When it comes to my relationship with The Flash — the TV show, not the superhero, duh — it’s something that’s been a rocky road. In the first season, things were smooth sailing. A budding young hero with good intentions. But through seasons 2 and 3, I saw the self-sacrificial, unselfish hero become something else. Something else that wasn’t admirable.
It made me angry. Angry because I didn’t want to dislike Barry Allen, the man. Angry because the Barry Allen that I’d fallen in love with — who put the well-being of others before his own happiness — had gotten lost in the big comic storylines that the show was churning out. TV Barry Allen was tied to those decisions — even though they didn’t apply to him, only his comic book counterpart. It’s why Barry, my TV Barry, felt so alien. This wasn’t who he was supposed to be.
Not that it’s not okay to make mistakes. Everyone does. But every time Barry made a mistake, I never felt like he took accountability for it or paid a consequence. It felt like an easy way out. It made me angry. Barry was getting everything he wanted — even though others’ lives had been changed or they didn’t get their own happy endings. I didn’t want Barry to suffer so much as I wanted Barry to acknowledge that he’s been selfish, unhero-like in his personal life. It’s so important for a hero to maintain that sense of heroism in their personal, public lives as it is to uphold it as the face of hope.
The only thing I’ve wanted is for the old Barry Allen to come back. Not the season 1 Barry exactly, but some semblance of the Barry Allen that possessed those honorable traits. That puts others before himself — even if he has to sacrifice his own happiness in the process.
The Flash’s midseason finale — titled “The Trial of the Flash” — was by far the best episode of The Flash in quite some time. I was struck by the emotional tone of the episode — how it managed to strike multiple chords of shock, anger, love, hopelessness, hope, and then more hopelessness. It was, as they say, a roller coaster of emotions in every sense.
This episode also served to flash — in neon lights — the return of the Barry Allen that I’d been missing. In fact, you could even say he’s a better version than the original. And that comes with experience and valuable lessons learned. Barry’s been selfish, he’s made mistakes. Now, he’s learned from them. Now he’s able to become a better version of himself. Even if his world is falling apart around him.
Barry is an innocent man. Yes, it’s obvious to us. But to a jury — where all evidence points to Barry — it’s a long shot. Barry could run. He could run far away and not have to serve time for a murder he didn’t commit. But instead, he’s choosing to stay. Stay and pay the price for something that was done to him. He’s being the hero that this city needs him to be. He’s being the hero that he needs him to be.
This episode made me angry. And the fact that it did is a very good thing. There’s been a time — a long time — when I haven’t felt those type of emotions, which means that I hadn’t cared as much. This episode brought me hope again. This episode brought me The Flash that I love back.
Let’s further break down this midseason premiere, including Barry’s growth in taking responsibility for a crime he didn’t commit, the parallel between father and son, the secret identity cliche, and what the hell happens next?
Barry Taking Responsibility
My biggest criticism of Barry Allen in seasons past has been his lack of accountability when it comes to his actions. It hasn’t been the fact that he’s made mistakes. He’s allowed that. We all are. But at some point, we know that we have to take accountability for those mistakes. When you’re a hero, that applies to you on an even bigger scale.
Barry has made mistakes. I don’t fault him for that. But he’s failed to be a hero in his personal life like he’s been able to in his hero life. There was a time when Barry put others before himself. There was a time when he understood the rules of time travel. But there was also a time when he found himself directed by emotions — which is also a very human thing we all do. But a hero — one that everyone else looks to — is supposed to be better. They’re supposed to be the example.
It took awhile — a couple seasons — but Barry is finally stepping up and taking responsibility. And he didn’t even commit the crime.
As Barry is threatened with conviction of the murder of a Clifford DeVoe, it’d be easy to run. It’d be easy to find a new life. That would be the Selfish Barry Allen thing to do. But Barry’s grown. And his actions speak louder than any words. He won’t run if he’s convicted of a murder he didn’t commit.
Character growth is a beautiful thing.
It was painful to watch Barry sit on the defendant’s stand and have to take everything that he did. How people stood up there and declared him a villain, when we know he’s anything but. How Barry’s loved ones sat behind him powerless to do anything. How Barry understood where this path led before he even arrived at the verdict and sentencing.
But he took it. He took it all. No tears. No objections. Acceptance.
Because if Barry ran or if he got on that stand and lied, he’d become the person that they all believed him to be. And that’s when they’d win. And while they can take his freedom, they can’t take his dignity.
The Parallel of Father & Son
In the final shot of The Flash’s midseason premiere, we see Barry Allen locked in his jail cell. A jail cell, if these people would have it, that would be Barry’s home for the rest of his life. As Barry Allen, an innocent man, sat in the dark, dank cell of Iron Heights not fighting his way out.
But we’ve heard this story before…
Flash to the inscription “HENRY ALLEN WAS HERE” in the wall of Barry’s cell. There’s a sense of poetic justice to this whole thing. But also a beautiful parallel that brings all of the emotions and all of the promise of innocence and freedom.
Many years ago, Henry Allen was wrongly convicted of the murder of his wife Nora Allen. Barry’s father was taken from him forced to sit in a jail cell for no other reason than his wife’s death was unexplained. As we all know, it was Reverse Flash that was behind the murder. And, as we also know, it was Harrison Wells — Reverse Flash — that gave the confession that freed Barry’s father from prison.
Now, a couple decades later, the son finds himself in not only the same situation as his father, but the same jail cell. While it’s a beautiful touch to honor Henry Allen, it’s also a promise. Because like Henry Allen was freed, Barry Allen will be, as well.
