The Flash 3×01, Flashpoint, Review: A Great Start…That Might Be Misunderstood

“I didn’t do anything. Not a thing. You see, it turns out … you’re the villain of today” – Eobard Thawne, Flashpoint #5

The CW’s Flashpoint, while certainly not a accurate to source adaptation of the popular Flash comic book storyline, certainly does capture the heart of what the original storyline set out to do, showcase who Barry Allen is, and the mistakes he can make as a human.

While the comic book adaption boasts the ‘war of the worlds’ begun by the government, Aquaman, and Wonder Woman’s warning entities, the imprisonment of Superman since his landing on Earth, Thomas Wayne being Batman rather than his son, and many other ‘big universe’ stakes, the core of the storyline – as is illustrated and made obvious when you examine the core five issues of Flashpoint (rather than all of the sub-titles and spinoffs published under the Flashpoint:____ title) is that it is a story about Barry Allen.

Further evidence of the claim bolstered above is the fact that Barry is the only person to grow from the event in the comic titled Flashpoint. Both during and for a time after the events of the storyline, Barry is able to retain his memories and understand what he’s done is wrong, he understand he cannot change time in such a drastic way again; other characters do not recall the Flashpoint-timeline and so such growth is made impossible. Readers may have gained further insight into what makes each character who they are based on changes in the Flashpoint arc, but the characters themselves – outside of Barry – don’t grow or gain insight into who they are.

The moral of the ‘rant’ above? Flashpoint is a Barry Allen storyForget the mumbo jumbo about the war being fought between the Atlanteans, Themyscirans, the Resistance, and the government, forget Superman not growing up on Earth in Smallville, forget Thomas Wayne as Batman. Those are all just arbitrary circumstances surrounding a non-adrbitary choice made by Barry Allen; and the CW adaptation [almost] perfectly captures that.

Could the adaptation been more true-to-source? Yes. (and I intend on publishing a pitch detailing a slightly more high-stakes, true to source, faithful to the CW’s properties adaptation at some point).

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Inevitably, people are likely to point to the so called ‘relationship drama’ featured in 3×01’s ‘Flashpoint’ as a means of critiquing the episode, and to them I ask, please hold your thoughts on the matter until the show choses to establish the Iris/Barry relationship as nothing more than ‘CW relationship drama’.

By this I mean to say that the concepts alluded to in 3×01’s ‘Flashpoint’, as well as other episodes throughout the series – in particular 2×21’s ‘The Runaway Dinosaur’ – have much larger implications and potential ramifications on the storyline than being ‘just relationship drama’.

At this point in time, given the fact that The Flash’s creative team has not had any large shifts or changes in recent months, I’m inclined to believe that the Iris/Barry relationship is mean to an end. Will Barry and Iris ideally end up together? Hopefully. But is that the core of their relationship on the show, ‘will they end up together’? I don’t think so. 

Geoff John’s The Flash: Rebirth (2009) introduced two seemingly both canonical and important concepts into the lore of The Flash. The first, that every speedster has a lightning rod, someone who is able to pull them back to who they are – regardless of their place in time or within the Speed Force. In Barry’s case his lighting rod is Iris, in Wally West’s it’s Linda, in Jay Garrick’s it’s his wife Joan. The notion that Iris is Barry’s lighting rod – according to the continuity of the show – was alluded to last season when it was Iris (not Cisco, not Barry’s father Henry) who was the one who successfully pulled Barry from the Speed Force. It’s also a fairly well known fact that the CW’s Flash has been using The Flash: Rebirth (2009) as inspiration since the show’s first season (the book has been cited in interviews and has been seen in images in both Grant Gustin and Carlos Valdes’ trailers).

The second concept introduced by Johns’ in 2009 was the concept that Barry Allen is the source of the Speed Force itself. While many fans remain steadfast and unsure about this change to the mythos of The Flash, others have readily embraced its’ concept as it sets Barry apart from other Flashes: Jay is ‘the first’, Wally has the ‘most control’ over the Speed Force, and Barry is the Speed Force. Again, this is something the show has alluded to being possible in its’ version of canon (Barry activating Jesse’s powers, Barry retaining his speed at points where he shouldn’t have, Barry being with the Speed Force, etc.), but has yet to truly acknowledge as canonical.

The reason I bring both of these concepts up is simple, introducing such a concept (Iris as a lightning rod and constant for Barry), whilst simultaneously shutting down the shipper portion of the fandom, is a brilliant means of exploring Barry’s personal ties to the Speed Force that Johns’ introduced in 2009. The Flash’s third season has already promised to further delve into the Speed Force as a concept as Jay Garrick is said to see himself as a ‘torch bearer’ of the Speed Force, and Savitar apparently having an obsession with the Speed Force itself.  What we have yet to hear, outside of obvious nods to the concept of lightning rods and The Flash: Rebirth (2009) and the concepts it introduced, is just what makes Barry DIFFERENT then every other speedster; what makes HIS connection more unique than Jesse, Wally, Jay, Eobard (?), Hunter (?), Edward (?), etc; at the moment I’m inclined to believe the writers are setting up his ties to Iris, the Speed Force, and lightning rods are the keys to doing so.

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Undoubtedly one of the highlights of this episode – besides the performances given by Candice Patton, Keiynan Lonsdale, and Grant Gustin – was that given by Matt Letscher.

Since his casting fans have been hesitant as to whether Letscher, who ‘replaced’ Tom Cavanagh, as Eobard Thawne aka The Reverse Flash, could fill the large boots he’d been left to fill; and ‘Flashpoint’ proved he more than certainly could…all from within a 5×5 foot glass-paneled cell.

On the whole Eobard’s character portrayal was both written and acted closest-to-source. Letscher masterfully portrayed the villain-scorned and driven to be the pseudo-hero of the story. “I didn’t do anything. Not a thing. You see, it turns out … you’re the villain of today”; a quote echoed ever so excellently by The Flash’s short adaption of the comic book storyline, while Eobard is the villain of Barry’s past, present, and future, this episode painted the one-time very different picture (Eobard Thawne, Flashpoint #5).

If ‘Flashpoint’ doesn’t give you hope for Letscher’s portrayal of Eobard on Legends of Tomorrow (obviously writing will play a factor in the character’s overall portrayal as well), than there’s really not much that could give you hope.

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On the whole, while not a beat-for-beat adoption of the comic book storyline Flashpoint, nor its’ movie counterpart The Flashpoint Paradox, the CW’s short adaptation comic book storyline better encapsulated the true meaning of the story-arch than most self-proclaimed comic book aficionados. At present, while the ‘Flashpoint-timeline’ has been all but erased and a new new timeline has been left in its wake, I have a feeling we’ll be seeing more nods to both the comic book event-Flashpoint and the animated Flashpoint Paradox feature as this season unfolds.

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