I think every one of us dreams of getting — whether we’re married or we’ve been engaged or you’re out there and you’re hoping one day to be engaged — you’re hoping that the person who asks you, asks you 100 percent because they love you and they want to spend the rest of their life with you. It’s not that Barry doesn’t want those things with Iris, it’s not that she doubts her love for him, it’s just that’s not exactly every girl’s dream. The stress of what they’re facing starts to damage their relationship.”
That becomes true for everyone on Team Flash as they also face Savitar’s dreaded prophecy — “One shall betray you, one shall fall, one will suffer a fate far worse than death” — nearing complete fruition. “They start coming true,” Kreisberg says. “We start seeing one suffering the fate worse than death. We will find out who the betrayer is” — Caitlin (Danielle Panabaker) believes it’s her after keeping a piece of the Philosopher’s Stone — “and then the real question is if the one will fall will be Iris?”
“As they get closer and closer to the date, it really starts to affect all of them, especially Joe,” Kreisberg continues. “Barry has his powers and his experience fighting metas to fall back on, but Joe’s just a cop; he’s just a guy with a gun and if a serial killer or some bank robber was after him, he’d know what to do. But how does this simple man, who doesn’t have these powers, fight the future? That’s the thing that really starts to weigh on this triumvirate.”
What proves more difficult is the ever-changing nature of the future. “It’s hard because if you could know your future, would you want to know?” Gustin says. “They almost kind of know their future, but they don’t. They know a really vague representation of what the future is, so it’s even worse because it’s more ominous. There’s these three awful things that are going to happen to these people and they don’t know what’s going to happen to who other than Iris getting impaled through the chest by Savitar, which Barry has seen happen to way too many people. It’s weighing heavily on everyone. You don’t want to know your future.”
But there’s certainly more to the prophecy than even they realized as viewers discover Iris wasn’t necessarily Savitar’s main target. “You realize in episode 15 that Barry thought this whole season had been about him, and you realize that Savitar’s ultimate plan is about Wally,” Kreisberg says. “It was about giving Wally speed and making Wally a Flash, because Savitar couldn’t escape the Speed Force prison unless he had a speedster take his place, sort of like out of an old Greek myth. So he designed everything that happened to get Wally fast enough so that Wally could take his place, which is the one who will suffer a fate worse than death. So when Wally is sucked into the Speed Force in episode 15 and Savitar escapes, that’s how Savitar is freed.”
Once again, it’s a case of Barry’s decisions coming back to haunt him. “Barry’s emotions can kind of get the best of him and he can make choices that seem clear and helpful in the moment that end up having ramifications that he didn’t necessarily expect,” Gustin says. “That’s one of those moments.”
Thus, Barry must head into the Speed Force to save Wally during next week’s episode, which Kreisberg likens to a semi-sequel to last season’s Kevin Smith-directed “The Runaway Dinosaur.” “Barry makes another journey into the Speed Force and it’s a very different kind of journey,” Kreisberg says. “Last time, in a way, it was like he went to heaven, and this time it’s more like going to hell — it’s more about descending deeper and deeper into levels of hell. We get a little bit more about the Speed Force mythology and speedsters’ connection to it.”
The Flash airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET on The CW.