There seems to be a consensus amongst the critics that somehow, The Flash has decided to give up on the Flashpoint storyline and change the story’s focus on the future, namely Iris’ murder. I can’t say the same. Since the beginning of the season, we’ve seen some serious fallout from Barry’s attempt to tamper with the past, and now with “Borrowing Problems from the Future” we’re getting insight on how seeing the future can be just as dangerous.
The key, as I understand it, is to look at the season as a whole. Since the show’s inception, The Flash has dealt with the dangers of time travel and how harrowing it can be. Because of time travel, Barry has lost both of his parents, experienced multiple timelines and even caused his own death. Flashpoint became a focal point of just how volatile all of this time hopping is. The result has been a slow acceptance of this new status quo which has a whole series of issues that are, as of yet, unresolved. Now with a glimpse of the future, we can see where this is all going to end and, if I’m right, the impetus of Barry’s decision to change the past. One. Last. Time.
Even so I have to admit that the presentation of these facts is feeling industriously stale as we stomp on very familiar ground. Barry is flogging himself for not being fast enough (I mean seriously, his monicker of being the Fastest Man Alive is really inaccurate at this point), he’s internalizing his fears instead of sharing them, there’s a chance of losing a loved one and he has to go head to head with a mysterious speedster. To say that these story beats are feeling worn out would be an understatement. Fortunately “Borrowing Problems from the Future” seems to have the right idea of mixing up the formula just enough to pave a new way.
For instance, instead of Barry going introspective and broody like a certain emerald archer, he actually did the right thing. He took Iris to the time chamber and told her what he saw. It was a pretty big beat and showed that Barry is growing as a person instead of making the same mistakes season after season. It also helps drain any of the melodramatic fluff out of the moment as we see genuine change instead of forced drama, and I think we can all be thankful for that.
With the “how long will this be a secret” storyline thrown out the window, Team Flash can start working on real solutions to this inevitable problem. With Cisco’s help Barry is able to revisit the future in order to change Iris’s death. Even so, the idea of changing the future by changing the headlines of a news ticker seems a little thin, it does set up one crucial story point: the future is not fixed. We’ve already seen this with the Crisis headline from 2024, but armed with specific information about the immediate future Barry can try to change the timeline without derailing it.
But, what does this all mean for the back half of the season? Barry is learning how to fix the past so his friends and family are safe. I firmly believe that Savitar is an anomaly caused by Barry’s actions in Flashpoint and that he may actually be Barry or Wally from an alternate timeline. This realization will push Barry to go back and fix all of his tampering one last time and undo all the unfortunate side effects from the last year. Dante will not have died, Caitlin will not become Killer Frost, and (hopefully) the person behind the Savitar mask will not go evil. I think this is the show’s goodbye story to the concept of time travel, a gimmick at this point that has lost significant impact from overuse. Wherever it’s going, I think we’re in for a big resolution and may finally see that first moment in Barry’s childhood home where a wiser Flash stops a rookie from saving his mother. Just wait, it’s about to come full circle.
That still leaves us with this week’s villain, a Rogue by the name of Plunder. Plunder looks like he raided Deadshot’s wardrobe (eyepatch and all) and went out for a stroll with a cool new Zorg ZF1 Pod Gun (you’re welcome Fifth Element fans). Honestly, Plunder was a weak story element and very disappointing when compared to his four color counterpart. Instead of being a dark reflection of a great cop, Plunder is just a guy with a gun and was thoroughly unremarkable.
Flash Fact: Plunder has an interesting backstory. Originally part of the New Rogues that premiered in early 2000s, Plunder came from a universe created by the Mirror Master that was meant to trap The Flash. In this universe, many familiar characters were dark, perverted caricatures and Plunder was the dark version of super cop extraordinaire Jared Morillo. When the Mirror universe began to crumble, Plunder was able to escape and thrive in the real world through his force of will. Of course this made problems for the real Jared Morillo, and Plunder went on to be an competent addition to the growing roster of Rogues.
Fortunately, even with an unremarkable baddie, you can always count of Team Flash to improve a lagging story with well written, strong scenes involving Barry’s extended family. Wally’s first time out as Kid Flash was pretty damn rewarding as Barry dived into his mentor roll. Watching this bond grow out of mutual respect and admiration has been a real treat.
On the flip side of that is Hipster Wells and Cisco finding an equilibrium despite any real common ground. Hipster Wells’ revelation that he will never amount to anything great really hit Cisco in the proverbial feels, especially after the future revelation that S.T.A.R. Labs will close if the team doesn’t rally behind H.R.’s idea of turning their HQ into a money making museum. As always Tom Cavanagh brings a phenomenal performance and this ambitious but insecure Wells is just another feather in the actor’s cap.
It was also nice to see Caitlin make some headway with Julian, who has turned out to be a great addition to the team. After their mutual trauma by the hands of Savitar, it’s interesting to see these two find a common bond. It was also great to see Julian really jump into the roll of good guy after his Doctor Alchemy speed bump. That said, I think that Julian will be a casualty of Savitar’s rage and another impetus for Barry to go back and set things right.
Though this is the real question: if Barry has to realign the past one more time, what does that mean for the present? Will Julian come to Central City? Will Wally keep his powers? Will Dante get a reprieve from a very unflattering death? Will Caitlin be able to shake Killer Frost? I really don’t know, but I think we’re going to find out.