After changing the past and thus the future, Barry is now learning to live with a universe of his own making in The Flash season 3. And as we learned last week, a post-Flashpoint universe certainly includes some changes. For one, Barry has a new co-worker at the CCPD: meta-human CSI specialist Julian Albert, and though the two share a crime lab, they aren’t exactly chummy. Even more shocking was the reveal that Caitlin is now exhibiting powers — namely, the same heat-absorbing abilities of her Earth-2 doppelganger, Killer Frost — though no one, not even Cisco, seems to be aware of that fact.
And in ‘Magenta’ — written by Judalina Neira and David Kob and directed by Armen V. Kevorkian — even more superpowered characters are cropping up. There is, of course, the episode’s namesake: Magenta (Joey King), a new villain terrorizing Central City with her metal-manipulating powers. But Earth-2’s Harrison “Harry” Wells and his daughter Jesse are also returning, and as it turns out, Jesse is now a speedster. Though unlike Caitlin, Jesse’s new powers are not a side-effect of Barry tampering with the timeline, but rather the result of her being exposed to dark matter last season. Either way, season 3 is certainly increasing the number of superpowered individuals running around.
The Flash Family
Family has always been essential to The Flash. The importance of having a family and the bond forged between its members have been a part of the show since day one. And more often than not, the focus on family will deal directly with the relationship between parents and their children. ‘Magenta’ hit on that theme and hit it hard, using three separate parent/child relationships to illustrate how important a parent’s influence is to their children’s lives.
First, there’s the titular villain, Magenta, who is actually a young girl named Frankie with an abusive foster father. She’s been “gifted” her powers by Doctor Alchemy – just like Clariss/Rival before her, meaning that in the Flashpoint universe there was a Magenta with the power to manipulate metal. In this universe, however, she is a just a shy girl named Frankie who has been bounced around the foster care system. But it’s that fractured home life – and in particular her abusive father – which makes her vulnerable to Alchemy. It’s an interesting spin on the ‘villain of the week’ trope, having a villain who’s more victim than anything else, and it also stands as something a warning: without the proper attention, without guidance, there’s no telling what path a child will choose. And in this increasingly superpowered world, will they use their powers for good, or evil?
When discussing family and The Flash, it takes on a double meaning. Because in addition to family as a theme, there’s also the matter of the growing family of speedsters (what in the comics is known as the Flash Family). This week it was revealed that Jesse, Earth-2 Wells’ daughter has gained the Speed Force, and though it’s an exciting prospect for Jesse it’s absolutely terrifying for her father. Wells cautions his daughter from using her powers, stressing how dangerous the life of a crime fighter can be. This, of course, forces a rift between them and not until Caitlin spells it out for Harry does it click: “Maybe if you helped her navigate her powers rather than just assuming they’ll destroy her, maybe she’d turn to you rather than push you away.” Wells then decides to actually encourage Jesse, allowing her to be the hero and help Barry save the day. In the end, this proves to be the right decision, bringing father and daughter closer together but also giving way to Jesse realizing her full potential as a speedster and hero.
Just as Frankie/Magenta’s story was something of a cautionary tale, so is the struggle for Wells to come to terms with his daughter’s new powers. And hopefully, Joe has taken both examples to heart because it seems more than obvious Wally will become a speedster in this universe before the season is out. Not only is it something he desperately wants, he’s also been dreaming about it. And normally that wouldn’t be cause for alarm, but both Clariss and Frankie dreamt of their superpowered other selves before Alchemy came to them. Who’s to say the same won’t happen to Wally? Joe may have tried talking Wally out of wishing to be a speedster, but his recklessness when trying “jumpstart” his powers imply he’ll go to any length to become one.
“Magic Man In A Cloak”
By now we’ve seen two villains who were “created” by Doctor Alchemy – or the “magic man in a cloak who can somehow restore the powers that people had in Flashpoint.” And so far it’s been an interesting engine for making new villains for The Flash to fight every week, promising characters that lash out not necessarily because they’re evil or have evil intentions, but because they’re no longer themselves. Still, where this is all leading remains a mystery. What’s the purpose behind taunting The Flash each week with villains pulled from Flashpoint? Maybe it’s to continue reminding Barry of his failure, of that huge mistake he made by tampering with the timeline (again). But then who’s behind it?
And how would Wally fit in with this theory? The Wally of Flashpoint, Kid Flash, wasn’t a villain, so it isn’t as if granting Wally the speed he had in that universe would affect Barry in quite the same way as “resurrecting” Rival or Magenta. Which sadly only leaves one option for how turning this universe’s Wally into Kid Flash could be used to hurt Barry – if he were to meet the same fate as Flashpoint’s Wally. And the idea only becomes more heartbreaking when you factor in how learning that Barry is keeping the truth from Wally about him being Kid Flash in Flashpoint, may send him straight to Alchemy. Here’s hoping this theory is wrong, and Kid Flash is simply the next member of the Flash Family, but then again, it does follow a pattern of tragedy that seems to follow Barry (and especially after he’s meddled with the timeline).
Though ‘Magenta’ had its emotionally heavy moments, especially between parents and their kids, this episode was a return of a more light-hearted Flash than we’ve seen from season 3. There was Barry and Iris’ first date attempts, the growing workplace tension with Julian – which will surely turn into something more significant as the season continues – and the injected humor of bringing Wells (and Tom Cavanaugh, specifically) back into the Team Flash dynamic. That will likely be trend over for these next handful of episodes, as The Flash more or less returns to normal, but I imagine it won’t be too long before the next crisis. (On infinite Earths? Maybe just two?)
The Flash season 3 continues next Tuesday with ‘The New Rogues’ at 8PM on the CW. You can check out preview of the next episode, below: