The Flash S03E01 “Flashpoint” REVIEW
Essential Plot Points:
- Having saved his mum from being killed by Reverse-Flash Barry is now living in an alternate timeline.
- His mum and dad are alive.
- He never lived with Iris so he has to start dating her again. She feels an instant rapport even though she doesn’t know why.
- Iris is ashamed of her dad, who’s a terrible, lazy cop.
- Wally is Kid-Flash who has an arch-nemesis called the Rival (real name: Edward Clariss).
- Iris knows all about Kid-Flash.
- Cisco is a tech billionaire. He designed Kid-Flash’s suit but wants nothing else to do with superheroics.
- Caitlin is an ophthalmologist (but a bright one).
- Reverse-Flash is imprisoned by Barry in a glass cage (because Amnesty doesn’t exist in this universe either).
- Barry is happy to let Kid-Flash do the superheroics until Barry starts losing his memories of his former life, as Reverse-Flash predicts he will.
- Reverse-Flash also predicts that Barry will soon beg him to kill his mother… again.
- Things also start going bad in this alternate future, especially when Kid-Flash is stabbed by the Rival.
- Barry defeats the Rival (who oddly reveals his secret identity for no apparent reason other than Barry will have to recognise him in a future episode in another reality)… then Joe shoots him dead.
- Barry realises he must reset the timeline, and with heavy heart he sets free Reverse-Flash and begs him to kill his mother again.
- Barry returns to the reset timeline… but not everything is as it was: Iris and Joe are not speaking.
After so much fanfare, “Flashpoint” is a bit of a damp squib. Not terrible. Certainly entertaining. But hardy the groundbreaking event it promised to be, and definitely a mere shadow of the “Flashpoint” comic series. That had an alternate timeline where Aquaman and Wonder Woman were akin to warring gods with humanity in the crossfire; Bruce Wayne being killed and Thomas Wayne as Batman; and Superman’s space pod had crash-landing in New York rather than Smallville, killing millions, and leading to baby Kal-el being brought up by in isolation by the government.
It was CATACLYSMIC!
Whereas the “Flashpoint” in this episode is… a bit troubling.
The other problem is that Barry’s decision to reset the timeline here is tied up with his memory loss as much as it is a selfless need to save the world from a new terrible fate. In the comic Barry’s choice is as simple as it is harrowing: should be let his mum die so that the world can return to normal? Here, the choice is muddied by the extra time bomb of the memory loss. There’s some attempt to make it seem as if the characters close to Barry in this world are worse off than in the “real” timeline, but the world as a whole doesn’t seem in much worse a state. And who knows how many people have benefitted from Cisco’s inventions? Does Barry have the right to reset a whole world just to make his corner of it better?
It doesn’t help that “Flashpoint” comes so soon after the series’ pervious big “alternate world” event in “Welcome To Earth-2” and “Escape From Earth-2” last season and it simply isn’t as much fun. It has its moments, sure – Wally seems to be having a great time as Kid-Flash and Cisco as an entrepreneur is amusing – but this “Flashpoint” world isn’t strikingly different enough. And certainly not scary or doomy enough.
But take away the weight of expectation and the episode’s decent enough. There are some excellent action sequences, the usual snappy dialogue and pacy storytelling. The cast is as good as ever, even though they must need flow charts now to help them remember what version of their character they should be playing in any given episode.
Plus it’s clear that “Flashpoint” is a mere means to an end and its fallout is going to be far more interesting than the event itself, especially considering that final tease, with the Edward Clariss in the reset timeline being “woken” by Alchemy. So, “Flashpoint” may be far from a classic episode in itself, but it could be a solid foundation on which to build future classics.
- Best worse chat-up line ever: “You know what? Uh, would you wanna get a coffee? I mean, I know you’re having a coffee right now. I meant, like, you know, at a different time. With me. Or it doesn’t even have to be a coffee. It could be any kind of beverage, like a wine or a beer, or… Not that I wanna get you drunk. We… we could get iced tea. Do you like iced tea? Do… would you wanna get an iced tea with me?”
- “What the hell makes me so interesting to you, Mr Allen? Tell me. I’d really like to know. And remember, I have a hangover. And a gun.” We like laconic Joe; he’d get on well with Harvey Bullock.
- “Excuse me. Have I been kidnapped?”
“Unclear.” Alt-Wally is more fun than his Earth-1 counterpart too.
- Cisco makes a worryingly plausible, gittishly entitled boss who expects money to buy him everything… including sexy women.
- Eye doctor Caitlin working out the shtick with the CCTV cameras is kinda cute.
- The action scenes and FX are excellent; really dizzying at times.
- Are these really rubbish diagrams for time travel becoming a deliberate in-joke? They amuse us, anyway.
- Why didn’t Alt-Iris tell Barry to, “Run, Barry, run…” when she was giving him his pep talk at the end? What a missed opportunity!
- The Rival’s costume is really naff. And it looks like it would impede his speed.
- The world that Flashpoint creates isn’t nearly as exciting as it could be and…
- …the reason Barry changes it back feels more like self-preservation than a hugely traumatic decision.
- Alt-Iris seems remarkably cool about the fact that Barry’s just about to wipe out years of her memories and existence.
- Barry doing his superfast rotating arm thing still looks silly.
- Hey, Barry… how would you feel if someone whipped your mask off when you were incapacitated?
And The Trivia:
- Billionaire Cisco wearing VR goggles and being amazed at how realistic the experience is has to be gag about how he’s not Vibe in this reality.
- Alex Désert, who plays Captain Julio Mendez in this episode, played Julio Mendez, Barry’s best friend, in the 1990-1 series of The Flash. Is this supposed to be the same character? Like Linda Pays’ Tina McGee who has also appeared in both series? If so, then where does that leave Wesley Shipp who was Barry in that show and Henry in this one? Ah, just write it down to alternate timelines…
- It may seem odd that Wally is called Kid-Flash in a timeline where there is no “adult” Flash, but that was how it was in the “Flashpoint” comics series too, so at least they’re being consistent. On the other hand, what a weird thing to be consistent about when so little else is.
- In the episode “Welcome To Earth-2” Cisco says, “You know, I always thought in another life I was, like, I don’t know, like a really wealthy, famous inventor… you know, sort of like the Earth-2 Elon Musk.” Well, in “Flashpoint” he is.
- There are a number of parallel to the series’ pilot episode, with tornadoes, Cisco referring to the Rival as “some kind of weather wizard” and Joe shooting the villain in the back.
- “What were you expecting? A Fortress?” Wally’s makes a Fortress Of Solitude reference.
- For some reason the cover story on the edition of Central City Picture News that Henry and Nora reading is about Keystone Iron Works shutting down. That was where Tony Woodward became Girder after falling into a vat of molten scrap metal during the STAR Labs particle accelerator explosion (1.06 “The Flash Is Born”).
- Edward Clariss/the Rival was first introduced in Flash Comics #104 (1949) and is sometimes referred to as the Golden Age Reverse-Flash. He was a college professor who figured out the formula that gave the Flash his speed, and he goes bonkers when others in the academic community don’t believe him. So he goes on a crime spree, in a darker version of the Flash’s costume. He eventually became trapped in the Speed Force only to emerge decades later for a brief career in Injustice Society.
- Doctor Alchemy was originally called Mister Element when he was first introduced into DC comics in Showcase #13 (1958). He was a chemist called Albert Desmond who had a multiple personality disorder, whose evil side went on a crime spree. He was caught by the Flash and jailed but after discovering the Philosopher’s Stone – which could swap one element for another – he re-emerged as Doctor Alchemy.
Review by Dave Golder