‘The Flash’ and Westallen’s Many Virtues

Take it from me – if you want to ask a Westallen fan what they love about their ship, you should have a drink and a snack on hand because it will not be a short conversation. As fans, we love watching love stories, and we certainly love talking about the virtues of these stories with those who love them as much as we do. But what is it that makes a love story epic, a particular couple iconic, or that gives an OTP a place in our hearts that other ships, lovely though they may be, simply don’t fill?

A line may stick in our minds, a narrative may capture our imagination, but it is the moments shared by our ship that steal our hearts. These moments show us what we can be and allow us to imagine the remarkable things love makes us capable of doing. At its best, love brings out our greatest virtues, and it is in the moments when both sides of a ship become their best selves that love stories become truly epic. Below are a few of the best virtues Westallen embodies and some of our favorite moments – moments that have made it one of the greatest love stories on television today.

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Devotion

From the very first episode of the series, Barry and Iris have been devoted to each other. It is evident how deep their affection for each other has been for most of their lives. While Barry realized his feelings for Iris went beyond friendship early on, it took Iris much longer. In fact, it seems Iris’s love for Barry was such a part of her that she didn’t even begin to question his importance to her until it was almost too late.

There are probably a hundred examples of the deep devotion Barry and Iris share, but here are some of my favorites.

Iris’s Confession: “We need you. I need you.” (Episode 1.20)

When Barry was in a coma after being struck by the lightning that would end up giving him his powers, it was clear that Iris visited him often. It wasn’t until almost the end of the first season that we got a glimpse of one of these visits. In the flashback, Iris not only begged him to wake up and confessed how much she needs him, but she also admitted that she would probably not have agreed to go out with Eddie if Barry were awake. Her plea for him to wake up is heartbreaking, showing that as much as she is his anchor, he is also hers.

Barry’s Devastation: “She’s the love of your life, Barry. She was the love of my life.” (Episode 3.19)

Last season was the darkest for the series, as Barry spent more than half of it trying to prevent Iris’s murder. In one of the saddest episodes (but also one of the strongest examples of Grant Gustin’s ability to really bring it for emotional scenes), Barry travelled to the future to try to find a way to stop Savitar. There, he saw that his future self has lost himself in losing Iris, unable to let her memory go. In witnessing his future self’s despair, Barry came to realize that he must try to do as Iris has asked and move on with his life once she is gone, as the future he has seen is not the life Iris would want for him. Indeed, it is not a life that anyone would want for someone they love.

The Proposal(s): “All I wanna do is come runnin’ home to you.” (Episode 3.17)

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It is a source of both humor and frustration within the fandom that Westallen don’t do anything major just once. They broke up twice (once before they were even dating), had more than two first kisses, became engaged twice, and there is speculation that they will have more than one wedding. And, of course, in the future, Iris will give birth to twins.

Both of the Westallen proposals were beautiful in their own way. The first proposal was probably the first time a television show has genuinely surprised me in over a decade. The second proposal was a bit more frustrating, in that they had to contrive a reason for the two to break up to justify the plot of the episode and subsequent proposal. However, the song couldn’t be more perfect for the couple. When Barry sang, “Can’t say what the future will hold, but I want you in it. Every hour. Every minute,” his words were undeniably true.

Faith 

Long before the events of the show even started, Iris and Barry had faith in each other. This faith has only grown over time, as they have confronted obstacles together. While there are spoilers that Iris’s faith in Barry may be tested in the season four premiere, I have no doubt that it will once again prove stronger than the challenges they face.

Always in His Corner: “I believe you.” (Deleted Scene, Season 1)

This one may be cheating a little, since it happened in a deleted scene. However, Iris’s belief in Henry Allen’s innocence and in what Barry said he saw the night his mother was murdered was established in the show, and this scene is too perfect to pass up.

It is easy to forget that, in early episodes of the show, Joe did not really believe in Henry’s innocence or in what Barry saw that night. A young Barry was even taken to therapists, who tried to get him to accept that what he had seen was too impossible to be true. With the best of intentions, Joe was undoubtedly acting out of love, and his skepticism was understandable. It was also a source of conflict for the two – at least until Joe began to believe in the impossible, thanks to the Flash.

However, even when Joe didn’t believe in what Barry saw that night or in his father’s innocence, Iris did. From the very start, she believed in what he said, for no other reason than because he was the one saying it. The show has never explicitly stated how much her faith meant to a young boy who was laughed at by the rest of the world for sticking to his story. Then again, it’s never had to. Everyone needs someone who believes in them, no matter what, and Iris has always been that person for Barry.

