The Flash had an excellent first season, but since then it’s been trying to find a way to get back up to speed. Season 2’s villain, Zoom, wasn’t particularly interesting (although it’s still fun to growl, “I’ll get your speed, Flash!”), but with Season 3 it looked like the showrunners were going to try something ambitious when they set up Flashpoint — even though that setup made zero sense.
While it was somewhat understandable that Barry, overwhelmed with grief from losing his father, decided to undo everything that had come before, the finale didn’t really earn that ending. You can’t have Barry happily making out with Iris on the front porch and then have him decide, “Yeah, screw all this. I’m going to do something incredibly selfish even though I’ve already learned about the dangers of changing the timeline.” Some may have seen the finale as confident, but now it appears that the showrunners were merely reckless.
The execution of Flashpoint has been a failure. While I understand the desire to shake things up and keep the character relationships interesting, Flashpoint has flopped from its very first episode. The initial problem was only spending one episode in Flashpoint. Rather than letting Barry deepen his new relationships and show more of his life in the alternate timeline, the series decided to start three months into Flashpoint. Because of that, we don’t get to see him forging a relationship with his parents, or trying to keep his Flash powers under wraps, or anything else to display a completely disrupted story. It’s a change without the courage of its convictions.
Flashpoint hasn’t amounted to a shake-up as much as slightly rearranging things on a shelf. The logic seems to be, “Let’s keep viewers interested, but let’s not do anything too off-putting.” I understand it’s a tricky balance to maintain, but if they were going to attempt something as bold as Flashpoint, then they needed to follow through in a big way. They needed to show Barry getting attached to Flashpoint and then make it a big decision when he decided to give it up. They attempted a shortcut by forcing Barry to be responsible for his mother’s death, but that moment would have had much more impact if we had spent more than 15 minutes of seeing Barry’s relationship with his mom. As it stands, her death is painful, but in a completely generalized way (especially since like Barry, we’ve seen it happen over and over again).
When Barry makes it back to the original timeline and things have changed, we see that Flashpoint hasn’t had as much of an impact as originally stated. The strained relationship between Joe and Iris? Gone in one episode. Caitlin Snow’s Killer Frost side? Conquered in one episode. Even new elements that have been introduced could have been done without Flashpoint. Instead of Alchemy awakening powers that were present in Flashpoint, he could just have the power to turn people into meta-humans. No one would have batted an eye if Barry got a new CSI partner (Tom Felton being one of the few positive additions to this season) and then a new baddie appeared on the scene to give people powers, because that’s essentially exactly what happened. And what does it all lead to? For the third season in a row, the Big Bad appears to be someone who is faster than the Flash.
So what has Flashpoint really accomplished? If anything, it’s made the show worse. We have Barry constantly apologizing to everyone, and now Cisco, the show’s comic relief, has been turned into a mopey mess. And while his sadness is completely understandable, it’s the wrong direction for that character. But hey, he realized he screwed things up too by time traveling so hooray for compassion through similar experiences. Aside from making convoluted villains, ruining characters, and creating conflicts that can be solved in a single episode, what good was Flashpoint?
Even the showrunners seem eager to move on from their ill-conceived twist. In a recent interview, executive producer Andrew Kreisberg said of an upcoming problem the characters will face, “It’s so big, we’re actually considering changing the saga sell from talking about Flashpoint to talking about that, because that’s really what’s driving the episodes for the rest of the season, actually.”
Flashpoint could have been an exciting experiment for The Flash if they had thought things through and committed to such a massive change to the timeline. Instead, the execution has been tepid, the results disheartening, and ultimately it’s been a huge waste of time travel.