The Flash‘s season 3 premiere sped through the Flashpoint timeline and didn’t give us a lot of time to marinate in it. Thankfully, the show didn’t immediately reinstate the status quo in tonight’s episode. As the episode’s title suggest, “Paradox” finds Barry reckoning with all of the changes that came as a result of his fiddling with the timeline.
So, where does Barry go when he’s dealing with big issues? To Star City. The first act of the episode establishes a fairly bouncy rhythm as it jumps between Barry explaining to Felicity everything that’s changed and showing us what changed — and, you can be sure that Iris and Joe being on the outs isn’t the only difference. First, a drunk driver killed Cisco’s brother and now Cisco is mad at Barry because Barry refused to run back in time to stop it, which gives us more evidence that is indeed the darkest timeline. You have to imagine Carlos Valdes is having a lot of fun this season. In the premiere, he got to play rich, slightly douchy Cisco and now he gets to play the other spectrum of that in this episode, a Cisco that’s grieving — and he’s convincing in both roles.
Second, Barry no longer has the loft lab to himself. He’s now sharing it with Julian Dorn (Tom Felton), the CCPD’s grumpy lead CSI and meta-human expert. In his first episode, Felton presents himself as an interesting and worthy rival for Barry, and I quite like the idea of complicating Barry’s professional life because it zeroes in on the less super aspects of Barry’s life, which can be more compelling than villains-of-the-week if given enough attention. But more than that: It’s nice that there’s someone in the show who isn’t blown away by his charm.
And the final big change is one Barry and Felicity didn’t even see coming: In this timeline, Diggle’s daughter, Sara, has been replaced his son, John. Felicity tells Barry to run back home and find a way to fix everything he broke.
For Barry, that means Parent Trap-ing the hell out of his friends. He lures them all to Joe’s house for dinner under false pretenses. And, you can expect things aren’t resolved as neatly as he wants them to be. Luckily, their cellphones all go off, breaking the tension and alerting them to some speedster activity by the water. So, they all head off to do their jobs.
When The Flash arrives at the scene, he’s surprised to see Edward Clariss back as The Rival, cheesy costume and all. See, Clariss had been having visions of his Flashpoint life, which lead him to Doctor Alchemy, a mysterious figure who was able to restore his powers. Now, he’s ready to get revenge on Barry for ruining his life by resetting the timeline. Because it’s so early in the episode, Barry fails to apprehend The Rival.
Edward Clariss’ appearance is connected to a case that Julian and the CCPD have been tracking. Humans husks have started appearing all around Central City and the latest one matched Clariss’ DNA; although, it’s not entirely explained what the husks have to do with Alchemy giving him back his power. Do the people Doctor Alchemy helps shed their old skin when they get their powers back? I don’t know, but that will probably be one of the mysteries going forward.
NEXT: Someone on Team Flash is keeping a secret
Iris knows Barry is hiding something because she found a video of Barry and Clariss’ discussion. She warns him that their relationship won’t even have a chance if he lies to her. So, instead, Barry just zooms off into the speed force to fix the timeline yet again. Thankfully, Jay Garrick pulls him out before he can do something stupid.
It’s revealed that Jay’s been watching Barry for quite some time and knows about all of his time travel shenanigans. Jay warns Barry that time traveling causes irreparable damage to the space time continuum and reminds Barry of the responsibility that comes with having these powers. And, it’s a lesson that Barry hasn’t quite had spelled out for him by another speedster. As a hero, he’s supposed to represent the best of us, which includes not giving into his regrets and pushing forward. We’ve watched this show long enough to know that Barry struggles with letting go of the past, but let’s hope this conversation helps him find his center again.
Barry returns to his timeline and comes clean to Team Flash about why he’s been acting weird. They’re all shocked and hurt, especially Cisco who has been begging Barry to save his brother for months and he refused. All Barry can tell Cisco is that he made a mistake messing with the timeline and is focused on moving forward and hopes Cisco will be able to, too.
From there, Barry rushes to the CSI lab to find out what Julian learned about Edward Clariss’ husk. With that data, Barry is able to figure out where The Rival is hiding and zooms off to where he faced off against The Rival in last week’s episode, except this time the Rival is the one who brought back-up in the form of the energy-blasting Doctor Alchemy, whose goal is to “prepare the world” by returning everyone’s powers.
While Barry is getting his butt kicked by the Rival and Doctor Alchemy, Team Flash is still processing the huge bomb he dropped on them. They decide they don’t want to know what has changed and that it’s in their best interest to just move forward. Iris and Joe make up, and Cisco comes out of his stupor in time to put on his fancy new gloves and help Barry defeat The Rival. However, don’t expect a Vibe/The Flash team-up every week. Cisco isn’t quite ready for that yet.
At the end of the episode, Barry finds Iris waiting for him on the porch. She tells him she doesn’t care what her life was like in Flashpoint because she’s certain that they’ll find each other no matter what timeline they’re in. And, then they kiss. However, everything isn’t good in the Central City hood: Caitlin’s Killer Frost powers are starting to manifest themselves.
While I liked “Flashpoint,” I thought “Paradox” was a far stronger episode that was filled with character beats that really hit home the gravity of Barry’s situation. The show held Barry accountable for the mess that he’s made and didn’t let him off easily. Yes, the episode was kind of dark, but that darkness didn’t overpower the episode like it did for most of last season. I’m very interested in seeing how Barry navigates this new timeline going forward, especially his new relationship with Iris.
Wall of Weird:
Episode Grade: A-
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