In the first season of CW’s The Flash, Barry Allen learned that he can travel through time. At the end of season 2, he broke time. How he’ll fix time is up to the writers behind the show, but with the premiere a week away, I have a request for them: While you’re fixing the timeline, please don’t repeat it.
I enjoyed the heck out of the first couple seasons. Grant Gustin is charming as The Flash, and his supporting cast is mostly excellent. The effects are way better than any television effects have a right to be. And unlike the first couple seasons of Arrow, The Flash has never been afraid to embrace its comic book roots, jumping right to goofy-sounding villains like Reverse Flash and Zoom, as well as integrating abstract and often complex concepts like the Speed Force.
In doing this, though, the writers somehow managed to essentially repeat the story arc of the first season while swapping out the details.
In season 1, Barry discovered his powers and, with the assistance of Dr. Harrison Wells, explored the extent of his abilities. Barry was eventually betrayed by Wells himself when the good doctor revealed that he was Eobard Thawne, The Reverse Flash all along, forcing Barry to max out his abilities and work with all his allies to ultimately defeat his newfound arch-nemesis.
In season 2, Barry discovered that the universe is more of a multiverse thanks to the entrance of Jay Garrick, Earth-2’s version of The Flash, who lost his power at the hands of Zoom. Barry took on new enemies and, with the assistance of Jay Garrick, explored his powers further in hopes of matching the much more powerful and dangerous Zoom. Barry was eventually betrayed by Garrick himself when the ex-speedster revealed that he was Zoom all along, forcing Barry to max out his abilities and work with his allies to ultimately defeat his newfound arch-nemesis.
Do you see where I’m going with this?
There’s a very real danger that in The Flash season 3, Barry is going to meet a new mentor who will later betray him and force him to level up his abilities and blah blah blah. The Flash has a whole rogues gallery of enemies – who literally call themselves rogues in the comics – like Captain Cold, Gorilla Grodd, and Heatwave, but already we know the third season will involve yet another evil speedster, Savitar.
This new speedster is a bit different from the previous ones, and doesn’t have any history in the comics of posing as one of The Flash’s allies (or The Flash himself!) like Eobard Thawne and Hunter Zolomon do.
This problem isn’t specific to The Flash, to The CW, or to DC Comics – Arrow frequently pits Oliver Queen against archer-nemeses (no regrets), and Marvel’s movies have a bad habit of pitting Iron Man against another iron person, Ant-Man against another bug man, and Hulk against another Gamma-irradiated ball of green anger, just for starters.
The basic idea behind this is that which makes the hero unique is rendered moot by facing them with their equal. It’s a fine way to show off a hero’s resolve and creativity, but it’s easy to see through and isn’t the sort of arc we want to see more than once in awhile. Batman, for as tired as I’ve been of him in recent years, is better about this. Enemies like Deathstroke stand as his equal, but his most common enemies are very different from him, often in shape and size as well as methodology. Ra’s Al Ghul is one of the few people that can stand against Batman as an equal and consistently come away with both his freedom and his life, but he’s an exception. Batman’s best-known enemies are guys like The Riddler, The Penguin, and Joker; they’re formidable in their own ways, but no one would call any of them a mirror-image of the Dark Knight.
While this season of The Flash features Savitar (and The Reverse Flash!), I hope the writers can avoid falling into this pit again. Earth-CW’s Barry Allen has been betrayed by enough mentors already, and there are many more storylines the writers could tackle.
The Flash season 3 debuts on October 4 on The CW.