'The Flash' 3×19 Review: ‘The Once and Future Flash’

Given how every time Barry Allen travels to the past to try and right some wrong and he ends up screwing up immensely, you would think that perhaps traveling to the future to try and prevent a tragedy would have the opposite effect.
But the shocking part isn’t that Barry screwed up time again – it’s that he actually had a positive impact on the future and ended up learning some valuable lessons along the way.
This season of The Flash hasn’t been my favorite. In fact, it’s been my least favorite given the whole Flashpoint mess. But over these past couple of episodes, I’ve seen glimpses of The Flash that I used to know and love.
Usually I tend to despise these episodes where Barry goes back in time to try and fix something and ends up ultimately making things 1,000 times worse. But “The Once and Future Flash” was different.
I don’t know if it was the fact that Barry traveled to the future this time, or that he actually didn’t mess things up, or if it was marveling in Emo Barry, or if it was Killer Frost, or if was because the stakes are incredibly high as this reality where Iris West dies on May 23, 2017 inches closer to becoming truth.
But I felt the emotional impact of “The Once and Future Flash” as we glimpsed Iris’ fear of her impending death and how those around her would suffer and how those eight years in the future were still suffering as a result. It was seeing a world where such a horrendous tragedy took place – and how it affected friendships and family – that really brought that emotional aspect back to The Flash.
As far as all the DCTV shows goes this season, I’ve cared least about The Flash. Not because I don’t care about these characters, but because this show hasn’t given me a reason to care lately. But things have certainly changed in this final arc of episodes that has really shone the spotlight on these characters and put them in situations that test them as individuals and that tests me emotionally.
It’s been a while since I’ve said this, but I care about The Flash again.
Let’s break this down:

The World Is A Terrible Place Without Iris West

Not that we already didn’t know this, but a world without Iris West isn’t a pretty world at all. In fact, it’s dirty, dark, and depressing without the sweet ball of sunshine to brighten it up. But The Flash went so far as to paint it out for those that didn’t already know that this show would be much different without Iris as Barry traveled to the future to see firsthand that effects that her “death” would have in “The Once and Future Flash.”
As Barry continues to fight to prevent Iris’ death at the hands of Savitar, he continues to push the envelope in regards to how far he’ll actually go. After the team learned that Savitar was merely a suit with a person inside of it, the search has been on to discover the identity of who lies beneath. That prompted Barry to travel to the year 2024, where Savitar had been defeated. Barry figured he’d talk to his future self and figure out who Savitar is and prevent May 23, 2017 from happening.
From the moment Barry stepped foot into Central City circa 2024, we saw immediately how much things had changed. And not just the year. Since Iris’ death, our core group of characters had separated and/or fallen after Barry decided to break up Team Flash and separate himself from those left living that he cared for. It didn’t have a good effect. Everyone was wondering aimlessly on their own.
Cisco was left on his own – and had lost his hands and superpowers in a battle with Killer Frost. Wally was paralyzed by Savitar. Caitlin had become Killer Frost entirely. Julian was left to look after the thing that had taken over Caitlin. H.R. was a bestselling author of romance novels. And worst of all, Barry abandoned Joe.
It wasn’t a pretty world – or one that we recognized, for that matter. And it really goes to show you how one event can trigger an immense landslide of effects.
Basically, The Flash is not going to kill Iris West. Even though they’re going to enjoy holding that over our heads for the next month.

Come Together During Tragedy, Not Apart

The opening scene between Barry and Iris really set the tone and an important theme in this episode regarding tragedy. Tragedy has the ability to push people apart instead of together, which is due to the emotional duress brought forth and the way we handle the pain. It’s easier to push people away – to feel pain on your own. It’s also easier to push people away to ensure that those close to you can’t be used against you to feel more pain. Pushing people away. It’s an all-too familiar trope in life and fiction. Because it’s the easiest thing to do.
But the hardest? That’s realizing that you need to come together during tragedy instead of coming apart.
That was an important lesson Barry had to learn – from his present and the future he saw laid out in front of him. When Iris was talking to Barry about the possibility of her dying and what happens after, he refused to accept it. But Iris was being practical – just in case. She is more worried about the people she would leave behind than her life ending, which is why she asks Barry to watch out for her dad. Which you’d think would be an obvious thing. But it wasn’t.
I’m not usually a fan of Barry traveling through time – because he tends to mess things up exponentially – but this was a good trip for Barry as he learned how he should handle things should Iris die (which she won’t.) The future showed us a future where Barry Allen had pushed everyone he cares for away. It wasn’t pretty. Barry and Joe didn’t communicate. Cisco was alone and powerless. Caitlin was Killer Frost. Wally was paralyzed. But the thing they all had in common: they were alone.
So following Iris’ death in 2017, Barry had abandoned his friends and family and shut down Team Flash instigating a series of events that did not have a happy ending. Present Barry got to see this firsthand.
While he didn’t believe how this could happen, you did see him think about how it could happen. Which helped him learn that in the face of tragedy, pushing people away in order to save them is only going to hurt them. Basically, when you face tragedy you need to take solace in those you care for rather than push them away.
And it was nice that Present Barry helped Future Barry and his friends and family reunite following eight years that had to have been hellish. But Barry was able to make the future a little brighter before heading back to the present to hopefully do the same.

