When the CW's hit show, The Flash, reached its midseason/holiday climax, the season held so much promise. Barry Allen had accidentally been thrust several months into the future and saw Savitar kill Iris. Who was Savitar? Why did he want to kill Iris? Could Team Flash stop him? We're about to dive into The Flash Season 3 spoilers, so be warned!
The second half of the season had its share of twists and turns and fun asides (most notably, a live-action Gorilla City); however, as the finale wrapped up another year of programming, the end result was mixed. Certain themes that were well-explored in Season 2 cropped back up for an unnecessary encore. A bloated cast seemed to overwhelm the writers, and the final minutes of the season left me shaking my head in frustration.
Despite these shortcomings, the bold themes that were seen in the early half of the year developed into interesting ideas about hope, forgiveness, and how to cope with selfishness and inadequacies. As we await the new season, and the continuation of the Flash's story, here's a look back at some themes that stood out in the second part of Season 3.
Holding Onto Hope
Though this season's storyline was dark, hope was always bubbling below the surface. At one point, H.R. Wells notes that Barry Allen's superpower isn't speed — it is hope. We see this as Barry constantly challenges those around him to bring out their good side. He convinces Solivar to spare Grodd's life, talks at least two villains down from their evil-doings, and reinstills hope in his future self when he sees the consequences of Iris's death. He even remains hopeful that he can save Savitar once the villain's plans go slightly off the rails.
Hope is also pumped back into Barry's heart at several points when his tank is running low. Music Meister steps in to remind Barry of the love and hope around him, especially in his relationship with Iris. Dr. Wells of Earth-2 cautions the Flash on several occasions to not slip onto the dark path as a means to solve difficult problems. The Scarlet Speedster can be a beacon of hope — a blinding light — when all the world is washed in darkness.
This theme of hope is much needed today, when it seems like darkness has the advantage and is always two steps ahead. We can be resilient and hope that good will prevail over bad. Like Flash and his team, we can try changing the future with some success. Although #TheFlash doesn't perhaps give this theme the flourish and weight it needs, it's still refreshing to see someone rise above his tragedies and failures.
You Are Your Own Worst Enemy
When you run so fast that you travel through time, your ego can become inflated. All of Season 3 is the fallout of Barry's "Flashpoint" universe that he creates at the end of Season 2. Though he tried fixing things, significant changes couldn't be undone. The results of Barry's selfishness came back to bite him at every turn.
We find out (after an incredibly long wait) that the man beneath Savitar's armor is actually a time remnant of Barry. He's a broken version of the usually hopeful hero, and he wants to inflict pain on the original Barry because of a rejection that took place in an alternate future. The point is on the nose but clear: Barry is his own worst enemy.
#Savitar constantly claims to be a god, citing his and Barry's speed as evidence. Who can stop them? They can travel through time! Though the Flash eventually sees that he is not a god, it's his hubris that starts the whole Flashpoint mess. Though driven by grief, Barry's decision to save his mom from murder at the hands of the Reverse Flash can be traced back to his selfishness and pride.
It's that hubris that becomes the Flash's thorn in his side for the whole season. Though none of us can run through time, we can relate to Barry's troubles. How many times has a situation spun out of control because of our own selfish actions? The Flash has shown us an extreme case of how pride can mess up our lives and that true heroes are selfless.
Everyone Needs Forgiveness
With all of the wrong Barry has inadvertently caused, he needs forgiveness from his friends and teammates. He receives it from Cisco halfway through the season, must ask Iris several times, before ultimately forgiving himself.
During a telling exchange between Barry and the Harrison Wells of Earth-2 early in the year, the former wonders, "How do we keep from messing things up when all we want to do is help?" It's a vulnerable moment for Barry as he weighs the consequences of his actions. Wells doesn't have an answer, but he does note, "I was always too good at forgiving myself, Allen. You were never good enough." Throughout the rest of the season, Barry must learn this vital lesson and embrace hope for himself and not just for others.
He does eventually come to grips with this and tries forgiving himself by reaching out to Savitar. Though his evil version rejects Barry's attempt and is defeated, Barry comes to a place where he's willing to do the selfless thing and sacrifice himself to the Speed Force in order to save the world.
Everyone makes mistakes; no one is perfect. As such, everyone needs forgiveness. To connect this with the previous section, if we don't practice humility, we won't be able to truly forgive. Because of pride, we feel like others should be asking us for forgiveness while we are blind to our own shortcomings. We see through Barry's struggle that forgiveness is necessary for a healthy community.
While The Flash Season 3 unnecessarily retread ground from the previous year, it did have a stronger storyline with deeper themes. The show itself could use some more lighthearted tones overall, but if the following seasons bring back the joy of running fast then this darkness will have served a purpose. Maybe these lessons will stick with our hero (and his writers) and we can move on to adventures where the Flash fights crime with a smile on his face, inspiring Central City and all of us.
What did you think of The Flash's latest season?