Wednesday 12 October 2016

Comics to Screen: The Flash 3-1 - Flashpoint

It's comicbook telly season again, and this time round, I'm going to try something a little different. Rather than review as much as I can find time for, I'm going to cherry-pick the odd episode here and there, review it and then take a look at the comic or character that inspired it.

So, we'll kick off with "Flashpoint," the first episode of The Flash season three. Which was, on the whole, entertaining, and appropriately fast-paced, but on the whole, dissatisfying. A lot of people weren't keen on Barry's choice to finally change his own past and save his mother from the Reverse-Flash. To be fair, I wasn't either, but mainly because he had finally gotten past this in one of the ebst episodes of the series so far, only for yet another tragedy to push him back over the edge. On the other hand, it's very hard to argue that it was actually the wrong decision, and this is where "Flashpoint" failed to convince me.

Throughout, Barry is told that his changing of history is wrong, and will have consequences. But he's told this by Thawne, the Reverse-Flash himself, who explicitly changed history by killing Barry's mum in the first place. You can't play the "You can't change history, not one line!" tack when it's already been changed. Barry's actions put events back on their original course, or near enough. There's all this hand-wringing over how terrible this new timeline is... except it's not. It's better, for the most part. Yes, Joe's got a drinking problem, and Wally gets himself stabbed due to his, entirely in character, extreme cockiness. But both Barry's parents are alive and happy, and his dad hasn't spent half his life in prison. Cisco is rich, and Caitlyn is successful (who's honestly saying that being a paediatric ophthalmologist isn't a great thing to be doing?) Iris is her normal, fairly uninteresting self. She says she's felt that things are "off," but it's hard to understand why that is. It maks Barry's eventual decision to send Thawne back and allow him to murder his mother again utterly baffling.

There is a lot of fun to be had here. It's great to see Wally finally get to be Kid Flash, even if it does turn out to be just for this one episode. Carlos Valdes is great as super-rich Cisco - I love how Cisco turns out to be a prick in every alternative reality. There should be a version of him in Supergirl's world who's an utter douche. Iris and Barry's relationship is more believable than before without the slightly creepy pseudo-sibling thing going on. On the other hand, I'm still massively underwhelmed by the Matt Letscher version of Thawne. Tom Cavanagh's cooler, creepier portrayal as Wells/Thawne remains superior.

It's interesting to see Barry essentially playing the villain here. While I'm not sold on the endangering time aspect, he seriously crosses a line by keeping Thawne prisoner. It's actually not that different from Star Labs' questionable metahuman containment, but even more disturbing. What the hell was he planning on actually doing with the guy? Plus, he's a bit stalky around Iris. It's all resolved too quickly though. This could have lasted for weeks, with more cracks appearing in the positive new timeline each episode. It could have actually sold the concept that things had been damaged by the interference. Of course, the CW can't do that because it'll have a knock-on impact on their other superhero shows, but that would have worked. The Legends of Tomorrow would have detected the timeline change and been brought back into the fold. Arrow could have been interesting for a few weeks. Instead, we got one episode of slightly underwhelming fun, and while there are seemingly still some consequences for Barry's life, it's hard to shake the feeling ti could have been more.


Back in 2011, DC decided to do one of their massive, convoluted events to try to clean up continuity once and for all. As always, this actually made it all much more complicated and contrived, but still, Flashpoint did have some pretty cool ideas. It ran as a limited series, but crossed over into most of DC's flagship titles. Like the TV episode, it sees Barry's world changed so that his mother is alive, but otherwise the changes are much more significant on the page. Barry never became the Flash, which makes more sense, since the initial event that changed him never happened. Captain Cold is Central City's greatest hero, which would have been amazing to see on screen. Thomas Wayne was never killed, and is Batman. Things are going wrong in complicated ways and need to be sorted out, over many issues. 

Flashpoint was basically a way to shake things up in the comics for a while, before rebooting the DC universe to make it, supposedly, simpler and more accessible, as The New 52. Since then, it's been un-rebooted, and made more complicated than ever, in the DC Rebirth event. Oh, and it's been revealed that it wasn't Barry who changed history. It was Dr. Manhattan, because, you know, screw logic.

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