"The Flash" (CW): S3 E2: Paradox Recap

Yes, I am recapping The Flash CW for Season 3

Apparently, nobody knows that I am doing this yet (or the show's fans are more likely not my usual demographic - or nobody cares either way), but I am indeed recapping The Flash episodes this season.

I watched the show for the first two seasons because it was a mostly breezy counterpoint to the overwhelming number or dark brooding superhero shows and movies dominating popular media these days.

In other words, at first, I liked it because it was kind of a form of Adam West's "Batman" instead of yet another Michael Keaton's "Dark Knight." I am certainly not saying I didn't like Keaton (or Bale) but sometimes you want something lighter.

But something strange happened on the way to "Goofy Flash Land," the show started to be about some pretty interesting things and the characters began to consider the consequences of their actions.

The show still has a light (fun) tone, but it is not entirely void of self-reflection.

Anyway, as it got deeper and more interesting (within it's still lighter skin) I became more and more interested in the show's writing. So, here we are.

You might want to read these recaps as well if you want to get the full context of what I am talking about:

* The Season 2 Finale

* S3 E1 Flashpoint

As always, if you have not watched The Flash S3 E1: Flashpoint * Spoiler Alert *

So What Actually Happened on The Flash Season 3 Episode 2 Paradox?

As we know from the end of S3 E1, Barry has arrived back in what he believes is his "home" timeline, only to find out that while it is very similar to his "home" timeline, it has itself changed significantly. 

* Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) is still "The Flash" and still works at Central City PD as a CSI tech but now he shares his office with Draco Malfoy...um, I mean Julian Albert (Tom Felton). They don't like each other at all. And, to be fair, Mr. Albert raises many of the same points about why he doesn't "trust" Barry that I have raised myself as reasons he dislikes Barry. 

Anyway, Julian is a Meta-Human crimes analyst. That sounds ominous.

Barry also has no idea what is going on in his own life and with all of his friends. The episode starts out with Barry visiting Star City explaining all of his new timeline problems to Felicity Smoak from Team Arrow (Emily Bett Rickard) and this is what we learn:

* Iris West (Candice Patton) no longer remembers the kiss between her and Barry (although she still seems very smitten) and is no longer talking to Joe because Joe did not tell her than her biological Mother was actually alive not dead. If you recall, this played out in Season 2 and Iris ultimately forgave her Father Joe West (Jesse L. Martin). 

* Cisco Ramon (Carlos Valdes) is really angry with Barry because Barry could save his older brother Dante's life but, as of yet, refuses to alter the timeline and go back to save Dante. Dante was alive before Flashpoint but was killed by a drunk driver after Flashpoint. We also find out later that Cisco's energy projection powers have grown (he eventually will become the superhero Vibe).

* Caitlin Snow (Danielle Panabaker) is mostly the same, as near as we can tell, but her Killer Frost powers are also growing in this new timeline.

Iris corners Barry and gives him an ultimatum about how strangely he has been acting and about revealing whatever it is that he is hiding from them. Barry tells her that he is sorry, that everything is his fault and that he is going to fix everything. Barry then decides to make a trip back to the speed force to change the timeline yet again. 

In the middle of his speedy journey to the Time Force, he is yanked into 1998 (on which Earth I am not certain, it is all getting a bit confusing) by his Father Henry's doppelganger who is a speedster just like Barry (aka Daddy Flash they have met once before on the show).

Anyway, his Dad's Doppelganger (also John Wesley Shipp + wearing the classic old school Flash hat) informs him that while you can use speedster powers to create new timelines, you can never really heal timeline.

In other words, every time you make a new timeline, you break a few timeline eggs.

He recommends that Barry should just "suck it up," deal with the problems he has already caused, and stop creating whole universes of new problems in a futile quest to fix the old ones.

Thank goodness for wise old gurus (although I believe he understates the problem significantly - but more on that in a few minutes).

Barry decides not to change things yet again and goes Back to the Future (sigh).

When he arrives back he tells "Team Flash" about what happened, promises to tell any of them that would like to know what the differences are between the lives that they were living and the lives that they are living now, and apologizes profusely for his mistakes. 

He also does some timeline exposition which I will get back to in a few minutes.

Enter Alchemy

So, anyway, Central City is also facing new threats possibly created by Flashpoint. In Flashpoint, Barry defeated a speedster named Edward Clariss and called "The Rival" (Todd Lasance). If you recall, at the end of the Flashpoint episode, the version of Edward Clariss in the current Flash timeline is woken up by a vision of his death in the other timeline and is visited by someone called Alchemy (Tobin Bell).

Somehow, this dream allows Clariss to track down Alchemy, who is hanging out with a bunch of strange priests, and ask him to help him stop having the dreams. Alchemy asks Clariss if he would rather get rid of the dreams or become the speedster he was in the dream.

