Valentine’s Day was more than two weeks ago, but you’d never know it from watching The Flash this week. With the show set on Valentine’s Day itself, the Scarlet Speedster and his friends at STAR Labs found themselves too busy fighting in Gorilla City on Earth 2 to celebrate the holiday. Upon returning home to Central City – and welcomed to “Friend’s Day” as H.R. Wells says the holiday is called on Earth 19 – they more than made up for it. Even though this week’s second half of the Gorilla City two-partner, ‘Attack on Central City’, hinged on the invasion of Earth 1 by Grodd and his gorilla army in full-on War of the Planet of the Apes fashion, there was more than a whiff of love in the air. Maybe those talking gorillas were emitting some sort of pheromone because the human cast of The Flash romantically paired off in pleasing fashion.
For all of its remarkable superhero action that feels ripped right from the pages of the comics, The Flash‘s true heart lies in the humanity of its characters. This is a calling card of all of the Arrowverse shows executive produced by Greg Berlanti, of course, but The Flash has lately managed to strike a remarkable balance between comic book-style theatrics and genuinely sweet and heartfelt human interaction. The Arrowverse shows are essentially soap operas, with the superheroes and their supporting cast dealing with intricate personal relationships in between battling super villains and saving the world. Romance, especially, is a tricky subject for superheroes, but The Flash is doing it right.
Supergirl is only now attempting to explore what a relationship would entail for Kara Danvers; on one hand, she has found a fellow alien exiled on Earth with whom she can be physically intimate, but it’s Mon-El – a well-meaning but infuriatingly self-centered frat boy hiding a secret from her. J’onn J’onzz found a fellow Martian hiding on Earth, but M’gann M’orzz is actually of the enemy White Martian race and returned to the red planet – talk about a long distance relationship! As they experience the ups and downs of getting to know each other, the inspiring LGBTQ relationship between Alex Danvers and Maggie Sawyer is the brightest light of love on Supergirl. (Winn does also deserve props for getting an alien girlfriend who’s into him.)
Over on Earth 1, The Flash‘s forerunner, Arrow, hasn’t been a beacon of hope with its titular hero, Oliver Queen, unable to find a way to have a stable relationship in his five years seeking justice in Star City. His supporting cast has largely followed suit, with Felicity’s new boyfriend being murdered (by Oliver, who was tricked by the Big Bad of the season, Prometheus) and Mr. Terrific’s marriage ending because of lies he’s told about his secret life as a vigilante. John and Lyla Diggle are a committed couple and loving parents, and yet they rarely see each other. The Legends of Tomorrow hook up during time traveling missions but nothing about their lives or their disparate personalities lends itself to a stable relationship.
By contrast, what’s happening on The Flash is all the more amazing. Even with the pressures and dangers they face weekly, nearly every character on the show actively makes time for, or at least strives for the chance to be, in a healthy relationship. And for the most part, it’s working out for them!
Barry and Iris
The Flash has been clear from the outset that Barry Allen and Iris West are destined to be together. They’re married in the comics, and dispite offering speed bumps in the beginning, the show hasn’t wavered from this same trajectory. It was right there in the first episode, when we saw the newspaper headline from 2024 written by Iris West-Allen. Unlike Arrow, where Oliver never quite got – and may never get – the romance with Black Canary comics fans hoped for, Barry and Iris admirably seems to be the series’ endgame by design.
Barry has grown up a lot in season 3. He finally put aside his guilt over his mother’s murder and from the damage he caused by creating the alternate Flashpoint timeline. At last, forgiven by his friends, Barry’s reward is his heart’s desire: he declared his love for Iris and she reciprocated. They’ve moved in together, they’re committed and affectionate, and Barry’s life’s mission at this point is to prevent the future timeline he witnessed where Iris is murdered by the evil speed god Savitar. ‘Attack on Central City’ opened with Barry romantically filling their home with flowers and ended with him filling their home with candles as he popped the question on bended knee to Iris. Of course, she said yes.
Barry and Iris’s relationship is the best in superhero TV or movies right now. No one comes close to them. They support each other, bring out the best in each other, and they behave like responsible adults. They’re clearly in love, but they are also best friends, and they are happy together. The Flash doesn’t wallow in the usual superhero tropes that the hero has to lie to his lover to “protect” her, or that being a superhero means Barry is destined to be alone and unhappy, that love is a futile goal. Barry and Iris fight for each other. Iris knows everything about Barry; she is all in and stands beside him during good times and during the worst crises. Iris gladly serves as Barry’s moral compass, like this week when she argued against his desire to kill Grodd, encouraging him to remain true to the best version of himself. In return, Barry is completely devoted to Iris. He literally plans to make a better future for the two of them. Barry and Iris are goals, not just among superheroes, but for the real live humans watching them.
