As The Flash races towards its season finale, the big question on everyone’s mind is “Is Iris West going to survive?” The intrepid reporter and fiancée to Barry Allen is fated to die at the hands of Savitar in just a few weeks time, unless The Fastest Man Alive can outthink The God of Speed -- but if he does, what does that mean for the fourth season of the show?
The best thing to do in times like this is to look to the comics for similar storylines, and while it’s not a one-to-one comparison, DC Comics' iconic Barry Allen storyline “The Trial of The Flash” may hold some answers. And should our suspicions prove accurate, the comics may potentially prove the thesis for the overarching plot for The Flash's fourth season -- that is, if Barry is willing to explore all avenues when it comes to stopping Savitar.
Last week’s episode saw Barry get his hands on Savitar, a time remnant of his future self, and in a showing of genuine desperation and anger he threatened to kill him before he could ever get to his fated meeting with Iris. However, what if Barry is successful in carrying out his threat and The Flash season finale ends with Barry taking the life of his enemy in order to save the woman he loves?
It wouldn’t be the first time such a scene played out. In 1983, legendary creators Cary Bates and Carmine Infantino told the most mature and complex Flash story of the character's history to that point, which featured the Scarlet Speedster going one-on-one with his arch-enemy Professor Zoom for the final time. At this point in continuity, Iris West was already dead (she’d eventually get better, but that's a whole other story) and Barry was set to marry a woman named Fiona Webb. However, The Reverse Flash planned to kill her on the altar and it was up to The Flash to stop him.
The two enemies raced each other around the world, with Professor Zoom ultimately pulling ahead as they approached the church in which Barry and Fiona were to be wed. In order to save his future wife, The Flash grabbed Eobard Thawne by the neck and snapped it, instantly killing his arch-nemesis. Even now, over thirty years later, the moment remains as shocking as the day it was published because of how normal it is. The Reverse Flash isn’t shot with a ray gun, buried under rubble or dropped into a mysterious vat of liquid -- he’s killed at the hands of his greatest enemy in a very human way.
In many ways, the death of Professor Zoom represents the flipside to the iconic death of Gwen Stacy in Amazing Spider-Man, which proved that for all of a hero’s amazing powers, they still live in a human world and can be affected by that fact. Where Peter Parker's punishment for Gwen's death was self-imposed via his own guilt, the Flash faced a very public penalty when he was placed on trial for murder, of which he was eventually found guilty. The storyline gets pretty comic booky fairly quickly thanks to a group of jurors brainwashed by Abra Kadabra, but there are some real moments of pathos as well. The Justice League, meanwhile, is unsure of how to act and whether Flash still belongs in their ranks, and Kid Flash testifies against his mentor in the trial. The storyline eventually comes to a close with Barry discovering Iris is still alive in the 30th century and reuniting with her there, but there’s a genuine and very human core to the story that would work wonders on television.
We know that Savitar is actually a time-remnant of Barry Allen and looks exactly like him, so what would happen if The Flash was seen killing him? Outside of the Savitar suit, he’s an almost exact doppelganger for Barry, with some additional scarring, so how would The Flash be able to explain to Central City that he killed Barry Allen, a member of the CCPD, without coming forward and exposing his own identity? Big questions, and some with answers that could potentially fuel an entire season's worth of storytelling.
It’s possible that this is Savitar’s plan to get a final revenge on The Fastest Man Alive. In the most recent episode, the team deduced that Savitar’s existence is a closed-loop, where every action Barry takes informs the actions that will create Savitar. But what if evil Barry is sick of that cycle and wants a way out? It would be the most poetic revenge against his sworn enemy to give the Flash the most pyrrhic of victories, and by saving Iris, Barry could be putting his entire career as The Flash in jeopardy.
There’s one more reason the possibility of “The Trial of The Flash” being adapted to television is exciting, and that’s the thought of what comes next. The original storyline by Bates and Infantino ended with Barry and Iris heading off into the sunset with the caption, “And they lived happily ever after... for a while.” The second half of the phrase is particularly important, because Barry went straight from the trial in his own title to the events of Crisis on Infinite Earths where he would heroicly die saving what remained of The Multiverse from The Anti-Monitor.
We know that the CW’s roster of shows eventually wants to do some sort of Crisis storyline -- The Flash has been hinting at it since its very first episode featured a newspaper from 2024 with the headline “FLASH MISSING. VANISHES IN CRISIS,” and a sub-headline that noted the disappearance of red skies. The Flash has already toyed with Crisis imagery in the Season 2 finale, which featured a time remnant of Barry sacrificing himself, but it’s obvious that that won’t be the end of the show’s nods to the iconic DC Comics event.
While 2024 is a long time away, we’ve seen how things in The Flash's universe can change thanks to time-travel, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see The CW attempt to top this season's “Invasion!” crossover with a full-blown Crisis on Multiple Earths storyline. Throw in Supergirl, Black Lightning and maybe even Gotham, Krypton and Lucifer, if only in small nods, and a Crisis-fueled story could be one of the biggest television events in history.
Of course, this is purely speculative, but the possibility of a television adaptation of “The Trial of The Flash” just seems too tantalizing to pass up. It would represent a bold move on the show’s behalf and set up future storylines for seasons to come. There are only a couple of episodes left of this season of The Flash, so we’ll see very soon if this is the direction the show is going, so don’t be too surprised if you see Barry Allen take Savitar’s life in the finale -- it’s all building to something bigger.
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.