The Flash S03E02 “Paradox” REVIEW
Essential Plot Points:
- Barry travels to Star City to tell Felicity all about the things that he’s changed in this reset timeline because infodumping with Felicity is always 50 per cent more fun than ordinary infodumping.
- Aside from Iris not talking to her dad (because he didn’t tell her his mother was alive) and never having kissed Barry, other changes include…
- Cisco has the hump with Barry because Dante was killed by a drunk driver a few months previously and Barry has been refusing to go back in time to prevent his death.
- Cisco’s also been honing his Vibe powers.
- Barry is sharing an office with a new meta-human expert, Julian Albert, who pretty much loathes him.
- John Diggle has had a son instead of a daughter.
- Captain Singh is back (at least, Barry seems surprised by this… like Joe, we never knew he’d gone anywhere… is this an in-joke?)
- And late in the episode we discover that Caitlin is secretly developing her Killer Frost powers.
- Barry is so guilty about all this he tries to reset the timeline again, but Earth-2 Flash (the doppelgänger of his dad) stops him, saying that he’s made similar timey-wimey mistakes in the past so he knows the best course of action; accept what you’ve done and move forward.
- Barry tells Team Arrow what he’s done, and they’re remarkably understanding.
- Meanwhile, Alchemy (or Doctor Alchemy as Cisco dubs him) contacts Earth-1’s Edward Clariss (although is this Earth-1 now or Earth 1.o2?) and turns him into the Rival.
- This somehow involves a leftover human husk. Julian has found three similar husks previously.
- So the Rival goes to battle with the the Flash. Round one is inconclusive but it does give Alchemy the chance to do some classic superhero ranting (some guff about “preparing this world”).
- Come round two and the Rival appears to be winning until Cisco arrives in full Vibe mode and helps Barry defeat him.
- (Cisco has had a change of heart after Iris gives Team Arrow a motivational speech that knocks them all out of their bickering strops.)
- Barry and Iris kiss.
- Julian tells Barry he doesn’t trust him.
- Barry makes an amazing leap of logic about Alchemy’s plan: “I think that everyone that had powers in Flashpoint is gonna get them back.”
- Alchemy (we’re not sure if he’s aware Cisco has awarded him an honorary doctorate) visits Clariss in his Iron Heights cell and appears to kill him for his failure to defeat the Flash.
The biggest paradox about this episode is that it’s called “Paradox” when it’s considerably less paradoxy (is that a word?) than a whole bunch of other previous episodes. There’s not really much of a paradox, more of a moral quandary – one which Jay neatly sums up: “Are you just gonna take a do-over every time you make a mistake? Or will you live with them and move forward?”
Barry, of course, chooses the latter, which is lucky because a season of him repeatedly trying to reset the timeline and ending up in a new alternate world every week would be more like a remake of Sliders.
This is a decent, solid, workmanlike slice of The Flash, made more fun with the introduction of Tom Felton’s Julian Albert, whose lack of social graces makes Harrison Wells look like Mr Party Animal in comparison. It’s a great performance, though, as despite the surliness there is a charm and intelligence there. You can see that we have a character here with dimensions to explore.
Of course, odds on he’s Alchemy, or could the writers actually be giving us a proper red herring this year? After all, everyone expected Harrison Wells to be Reverse-Flash in season one, and he was… but with a twist – he wasn’t actually Harrison Wells. And everyone expected Jay Garrick to be Zoom in season two… and he was, but with a twist – he wasn’t actually Jay Garrick. They can’t pull off the same trick three times surely? It’d be more fun if Albert actually turns out to be Max Mercury or something…
The “paradoxes” – or, as that word seems to be a euphemism for here, “minor changes” – are by necessity small beer; anything larger could have major ramifications on the larger Arrowverse, but Diggle’s baby having a sex change is easily absorbable. Having said that, Barry wastes no time in reversing as many of the changes he can by episode’s end (though he wisely decides not to suggest gender reassignment surgery for Diggle Jr). It’s a slight shame that Cisco and Barry are all pally and Joe and Iris have reconciled so quickly as there looked to be some good dramatic potential there. But the writers clearly have other things they want to explore so all that aggro’s tied up pretty neatly – perhaps to neatly. Iris suddenly seems to have turned into the God Of Giving Barry The Benefit Of The Doubt, and it’s a little cloying.
But the episode’s as pacy and action-packed as ever. The Rival is a bit of a throwaway villain even after two appearances but Alchemy is already intriguing. The effects are top notch, and Grant Gustin continues to tie everything together with a performance that offers everything from light comedy to angst with a pitch perfect delivery.
And Barry and Iris finally get to kiss for real for the first time. Again. So we can all go, “Awwwww!”. Again. Until the timeline’s changed. Again.
But next week, Wells is back, and that feels like the final piece of the jigsaw this season needs to really kick into gear.
- Harry Potter’s Tom Fenton is great as the surly Julian Andrew, but we fear if he ever meets Harrison Wells the resulting concentration of sarcasm could create a black hole.
- Any episode can be improved with a cameo from Felicity. She and Barry are still adorable together.
- Grant Gustin is utterly superb in the scene in which he races back and forth between Joe and Iris trying to set up the “reconciliation supper”.
- We also love his embarrassment at Jay’s random act of vandalism on a cup. It’s just so Barry that he’d worry what the diner’s other customers or waiting staff might think.
- The special effects sequence when Barry slams into the side of the Rival, sending him barrelling down the street, is impressively pulse-pounding.
- Ditto the old one-two manoeuvre Vibe and Barry use to defeat the Rival. This show’s action is in no danger of getting stale.
- “Wow, you kissed Iris.”
“Well, not anymore. I’ve kissed Iris West twice, and I have managed to erase both times from existence.”
- Team Arrow’s turnaround from dysfunctional family to the Flash’s cheerleaders feels a little too easy even for this show. Iris’s motivational speech, though well delivered by Candice Patton, just doesn’t feel rousing or compelling enough.
- “I was actually thinking, um, that maybe it’d be fun if we all went away together for a few days.” Good grief – yes Barry can be a little over-idealistic and blindly optimistic at times, but this is a cringeworthy suggestion even for him. Was it meant to be delivered as a joke?
- Barry deduces Alchemy’s plan on the evidence of one resurrected meta-human and a vague supervillain rant? With guesses like that he should be on Lucifer.
And The Random:
- It’s interesting that Diggle has had a son instead of a daughter considering that in the Legends Of Tomorrow episode “Star City 2046” we meet “Connor Hawke” aka a future Green Arrow, who actually turns out to be John Diggle Jr.
- Jay also casually mentions, “I’m a Speedster, like you, who’s travelled in time, and made these same mistakes you are making right now.” Which raises the question: how much of Earth-2’s timeline has he changed in his time?
- The show on the TV in the diner in 1988 is Dawson’s Creek, which featured John Wesley Shipp (Barry’s dad/the real Earth-2 Jay Garrick aka The Flash) as Dawson’s dad.
- Compare and contrast: which of the shots below is from this episode and which is from the season two finale?
- What the hell is Julian Albert doing – with no hint of embarrassment – when Barry asks him for Clariss’s file? Is creating fantasy crime scenes in fishbowls a big hobby in America?
Review by Dave Golder