The Flash introduced time travel in its first season, and since then, we have seen the birth of several different timelines. We have seen most of the timelines play out from Barry’s point of view — which he caused himself by messing up the timeline — but there is one timeline that the fans have never seen.
This timeline is "the original timeline," the one which was overwritten when Reverse Flash killed Nora Allen and created the timeline we see in The Flash Season 1. In this timeline, #BarryAllen became the Flash due to the particle accelerator explosion in 2020, he was fated to become the Scarlet Speedster (without interference), married Iris West, and both his parents were still alive.
Eobard Thawne's timeline meddling had far-reaching consequences, but there was one event Thawne was careful to keep in tact. Through the entirety of The Flash Season 1, Eobard Thawne made sure that the 2024 article that detailed the Flash vanishing during a crisis remained the same, but no one ever knew why.
Fans assumed that Thawne was using the article as proof that Barry Allen became the Flash, but the real reason he was obsessed with the article might have been because it was a key moment in the new history he created.
"Flash Missing, Vanishes in Crisis"
The 2024 article introduced during The Flash Season 1 reports that the Flash is missing, and that he vanished during a crisis. Fans assumed that this was a hint at the popular DC Comics storyline, Crisis on Infinite Earths; however, it seems that the crisis is describing the destruction inflicted on Central City during a showdown between the Flash and Reverse-Flash.
Thanks to a close-up picture of the 2024 article in The Flash Season 1 (and some transcribing on my part), we know a lot more about the crisis Barry faces in the future. In the body of the article, the text is as follows:
"After an epic street battle with the Reverse-Flash, our city's very own Scarlet Speedster disappeared in an explosion of light. The cause of the fight is currently unknown. According to witnesses, The Flash, with help from Starling City's Green Arrow, The Atom, and Hawkgirl, began fighting the Reverse-Flash around midnight last night. The sky took on a deep crimson color as the ensuing battle created the most destruction this city has seen since The Flash first arrived in Central City.”
The article goes on to describe a bit more of the action, and tells us exactly what people saw happening during Barry and Thawne's fight:
According to reports, The Flash and Reverse-Flash battled with each other between two overturned tanker trucks, the lightning emanating from the speedsters threatened to ignite spilled oil leaking from one of the trucks. The smoke from the truck's engines made it difficult to see. At first, it appeared at one point they were having a very heated conversation before continuing the fight. Then the Flash sped after the Reverse-Flash, and the two vanished, leaving The Atom, Green Arrow, and Hawkgirl behind.
We’ve seen a Barry fight a lot of speedsters on The Flash, but the scale of this battle is insane. Both speedsters were fighting, stopped what they were doing, and then vanished. Farther down in the article, there are two eye-witness accounts of the event, which described the amount of #SpeedForce lightning the Flash and Reverse-Flash were generating:
An eyewitness who saw the battle from her apartment building before being evacuated said, "It was hard to see, but The Flash and Reverse-Flash were zipping up and down [the street] and then there was a whole bunch of lightning and then nothing. It was weird". Other witnesses describe a similar phenomenon; a blinding light followed by darkness when the sky returned to black. It took only a moment to realize The Flash and the Reverse-Flash were gone without a trace.
What Happened To The Flash And The Reverse-Flash When They Vanished?
After reading the text in the 2024 The Central City Citizen article, it's easy to speculate that April 25, 2024 is the beginning of the story we saw play out on The Flash Season 1, and it’s the day that Reverse-Flash goes back in time and kills Nora Allen.
Reverse-Flash could have managed to harness enough Speed Force energy to travel back to Barry Allen’s childhood home, and attempt to kill young Barry. Given the eye-witness reports in the article, we know Flash and Reverse-Flash disappear in a momentous flash of light. This sounds uncannily similar to the large flash of light we saw in Season 1, when Flash and Reverse-Flash punched through time and arrived at Barry's childhood home.
If this theory is correct, the "crisis" that fans have been obsessed with could actually a prequel to The Flash Season 1, instead of a multiverse convergence. We don't know why the skies turned red over Central City, but it could have something to do with the amount of energy Thawne had to harness to travel back in time.
We also don't know what happened to 2024 Barry after the events at his childhood home, but we know that Thawne became stuck in time, and had to devise his plan to create the Flash prematurely using the particle accelerator explosion.
As of The Flash Season 3 finale, we know that the article (and therefore this future) is still intact, because Barry checks it out after H.R. sacrificed himself to save Iris. We don’t know what happens after the events on April 24, 2024, but based on the message that 2056 Barry sent to Rip Hunter on Legends of Tomorrow, we know that Barry reappears in the future.
We don’t know what the future holds for The Flash Season 4, but we do know where Barry Allen is fated to be in the future. The Flash has botched its time travel logic several times in past seasons, but it's awesome to know that the show planned for the crisis in 2024 to be the prequel to The Flash Season 1 since the beginning.
The Flash is on hiatus until October 10, 2017, but you can catch Seasons 1-3 streaming on Netflix right now.
Sound off! Do you think the "crisis" in the 2024 newspaper is the event where Reverse-Flash travels back in time and kills Barry's mother? Let your voice be heard in the comments section below.