The CW's scarlet speedster returned tonight for "The Flash's" highly anticipated third season premiere. The episode kicked off with "Flashpoint," an alternate reality that Barry set in motion when he made the decision to save his mother's life at the end of season two. When the episode opened, Barry had been living in the new timeline for three months. Both of his parents were still alive, he was working up the courage to ask Iris out, and he still had his job at the Central City Police Department. However, as the episode continued, Barry began to realize that he changed much more than just his own life, he changed Joe's life, Cisco's life, and even Wally's. As this new timeline began to become permanent, Barry had to make the ultimate decision to either remain in the "Flashpoint" universe or go back to his original timeline. This choice would force him to relive the death of his mother all over again, which is what launched "Flashpoint" in the first place.
Mr. and Mrs. Allen
“The Flash” season three episode one, “Flashpoint,” opens with Barry waiting for Iris in Jitters. At first it looks like he’s meeting her for coffee, but instead he’s actually working up the courage to ask her out for the first time. For anyone not familiar with the “Flashpoint” comic, this scenario might feel strange, why wouldn’t Iris recognize Barry? From here it just gets weirder. Not only does Iris not know Barry, but she and her father aren't on speaking terms. Instead of Joe West being the fatherly role model and upstanding police officer that everyone loves, he's actually an alcoholic. Barry has to speed Joe through a shower and to work, just to cover Joe's alcoholism and lateness. As Barry finds out later in the episode, Cisco is a billionaire, Caitlin is a pediatric eye doctor, and Wally West is The Flash! None of this makes sense to Barry, because he is used to being the hero with the team of super friends. The one silver lining to all of these changes is Henry and Nora Allen. In this timeline they are both alive and Barry gets to see them everyday. At first, having them alive is worth all the differences in "Flashpoint," but that all begins to change, as things in this time start to unravel.
The Reverse Flash
Because Barry stopped the Reverse Flash from killing his mother, he was able to capture Eobard Thawne and hold him prisoner in a glass box. This box distorts Thawne's speed, so he can't escape. Throughout the episode, Barry pays Thawne a few visits, which allows Thawne to taunt Barry for his decision to save his mother. At first Thawne dances around the "Flashpoint" issue -- he even calls it Barry's reverse "It's a Wonderful Life" -- referencing the 1946 Jimmy Stewart film. But then he levels with Barry and begins to explain that there might be consequences to living in this new time. The first consequence is memory loss. As Barry recalls a powerful memory with Iris, Cisco, or even Wally, he is jarred by those memories which then disappear. Thawne explains that the more Barry uses his speed, the faster he will lose those memories and who he was before "Flashpoint." At first, Barry doesn't want to believe Thawne, he wants to live in the perfect world that he has created, but Thawne continues to warn him that time will catch up with him.
The one thing that gets Barry to start wondering if "Flashpoint" really was a good idea is the injury of Wally. After Barry finally tells Iris, Cisco, Caitlin, and Wally the truth about being from another reality, Barry and Wally team up to take down meta-human of the week, The Rival. The Rival goes toe-to-toe with both speedsters, and gets one up on Wally by stabbing him with a pipe. Barry is only able to beat him with the help of Joe, who shoots The Rival in the chest. Barry races Wally back to Cisco's base of operations, but Wally's body stops healing. It is in the midst of Wally's injury, Barry's sudden memory loss, and the complete lack of cohesion and friendship between Joe, Iris, Cisco, and Caitlin, that Barry decides to go back to his original time. This decision is easily the worst choice Barry has ever had to make. He knows what life is like with his mother now, and he has to let Thawne kill her all over again. While Barry is one of the most optimistic heroes on television today, it's hard to see how he can remain so hopeful in the face of constant loss.
The episode concludes with Barry saying goodbye to his mom and dad, and letting go of Iris. Throughout the episode Barry and Iris shared some special moments -- moments where Iris knew she was meant to be with Barry even though they had only just met. Some cosmic force was leading her to be with Barry, and she admitted feeling that way about him before he went back. The couple shared a kiss, and Barry returned to his own time with Thawne. When Barry returned to his own time, Wally and Joe were sharing a beer, toasting to the memory of Henry Allen. Henry has just died at the hands of Zoom. Barry's heart was of heavy, especially after having to bear the death of both parents, and yet he was hopeful because he knew Iris would be there for him. Unfortunately Iris is no longer in his life in this timeline. When Barry asked Joe about her he stormed out of the room because he and Iris are not on speaking terms. This throws Barry quite the curve ball, because he assumed that when he returned from the "Flashpoint" universe, everything would be just as he left it. Apparently this is not the case.
Now that Barry is back in his own time, where does that leave "Flashpoint?" After months of hype -- from trailers to Comic-Con announcements, to interviews with the cast -- "Flashpoint" has been heralded as the great force of change on the show, but if Barry is already back, what does that leave? The absence of Iris from Joe's life is clearly a huge consequence of the timeline shift, but how did it happen? The little pre-credits scene at the end of the episode also alluded to a greater force at work. The man who was The Rival (Todd Lasance) is seen in bed asleep and then seemingly woken up by a mysterious voice. As he gets out of bed, a name is carved into his bedroom mirror, "ALCHEMY." So, this is the first sign of Dr. Alchemy's presence this season. Based on the trailer for next week's episode, titled "Paradox," Iris isn't the only person who has changed, even Cisco appears to be dealing with some kind of addiction. Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards) guest stars next week, and looks like she's going to help Barry figure out how "Flashpoint" affected the current timeline and if Barry even created a new timeline in the process. Stay tuned speedsters, "Flashpoint" may look like it's over, but "The Flash" is just warming up.
"The Flash" airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on The CW.