The Flash 3×02 Roundtable: Discussing ‘Paradox’

A new season of The Flash means a new season of roundtables where Fangirlish writers Alyssa, Lizzie, and Lyra discuss the hot topics from every Flash episode.

In The Flash‘s second episode of season 3, Barry Allen struggled with the consequences of Flashpoint and how it was affecting those he cared about and him directly.

What were your overall thoughts on “Paradox?”

Alyssa: Well, it was certainly better than the season premiere. But with that said, this season of The Flash just isn’t hitting home with me. Part of that reason is because the show has made me hate the hero. And that’s because they continue to fail to give Barry Allen real consequences so that he can learn from his mistakes and grow as a person and as a hero. But there were some redeeming qualities about the episode, most notably Tom Felton’s introduction as Julian Albert. There’s an honesty about him that’s refreshing, but at the same time there’s a mystery where you’re asking, Okay, maybe Julian could be a villain this season. It’s always a pleasure when Felicity Smoak makes an appearance. Their friendship is one of my favorite things that we don’t get to see too often. They have four years of knowing each other, knowing each other’s big secrets, and having heart-to-hearts that reminds you of the roots of these DC shows. It’s all about the characters. So hopefully The Flash will remember that with Barry.

Lizzie: I’m conflicted. On the one hand I thought it was a very good episode that dealt with a lot of the issues that it needed to deal for Barry to move forward from his stupidity, and I thought this introduced plenty more consequences from Flashpoint, which is exactly what I felt this show needed/deserved. On the other hand, I’m still so angry at Barry. So angry. He erased people from existence. Cisco doesn’t have a brother because of him. And when Cisco was yelling at him because Barry had been willing to change everything for HIS family and not for Cisco’s, well, I was with Cisco. I still am. Barry seemed to be trying at the end of the episode, but it can’t be as simple as this. He’s got to win his friends back, and he’s gotta win the viewers back. Because I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who isn’t exactly rooting for Barry Allen these days.

That being said, there was Julian, and Julian made this episode better just by existing and being as un-impressed with Barry as the rest of us are. Fact is, despite what Felicity said, some people don’t like pudding. And, even people who don’t like pudding can, from time to time, decide pudding is too stupid to be allowed and they’d rather have something else. It happens.

Lyra: This is going to sound so petty and mean but at this point I don’t care. I’m glad Barry struggled during Paradox. I’m glad that he couldn’t get things right, that he had to be chastised, that he had to be cornered. His friends and family are ready to move forward but they’re not ready to just forgive all. Barry’s actions will have lingering effects on all of them. Most notably Caitlin and Cisco. If Barry got away with his actions in Flashpoint because everyone loves pudding it would be a disservice to all of the characters on The Flash. I’m choosing to believe that they’re taking him on a journey that will truly define the kind of man and hero he is.

Jay Garrick had a little chat with Barry about the consequences of messing with time travel. He asked a very important question: “What kind of hero will you be?” What kind of hero do you think Barry is now and what kind of hero do you hope Barry will become?

Alyssa: Right now, Barry isn’t the type of hero he needs to be. He’s been dictated by selfish inclinations that have had drastic effects on not only his life, the lives of others, but other DC shows, as well. Heroes put themselves last. It’s part of their self-sacrificial nature. We’ve seen Barry do that in the past – most notably season one – but after a season of growth and him getting a sense of his expanding powers, Barry faltered. Only after he faltered he didn’t rebound in the way that he should’ve. Not to say he won’t get there this season (I’m praying), but right now Barry is just a selfish speedster moonlighting as a hero.

Here’s the thing, Barry used to be my favorite character. But the way the writers have written him changed that. I want to go back to loving Barry Allen. The way that the writers accomplish that is by letting his character struggle, stumble, and crash so that he can build himself back up as the hero we know he can be. Barry is such a great guy, and we’ve seen him be a great hero. But he’s lost who he is right now. I not only hope, but I know that Barry can be a hero that inspires his city, his friends, his family, and himself.

