Over the course of “The Flash’s” third season, Barry Allen has had a rough time. He went back in time and changed the past by saving his mother, only to discover that he would lose his memories and his powers if he didn’t put history back to the way it was originally. Nevertheless, when he restored the past to its proper state, he discovered that he had created a divergent timeline: Flashpoint. What’s worse, his friends were deeply impacted by Flashpoint; Cisco’s brother Dante had died, while Caitlin was well on her way to becoming Killer Frost, a metahuman villain with a chilly personality.
However, Barry seemed to come out of Flashpoint relatively unscathed. Nothing had changed for him, bar the fact that he had an annoying new labmate named Julian Albert. As Doctor Alchemy, Julian will certainly continue to make Barry’s life difficult, but Barry has enjoyed relative peace in the Flashpoint timeline — that is, until Savitar showed up.
But who is Savitar? Aside from the fact that he’s a dangerous speedster who seems to have it out for the Flash, not much else is known about him, but it’s important to note that the show deliberately chooses to keep his face covered — which means there may be someone we already know hiding underneath what we’re going to assume is a mask. And, considering both the show’s source material and the clues they’ve dropped so far, we’re thinking that someone could be… Barry Allen?
Let’s back up a little. Last year, DC Comics ran a “Flash” storyline called “Out of Time.” Created by Robert Venditti, Van Jensen, Brett Booth, Norm Rapmund and Andrew Dalhouse, the story arc followed present day Barry Allen as well as his disillusioned future self. Twenty years into the future, Barry Allen realized the Speed Force was hemorrhaging and went into his past in order to heal it, but his method involved killing his younger self to seal the tear.
“There’s only one thing left to fix — this tear. Once I realized the Speed Force was leaking, I spent years searching for its location. By the time I found the wound, it had grown immense. There was no way to repair it. But I had a theory — that with a large enough detonation of Speed Force energy thrust back into the tear, it could be sealed off,” the older Barry explained to his younger self. “You’re the sacrifice. You’re a vessel of the Speed Force. When you die, that energy erupts out of you. It’s the charge I need to fix this damage.”
Of course, the present day Barry Allen managed to escape, but the future version of the character made his intentions crystal clear: he will kill himself in order to fix the Speed Force.
Right about now, you’re probably wondering how “Out of Time” connects to “The Flash” Season 3. First, we need to talk about the visual similarities between the show’s version of Savitar and the comics’ future Barry Allen. On “The Flash,” Savitar’s costume is a massive departure from the comics; gone is the chest-baring spandex, replaced with glossy silver metal, blue lightning and a much larger mask. Similarly, the comics’ version of future Barry Allen is dressed in silver and blue, and blue lightening trails after him as he runs. What’s more, the comics’ future Flash has upgraded his suit with technology and armor. As the younger Flash fights his future self, the elder Barry scolds himself, saying, “Your costume is just clothes. All flash, no substance. If only you knew the enhancements I made in the coming decades.” As such, there’s a striking visual similarity between “The Flash’s” Savitar and “Out of Time’s” glimpse into Barry’s future.
Second, there’s the matter of Barry’s future. This has been a running subplot on The CW’s “Legends of Tomorrow,” which subsequently became a major point of contention in the “Invasion!” crossover, which also involved “The Flash,” “Arrow” and “Supergirl.” During the crossover, Firestorm revealed a message from Barry Allen that hailed from 40 years in the future.
“A war is coming, Captain Hunter, and at some point you’re going to be called back to Central City to fight it, so you need to know that — while you and your team have been in the temporal zone — I made a choice that affected the timeline,” Barry tells Rip Hunter in the message. “As you know, whenever you alter the past, those changes affect the present and get compounded in the future. When you return, you will be in a new timeline I created, where everyone’s past and everyone’s future has been affected, including yours. When you come back, don’t trust anything or anyone, not even me.”
