TV Review: The Flash - Season 3 Episode 1 "Flashpoint"
EPISODE 1: "Flashpoint"
SYNOPSIS: Barry (Grant Gustin) realizes the effects from Flashpoint are much greater than he thought. Meanwhile, Barry meets new co-worker Julian Albert (Tom Felton) and is surprised by Julian’s immediate disdain for Barry
REVIEW: The Flash is one of the rare superhero shows to balance the fun atmosphere of pulpy comic books with the gritty sensibility of 21st century cinematic adaptations of Marvel and DC Comics. Where the first season was a breath of fresh air, the second managed to stay consistent while also introducing the often convoluted concept of the multiverse. DC Comics is no stranger to juggling parallel realities where heroes and villains are all slightly different. With the second year of The Flash ending with a somewhat predictable foot race between Barry Allen and Zoom, the closing scenes of the finale promised us we would see the fan favorite storyline known as Flashpoint. With tonight's season premiere, we get a version of Flaspoint that fits the small screen universe that The Flash exists in but it doesn't quite manage to distinguish itself very much from the Earth Two we saw last year.
The premiere opens with Barry living his dream life in an alternate reality where his mother is alive and well while Eobard Thawne remains locked in a cell that dampens his speed. Barry is free to live his life without being The Flash while watching Wally West don the mantle of Kid Flash (Wally gained his powers in a freak lightning storm that hit the special enhancements he made to his race car). Barry is happy despite not knowing Iris as a lifelong friend and seeing Joe spiral into an alcoholic stupor. But, as Barry finally asks Iris on a date, he begins to have memory flashes and then his recollection of events from his life are gone forever. When discussing this with Thawne, the villain theorizes that the longer they remain in Flashpoint and the more Barry uses his speed, the quicker this reality will cement itself and eventually overwrite the original timeline.
Barry being Barry, he doesn't want to return to a life without his mother and father. Instead, Barry decides he will help Wally and Iris fight The Rival and reveals himself to them. Seeking the assistance of Cisco, now the richest man in America and owner of a company that replaced STAR Labs, Barry attempts to reunite the team by kidnapping Caitlyn to try and find a way to defeat The Rival. Barry explains to everyone about Flashpoint and gives a Cliff's Notes version of how the timeline works, similar to the way the multiverse was explained last season. The explanation feels a bit redundant and most of the team do not believe Barry, except for Iris. Locating The Rival, Wally and Barry head to an abandoned sawmill (really? in the middle of Central City?) where they are confronted by the villainous speedster who reveals himself to be Edward Clariss. Wally gets cocky and fights the bad guy solo and is run through with a steel pipe. Barry then fights and takes down The Rival thanks to Joe West assisting by shooting Clariss in the back. They then take the mortally wounded Wally to Cisco.
It is here that Barry has to finally come to terms with what Flashpoint is doing to those he cares about. Is it worth losing every relationship he built to have his parents alive? I am sure we would all be burdened by the quandary Barry is put in but he realizes that he has no choice: he must release Thawne and allow him to kill Nora Allen and return the timeline's integrity. Barry and Iris confront Thawne who is all to eager to help murder The Flash's mother again. Barry returns in time to his childhood nightmare where Thawne murders Nora and Barry is forced to watch again. Expecting the timeline to be restored, Thawne has a parting message for Barry that they will see each other again soon and everything may not be back to normal.
Entering Joe's house moments after leaving it in the season two finale, Barry hugs the healthy Wally and they toast to the memory of the late Henry Allen. Barry then asks where Iris is, visibly upsetting Joe. When he storms off, Wally reveals that Joe and Iris do not talk. Barry is shocked to realize that the timeline may be restored, but not to the way things were. It remains to be seen if Flashpoint is a one and done episode this season or if the ramifications of this hour will linger for the rest of the season. What else has Barry changed with his actions in the alternate timeline? Will this impact his relationship with everyone else? Will Wally become Kid Flash in the Earth One universe? Will Harrison Wells return? All of these questiosn will likely be teased through the season, as will the new villain. In the closing scene, we see Earth One's Edward Clariss awaken to a creepy voice (SAW's Tobin Bell) who urges the villain to wake up. A mysterious force then etches the word Alchemy into a mirror.
For two seasons, The Flash's main villain has been a speedster. This year, we will instead have Barry and the team face off against Doctor Alchemy. The classic DC villain is also known as Mister Element and has the ability to change matter using the Philosopher's Stone. It remains to be seen how his powers will work on this show, but it will be cool to see how he faces off against Team Flash. While I think the Flashpoint conceit could have been stretched for longer than one episode, I am curious to see how it will impact the coming episodes. After teasing the storyline all summer, I felt let down by this premiere. There is enough out there to keep me wondering what will come next, but this episode felt too rushed and crammed while failing to live up to it's potential. Hopeully next week will get things moving in the right direction.
NEXT ON THE FLASH: "Magenta" airs October 11th - Barry (Grant Gustin) and Team Flash are thrilled to reunite with Earth-2 Wells (Tom Cavanagh) and Jesse (guest star Violett Beane). Wells confides to Barry and Caitlin (Danielle Panabaker) that Jesse has all the powers of a speedster and has been saving people on his Earth. He is concerned about her safety and wants them to talk her out of using her powers. Meanwhile, Magenta, (guest star Joey King) a new meta who can control metal, terrorizes the city.