Clariss says that he would prefer to become a Speedster. Alchemy says two things that are pretty interesting here:

* He is there to help people "reach their true potential"

* He is there because he is "preparing this world"

Flash fans know this probably means that he is preparing this world for the arrival of Savitar and also that he might be using some form of Savitar's ability to grant other people the ability to be Speedsters.

For those that don't know, the priests around the circle are likely the "Cult of Savitar" and Savitar is a super speedster who believes that he is a God (and in fairness, he has some powers that are somewhat Godlike).

So Alchemy gives Clariss speed force and he becomes "The Rival" in this timeline too. He also tells Clariss all about Barry.

Barry eventually has a showdown with both Clariss and Alchemy (who apparently has the Philosopher's Stone). Somehow Barry gets away from Alchemy and defeats and captures "The Rival." 

At the end of the episode, Barry talks to Cisco and explains what Daddy Flash told him about creating new timelines. Cisco seems to accept the explanation and get back to his old self, renaming Alchemy..."Doctor Alchemy."

The rest of Team Flash decide that they do not want to know what they were like in the previous version of the timeline and they accept Barry's apology.

Oh and alchemy visits Clariss in jail and tells him that he failed, Clariss asks for one more chance (cue ominous music).

So, aside from a looming Alchemy problem, everything is hunky dory, right?

Wrong!

Moral Problems With Paradoxes

Ethically, Barry was right to apologize to his friends and offer them the opportunity to know what was different in the timeline. But, and this is pretty important, he changed EVERYONE"s lives (7.125 Billion People). Ethically, in order to save his Mom, he just erased some memories and changed the lives of over 7 billion people.

This is no small ethical problem, when he is talking with Felicity, for example, he finds out that Felicity's friends John and Lyla now have a boy instead of a girl. They had a right to their memories of their daughter - even if they no longer remember the child. Now, imagine this kind of problem multiplied 7 billion times.

Basically, Barry significantly changed the life of over 7 billion people so that he could spend more time with his Mom.  We know that the people in the current timeline have no memory of their lives before Flashpoint, but Barry had no right to erase those memories.

In fact, the reason Barry decided to return from Flashpoint was because HE DIDN'T WANT TO LOSE HIS AUTHENTIC MEMORIES of his friends and family as they were in his original timeline. That is great for him, but he just made that choice for everyone else on planet earth.

I wrote about this quite a bit at the end of last season, and it is part of the reason I decided to recap The Flash Season 3 this year.

Think about that for a second. Asking 7 people to accept his apology really doesn't even come close to addressing his moral culpability for what he has done. Unless, those same people exist in the original timeline as they lived prior to the Flash saving "Momma Flash."

Scientific Problems With Paradoxes

I will freely admit, that I am not a theoretical physicist, but if any of you readers are...please lend a hand.

So, we have at least two (and if I remember correctly three) Earth's in the Flash multiverse. We also now have three timelines (as Barry himself diagrams in the Paradox Episode). So, really, we have about 3 X 3 (3) stories going on involving different versions of the same people (81?).

That sounds pretty confusing (to say the least). But, perhaps more troubling is that the original timeline (the one before Barry saves his Mom) still exists or does it? If it still exists, it is technically incorrect to tell the current "Team Flash" that they existed in a different form prior to his working Flash magic and creating a separate timeline.

Why? 

Becuase the people Barry is interacting with inside the current timeline are not the people he was interacting with in the previous timeline (note that he draws three timelines on the glass).

In other words, it is possible either that:

A.

Barry 1 disappeared from Timeline 1, once he saved his Mom, and Team Flash (and everyone else) existed as they did before Flashpoint (without Barry).

Barry 1 existed in the Flashpoint timeline before he released Eobard and let his Mom die.

Barry 1 exists in timeline 3 with a different version of Team Flash (and of everyone else).

Or B.

Barry erased Timeline 1 when he saved his Mom, erased Timeline 2 when he allowed Eobard to kill his Mom again, and everyone now ONLY lives in timeline 3.

I suspect the show is using B as its operating principle.

But, if so, why does Barry have all three timelines running concurrently in the diagram? And why do Doctor Alchemy and Edward Clariss have memories in both timelines? And why does Doctor Alchemy seem to have come from a different timeline entirely (or is it a different world?)? And how can Alchemy know about Flashpoint if it were erased?

Oh one other problem, why was Flashpoint erasing Barry's memory of Timeline 1 but Timeline 3 doesn't erase Barry's memory of Timeline 1 and/or Timeline Flashpoint?

I don't really know the answers, I certainly hope somebody does. I will be fairly disappointed if the Flash writer's room has not considered the implications of playing with Paradox at this level. That is it for S3 E2 Paradox.

I look forward to learning the answers, but if you have a theory, please leave a comment! 

Back to the Future
Starring Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Crispin Glover, Thomas F. Wilson