SPOILER ALERT: While the following story is not based on any insider knowledge about “The Flash’s” season finale or Season 3 plans, it does contain potential spoilers based on the comic book source material.
Throughout “The Flash’s” second season, Barry Allen has had a rough go of things. Zoom beat him at every turn, he inadvertently got Earth-2’s Joe West killed, he almost died in an attempt to get his speed back, and then — to top it all off — Zoom killed his father Henry, right before his very eyes. However, if this build up to the finale pans out like the comics, his life is about to get even worse, because he just might be headed to prison.
Wait a minute, you may ask — how are we making the leap from the beloved Man Who Saved Central City in “The Flash” Season 2 to a prison sentence in Season 3? Aside from the brief flash-forward we saw of Barry in jail during his first encounter with the Speed Force in the Season 1 finale, it boils down to a major event in the comic book version of Barry Allen’s life: the death of Iris West Allen in “The Flash” #275.
Fans of of Candice Patton’s Iris West needn’t be alarmed (probably!), because while the show has drawn inspiration from this big event, evidence indicates Iris won’t be the victim here. On the contrary, Henry Allen was at the receiving end of Zoom’s wrath in the show, meeting his end in a fashion that holds some striking similarities to comic book Iris’ death.
In “The Flash” #275, Iris was killed at a superhero-and-villains-themed costume party thrown by CCPD. Moments after she and Barry toasted to their future together and she called it “the happiest moment of her life,” Reverse Flash phased his arm through her head, killing her. In the season’s penultimate episode, Henry Allen was abducted by Zoom just as Joe West raised a glass to Team Flash’s takedown of the Metapocalypse; when Barry caught up, Henry managed to tell Barry, “You have made me the happiest father,” just before Zoom phased his arm through his chest and killed him.
But that’s not where the similarities end. Prior to learning the real cause of Iris’ death, Barry suffered an accident on the cosmic treadmill that scattered his molecules, causing him to dematerialize in much the same way he did on the show when he attempted to get his speed back. Further, Zoom’s motivation on the show rings true with his comic book counterpart’s; in an “if I can’t have it, neither can you” fit of rage, Reverse Flash killed Iris because she would never love him back; in the show, Zoom goes off the rails because Caitlin chooses to leave him, though he opts to kill Barry’s father instead of the object of his affection. In both scenarios, Zoom makes good on his deadly ultimatum after giving the women a 24-hour window in which to make a decision.
Here’s where our theory of Barry’s upcoming prison time comes into play. In December 1984, Cary Bates and Carmine Infantino kicked off their “The Trial of Flash” story arc in “The Flash” #340. It lived up to its name by putting the Flash — Central City’s favorite speedster — on trial for the murder of Reverse Flash, aka Professor Zoom. The murder at hand occurred during Barry’s wedding with his second wife-to-be, Fiona Webb where, in order to make Barry’s life even more miserable, Zoom attempted to kill Fiona just as he did Iris. Barry intercepted him just in time, however, in his desperation to stop history from repeating itself, Barry accidentally used lethal force, snapping Zoom’s neck as he attempted to save Fiona. Even in comics, murder is murder, and the Scarlet Speedster was brought to court over his nemesis’ death.
In the show, Barry has made his intentions for Zoom clear — following the death of his father, he fully intends to kill Hunter Zolomon. Whether or not he takes it that far is yet to be seen, but if Zoom does die by Barry’s hand, intentionally or otherwise, Barry will have a lot to answer for. While Team Flash knows Zoom’s true face and identity, the rest of Earth-1 does not. In fact, the most Earth-1 knows about Zolomon is that he tried to step up in the Flash’s absence. Earlier in the season, in “Escape from Earth-2,” Zolomon — still masquerading as Jay Garrick at the time — landed himself on the news when he attempted to take on Geomancer in full view of the public. (After all, as cute and referential as the tin hat is, it doesn’t do much for keeping one’s identity a secret.) If Zoom dies and Barry somehow gets the blame, we’re looking at the very real possibility that he’ll be tried for the murder.
On the other hand, Barry could just as easily be blamed for his father’s death, at least in the public’s eye. As Henry died at the scene of his wife’s death and under mysterious circumstances, whatever story Barry concocts to cover up his secret identity in the wake of this tragedy could land him in hot water with the law, especially if there are holes in his logic. What’s more, it seems as though Zoom has been planning this for quite some time, which means he may have set Barry up to take the fall for his father’s murder. This would serve as a nice parallel to Henry’s struggle through Season 1, where he languished in prison for a murder he never committed.
Barry has already faced his fair share of speedsters, with Reverse Flash in Season 1 and now Zoom in Season 2. The show effectively took the “speedster as villain” idea in two separate directions, and made both work in their own unique ways. However, bringing one of these back — or opting for a third speedster as the primary antagonist — could make the show feel as though it had already exhausted all of its options. By putting Barry on trial, he’d be presented with a conflict he couldn’t punch his way out of or run away from. Barry has a reputation for being a smart guy (despite his bluster and stubbornness), and this would give him an opportunity to think his way out of a situation rather than use force. On the other hand, the tragedy could inspire him to put the costume away altogether; he did flirt with the idea in “The Flash” #277, shortly after Iris’ death, though he quickly realized that Central City needed him despite his personal troubles.
What’s more, by sidelining Barry as the Flash, the show would give its supporting characters more time to shine. If Wally and Jesse live up to the potential of their speedster counterparts from the comics, they could keep the Flash’s reputation intact while learning to be heroes in their own rights. Additionally, now that Cisco has begun to exhibit additional powers like shock waves, he would have more of a chance to shine and potentially become a vigilante himself; this would be a natural extension of his storyline in the show so far, as he’s slowly come to terms with and embraced his metahuman abilities over the course of the second season.
In “The Race of His Life,” Barry Allen will face Zoom with vengeance in his heart. Whether he decides to act on his rage or not, it’s sure to bring him down a dark path — and perhaps one that will drag him into a conflict he can’t speed away from. If the events of the Season 2 finale pan out to be anything like “The Trial of Flash,” he’s sure to face one of the biggest challenges of his career as the Scarlet Speedster in Season 3.
“The Flash’s” Season 2 finale airs Tuesday, May 24, at 8 pm EST on The CW.
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