Of course, much of Barry’s message is vague. At the time, many of the heroes assumed that the message referred to their war with the Dominators, but — considering how much of a gap there is between the crossover and the message — just about anything could have happened in the 40 years in between. The message also seems to refer to Flashpoint, though that too could be a red herring. Nevertheless, for the purpose of our theory, we need to focus on Barry’s last line: “When you come back, don’t trust anything or anyone, not even me.”
Here, Barry casts doubt on himself. Whatever has happened — whatever changed the timeline — has impacted him in a major way. In fact, the change that has taken place has made this future Barry Allen untrustworthy, even to his allies. It’s possible, then, that he has taken a villainous turn in this future — and that would fall neatly in line with “Out of Time,” where the future Barry Allen was unafraid to not only kill himself, but others as well.
Further, time travel is a main component of Barry’s evil turn as well as the decay of the Speed Force. “It was the time travel that did it. First, Daniel West [New 52’s Reverse Flash]. Then me,” he explains in the comic. “Throw in Grodd going whenever the hell he wanted, and… we broke it. The whole damn Speed Force. It’s the stitching that holds space-time together, and it’s unraveling. I can feel it coming apart.” Since we’re still seeing the ramifications of Flashpoint on the show, it wouldn’t be out of line for “The Flash” to develop that storyline into the destruction of the Speed Force. However, for our purposes, we need to focus on our hero, who still hasn’t experienced his big comeuppance. Following the reconciliation between Barry and Cisco in the crossover, things seem quite hunkey dorey for the Scarlet Speedster, despite the fact that he recently lost his job. That’s sure to change in “The Present,” the show’s mid-season finale — and what better way to pull the rug out from under Barry’s feet than to reveal that he’s destined to become the monstrous villain Savitar?
We need also examine Barry’s guilt. Over the course of Season 3, Barry has been absolutely wracked with guilt, despite the fact that the rest of Team Flash has assured him that he wasn’t at fault. This created some especially palpable tension between Barry and Cisco, who blamed Barry for his brother’s death. Likewise, “Out of Time’s” future Barry Allen feels that same sense of guilt. “The Speed Force is damaged because of me. I let too many others claim the power,” he says. “But Daniel and Grodd abused it, travelling through time to plunder the past and the future. There’s a wound in the Speed Force. And every time they travelled through time, they tore it even wider… We have to repair the Speed Force before it unravels the very fabric of time and space.”
This sentiment also falls in line with “The Flash’s” recent boom in speedsters. Immediately following Barry’s accident, there weren’t too many speedsters in the “Arrow”-verse — just Barry and Eobard Thawne, the Reverse Flash, the latter of whom did plenty of time travel and went on to cause historical aberrations in “Legends of Tomorrow.” Reverse Flash got traded out for Zoom, a speedster with a nasty habit of stealing other people’s speed, in Season 2… and then came Jay Garrick. And Jesse. And Wally. Worse, Wally’s speed seems to be a result of Flashpoint, which has the potential to adversely affect the Speed Force.
What’s particularly interesting is Wally’s connection to “Out of Time.” In the comics, he’s a troubled young man who idolized his uncle Daniel, who — coincidentally — become the New 52’s Reverse Flash. Barry attempted to mentor him, and thus grew attached to him. When the tear in the Speed Force caused him to move too slowly to save Wally, resulting in Wally’s death, Barry nearly went mad with grief, sending him into the tailspin that makes him break bad. As he travelled back through time to fix his mistakes, he managed to save Wally but killed the younger version of himself that exists five years in the future for present day Barry; the subsequent blast of the Speed Force gave Wally superspeed, and Wally took it upon himself to put an end to future Barry’s reign of terror. After training in secret, Wally used his new speed to travel back in time and sacrificed himself to save Barry in the present day, thus healing the Speed Force.
