Over the past three years, The Flash has gone to great lengths to introduce a wide variety of Earths and timelines that are quite similar, usually with small but quite distinct differences to set them apart. Sure, we have the Flashpoint timeline that totally messed everything up, but sometimes changes can be so small that we overlook them at first. In the recent episode called "The Once and Future Flash," we got what was either the hint of a weird twist in the not-too-distant future... or a continuity error. Check it out:
In "The Once and Future Flash," Barry raced eight years into the future to try and find a way to stop Iris from being murdered by Savitar. When he got there, he discovered that his pals went through a lot of changes, and most of them pretty awful. One person who did well for himself was H.R. Wells, who we saw owned his own coffee establishment, became a successful author on Earth-1, and earned a legion of amorous fans. The twist comes with the fact that the books and signs advertising Wells all have his face printed on them.
As longtime Flash fans will remember, Harrison Wells is known as a villain on Earth-1 due to his actions in the earlier days of the series. In fact, the show had to invent a special kind of Earth-19 technology to explain why H.R. could wander around Earth-1 without anybody noticing. On Earth-1, we may see Tom Cavanagh's face when we look at H.R., but the public sees him with a face constructed by a light refraction device. The tech has allowed H.R. to continue to be played by Tom Cavanagh without requiring fans to suspend all belief about Central City folks not recognizing him.
That said, the photos in the episode didn't have any light refracting properties. H.R. using his own likeness on the books and signs in the future timeline of "The Once and Future Flash" could point toward the effects of Barry making big changes in the timeline, whether in the past to affect Wells 1.0 or Thrawne, or in events that take place between the present timeline and the eight years in the future.
We may not have gotten foreboding music or H.R. gazing sinisterly into the camera in the tag of the episode to clue us in that something bad has happened, but The Flash could be playing a long game. Who knows? Maybe the recent Savitar reveal wasn't all that it seemed, and perhaps H.R. is more involved than we're led to believe.
Or, the folks behind the scenes at The Flash goofed when designing the props for "The Once and Future Flash." H.R. happily surrounded by pictures of his own face made for a funny gag in an episode that was otherwise pretty depressing; I wouldn't be shocked if the show wanted to go for the laugh rather than remember that we're not actually supposed to see H.R.'s real face out in the open. After all, the gag wouldn't have worked if we saw Tom Cavanagh's face as he performed and a random extra's face in the photos.
My money is on a continuity goof from The Flash, but stranger things than timeline changes have happened on the show. The only thing I'm really sure of is that Barry needs some kind of shock collar to zap him every time he thinks about time travel. Alternately, I would be on board with Oliver taking a break from Arrow to shoot him full of arrows every time he considers a trip to a different timeline. Nothing else seems to have worked to remind him that he tends to make things worse when he messes with past or future timelines.
Tune in to The CW on Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET to catch new episodes of The Flash and see if there's any more to the H.R. pics from "The Once and Future Flash," and don't forget to check out our summer TV premiere schedule to discover all your viewing options now and in the coming weeks. Be sure to drop by our rundowns for cable/streaming and broadcast TV renewals and cancellations as well.