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Spoiler alert for anyone who hasn't yet watched The Flash's Season 3 premiere.
With its Season 3 premiere, The Flash really throws down the gauntlet to anyone still on the fence about this show, as it pulled together all of the high-concept basics doled out over the previous two seasons and threw them into the time-travel blender. And unfortunately for Barry, he probably won't be able to put all the pieces back the same way they fit together the first time. "Flashpoint" managed to give Barry a few fleeting months of happiness in certain ways, but his new alt-reality eventually imploded around him, and as it usually goes, Barry was the cause for most of his own emotional woes.
It all started in the Season 2 finale, of course, when Barry's overwhelming grief caused him to go back and completely revert his own life so that he could exist as an adult with his two parents still living and married. He gets a blanket pass for that one, though, since it kicked this season off. But one of the first things we see him do in the episode is attempt to bring his timelines together by staging an interaction with Iris. It makes sense from a character perspective, since Barry loves Iris in every universe, but all this does is draw him into the West family drama happening in "Flashpoint," and that's part of what ruins all the things.
As a Central City PD employee, Barry obviously had a connection to Joe already waiting for him - it's worth a different story just to talk about how Barry might have ended up in a different occupation entirely with both of his parents around - though it might have stayed innocent enough had he just let Joe get his job-avoiding drunk on. But because Barry stuck around Iris, he discovered that there was another Flash in this world - Wally West as a non-nicknamed Flash that definitely isn't Kid Flash - and he took it upon himself to help Wally battle the Rival Flash, inevitably leading to Wally getting shanked. And because Barry loses his memories the more he uses his speed, having to save the day as the Scarlet Speedster (combined with the help of Miracle Joe's bullet) takes its toll.
Alas, Barry comes to the realization that he cannot make it through this timeline any longer, thanks to a combination of brand new tragedies and the anomaly of his other-timeline memories getting erased from his brain. Instead of just being able to flip a quick switch, though, Barry has to actually make a formal request to Reverse-Flash for the villain to go back and kill Nora, which presents as disturbing a headspace as any Flash character has ever showcased. In the end, Barry has to once again live through the death of his mother, while returning to a timeline in which his father is once again dead. Ugh.
That's a scenario that sucks on all fronts, to be sure, but then it's topped off by that forehead-smacker of a cliffhanger in which we find out that in Barry's "real" timeline, Iris is now an estranged member of the West family. That's a gigantic change that he obviously didn't expect, and so we're probably going to see the fast-footed hero trying to figure out how to go back in time to save her from family turmoil. Thankfully, though, executive producer Andrew Kreisberg has said that part of the goal with the Flashpoint arc is to cement some of the repercussions of time travel and have it so that some things stay broken when history gets distorted. I doubt the show keeps Iris away from Joe and Wally for an extended period, but it'll be interesting to see how it gets resolved, and what has to go wrong in order for that to happen. Not to mention all the other things have been changed.
Also, if we're keeping count, Barry committed a felony when he kidnapped Caitlin to bring her to Cisco's lab, as well as when he took Joe to work. He even got called out for the former being a dumb move, which never happens. As well, he completely messed with the lives of everyone he talked to in that alternate timeline, and there was something kind of depressing about Wally saying he didn't start existing just because of Barry. (Maybe you had to think about it too long like I did.)
Reverse-Flash is really the cause for Barry's tragedy-filled life, of course - at least that's how Barry sees it - although the timelines complicate that attribution of guilt. Still, it's Barry whose actions we're watching on a weekly basis, and it's Barry whose decisions are constantly mucking things up. And Reverse-Flash even warned Barry early on in the episode that time would end up catching up to him, since time cannot be defeated. Good on Barry for keeping his enemies as close as his friends here, but he should have also known that accepting surprising sage advice would be a part of that deal. Hopefully he'll figure out a way to solve some problems as he continues making them.
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