Spoilers ahead for “Paradox,” the latest episode of The CW’s Flash!
The short version: Barry realizes all the strange things he screwed up due to Flashpoint and tries to fix them. Jay Garrick shows up to offer some fatherly (no pun intended) advice. Barry and Iris finally kiss (again, again)!
The good: Jay Garrick, consequences and a Felicity cameo
Following up on the all-too-brief Flashpoint universe was no easy task, and though “Paradox” certainly wasn’t perfect, it did a solid job of addressing many of the lingering questions from the season premiere. They also did it with the framing device of having Barry hang out with Felicity in the Arrow Cave, which is always a fun time.
The episode peeled back the layers of how different this world is from the “Prime” universe Barry left behind at the end of Season 2, and it seems Flashpoint has certainly caused problems for pretty much everyone is Barry’s circle. TL;DR: Everybody is sad and mad. Cisco’s brother is dead (due to a car crash) and he’s mad at Barry for not going back in time to save him; Iris and Joe aren’t talking because of the secret mom subplot from last season; and Barry has a new CSI colleague who really doesn’t like him.
Since these differences might be a bit confusing, Jay Garrick (John Wesley Shipp) literally plucks Barry out of the Speed Force to break it down. Put simply: Barry can never set everything exactly as it was, because there are consequences for traveling through time and it’s always going to be a little different. Garrick uses an excellent analogy with a broken coffee mug, and though the show has flirted with ways to ax this deus ex machina in the past, this is arguably the best one yet. Barry needs a speedster mentor, and Jay Garrick fits the bill perfectly. Hopefully he’ll continue to pop up in the future.
It’s a question that’s lingered over the show since Barry first traveled through time: Why not just go back and fix all his mistakes? We’ve seen the Time Wraiths can cause problems, and Barry’s learned there are always some consequences for mucking around. But now it has a real gravity, because it’s been made abundantly clear that any attempt to change something will almost certainly change something else. You can never put time back together again, and it was great to see Barry learn that lesson.
Oh, and arguably the coolest thing in this episode: Barry and Cisco get a superhero team-up, and we’re going to need to see a whole lot more of that in the future.
The bad: Everything’s okay now and Barry’s new office-mate
Just as quickly as we learned about all these not-so-great differences in this new reality, Barry sets to work to try and fix them. He keeps forcing Joe and Iris into the same room in hopes they’ll work out their problems, and he tries to break through to an extremely depressed Cisco to find his old pal once again. These are fairly interesting subplots (though it almost feels like the Most Depressing Timeline at some points), but they just resolve all these problems so quickly. Reverse-Flash teased these differences would rock Barry’s world, but the gang is back together and everything is pretty much copacetic by episode’s end. It’s great to see the gang all cool, but that resolution just comes around so quickly (especially Cisco’s change of heart).
Bringing the Rival back for a second episode was a neat trick, but in some ways it felt redundant. Yes, it established the fact that Doctor Alchemy is (apparently?) trying to give the Flashpoint metas their powers back in the “Prime” universe. But we’ve already seen Barry fight much more powerful and interesting speedsters. This guy just felt like a shallow knockoff, though the high speed tackle during that fight was easily one of the coolest thing this show has done effects-wise. So there is that. But, the (mostly glossed over) story of a guy who had his superpowers stolen from him at Barry Allen’s whim was pretty interesting. Hopefully there’ll be more of that down the line.
Also, still not so sure about the new metahuman-focused CSI in Julian Albert. He looks to be an interesting foil for Barry, but the old subplot of “Guy At The Office Is Suspicious of Secret Superhero” could get old fast. If this dude is as smart as advertised, he should figure out Barry is the Flash pretty quick. Though, you do have to wonder if Julian’s introduction might be tied to Doctor Alchemy (are they one and the same?). The voice obviously doesn’t match up, but that’s because Saw’s Tobin Bell is doing the voiceover work. So don’t let that throw you.
Lingering questions: Barry and Iris (again), how else it might affect Arrow
With Barry zipping over to Star City for a pow wow with Felicity, we learn these Flashpoint shenanigans have also impacted the world of Arrow. The biggest change: Diggle no longer has a daughter, and instead has a (seemingly older) son. Yeah, this should be interesting. The creative team had hinted there would be some Flashpoint crossover, and this is certainly an interesting direction to take it. What else might be different? Also, was the Arrow season premiere set in the new-new, post-Flashpoint universe, or the pre-Flashpoint universe? My head hurts.
Doctor Alchemy looks to be a major player this season, and considering he’s giving Flashpoint metas their powers back, it seems he’ll be tying right back into the heart of that plot. He claims to be "preparing the world,” though we still don’t know for what. What we do know is that he wears a creepy Plague Mask that immediately made me think of Syfy’s 12 Monkeys. Just sayin’.
Barry kisses Iris for the third first time, and after all this teasing, they better just jump right into this relationship and hope these two actually have some chemistry.
Last but not least: Caitlyn has Killer Frost powers in this universe now and that is awesome.
Lines of the night
“You’re like pudding. Everybody likes pudding.” -Felicity
“That's the paradox of time travel and the paradox of life.” -Jay Garrick
“Epic fail, party of six.” -Cisco
Up next: Jesse and Harry return … and, oh yeah, Jesse is a speedster now.