Lizzie: Barry is not a hero right now. Plain and simple. He’s a kid with powers who basically uses those powers to do some good, yes, but have some fun. He doesn’t understand the meaning of sacrifice and he’s very, very selfish. Can he get better? Well, the path is right there. Whether he chooses to walk it or not, that’s another question. Because, thing is, last time, I thought Barry was there. He’d made peace with his mother’s death, and I thought …well, this is Barry becoming the hero I want him to be. And it wasn’t. So, now, I need more than one episode to believe that he’s on the right path. I need ten or twenty or for him not to fuck it all up in the season finale, and then maybe …maybe, I’ll believe that he understands that he can’t deviate from the path every time life gets hard. That’s what makes him a hero, after all.

Lyra: Jay Garrick is essentially Barry post Flashpoint. He’s fucked up, faced the consequences, and come out better from it because he learned from his actions. His intervention and counsel is what Barry needed before he messed things up even further. After all, the only person who knows the burden of changing time and the speed force is another speedster. This one just happens to have the face of his dead father.

Right now Barry is a selfish superhero whose starting to realize that it’s not all about the Barry show. His actions have far reaching consequences, especially to the people he loves and cares about. A part of me even believes he didn’t know the true power and burden he held until he messed everything up with Flashpoint. It’s a learning experience that he’ll hopefully never forget and use to become a true hero who balances out their needs and that of the greater good. Despite helping people and being in the rescuing game, Barry’s needs have always been first. And that’s not what a hero is.

We got to see Barry really come to grips with the consequences of his selfish decision. He was losing his shit, and it really hit him hard. But then at the end of the episode he got almost everything back. Do you think Barry has really learned anything?

Alyssa: Here’s the thing, there was a moment early on in the episode where I thought that I might actually really love this episode. That was when Barry was seeing the consequences of Flashpoint and how it was breaking him down. Hearing about how it erased baby Sara, hearing how Cisco’s brother died, experiencing Cisco’s anger towards Barry. The episode was essentially setting it up for Barry to actually learn from his mistakes. It’s one thing to see the consequences, and it’s another to have to live with them and with the reactions from those close to you.

Just when I thought that The Flash was setting up Barry for a long season of having to deal with this mess and Cisco not liking him, Iris and Joe being upset about how it had changed their relationship, the show went and made everything better by the hour’s end. Barry got Iris back; Barry got Cisco back; Barry returned to a point where he was the happiest that he could be given the circumstances. That’s not going to accomplish anything. Barry needed to continue to be shut out by Cisco; Barry needed to be separated from Iris if he was truly going to learn anything.

This isn’t the first time that Barry has messed with time travel and there have been consequences. Sure, they’ve been minor and haven’t him as much, but that didn’t stop him from doing it again. Now, he messes with time travel, sees he messed things up, and in the same episode he’s welcomed back with open arms. I’m sorry, but what has Barry really learned? He’s learned that he can mess with time travel if absolutely necessary and still manage to somewhat salvage things. He hasn’t learned anything. And he won’t learn anything until there are real consequences that carry out for a sustained period of time.

Lizzie: I don’t. I think it was too easy. Cisco being mad at him for 10 episodes? That would have been a consequence. 20 minutes of Cisco being mad is not. And that’s the problem with this show, in order to keep the “tone” light, the avoid going to the real places in the story.

Now, it seems easy, I just hope it will end up not being quite as easy as it sounds. Because if it is, then that means that Flashpoint was for nothing. And I don’t want Flashpoint to be for nothing. So, make Cisco and Barry’s relationship remain strained. Make Caitlin into a villain. Have Julian continue to be a pain in the ass. Make me feel that there’s a consequence to being an idiot, The Flash. Otherwise, what’s the point? Otherwise, you might as well go back and time and save Dante.