Wally and Jesse
One of the coolest things about Wally West is that he chooses to model himself after the positive things he sees from his loved ones. When he gained his superspeed, he wanted to be a hero like The Flash. He sees the happy relationship his older sister is in with Barry, and the same from his father Joe and his girlfriend Cecile, and he wants the same for himself with his ideal match and fellow speedster Jesse Quick. And Jesse is game for the same. Honestly, how lucky can Wally get? The Flash’s super sidekick has it all. No wonder he’s so happy these days.
Wally has come a long way from the surly teen he was in season 2, or earlier this season when Jesse got her superspeed and Wally fumed about being stuck in the slow lane. Jesse initially returned to Earth 2 to be with her father, Harry, but after their ordeal in Gorilla City, Jesse succumbed to Wally’s awkwardly sincere declarations of affection – hey, his favorite movie is Casablanca, after all – and chose to remain on Earth 1 to be with him. Jesse saw right through her father’s underhanded scheme to get her to change her mind and stood up to him. Jesse even wants to move right in with Wally right away – the girl moves fast. Wally and Jesse are remarkably cute together, but like Barry and Iris, they also seem to challenge each other to be better heroes and better people.
Cisco and Gypsy
Caitlin Snow was just consoling a lamenting Cisco Ramon that the perfect woman for him was right around the corner when Gypsy (who was mind controlled by Grodd) vibed right into STAR Labs and attacked. Not that this deterred Cisco one bit from using his charms on Gypsy. Since the moment they met a few episodes ago and were forced to duel to the death, Cisco knew that he and Gypsy, a bounty hunter from Earth 19 with the same superpowers as he – were made for each other. The attraction is mutual, though Gypsy seems loathe to admit it.
Cisco’s unfettered desire for Gypsy amusingly brings out his lothario side, and it’s been great. Long a stand-in for the geeky comic book fan in the audience, Cisco also has a streak of bravery that routinely emerges under pressure, heralding the superhero he’s destined to eventually become. Bottom line is, when it comes to the ladies – and especially Gypsy – Cisco’s got game, even if most of his game is a smoldering look and confidently declaring to Gypsy “you’re so into me!” over and over. The funny thing is, it worked! For all the effort Gypsy expended in keeping her cards close to her chest, she really does seem to like him. Not enough to stick around Earth 1 full time, maybe, but she planted a big kiss on Cisco’s lips before bailing through a dimensional breach. Still, Cisco is an example of effort and sincerity being rewarded. He has to end up with Gypsy someday; they really were made for each other.
Joe and Cecile
While everyone at STAR Labs frets over the latest metahuman crisis, Joe West is right there with them every week, but that hasn’t stopped him from pursuing a relationship with Central City’s D.A. Cecile Horton at the same time. Though the crazy stuff involving The Flash and his Rogues seeps into their relationship on occasion, Joe and Cecile have still been successful in keeping their private lives separate for the most part. That doesn’t mean Joe can’t coax his son to impress Cecile’s daughter as Kid Flash when she’s visiting, but Joe has wisely kept this side of his life away from The Flash. As a result, he and Cecile are still going strong.
Sadly, there are a few on The Flash left out of romance at the moment. Caitlin, who lost her fiance Robbie Raymond in season 1, is still dealing with trying to keep her burgeoning superpowers from overtaking her and turning her into Killer Frost. However, she does have an interested suitor in Julian Alpert, though he’s sometimes the super villain Alchemy and he’s usually lacking in charm regardless. They’re currently The Flash‘s “will they or won’t they?” pairing. H.R. Wells also has no love prospects, but he seems content to provide comic relief and document everything happening for his “novels.”
Cross the aisle to the Marvel Universe and there’s nothing to compare to the depth of happy coupling going on in The Flash. Iron Man? Miserable without Pepper Potts. Thor? Jane Foster is missing in action. Captain America? Hiding in Wakanda far from Sharon Carter. Not much romance is happening for the rest of the Avengers, The Defenders on Netflix aren’t doing much better, things are always dire for the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and we know from Drax laughing at Peter Quill in the first Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 trailer that Star-Lord’s love life is “pathetic.”
The Flash is a true rarity in the way the series deftly and wonderfully handles its characters’ romantic relationships. It took three seasons to build up to this point, but it’s refreshing to now see so many characters in a superhero series pursuing healthy relationships and are allowed to be happy – for however long it lasts. This is the superhero genre, after all. Violence and tragedy come with the territory. Still, what The Flash excels at is allowing its heroes to seize the moment and to hold onto love and happiness for as long as they can, and fight for it as hard as they can. Red is the color of The Flash, but this is a superhero show that truly wears its heart on its sleeve.