WARNING: This article contains SPOILERS for The Flash
The makers of The Flash promised to reveal Savitar’s true identity, and they did. Barry Allen’s greatest enemy yet is… Barry Allen? That’s right, the villain who claimed to be “the future, Flash” turned out to actually be “the future Flash.” But even if it was a twist that plenty of fans had already uncovered, the confirmation that Savitar was the future Barry Allen gives the viewers a chance to strap in for the third season’s race to the finish. Because knowing that he’s going to have to beat himself is one thing… but Barry actually pulling it off is another.
Fortunately, the minds behind the show have been planning this final run for some time, and judging by the words and promises already being thrown around, there’s reason to get excited. Suspense and mysteries are all well and good, but if The Flash and Grant Gustin himself can make the most of this new development, there’s no reason they can’t deliver on the promise of Barry Allen’s “darkest villain” to date.
Speaking with EW, executive producer Andrew Kreisberg explained how the writers’ room came up with the twist, having already had friendly character revealed to be the show’s latest villain. First came Harrison Wells, followed by Jay Garrick, and now even the hero himself is his own worst enemy. If it seems like a challenge to make that fresh, Kreisberg seems to be up for it:
“What’s really cool for anyone who thought that there wasn’t a plan, or we didn’t know, or we were making this up as we go, this was always where we were heading.
“The idea that the darkest villain we could come up with was actually a very damaged version of our hero was interesting and fresh to us. We’re not only competing with all the stuff that we’ve done on Flash, but we’re always competing with everything we’ve done on all the other shows. So to have our lead actor be both the hero and the villain isn’t something we’ve done before, so that was exciting for us as storytellers.”
There’s a case to be made for Kreisberg’s argument – even if some fans have spent enough time in science fiction or fantasy to run into the notion that ‘the hero’s greatest enemy is… themselves’ more than a few times. Especially in modern comic book TV and movies (we’ve lost count of the number of privileged-but-damaged archers Arrow has gone up against). But it sounds like Barry Allen’s speed won’t actually be the common link between the hero he is, and the villain he could become. That, as is usually the case with The Flash, begins with his loved ones.
By now Barry and his fellow metahumans have taken on dozens of enemies, ranging from corrupt citizens to criminals given new gifts with which to terrorize. And so far, the show has spent little time trying to understand the origin stories that lead to those points… or what happens to those metahuman villains once they lose their fights with justice. That’s a black-and-white moral perspective that this future, villainous Barry will hope to challenge, according to Kreisberg:
“In an upcoming episode, when Barry is talking about Savitar, he says that so many of these bad guys that we’ve fought, I didn’t understand why they were doing what they were doing… But when Barry looks at Savitar, he sees it and he kind of understands it.
“It’s a real ‘There but for the grace of God go I.’ It creates an interesting paradigm because Savitar has probably done as much, if not more, to hurt them as any villain they’ve ever come up against, and yet Barry has a measure of sympathy for him. It’s a really interesting new dynamic that’s certainly very different from his relationship with Wells/Thawne in season 1 and Zoom in season 2.”
Some viewers may criticize the notion that Barry Allen’s sympathy is only truly triggered when the tortured, tormented villain he stands against is a version of himself (it’s hard to claim compassion when you’re thinking of yourself – even a future version of yourself). But we’re interested to see how well the writers can pull it all off. The proof will rest in the rest of the third season, and just how different this timeline-hopping, malevolent, scheming speedster with personal ties to Barry Allen will be. There’s reason to believe the writers and producers can make it worthwhile, but fans who feel that the third secret-villain-identity-reveal-twist isn’t the charm won’t likely be swayed.
Fortunately, we know that the fourth season of The Flash won’t have a speedster villain pulling the strings of our heroes. Until then, there’s no choice but to sit back, and enjoy the show of star Grant Gustin playing twice the parts. He’s sold fans on a heartwarming hero, but Kreisberg says that the job of creating a new character based on Barry, but scarred physically and emotionally by losing the people he loves has raised Gustin to “a whole new speed” sure to surprise audiences. Here’s hoping!
The Flash airs Tuesdays @8pm on The CW.