[WARNING: This post contains SPOILERS for The Flash series premiere, and potential spoilers for future episodes]
The series premiere of The Flash has come and gone, leaving viewers with one heck of a cliffhanger ending, and hints dropped at plenty of potential story lines – some of them downright Earth-shattering if the comic book source material is anything to go by. It’s expected that fans will be asking some serious questions the more they mull over the premiere: What lies in Barry’s future? What really happened in his past? And most importantly, who can he trust?
Thanks to the wealth of marketing and hints dropped by the producers and writers prior to the episode’s airing – and having had plenty of time to debate these questions since the pilot’s airing at Comic-Con 2014 – we’ve come up with a few possible theories in lieu of concrete answers.
We would obviously recommend viewers wait until they’ve seen the premiere for themselves so as to make their own judgements, and be warned that potential spoilers lie ahead (the show is based on a comic in print for half a century). But if you have a nagging question, hopefully we’ve got some possible explanations.
What’s With The Floating Water?
One of the first visual effects to appear in the premiere was the water floating up and out of a young Barry’s fish tank; revealed to be linked to the presence of a speedster within his home. That connection is likely accepted and forgotten by most viewers, but makes little sense when the effect is later seen moments before Barry is struck by lightning. And since the effect isn’t seen during any other use of superspeed in the show, something more is clearly at play.
Those familiar with Barry’s comic book history – specifically Geoff Johns’ “Rebirth” reboot – may know that the murder of Nora Allen and the lightning that struck Barry have something in common: a change in history. We’ll steer clear of spoilers since they’re not necessary to grasp the concept, but it seems plausible that the liquid effects are a sign not of superpowers, but that the fabric of space and time itself is being warped – or re-written.
If that’s the case, then the writers are biting off an even bigger chunk of time travel fiction than the premiere’s cliffhanger implied. Not to mention establishing a clear sign to viewers of just when Barry (or his enemy) is risking a serious ripple through history.
What’s in a Name?
Even lapsed fans of The Flash will know that the speedster’s arch-nemesis is – fittingly – the Reverse-Flash, while more dedicated readers will know that his real name is Eobard Thawne. So when Rick Cosnett was cast as ‘Detective Eddie Thawne,’ fan speculation spiked, presuming that the series – and Barry – had found its central antagonist. But the premiere depicts Thawne in a very different light; and that’s gotten us thinking.
Some might still believe that Thawne is actually ‘Professor Zoom,’ having already travelled back from the 25th century, and simply hiding in plain sight until the opportune moment. But given that Eobard Thawne isn’t born for a few centuries, it seems just as likely that Eddie simply is an ancestor of the iconic villain. His romantic relationships may give Barry a few headaches (or heartaches) but for fans looking for the central antagonist, we’d recommned looking elsewhere.
The Speed Force?
The explanation for Barry’s powers may seem like typical comic book fiction: bathed in unknown chemicals and struck by lightning, he becomes a ‘metahuman’ – blessed with an increased metabolism and perception. Throw in some strange theoretical physics, and who’s to say what is and isn’t possible? That was also the thinking in the original comic origin story, but would later be substantially expanded upon. It wasn’t just lightning that gave Barry his powers; it’s what connected his body to an extra-dimensional energy known as ‘The Speed Force.’
Before DC and WB sought to adapt The Flash, the time or detail placed into the Speed Force was one of our largest concerns. Would it be swept aside with a wave of the hand, or delved into head first? That question persists, since it’s Barry’s connection to the Speed Force which makes time travel possible. The official synopsis makes mention of Barry “tapping into an energy,” so it sounds like the writers will attempt to tackle the issue head on at some point. But given the lack of problems viewers have voiced with the existing explanation for Barry’s powers, it sounds like they’ve got some time before needing to further explore that ‘bolt of lightning.’
Dr. Wells’ Secret
The biggest surprise of The Flash‘s premiere certainly came in its closing moments. With Harrison Wells (Tom Cavanagh) shown to be not only able to walk, but possessing knowledge of the future – specifically Barry’s ‘vanishing’ – viewers and hardcore fans alike were left befuddled. We’ll list our questions about the ‘crisis’ referred to next, but for now, Wells’ secrets have to be one of the show’s biggest mysteries early on. But it’s possible the showrunners have thrown fans off the scent from the very start.
At this point, the notion of someone coming from the future, impacting Barry’s life, and doing it all with a smile on their face thanks to their twisted conclusion that it will ‘make Barry a better hero’ is established in the comics: it’s the Reverse-Flash modus operandi. Since Eobard Thawne was a brilliant scientist in his own rite, and there’s reason to believe Barry’s mother’s death was no accident, the writers are giving plenty of ‘Professor Zoom’ hints. It may seem odd, but if ‘Harrison Wells’ is merely an adopted identity (H.G. Wells wrote “The Time Machine” after all) then fans could see one heck of a twist before long.
Finally, “The Crisis.” The devoted Flash fans were left with their jaws on the floor when Wells’ newspaper revealed that the show’s writers weren’t just mentioning the 1985 “Crisis on Infinite Earths” as a target for the emotional impact of the series, but flat-out confirming it would be adapted in the show’s first episode. And that is even more important to The Flash than any other DC hero, since that story – red skies and all – ended with Barry’s death.
Let’s be clear: we don’t expect to see the “Crisis” story adapted in its entirety, since its scale and wealth of DC Comics characters are simply too colossal for even a feature film, let alone a TV series. But positioning the crisis as a decade away, and establishing early on that time can be twisted and history can be changed, the name-drop gives the writers their “thing to be avoided at all costs.” How they choose to use it remains to be seen, but those hoping to see a cross-network, cross-series culling of superhero characters should probably prepare themselves for disappointment.
Those are all the questions that we see as not just teased, but potentially influential down the line. Do our answers help you grapple with exactly what the writers are planning, or do you have your own theories? If so, feel free to share them in the comments.
The Flash airs Tuesdays @8pm on The CW.
Follow me on Twitter @andrew_dyce for updates on The Flash as well as movie, TV, and gaming news.