With the defeat of Savitar, that’s another season of The Flash in the bag. We should probably just be glad to have gotten what we have so far. After all, fans of 1991’s The Flash didn’t get a second season, let alone a third or fourth. But there is an undeniable drop in quality for The Flash‘s third season, and the fans have noticed. This looks to be a problem plaguing The CW’s Arrowverse, as Arrow’s third season suffered a similar drop and arguably hasn’t recovered yet. It seems like the bright future of the Arrowverse is lost in its early season, and the shows lose their luster.
Now, make no mistake about it: The Flash Season 3 finished strong, and as a whole, it’s still a really good season. But the writing team is dropping the ball pretty consistently, and the resulting mess has left fans reeling. There’s classic imagery being passed over, and characters who are now shadows of their former selves. Rather than sugarcoat it, we here at CBR decided to just put it all out in the open. And so, here are 15 reasons The Flash season 3 was the worst to date.
*SPOILER WARNING* This article contains spoilers for The Flash Season 3!
15. BIZARRE TONAL SHIFTS
The Flash has always had a pretty consistent tone. Science based with a sci-fi slant, but a tongue-in-cheek sense of humor based around the depictions of its famous characters. But with the tone of season 3 came a series of tonal shifts that were bizarre and upsetting, as the series seemed to lose track of the stories it was trying to tell.
Characters underwent major life changes only to turn up the next week with no outward change. Poor Jay Garrick was locked in the Speed Force seemingly with no regard, as he’s not mentioned again until the finale. And the Savitar reveal, a twist designed to ramp the whole season into overdrive, is followed up by a goofy episode where Barry loses his memory. The shifts were jarring and served only to take fans out of the story just as it was getting going.
14. THE WORLD OUTSIDE STAR LABS NO LONGER EXISTS
It’s hard to remember a different time for these characters. Joe West was a detective who solved metahuman related crimes with a partner. Iris West had aspirations as a reporter and wanted to make a name for herself exposing injustices. Wally West was a master gearhead, set to go to college and become a great engineer.
Starting with season 3, these have fallen largely by the wayside. Wally ceased to have any sort of a life once he got his powers, spending most of his appearances running headfirst into danger and getting swatted away, while Joe and Iris spent all day at STAR Labs. Even Julian all but vanished from the crime lab after joining Team Flash. These characters used to have aspirations, dreams, and ambitions, but now they seem to no longer exist outside of their Flash-centric lives.
13. WASTED SIDEKICKS
Jesse Wells and Wally West finally got their day in the sun this season, adopting superhero monikers and helping Barry out for a time. Both played a role in the long game of stopping Savitar, and both came into their own. But while it was a real treat to see Kid Flash and Jesse Quick in action, both were ultimately kind of wasted as characters.
Jesse Quick turns up to quickly learn to manage her powers and is then shuttered off to Earth 3. Wally exists to be faster than Barry, but somehow more incapable at everything. Both get a will they/won’t they love story that’s somewhat abruptly dropped, and both play zero role in the finale (Jesse doesn’t even show up!). For characters built up as such a big part of Team Flash, ultimately they’re relegated to bench warmers, at best.
12. MOMENTUM KILLER FROST
The transformation of Caitlin Snow into Killer Frost is one fans saw coming from season 1. It looked like season 2 was going to be the crux of it as the team encountered Killer Frost on Earth-2, but alas, Flashpoint changed things again. Now affected by the particle accelerator explosion, Caitlin secretly dealt with her struggles against her metahuman gene.
The transformation was meant to create tension, but this disappeared when she received not one, but two long-term solutions to manage her powers. And both would have worked in the long run, had she not nearly died. What’s worse was the season ending with Caitlin being presented a cure created unceremoniously off-screen, which she refused because she had become “something else.” It’s a ham-fisted, contrived ending that will almost certainly end in Frost becoming Caitlin again in Season 4.
11. JULIAN ALBERT, CARDBOARD CUTOUT
Tom Felton’s addition to the cast was pretty big news, and he became an integral part of Team Flash over the course of season 3. Sadly, he did so by being a bit bland. Introduced as a CSI with an absolutely irrational hatred for Barry, Julian Albert was eventually revealed to be Doctor Alchemy, a plot twist resolved in about one week.
