Season two of The Flash ended with what would turn out to be a controversial moment for the series as Barry, still dealing with his all consuming grief at the death of his father, races back in time and makes the ultimate decision to save his mother from the hands of the Reverse Flash. It was both an ultimate cliffhanger after a sometimes tedious season two, but also a plot thread that seemed a little past it’s appropriate time. Seemingly picked under a self-indulgence of just where the show could then take the story-line there was reason for trepidation among fans as we went into the third season but luckily, the gamble with the narrative nearly paid off in full with a surreal and action packed episode to kick off the latest season. Barry is living his dream life. His parents are both alive and happily married, he’s about to ask out Iris for the first time (in this alternate universe) and there’s even another speedster around to save the day, fan favorite Kid Flash (Keiynan Lonsdale). However, as is the case with Barry and his happiness (or really any superhero and their happiness) it comes with a cost. He’s loosing his memories and while everything might seem fine for him in the current setting, everyone else feels off, sensing a feeling of loss. Barry must confront the cost that his own joy has cost in the lives of others as he grapples with the idea of not only loosing memories of loved ones but of loosing his knowledge of being The Flash.
What transpires in “Flashpoint” is likely the strongest season premier to date that doesn’t hesitate in jumping straight into this new alternate universe. Fully confident in the time warped story-line the show doesn’t try to reintroduce any character or the relationships these individuals share, but rather trusts in the audience to know the significance between Barry sharing a scene with his mother or finding Joe in a sorry state. The series is at it’s very best when it indulges in its comic book roots without ever compromising the human element that makes both it’s titular hero and series itself so watchable.
Season two failed to live up to the hype that the rousing season one promised, stuck in the muddled plot that was all set up to Legends of Tomorrow and then in it’s own dour premise that made our typically cheery superhero into a Green Arrow knock off who was more likely to glower than save the day with a joke and a grin. While there were enough stand out individual episodes (such as “Enter Zoom” and “Welcome to Earth 2”) to keep the season from feeling like a total bore, more often than not it felt that the writers had settled for a knock off villain of Reverse Flash with a less than stellar actor. The payoff was weak and the the tone, often dark, was a great departure from what had made the debut season such a breath of fresh air for the genre, especially for DC. While “Flashpoint” doesn’t completely escape some of the darkness that defined last year, the lightness is back along with the humor and all of the performances are lively, with Carlos Valdez earning an MVP stance with a very different version of the lovable Cisco.
We end on yet another cliffhanger as Barry must go through yet another impossible choice to contend with in order to keep his memories of being the Flash, giving up yet another future that could have been filled with happiness and a content family life. Considering we’ve seen him give it up before it doesn’t land the same impact but Grant Gustin sells the pain in the parting and there’s the weight of the heavy heart in his stance and decision making. However, the greatest twist comes when Barry returns home to find that while little has changed in his circumstance there’s been a big change in the lives of Iris and Joe and not for the better, setting off some hurdles in the upcoming episodes.
From Lonsdale’s boyish approach as Kid Flash, to heightened emotional stakes that feel real rather than manipulative and action sequences that are some of the best choreographed the series has ever done, “Flashpoint” is a welcome return to a series and its tone that best befits it’s character with it’s awkward humor and good natured charm. The Flash is back and stronger in every way it needed to be to restore the faith lost last season.