The Leap of Faith: “Do you trust me? … Okay, then jump.” (Episode 2.03)

Iris believes in Barry, even when her life is on the line. Throughout the third season, she had faith in him to do his best to try to save her from Savitar, but her faith in him was demonstrated well before that. Early in the second season, she found herself in the common comic-book-reporter predicament of finding her life in danger while pursuing a story. Rather than calling the police or even her father, she called Barry. When he told her to jump out the window of the high rise, she did so with total faith in him to catch her. Perhaps it is a small moment – and it likely won’t be the last moment like it – but it speaks to her bone-deep faith in him as both a man and a hero.

Honesty

Love cannot thrive without honesty. In fact, the only real threat to Westallen’s relationship over the course of the show came when Barry (reluctantly) hid his secret from Iris for almost a year, working with her father and even with her boyfriend to gaslight her. The two of them worked through it, and honesty has been a hallmark of their relationship ever since. Without that honesty, their relationship wouldn’t be as strong as it is today.

Barry’s Confession: “I love you, Iris.” (Episode 1.09)

Barry loved Iris before he knew the meaning of the word, but it took him a long time to work up the courage to tell her the truth. At the start of the show, it seemed that The Flash would drag out the revelation of Barry’s feelings. It was both surprising and groundbreaking, therefore, when he found the courage to confess his love to her halfway through the first season. Of course, there was still plenty of drama to be had before Barry and Iris could get on the same page romantically, but Barry’s honesty with her about his feelings – even before he was honest to her about his secret identity – was both an important first step and a pleasant break for the norm when it comes to these types of shows.

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Iris’s Confession: “You, Barry. That’s who I want to see if I have a future with.” (Episode 2.20)

Before Barry’s first trip through time, Iris confessed her feelings to him the first time. Unfortunately, that moment was undone (as so many others would subsequently be) when Barry inadvertently ran into the past. While Barry would remember her confession, she would not, and over the course of the next year, he had no way to know whether her feelings for him had changed.

It was when he was about to risk his life in an attempt to regain his powers that Iris made the confession they both would remember. Her moment of honesty may have been prompted by a need to remind him that he had something to come home to, but sometimes the courage to be honest comes when it is needed, not when it is convenient.

Selflessness

Love is not always virtuous, though fairy tales would tell us otherwise. Nor are people always virtuous when they are in love. But love is never more powerful nor more beautiful than when it compels us to overcome our more selfish inclinations for the benefit of the one we love. Here are my favorite moments which demonstrate Barry and Iris’s capacity for selfless love of one another:

Iris’s Appeal: “Help me save my friend.” (Episode 1.05)

As a long-time Superman fan and die-hard shipper of Lois Lane and Clark Kent, I have a love-hate relationship with the triangle for two trope. Admittedly, it is a trope that has become outdated, and The Flash never seemed quite certain how much it wanted to go down that path. As such, we had few scenes that took advantage of the searing unexplored sexual tension between Iris and the Flash before she discovered his secret identity.

I adored each and every such scene that we did get, but easily the best has to be their conversation on the Jitters rooftop. In it, she appealed to the Flash, asking him to help her save her friend Barry. Ultimately, it’s a confession that her interest in the Flash comes from a desire to help Barry keep his faith in the impossible. She always believed him when he told her what he saw the night his mother died, and she wanted him to know that he was right all along. While she would also publish stories in an effort to bring hope to the people of Central City, it is her selfless love for Barry that put her on that path in the first place.

Iris’s Sacrifice: “I hope whatever life you get, it’s enough for you. That it makes you happy.” (Episode 1.23)

Forehead Kiss
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In the first season finale, Barry contemplated the prospect of traveling back in time to save his mother on the night she was murdered. However, he knew that doing so will change not only his life but the lives of everyone around him. Conflicted, he asked Iris to tell him what to do. Aware that saving his mother would impact her own life in ways that she could not even begin to comprehend, she encouraged him to do what he needed to do to be happy.

There is no greater testament to the depths of Iris’s selfless love for Barry than the extent of the sacrifice she was willing to make for his sake, even knowing that it would undo their entire history together and likely result in the loss of some of her own happiness.

