Over the course of The Flash, we've been treated to several views of the Speed Force that gives the many (many) speedsters of the multiverse their abilities. Well, at the end of Season 3, our own Barry Allen took an extended trip into the dimension to stop Central City, and possibly all of existence, from being ripped apart when there was no speedster to occupy the Speed Force Prison. So, now that Season 4 of The Flash is underway and Barry has finally been freed from the Speed Force, we really have some questions about what living in that weird, extra-dimensional time and space is like.
How much of Barry's own future did he see?
When Barry was finally released from the Speed Force there were a lot of things different about him, and he spent a large part of the episode quite unlike the old Barry Allen we all know and love. One of the things that was hard to miss about him once he got home, were his wild, seemingly random, ramblings. Along with a lot of rhyming and some talk about "melting stars," before Barry snapped out of it, he said "we're gonna need more diapers" and also dropped a "Your honor, I'm innocent. I didn't do this. I didn't kill anybody." I know, right?
Now, it seems likely that Barry's words about diapers will refer to his future with Iris and them having children some day, but we don't know why Barry would ever be accused of killing someone (though we did see Barry in jail when he took a trip through the Speed Force in the Season 1 finale). Either way, it's clear that Barry saw at least some of his future during his six months in the Speed Force, so the big question is, just how much of his future was he allowed to see? In his short time as a super-powered crime fighter, Barry has already seen some tough times, so it would seem that any significant looks at his future would include some pretty rough stuff. And, that's exactly the kind of thing that could lead to Barry going into shock and popping out of the Speed Force with a serious case of memory loss.
Was Barry always alone in the Speed Force?
When Team Flash finally gets Barry back only to see that he's loopy as hell from his time in the Speed Force, one of Caitlin's theories as to why he's so messed up is the fact that he spent so much time alone, but was Barry actually alone? Sure, as far as we know there weren't any speedsters, regular humans or other entities in there with him, but we also know that the Speed Force itself is sentient and capable of communicating with those who inhabit it. If the Season 2 episode "The Runaway Dinosaur" taught us anything, it's that the Speed Force can embody a whole host of humans to get its point across to someone.
When the Speed Force appeared as Barry's mom Nora to take him during the Season 3 finale one of the things it said to him was "it's time to rest," and that implies that, even though Barry saw his time away as penance for starting the whole Flashpoint mess, the Speed Force didn't see this as a complete punishment. Spending six months totally alone, with no one to talk to and with only visions of your own past and future to keep you company sounds like hell, but if the Speed Force really wanted Barry to rest, wouldn't it have at least communicated with him while he was there? Are those weird symbols he was writing some Speed Force language that he learned while he was away? Or, did something else find a way to talk with Barry in this extra-dimensional space? If he had contact with aliens or some other entity, that could have scrambled his brain a bit just like being alone would have.
Did the Speed Force let Barry poop?
I know what you're saying to yourself right now, but let's not pretend that you weren't thinking the same thing. And, this leads to a whole range of basic questions about life in the Speed Force, specifically the Speed Force Prison that Barry was in. Common wisdom in the world of The Flash says that those stuck in the Speed Force don't age. For Barry, or anyone else stuck in the Speed Force, for that matter, to stay there without aging, it would mean that they're either stuck in a time loop or outside of time itself. This would mean that nothing about you would change while you're in there. So, as long as you weren't hungry when you went in (or had recently pooped) you'd be fine the entire time in the Speed Force. Do you see where I'm going with this? I'd be totally cool with the idea of Barry not aging, needing to eat, poop or shower except for one glaring bit of evidence to the contrary: Barry's Speed Force beard.
OK, stay with me here. If Barry was stuck in a time loop or outside of time during his six months in the Speed Force, how in the hell did he grow a damn beard? If things changed enough for him to need to shave in order to stay fuzz free, then wouldn't he have gotten hungry, thirsty, or, yes, needed to poop? The Speed Force didn't let him shave, so why would it have let him go to the bathroom? Are there even any decent facilities in the Speed Force that you can use without, like, buying a t-shirt you don't really want just to prove you're a customer? Of course, this whole line of questioning supposes one thing: that Barry's beard didn't grow instantaneously once he ran free from the Speed Force. It didn't appear to, but I realize that doesn't automatically mean anything, as we can never be entirely sure of the rules in cases like this until The Flash decides to spell them out for us. For now, though, I tend to think that Barry's time away wasn't quite as cut and dry as the other speedsters who've been stuck in the Speed Force.
Did Barry have to run the whole time?
So, is it just me, or did it seem kinda odd when Barry finally got out of the Speed Force and he was already running so fast that he totally overshot Central City and didn't stop until he was 300 miles away on a country road? Why would he have been running so fast right out of the gate? This is especially curious, considering how Nora Force told him it was time to rest. Though, to be honest, I wouldn't put it past the Speed Force to tell Barry that just to make his entry into Speed Force Prison a bit smoother.
It's not just his immediate, unchecked speed upon his return to Earth-1 that makes me think Barry was forced to run the whole six months he was gone. I'm sure we all noticed how, when Barry finally stopped running in front of that truck on that anonymous country road, that he was bare-ass naked. As we've seen, Cisco creates speedster suits that are specially made to handle the friction of running at superhuman speeds, but when Barry went into the Speed Force he was wearing regular clothes. Uh, did Barry actually run his clothes off while he was away? I realize that, seeing as how he actually got faster when he was gone, it wouldn't have taken a full six months for his clothing to be burned off, but the combo of him being naked and shooting out of the Speed Force at full tilt make me think he, at least, spent much of his time there running really fast.
How was Barry's Speed Force trip different from other speedsters?
When Jay and Wally were trapped in the Speed Force, they noted that it was hell. Wally, in particular, was forced to relive his mom's death over and over again. But, because Barry doesn't remember what happened while he was in there yet, we don't know what, specifically happened to him. He's the only speedster we know of who's left the Speed Force Prison with amnesia, facial hair, random rhyming word play, no clothes and what appears to be knowledge of a symbol-based language that's never been seen before. The big question now is why did Barry's time there affect him in such a way, especially if the Speed Force was telling the truth and it wanted him to rest while he was gone?
For now, we still have a lot of unanswered questions about Barry's time in Speed Force Prison, but I suspect we'll get some of these answers as the season goes on. Also, don't be surprised if the Speed Force is super pissed once it realizes it was tricked into thinking Barry was still trapped there, but has actually been set free. I fully expect there to be some sort of Speed Force retribution for this flagrant act at some point during Season 4, and that will likely be a trip to watch.
You can keep up with Barry, the rest of Team Flash and all their shenanigans inside and outside of the Speed Force when The Flash airs Tuesdays on The CW at 8 p.m. EST.