A little confusing, yes, but Wally’s part in “Out of Time” bears a striking resemblance to his role on “The Flash” so far. He first became aware of the Speed Force in Season 2, when Barry and Harrison Wells recreated the particle accelerator explosion to get him his powers back. The subsequent blast pushed Barry into the Speed Force itself, while Jesse and Wally were caught in the explosion. Of course, where Jesse manifested her speed abilities on her own, Wally had to go through extraneous means and ended up using Doctor Alchemy as a means to his end. Now a speedster, he’s training in secret with HR, Team Flash’s new Harrison Wells, and it’s yet to be seen just what he can do. We can only hope the results won’t be quite as deadly as they were in “Out of Time.”
In addition to Barry’s guilt and Wally’s role as a speedster, there’s the matter of Barry’s tempering with the timeline. Yes, this is the source of his guilt and the root of his problems, but it’s also prompted a recurring sentiment among his friends. “You’re not a god,” they assure him, as if to assuage his guilt. Oliver Queen also reemphasized this idea in the crossover, when Barry confessed his enormous guilt and fear for the future.
But guess who does consider himself a god? Savitar. Named for the Hindu god of speed, Savitar has become a master of the speed force, traveling faster than anything Barry has ever seen before. What’s more, he vibrates so quickly that he’s invisible to the naked eye. While Barry’s friends may forgive him and reassure him that he’s no god, the idea doesn’t seem to help him or his feelings of guilt. This complex could assuredly impact him in the future, particularly where his ultimate goal has always been to help others — which brings us to Savitar’s relationship with Doctor Alchemy.
As we found out in “Killer Frost,” Doctor Alchemy is nothing more than Savitar’s pawn. What, then, is Savitar’s goal in restoring the Flashpoint timeline? Why is Savitar so invested in Flashpoint? Well, if he’s Barry from the future, that’s a hell of a reason to get involved. As Savitar, future Barry could be trying to fix the wrongs he’s made by using Alchemy to put the Flashpoint timeline back to the way it does when his parents were alive, sans actually going back in time to save them. After all, people like Wally have been plagued by the feeling something was missing throughout the series, and that something usually turned out to be their powers or lives from the Flashpoint timeline.
What’s more, Savitar realizes Barry’s goal from the last two seasons of the show. As Honest Trailers hilariously pointed out, Barry has always wanted to go faster. It always seems if his villains are a lot faster than he is, and so he has spent a lot of his time and energy to become faster than ever. Savitar realizes this goal; he’s so incredibly fast that Barry felt as though he was teleporting between stops when Savitar dragged him all over Central City. If Barry remains obsessed with that goal in the present, Savitar is a very possible resolution to that.
Finally, there’s the matter of Grodd. As you may have noticed in the quotes pulled directly from “Out of Time,” Grodd is a thorn in the Speed Force’s side. After tapping into the Speed Force, Grodd used his speed to travel through time and eat the brains of creatures both past and future, thereby assuming their knowledge; as such, Grodd disrupted the Speed Force and forced the tear in it to open even wider.
While the following should be taken with a grain of salt, it seems as though “The Flash” will welcome Grodd back shortly as well. In several new set photos from an upcoming episode, Barry assembles several speedsters to take on a new villain, and it seems she has a little help from everyone’s favorite telepathic gorilla — but the Flash and his friends won’t be the only speedsters Grodd encounters. According to the report, Savitar could be heard saying, “I challenge you, Grodd,” which means the two are not on good terms. That, too, falls in line with “Out of Time,” where future Barry Allen kills Grodd in cold blood. If Savitar really is Barry’s future, that would certainly explain why the two don’t quite get along.
In “The Flash” Season 3, Barry Allen may very well be the villain of his own story. If Barry becomes Savitar, Season 3’s big bad will be a radical departure from the show’s previous villains — but not from the comics’. There’s plenty of precedent for Barry to break bad in “Out of Time,” and the show has left a trail of breadcrumbs that seems to point directly at Barry and the fallout of his decision to change the timeline.
Starring Grant Gustin as the Scarlet Speedster, “The Flash” airs Tuesdays at 8 pm ET/PT on The CW. The series also stars Jesse L. Martin, Tom Cavanagh, Carlos Valdes, Candice Patton, Danielle Panabaker, Keiynan Lonsdale and more.
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