The Gift of Closure: “Talk as if it was the last thing you could ever say to her.” (Episode 2.17)

Throughout the first season, Barry could be selfish when it came to wanting Iris’s love. On more than one occasion, he used his Flash persona to flirt with her, in the hopes that it would lead to her reciprocating his feelings. That such reciprocation would inevitably lead to a breakup with Eddie didn’t seem to bother him – in fact, on at least one occasion, he clearly hoped that her connection to the Flash had caused this very thing.

By contrast, Barry showed remarkable maturity and growth in the second season. In fact, he demonstrated one of the purest examples of selfless love that I have seen on television or in movies. Knowing Iris was struggling with guilt over the prospect of moving on after Eddie’s death, he took the opportunity while on a time travel trip to the past to film a message from him in the hopes it would offer her some solace.

He gave her this gift with no thought of any potential benefit to himself. Rather, he did so hoping she might find peace in Eddie’s words and allow herself to find happiness again one day, even if the happiness she found wasn’t with him.

Serenity

Home
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Whether it’s Barry singing that he wants to run home to Iris during his proposal, Iris asking Barry to come home to her, or Barry unable to disassociate his feelings for Earth 2 Iris from the Iris he knows, the idea that Barry and Iris are “home” to each other has been a recurring theme throughout the show. Their connection and history bring each other peace and comfort, no matter what insanity they face from the rest of the world. While I love every time this theme has been reinforced in the show, this moment is my favorite.

She’s His Home: “All I know is you’re everything to me, and you always have been. And the sound of your voice will always bring me home.” (Episode 2.21)

Barry went through a lot in the first two seasons of the show, and they took an understandable toll on him. At times, he seemed to lose hope. Every time he did, Iris was there to remind him of what he had to live for, and that he always had her to come home to.

When he was lost in the speed force, he was given a chance to come to terms with his grief over his mother’s murder. Once Iris pulled him out of the speed force, he took her to visit his mother’s grave for the first time. Finally at peace with his loss – if only temporarily, until witnessing his father’s murder in the very place where his mother had died – he acknowledged to Iris that he didn’t know what the future would hold, but that Iris always had been and always would be his home.

Unity

From at least the days of Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, I have been frustrated by contrived drama that only serves to try to prolong a will they/won’t they narrative made useless when we know that they will and they can and they do. The Flash has been relatively unique in largely (though, sadly, not entirely) avoiding the typical on again/off again shenanigans that can so easily drag down a show. Perhaps the show runners have finally learned what the audience already knew: breaking up the main couple time and time again for pointless melodrama only serves to weaken their love story. After all, if a couple cannot survive the trials and tribulations of everyday life, how could anyone expect them to survive the greater challenges they will undoubtedly face?

Rather than indulging in drama for its own sake, The Flash has embraced the simple truth that Barry and Iris are strongest when they face their problems together as a unified front.

One Simple Truth: “Whether you realize it or not, there is no Flash Without Iris West.” (Episode 3.06)

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Even before Iris knew Barry’s secret, she was vital to him in his hero’s journey. She was the catalyst for him to discover many of his abilities. Through her words, she brought hope to the city and helped Barry find his purpose as a hero.

While Westallen fans continue to hope that the concept of Iris as Barry’s lightning rod will be more overtly addressed in the show, the foundation has already been laid. The literal spark between Barry and Iris led her to discovering his secret identity at the end of season one. Their connection and Iris’s voice pulled Barry out of the speed force and broke him free of Grodd’s mind control.

Barry and Iris have a bond that transcends changes to the timeline, endures amnesia, and carries across multiple Earths. Even when he’d lost his memory, Barry was drawn to Iris. When he tried to put his feelings for her behind him, it took one day with Iris on Earth 2 for him to realize that he was only fooling himself to think he even could.

Barry Allen and Iris West have been an integral part of each other’s lives from the time they were children. She has helped him be a stronger hero and a better man, even going so far as to remind him that she would rather lose her life than for him to lose sight of who he is. And now, in this next season, they will take the next step in their love story and become man and wife. Can the Tornado Twins be far behind?

Agree? Disagree? Have other things you love about Westallen? Share with us in the comments below!

The Flash airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on the CW. It premieres next Tuesday, October 10th.

Jade

Law geek, actual geek, and fanfic writer. Maybe a novel writer one day, if I could only pull myself away from fandom long enough. I have been entirely too involved in fandom for my own sanity since at least my Smallville days. I love many comic book love stories, but Clark Kent and Lois Lane will always own my heart. Currently obsessed with The Flash.

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