The Flash S3: E2 – 'Paradox'

Photo Credit: Warner Brothers Television
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The Flash embarks on an episode this week where Barry deals with the ramifications of creating a new timeline. This leaves him reeling to find out how everyone else’s lives have changed because of his meddling, how the West family has been split apart, and how there’s a new supervillain out to get the Flash in the chaos.

If the premise sounds a heck of a lot like the one from a week ago, that’s because it pretty much is, only it is called Paradox instead of Flashpoint and it isn’t getting halfway undone with a time travel trip at the end of the hour. This is the new reality that we and Barry may have to live with from now on, although it once again finds ways to reset at the end anyway, which is somewhat of a relief but still leaves a few nagging loose ends.

WARNING: SPOILERS FOLLOW

The big cliffhanger change from last week was Joe and Iris’s estranged relationship carrying over from Flashpoint, yet a few more changes didn’t. Flashpoint billionaire Cisco is now back to his old job, minus his older brother, and there’s a rather unfriendly new CSI partner for Barry with the even bigger red flag of being played by Tom Felton, Draco Malfoy-esq arrogance and all.

This all plays out in flashbacks in the opening act, with the added faming device of Barry summing it all up to Felicity. However, in this reunion of old friends, one can’t help but remember they never actually explained if Felicity knew of Barry’s role in the Oliver secret son lie travesty. Given that Oliver still hasn’t said the words “I’m sorry” to her about it yet for all we know, he surely didn’t tell her about the time travel aspect of it all, let alone Barry’s rather context free warning that they would break up if Oliver ever told her about William.

Thinking about that idiotic mess caused by Barry and time travel may be fitting during this latest mess, especially with the revelation that Joe never told Iris about her dying mother until it was too late in this timeline. How in the world that could have been caused by Barry’s interference, to say nothing of Dante Ramon’s death through a drunk driver, is perhaps too maddening to work through.

Between that and an even less bright idea from Barry to bring everyone together for dinner, Paradox truly sets itself up as the greater of two evils compared to Flashpoint. For all of Flashpoint’s obvious faults, there was still a bit of fun in finding out the changes to the timeline, and in reconnecting Barry with Iris and the others. But that was really a Trojan horse to set things up for a more permanent changed universe, with far less promising tweeks that really don’t seem built to last more than one episode, let alone a season or the rest of the series.

So with that, it seems it is back to creating yet another reset. However, the face that inspired Barry to reset things two time travel trips ago fittingly returns to stop another one.

While last week may have been John Wesley Shipp’s final encore as Henry Allen, last year’s finale opened the door to keep him around as the real Jay Garrick, a.k.a. the Flash of Earth-3. Although they’re not ready to take us through that different universe yet, a trip to what looks like 1998 in Earth-1, right down to a Dawson’s Creek episode in the background, turns out to be the trick to get Barry’s head on straight.

Ensuring that Barry doesn’t keep making things worse in trying to fix things, and having him choose a more heroic path of living with the consequences and moving forward, seems like the right lesson on paper. Of course, given that the biggest consequences of this world are being felt by everyone else but him, especially Cisco and the Wests, there might be room to nitpick.

Once the truth comes out, however, the Paradox in the timeline and the episode begins to reset itself. As it turns out, all it takes is a few heart-to-hearts to start the healing process of rifts created by time travel, or at least to make sure they don’t linger as bad down the line.

In a way, this kind of undercuts the message of Barry having to confront his mistakes and not taking the easy way out, since he is kind of let off the hook for the most part in short order anyway. On the other hand, dealing with feuding Wests and a bitter Cisco for a long period of time really would have dragged on even worse. Whether that is a good excuse for a by and large reset, or just another cop out after all this hype about Flashpoint, is a very relevant and still unanswerable question at this early stage.

But just as Barry and Iris’s reconnection helped Flashpoint go a bit smoother, Barry and Cisco’s more difficult catch-up in Paradox lands the strongest impact, with no small help from Grant Gustin and Carlos Valdes. Even with a late save from Cisco and the debut of a new super tool, things may not quite thaw between them as much as they do with the Wests in the end, yet it should be more manageable to get through.

By the time those repairs are launched, it is more glaring that for the second episode and timeline in a row, Caitlin has been completely neglected. It seems to be another sign that her importance in the show is declining, and maybe it still is now. Yet it does turn out they were saving her for something long overdue, at least for her Earth-1 self.

Aside from that and from Wally no longer being Kid Flash for the moment, things for Team Flash in Paradox appear to be pretty much restored by the end, as they even provide a WestAllen kiss that’s not erased by time moments later. While this is half-relief and half-cop out, the real long lasting changes to impact the rest of the season have more to do with the villains.

When it comes to Felton’s untrusting new CSI character Julian, those annoyed with Barry lately may find it amusing that he sees through his “good guy” routine, all while who know Barry best let him off the hook for much bigger sins because of that persona. But this introduction and the casting of Felton either makes him the most obvious suspect for a secret Big Bad imaginable, or the biggest red herring imaginable. He may really be this season’s Earth-2 Harry Wells, in looking so suspicious early on before turning out to be a good guy, all as a seemingly good guy is unmasked as the true villain.

The prime mystery villain to unmask this year isn’t the Reverse Flash or Zoom, but a masked figure named Dr. Alchemy. Like Zoom, he appears for the first time in episode 2 and has a guest voice actor who usually plays villains, in this case Tobin Bell instead of Tony Todd. Yet thankfully, this is the first supposed arch-villain who isn’t a speedster, even though he does restore the super speed of Flashpoint’s “The Rival” for a time-killing rematch.

Alchemy may well be another carryover from Flashpoint, or at least someone with the power to be unaffected by time changes, since it appears he’s not done restoring Flashpoint meta-humans to their old selves. This should honestly make Barry more worried regarding Wally, since Alchemy is bound to find out he was Kid Flash if he doesn’t already know, but that screw up may be saved for later.

The doctor also has a magical stone that was dubbed by executive producers as the “Philosopher’s Stone” a name they hopefully came up with before casting a Harry Potter actor. That may be just one more red herring to ignore in the Dr. Alchemy mystery, which may be solved early when they introduce the first significant new character who’s nicer than Julian.

As for the mystery of whether Flashpoint was even worth it, there’s still a lot of reasons to suspect it wasn’t, both in spite of and because of how they fix/mostly heal most of the major consequences within Team Flash early. With a few exceptions, it would appear that the Flashpoint universe is already righting itself among the heroes, so perhaps the show has avoided the worst long term scenario.

Of course, it had to go through two very rocky episodes to do so, and time will tell if this really ensured Barry will do things smarter from now on. But now that Flashpoint and Paradox are done establishing this new world and its new threats, and reverting its central relationships back to the old world in shorter order than expected, maybe The Flash Season 3 will start going much smoother after two weeks of spinning its wheels throughout time.

Like last week, this week’s episode walks a fine line between a 5.5 rating and its official score of 6. Yet since next week’s show might not center around Flashpoint, thanks to the return of characters from last year’s big new universe, perhaps The Flash may have better luck finding its footing again soon enough.