After the Alchemy reveal, Albert was used to contact Savitar and then became an afterthought. He fell into a role as yet another generic scientist helping the team and wound up with a half thought-out romance angle with Caitlin that wasn’t earned and had no real payoff. Presumably Felton, who still did a great job with the role, is returning for season 4, and hopefully, he’ll be given more to do.
10. MAJOR PLOT, IMMEDIATE RESOLUTION
Flashpoint teased a lot of things when Barry returned to his timeline. Most prominently was the falling-out between Joe and Iris West. Picking up on a plot point from last season, the two were estranged after Joe kept the death of Iris’ mother from her. This is resolved in nearly record time, as less than an hour later all seemed forgiven.
This was a recurring problem this season, but maybe this is more a problem with modern broadcast television. Wally and Jesse come up against problems that Barry was not only able to solve with the help of Eobard Thawne, but resolve them in minutes. In the final showdown, Savitar is felled by the team and ceases to exist from the timeline within seconds. There are stakes, but they feel fairly low and there was never any real threat.
9. INVASION! FALLS SHORT
This was the obvious appeal of this season: a massive, four-part event combining all the shows of The CW’s sprawling Arrowverse. Fans were surprised to discover the crossover would be based on Invasion!, a 1988 DC Comics event which saw alien species The Dominators invade Earth. They were even more surprised that it fell kind of flat on its face, especially The Flash‘s involvement.
Following up to a tacked-on Supergirl appearance, wherein the actual “crossover” is the last couple minutes of the episode, The Flash‘s contribution was Barry and Kara racing while key members of the team were possessed by The Dominators. The tie-in felt like it didn’t contribute much, and ultimately its biggest contribution was setting up the following Arrow episode. The Flash at least got a solid crossover later in the season, though, with the musical episode Duet.
8. THE INCONSISTENCY OF TIME TRAVEL
Barry wasn’t just a dick this season, he was incessantly reckless. It started with Flashpoint, a time travel fiasco on a scale which he’d literally been warned against in the past. Barry created a world that was pretty idyllic, but when Wally is going to die he opts to try to restore the original timeline. He fails to do so, creating the alternate timeline Flashpoint and a seasons worth of pity parties.
But it didn’t end there. Barry would later jet to the future to speak to his future self, where he would be temporarily stranded by a distraught Cisco. Swearing he would never time travel again after this, Barry immediately time travels to the past to pluck Captain Cold from the timeline so he can rob Argus. Barry swears he’s done time traveling now, but it’s surely only a matter of time before he breaks that promise.
7. ANOTHER SPEEDSTER VILLAIN
Season 1 had the mystery and intrigue of The Reverse Flash, eventually revealed to be the time-traveler Eobard Thawne masquerading as Harrison Wells. Reeling from this revelation, season 2 had Barry betrayed again by Earth 2’s Hunter Zolomon, who posed as Jay Garrick to get close to Barry. In two years, Barry was betrayed by two speedsters.
Season 3 kicked off with Barry facing The Rival but solved that in one episode. But just a few episodes later, Barry encountered Savitar, the self-proclaimed God of Speed. In the end, Savitar was incredibly disappointing, and felt somewhat lazy. It didn’t help that he came across as a joke, largely failing his way to victory as Barry and Team Flash undid every victory they earned against him.
6. CISCO JEOPARDIZES THE MULTIVERSE BECAUSE HE’S SAD (THRICE)
In season 3, Barry was a dick and Savitar was a joke, but Cisco was uncharacteristically an idiot. Following Flashpoint, the Barry and Cisco are at odds, as this timeline’s Barry refused to go back in time to save Cisco’s brother from a car crash. Cisco is cold to Barry during this period, eventually coming back around. But it doesn’t last.
