SPOILER WARNING: This article contains major spoilers for “Infantino Street,” the latest episode of The Flash.
This penultimate episode of The Flash's third season was filled with secrets, surprises and reunions. But after all of that, it finally presented what we’ve all been dreading all season -- the death of Iris West.
Or did it?
While the episode seemingly ended with Savitar killing Iris, as Team Flash feared he would, there's a chance the episode also introduced the means of her likely salvation.
Early in the episode, Flash recruits Captain Cold from his time among the Legends to help him break into A.R.G.U.S., where a piece of the Dominators technology, the last component Team Flash needs to finish the Speed Bazooka AKA the key to stopping Savitar, is hidden.
What’s interesting, though, is that Flash attempts to break in using a tool that makes him appear to be Lyla Michaels, head of A.R.G.U.S. More than a surface illusion, the transmogrifier, as the device is called, makes The Flash appear to be Lyla down to her eye pattern and voice. Though it works at first, Barry's ruse is quickly discovered and he has to punch his way into the facility. Which makes one wonder why the show would introduce such an astounding bit of tech for it to prove ultimately useless -- unless it’s a Chekov’s gun.
Perhaps the imaging tool was introduced in the episode as a subtle reminder of its existence, providing a clue that the writers could show the fatal death the whole season has been building to... without actually killing the only Black woman on the show.
Some might suppose that Iris is actually going to remain dead. After all, Arrow’s Laurel and The Flash/Legends of Tomorrow’s Captain Cold stayed dead (... sorta). But if you check out the press release for Season 4, released in the wake of Iris'a apparent demise, then you’ll see that Iris West will be back for next season.
Now, there’s about eighteen-dozen ways for her to come back -- another Flashpoint, Iris from another Earth, something-something time remnant -- but the most likely method for Iris West’s return is the magical doodad the episode re-introduced and then quickly (acted like) it forgot about.
Of course, this means that someone used the tool to disguise themselves as Iris and then died in her place. But who?
Gosh, there’s about eighteen-dozen people it could be, from Jesse Quick to someone from Legends -- the Flarrowverse does love its crossovers, after all. But having someone from outside the show would feel a bit cheap. So let’s take a look at potentials from the cast of The Flash.
We know it can’t be Joe West, Barry, Cisco or Tracy Brand as all of them are very occupied during the battle. There’s a tiny chance it could be Wally, but given that Savitar broke his leg not long before Iris' death, we can probably take him off the table. We didn’t see Julian at all this week, so there’s a chance it could be him, but since we have no evidence one way or another we’ll put him to the side.
Then there’s the one almost no one saw coming: Killer Frost. Caitlin Snow's evil alter-ego would be an interesting choice. During the episode, she talks to Savitar, aka future, scarred Barry, about whether he can really go through with killing Iris. She even goes as far as to call herself Caitlin, a move that results in Savitar quickly rebuking her, saying he’s not Barry and she’s not Caitlin.
It seems that Killer Frost’s cold heart is melting. How better to return to the light than with a self-sacrifice? Of course, with her healing powers it wouldn’t necessarily even be a sacrifice in the first place. She’s healed from worse than a knife through the chest, after all.
While Killer Frost makes a lot of sense, it seems hard to square how she could be off fighting Cisco while also replacing Iris -- unless she herself was a time remnant created by Savitar, but then we go cross-eyed just thinking about how it would work. Having Killer Frost take Iris’ place -- and then use her freeze powers to heal -- would make a lot of sense but unfortunately it seems that all evidence rules her out.
Which brings us to the most likely candidate to take the knife for Iris: HR.
For a long time, viewers have been wondering what, exactly, HR’s purpose is. Heck, he's been wondering that as well. What if it was to sacrifice himself to save the life of Iris West and the soul of Barry Allen?
Some fans have theorized that HR’s last scene in the episode -- him looking forlornly at Savitar’s armor after raging about how useless he is -- is a hint that in the next episode he’ll come up with a way to defeat the so-called God of Speed. But what if it’s not a hint at what he’s doing next week, but what he was doing in the next scene?
If you watch the final confrontation between Savitar and the Flash, you’ll see that when Barry attacks his time remnant, the evil Flash runs away -- drawing both Barry and our eyes away from Iris. While it’d be a bit tricky and push against our suspension of disbelief, it is entirely possible that HR somehow switched places with Iris.
Of course, he'd have to move awful fast in order to do so; or, rather, quickly Perhaps HR has recruited Jesse Quick's help to carry out his plan. After all, would Harry and Jesse be so cavalier as to do nothing to prevent Savitar from killing Iris? (Well, yeah, maybe.) But remember, this isn't the first time we’ve seen these events unfold. Earlier in the season, we saw Iris die while someone (ostensibly HR) watched from the roof. Back then, none of us knew that Savitar was Barry, and some believed HR was in the suit while the person on the roof was actually Harry -- given that he had a large gun and seemed to actually be capable for once.
Now, granted, in the latest episode, we don’t see him on the roof -- in fact his absence there wasn’t addressed at all. And maybe, just maybe, that’s because we’ll soon learn that Harry and Jesse made the journey to help HR with his plan to save Iris by taking her place. Harry would, indeed, be the lookout on the roof, there to distract Savitar in case the Speed God noticed Jesse switching HR for Iris.
If you think this plan sounds a bit convoluted, remember -- this is The Flash we’re talking about. In this episode alone, we had a speedster fight a giant shark with the help of a dead thief from the past. Convoluted, after all, is The Flash's modus operandi.
No matter how it happens (a trip to the 30th century, perhaps?) we know Iris West will make her triumphant return next season. Maybe it’ll be thanks to some time travel gymnastics, but the smart money is on Iris West never having died at all.
Starring Grant Gustin as the Scarlet Speedster, the season finale of “The Flash” airs this Tuesday 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.