Though we already knew that. But still, let’s hope it doesn’t take as long for Team Flash to get Barry out as it did for Henry to be released. I’m going to need some Westallen babies.
Like his father, Barry isn’t fighting it. When Henry Allen had a chance to break free — at the hands of his son, The Flash — he chose to stay. It was about the honor and doing things by the law. If the law said he was guilty, he’d need the law to clear him. He stood by his decision, and it eventually paid off.
Barry is honoring his father as he accepts the conviction. It doesn’t mean he’s done fighting it — like Henry Allen never was done — but it does mean that he’s going to go about this the right way. He’s not going to find a supernatural loophole. He’s not going to cheat his way out. He’s going to go about this the right way. The way a hero — this city’s hero — would.
What This Means For Westallen
Some honeymoon. Barry and Iris barely had enough time to unwrap their gifts and enjoy the holidays before Clifford DeVoe framed Barry for his murder and brought the first challenge into the West-Allen’s new marriage.
Marriage is about partnership. It’s about facing challenges together. It’s about overcoming challenges together. This is something that Barry and Iris are going to have to overcome together. It’s not going to be easy. But if there’s anyone willing to go to the end’s of the Earth for each other, it’s Barry and Iris.
These two people love each other more than anything. They don’t deserve this. They deserve to start their lives together. For real. Without framed murders. Without the threat of separation. Without hopelessness.
But Barry and Iris have been through too much to not emerge on the other side victorious and stronger than before.
“I’d rather run forever with you than stand alone without you.”
It’d be so easy for Barry and Iris to run away. To escape this hell that’s been wrongly placed on their shoulders. To just have each other and let that be enough. To hide in the shadows. With each other.
But what kind of life would that be? Of running away? Of disappearing? Of not getting to live life the way it’s intended to be lived. Though that of course feels ridiculous as Barry sits incarcerated for life. But this is a challenge that Barry and Iris will get through together.
For better and for worse.
In sickness and in health.
Until death parts them.
Maintaining a Secret Identity
These superhero shows are built on the premise of our heroes maintaining a secret life — being a hero and being a normal person. It’s almost an alien concept to accept that there could be a time when our masked hero becomes unmasked.
It’s yet to happen in any of these DCTV shows, but could we be close to ending the secret identity trope? Sure, it works for awhile and adds that flair of mystery and suspense. But is there such a thing as “too long” when it comes to secret identities?
Arrow appears poised to possibly unmask Oliver Queen as Green Arrow — but there are issues that stem from the Green Arrow’s illegal and frowned-upon tactics. In a way, that would hurt our hero as an individual and a hero.
The Flash came close to unveiling Barry’s identity as The Flash. I never thought it would happen, but Iris literally got “Barry is The Fl…” off her lips before I nearly passed out. Barry was able to stop her — to explain that he’s doing this to protect her. He’s going to accept what comes his way. But there was a clear sense that if the jury knew that Barry was The Flash that they’d acquit him of all charges. The Flash is a different kind of hero. He’s lived more in the light and is known for the good he does. It would make sense if The Flash outed Barry as the Scarlet Speedster.
But should they?
While it’s a trope, the whole secret identity element works in favor of the audience. In a way, it’s like you’re in on the secret. You, a normal person, are aware of Barry’s role as The Flash unlike others. And it’s a pretty cool feeling. I can’t help but believe that while this whole secret identity could eventually get old, right now I’ll take being in on the secret than part of the fad.
What Happens Next?
So obviously, what the hell happens now? Barry’s in prison. Team Flash is without The Flash. And there’s still the whole Clifford DeVoe thing to worry about.
The world’s ending, and The Flash is in prison. How’s that for a tagline?
Obviously this season is going to be focused on proving Barry’s innocence. But there’s also the matter of dealing with DeVoe. Barry’s wrongful murder conviction is exactly what Clifford said it was: a means to get The Flash out of the way. But it’s also a distraction. While Team Flash is so focused on proving Barry’s innocence, DeVoe will go about his nefarious plans to cleanse the world or whatever the hell he thinks he’s doing.
Since Barry refuses to use his stance as The Flash to get out of this, Team Flash is going to need some good ol’ fashioned detective work to get him out of this mess. They need evidence — be it old or new — to get our boy free.
But this is something that might and likely will take a significant chunk of time in these remaining episodes. DeVoe thinks he’s already won. But he hasn’t. As Barry told him, “I’m coming for you.”
11 Things About “The Trial of the Flash”
- This was easily the best episode of The Flash in a long time.
- I’m so damn angry at everything — and I couldn’t be happier! (I care again!)
- That scene where Singh is declaring the pureness and heroism of The Flash spliced with that disgusting judge slandering Barry with being an awful human being made me sob. Barry doesn’t deserve that. PROTECT BARRY ALLEN.
- Barry’s character growth over this past season has been one of my favorite things. It’s exactly what I need to get back behind Barry Allen. I don’t want redemption declared — I want redemption earned.
- Iris marching up to DEVOE’s wife was such a rush. Get her, sis.
- “Barry Allen is the FL…” DON’T SCARE ME LIKE THAT.
- “I’d rather run forever with you than stand alone without you.” DEAR GOD. WESTALLEN FEELS.
- See Ralph can be likeable and redeemable — if only he stopped acting like a sexist douche.
- Can we talk about the parallel between Barry being convicted of a wrongful murder just like HIS DAD?!
- HENRY ALLEN WAS HEREEEEE
- “I’m coming for you…you haven’t beaten us yet.” REMEMBER THIS.
The Flash airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on the CW.