Cherish the Time You Have

Yet another valuable and important lesson that Barry learned from his trip to the future was to live in the moment and cherish the time that you have with people rather than waste it. Ever since Barry saw his greatest fear come to life with a glimpse into the future, Barry has been fighting so hard to prevent Iris from dying that he hasn’t really allowed himself to live in the moment with Iris.
Sure, this is an issue of great importance, and I would surely do the same. But after listening to Emo Barry encourage Barry to spend more time with Iris before it’s too late, our Barry realized that he has to take the time to cherish the time that he does get with Iris – in case it’s not a lifetime.
We’re not guaranteed tomorrow. All we have is today. And Barry got so caught up in the Savitar of tomorrow rather than appreciate the Iris of today.
But after seeing Future Barry’s pain and regret when perhaps he didn’t cherish every moment there at the end, Barry realized that Savitar couldn’t, shouldn’t stop him from living his life with Iris.
Even if Iris does die (she won’t), Barry needs to focus more on creating good memories that should take the place of the bad memory that would be imprinted on his memory.

Killer Frost Joins Up With Savitar – WHO IS SAVITAR?!

While a bulk of “The Once and Future Flash” took place in the future, the other important storyline involved the rise of Killer Frost following that killer cliffhanger where Caitlin died and survived by becoming Killer Frost. Obviously, there’s a lot of story left to tell with Killer Frost this season after that tease that Savitar had some sort of plan for her. And it seems like those plans are about to come to fruition.
The hour picked up immediately after Killer Frost awoke and started showering STAR Labs in ice as Cisco, Julian, and H.R. ran for their ever-loving lives. After Barry managed to scare Killer Frost off, the team was left wondering where she’d gone and how to get her back.
But it wasn’t until Barry’s foray into the future that he learned that Caitlin is in more danger than they thought. Turns out Killer Frost allies herself with Savitar, who helps Killer Frost rid herself of Caitlin once and for all. Also, Killer Frost knows who Savitar is under that suit. Which leads us that that final scene…
Back in the present after Killer Frost escaped STAR Labs, Savitar was waiting for her with a proposition in mind. He wanted Killer Frost to ally with him. But Killer Frost, being the intelligent woman she is, doesn’t feel like she can trust him. And she’s not about to ally herself with someone she doesn’t trust. So Savitar removes the suit and reveals himself to Caitlin – though we never get to see! – and that’s enough for her to comply.
So this whole “who is Savitar” thing has been going on for far too long. If there was a time to reveal who he/she is under that suit, now was the time. But of course, The Flash thrives on torture, so we’re going to have wait another week to find out that person’s identity.
But given Killer Frost’s reaction and immediate response to join forces, this is someone who she either loved or fears. Makes you wonder if it’s a version of Ronnie? Or even a version of Barry? Now that would be shocking.

Five Things

  1. No, but seriously, this episode proved that the world is a terrible place without Iris West. It was dark and dirty and depressing and just so, so bad. While Iris’ life still hangs in the balance, this is the perfect example of why Iris won’t be killed come May 23, 2017. The Flash wouldn’t be able to survive it.
  2. Hey, Barry, Arrow called and it wants its atrocious flashback wig back. In the year 2024, Barry Allen has traded in his Flash suit for an emo makeover complete with a terrible wig that looks like was borrowed from the Arrow set. I know the intention was to show how messed up Barry has become, but I couldn’t help but laugh at the wig.
  3. That future Flash suit was FIRE. A lot can change in a year. Especially eight years. So, it wasn’t a surprise to learn that the Flash suit has gotten an upgrade. But seeing it was an entirely different matter. The tone is lighter and brighter and appears to have gotten some reinforcements. It looks BADASS.
  4. Barry and Joe got me with all the feels. Barry and Joe’s relationship can bring me to a weeping mess in a matter of seconds. So getting a glimpse of the future where Barry had abandoned Joe after Iris died killed me. But seeing them reunited in the present – complete with a hug and an exchange of “I love yous” – left me sobbing.
  5. WHO COULD SAVITAR POSSIBLY BE? Obviously, someone that Caitlin either care(s/d) a lot about or is afraid of. Could it be Ronnie? Could it be Barry? Could it be someone else entirely? This entire week is going to kill me just waiting to find out who is under that suit.

The Flash airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on The CW.

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