Lyra: No and yes. Barry has learned that his actions have consequences. But when have things ever been that easy? And if they were easy they wouldn’t really be life lessons and the show would be over. He’s going to be facing reminders of what he did left and right until it’s drilled into his head that he can’t even linger on the thought of changing time. He’s going to continue learning. So don’t think your friends understanding and the WestAllen kiss means that everything is fixed.

This episode really served to show all of the consequences of Flashpoint that impact Barry in some way because it impacts people he cares about. And there were a lot: Joe and Iris’ relationship was strained, Cisco’s brother died, Caitlin looks like she’s becoming Killer Frost, and Diggle now has a son instead of a daughter. What did you think about these consequences?

Alyssa: I’m not going to sugarcoat it but every consequence pretty much pissed me off. I mean, I did like that it gave Barry consequences, but I just didn’t like how everyone wlse was affected because of Barry’s selfish decision. Messing with Joe and Iris’ relationship, killing Cisco’s brother, and erasing baby Sara for a son just so they could introduce Connor Hawke at some point, was pretty bad. I mean, I’m intrigued by Caitlin’s development as it appears she’s transitioning into Killer Frost, but I wish it had happened in a different way that didn’t involve Barry messing up in order to get it. Part of me understands the consequences on The Flash – because it has to impact Barry in a way that hopefully he’ll feel responsible and eventually start paying attention and learning from his mistakes – but when they starting messing with Arrow, I get mad.

Lizzie: I hated them, but from a storytelling perspective, I’m glad they existed. No consequences means the storyline is stupid, and the way the storyline was introduced was stupid to begin with – no need to make it even worse.

The consequences that really got me, though, were the ones that had to do with people dying and/or in the case of baby Sara, disappearing. That’s not the same as making Iris and Joe have a fight. That’s something that can’t be fixed. Barry essentially killed these people, and if the show is going to be the show I hope it can become – if Barry is going to become the hero we need him to be, then he needs to understand that when he does stupid shit, people DIE, and when they do, he’s the only one responsible.

Lyra: The consequences of Barry’s actions are utterly frustrating because it throws my favorite characters into question. We don’t know what changed along the line, if they passed specific mile stones that we loved, or where they are in their journey. We’re meant to swallow this whole pill that these are the people we still love pre Flashpoint. But I can’t trust it. It’s too convenient and asking too much of viewers. I feel like I’m looking at an AU version of everyone I loved and being forced to accept them as canon. I can’t.

The Flash has said that there will be two Big Bads this season, and the first of them is Alchemy. What are your thoughts on Alchemy and how he can help Barry grow as a hero?

Alyssa: Obviously there’s a way that Alchemy is able to best Barry otherwise he wouldn’t be a true adversary. And it appears like it’s some kind of magic? I don’t think he’s a speedster, but he’s something that’s obviously very knowledgeable and understands how to navigate time travel. Villains – good villains – always serve to better a hero. So I’m praying that Alchemy can help grow Barry as a hero. Given he’s a creation of Flashpoint, hopefully whatever transpires as a result of Alchemy will really hit Barry where it hurts so that he can finally start understanding the true consequences of time travel. That’s really where he needs to grow.

Lizzie: So far I’m not so impressed (or worried), about Alchemy. Maybe because it feels like only speedsters can actually be a problem for Barry. (They haven’t really given us anything else). Or maybe because, right now, Barry’s problems seem to be self-created. Barry Allen is the villain of his own story right now. He’s made strides towards changing that, yes, but one episode does not a hero make. I need consistency from Barry before I’m ready to forgive him for all he’s done.

Lyra: Two big bads? Really? Ohhhhhh! Can’t wait! I’m glad that Barry is being tested and being burdened with not one, but two villains. Alchemy is just a tipping point to something crazy that we haven’t seen yet. And he’ll hopefully be a daily reminder at the back of Barry’s head  that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Facing consequences for his own actions and avoiding mess ups like Flashpoint will make him a more caring and worthwhile hero.

The Flash airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on The CW. Join us for another Flash Roundtable next Monday!

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