During Invasion!, Cisco accidentally hears the warning from future Barry not to trust him. Rather than admit the world is in danger, Cisco calls for a vote of no confidence in Barry’s ability to lead against the invasion. Then AGAIN, Barry is stranded in the future by a distraught future version of Cisco, who is desperate to get Team Flash back together despite knowing his timeline won’t exist if Barry succeeds. For such a genius character, Cisco sure was written to be an idiot.
5. THE RED SKIES CRISIS CAME AND WENT
Introduced in the episode Rogue Time, the newspaper clipping kept in Eobard Thawne’s time vault has been a huge source of debate among fans. Referenced over the past few months as the author of the newspaper kept changing, the highlight is the headline: FLASH MISSING, VANISHES IN CRISIS and an article that tells of The Flash fighting alongside other heroes before going missing after the skies turned red.
But now it looks like it may have happened. As the Speed Force spewed forth uncontrollably in the season finale, the skies turned crimson and now Barry is lost in the Speed Force. Presumably, he’ll be written off as missing to protect his identity as The Flash, but… that’s it. It looks like the infamous red skies crisis, an event teased since the first season, took less than seven minutes and had approximately no set-up.
4. MORE CLASSIC FLASH ICONOGRAPHY WASTED
The comics version of Savitar also brought about one of the most classic pieces of Flash imagery to date: trapping Savitar in the Speed Force as Wally West loses himself in it. With no means to return home, Wally is believed to be dead and vanishes into the Speed Force seemingly forever. It’s a classic moment and a stunning cliffhanger, leading to Wally’s enhanced mastery of the Speed Force.
Naturally, The Flash took this iconography and completely neutered it. With a Speed Force storm threatening to destroy the city, Barry realizes he must run into the Speed Force to stabilize it. But rather than actually running into it, a portal opens and his mother walks out. Saying his goodbyes in a prolonged sequence, Barry just quietly walks into the Speed Force as the episode fades to black. It was a weak ending to, honestly, an otherwise intense finale.
3. THE INTERESTING WELLS DIES
Tom Cavanagh is an absolute treat and may be the most consistently amazing thing about The Flash. Portraying a variety of incarnations of Harrison Wells across the multiverse, he stunned fans as the Reverse-Flash in Season 1 and demonstrated incredible range as Earth 2’s Harrison Wells in Season 2, an anti-hero who slowly softened up over the season.
For season 3, a new Wells came along, the author H.R. Wells. Hands down, H.R. is the most interesting of the Wells’ seen so far. He’s not a genius at all, but a dreamer. He helped the team on countless occasions and became a true hero through inspiration. So, of course he died in the season finale. It was a good death, and absolutely a defining moment of the finale, but it’s a real blow to kill off the most interesting Harrison Wells to date.
2. EVIL BARRY
Season 3’s big bad, Savitar, stood revealed as an evil Barry Allen. Well, sort of. He’s not THE Barry, he’s a time remnant Barry created to fight Savitar that didn’t die. Shenanigans happen, and this remnant turns out to actually BE Savitar. It’s the kind of time travel hijinks that Legends of Tomorrow thrive on, but the Waverider team was too busy destroying time themselves this season.
But Evil Barry has practically no payoff to it. Though many fans guessed it early on, the reveal comes a mere 4 episodes before season’s end, and it was only a few episodes before this that you’re given any reason to believe Savitar even has a dual identity. The set up is fundamentally broken, all the more heartbreaking in that Flash comics have given us decades of similar stories to serve as a template.
1. BARRY ALLEN IS A DICK
Yes, Barry Allen is a dick… or at least he was in season 3 of The Flash. In the first two seasons, Barry was the traditional characterization you know and love. Humble, down to Earth, and selfless, Grant Gustin’s Barry Allen was just damn good and won fans over with his debut on Arrow handily, even without super powers.
But Flashpoint changed that drastically. Barry was now a dick on almost every level. Scenes where his friends were lost in their problems were interrupted with Barry blaming everything on Flashpoint, trying to kick start a one-man pity party almost all season long. He even proposed to Iris as part of a scheme to save her life, believing it would change the future. Even Batman thinks that’s going a bit far.
What did YOU think of The Flash’s third season? Let us know in the comments!
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