Ever since it was revealed in the pilot that Harrison Wells hails from the future, time travel has been looming in the background on The Flash, alluded to but not directly addressed. With Barry Allen growing more experienced with his powers each time he goes out to fight crime in Central City, it was only a matter of time before he discovered this particular facet of his speed. After months of teasing this concept to the audience, Barry will finally travel through time during an upcoming episode, and this is going to open up new paths for the show, both good and bad.
Described by executive producer Andrew Kreisberg as a mash-up between Terminator and Back to the Future, The Flash will combine the best and worst aspects of time travel, according to EW. This will provide one of the show’s funnier moments, but will also lead it down a dark path. Grant Gustin recently compared the episode in question to the 1993 movie Groundhog Day, which saw Bill Murray as Phil Connors reliving the same day over and over again. Said Gustin:
It’s a complete accident the first time [he time travels]. It’s really confusing because now we’re playing with timelines and we’re having to shoot things a couple different ways. It’s like a Groundhog Day-type element. It’s really funny and really exciting.
At first Barry will be the only one aware of the time travel situation, which understandably freaks him out. Eventually, the others will learn about what he’s done, which will include a humorous scene involving Cisco explaining Barry's new ability to Joe using the time travel films like the ones previously mentioned as a guide. As anyone would do if they learned to time travel, Barry will also try to figure out how he can use this power to his advantage, with one particular goal in mind, according to Gustin.
He realizes, ‘Holy shit, this an opportunity to change things with my family’s past.’ He doesn’t know yet to maybe not do that, but that’s where Barry’s at when he realizes what he’s just learned that he can do, that he can maybe save his mom.
Spoilers from the comics ahead!
Time travel has been an important part of The Flash mythos for decades, with most of the speedsters using the Cosmic Treadmill to travel long distances. Notable exceptions were in the 2008 story The Flash: Rebirth, when his fight with Professor Zoom led to them actually becoming the lighting bolt that originally struck Barry and gave him his powers, and the 2011 story Flashpoint, when he goes back in time to stop his mother from being killed, leading to a distorted DC timeline being created. The latter could indicate a similar scenario for the TV series.
In “The Man In The Yellow Suit,” Cisco deduced that the red and yellow lightning that Barry saw the night his mother was murdered was the two speedsters with each other. This likely means that at some point, Barry will go back in time to prevent the Reverse-Flash from killing Nora Allen. If Flashpoint is any indication, the ramifications of this could be disastrous. In attempting to fix his own life, Barry could inadvertently end up screwing everyone else.
You can catch The Flash Tuesdays at 8/7c on The CW.