Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but The Flash is first and foremost a family drama. Sure, its most recent episode, “Rupture,” showed us the seasons’ now-lackluster big bad Zoom murdering a bunch of Earth-1 cops thus forcing Team Flash into a potentially life-or-death choice about how to respond. However, it was really an episode about two brothers (Cisco and the very little-seen Dante Ramon) being bonded by yet another brush with death, and a young hero turning to his three mentors/father figures for advice on how he should respond to the latest bit of extreme adversity thrown his way.
That’s all fine and good. It really is. There was even romance in the cards this week, with Iris finally opening up to Barry about her feelings for him. However, frankly, I’m a little distracted at the moment because I am still so stunned by what happened in that final scene:
They killed The Flash!
Okay. Fine. We know they didn’t actually kill The Flash. The trailer for next week’s episode instantly gave that away. Beyond that, we can simply guess that a show called The Flash wouldn’t actually kill off The Flash, even if after that particle accelerator explosion Wally and Jesse are possibly set up to now become the speedsters they are in the comics. Still, though, the image of Barry’s skin literally burning away as the dark matter appeared to consume his body followed by the devastated and dumbfounded looks on the faces of everyone on Team Flash, particularly Harry who had been so certain it would work, was an insane gut punch.
You knew that things were going to go a little ka-ka, but the writers had successfully engineered a scenario where Barry seemingly had no other choice. I predicted last week that other people would end up with powers because of this new particle accelerator experiment, although I predicted it would be Caitlin (not Wally and Jesse). So, seeing it go south, and directly impacting someone other than Barry wasn’t a surprise. Watching Barry seemingly die in the most horrific way possible, though, well that was a bit of a holy shit!
Here’s the problem: I don’t know if we’re going to like the explanation.
Potential Spoilers for next week’s episode
When I first became aware of The Flash through Justice League/Justice League Unlimited, Young Justice and the New 52 comics the thing which caught me most off-guard was the notion of a “speed force.” What do you mean there’s some kind of universal energy he taps into to get his speed? What the hell is this, Doctor Strange? Don’t make things so needlessly metaphysical. Barry Allen was an ordinary guy. Then he had an accident. Now he’s super fast. Bada-bing, bada-boom, you’re good to go.
But that’s just not how The Flash rolls, or zooms about or whatever pun you might want to use. The speed force is insanely important in the comics just as it has been in the various animated iterations of the character. The Flash has touched on the speed force a couple of times, and earlier this season when Trajectory ran so fast she disappeared multiple fans speculated she didn’t die but instead entered the speed force. For the non comic book-literate, though, that answer made no sense, but as it turns out it was an example of the show setting us up for this big twist it had in its back pocket.
Luckily, ScreenRant put together a fairly concise breakdown of the speed force in its “Rupture” review.
Things start to get a little weird, but you’ll have to bear with us. Mainly, because DC writers have seemed to only agree on one thing: the Speed Force, by definition, is hard to actually explain. But the basics are as follows:
- The Speed Force is like a river, flowing energy to Barry and his fellow speedsters.
- Like a river, a speedster may attempt to follow the energy back to its source.
- To do that, they have to run faster than light, faster than anything, running backwards through time itself.
- When the Speed Force barrier is broken, the speedster is at risk of losing themselves completely, and being re-absorbed into its depths.
- For Wally, Jay and Barry, it’s their wives who were able to pull them back to reality (their ‘lightning rods’).
- In the Speed Force, time, space, and reality become… well, as weird as the writer wants them to be.
In certain comics, the speed force has actually become a place seen over by a grim reaper-like figure, and that appears to be what they’re going for in next week’s episode when Barry is stuck in some other reality, quarreling with someone who looks like Joe but claims to be someone else. The more important thing, though, is that it is through learning how to tap into the speed force that speedsters can truly become faster in the Flash universe, and that is likely where The Flash is taking this, with Barry emerging from the experience faster and more capable of defeating Zoom.
For my own personal preference, the whole idea of the speed force needlessly complicates things, but on a show where the hero’s method of defeating the villain is pretty much always some variation on “just run faster than them” perhaps they felt the need to more directly define “and here’s where you go to learn how to be faster.”
1. So, Henry Allen’s mother’s maiden’s name was Garrick. Nope. That won’t turn out to be important. Not at all.
2. Zoom has seen the darkness inside of Caitlin? When? When specifically did he note some untapped darkness in Caitlin Snow? I seriously want to know. She has been such a non-entity this season that the notion of him attempting to tempt her to the dark side based on something he thinks he saw deep inside of her during their courtship is laughable to me. What’s he going to say? “Oh, yeah, when you felt so much emotional anguish over tricking Grodd, I could tell you had a little supervillain in ya’.”
3. They’re Not Wrong: TV Guide made an interesting argument that Flash season 2 has been way too guilty of cutting-and-pasting its major plot points from season 1, from the “our close friends is secretly the villain” to “we can defeat him by turning on the particle accelerator.”
4. Interesting Choice: I had mostly forgotten about Cisco’s brother, and it went against the grain for this show to reveal that after their near-death experience last season they actually weren’t drawn any closer together. Of course, they’re close now. Turns out, it takes two near-death experiences for the Ramon boys to patch things up.