Along with running really fast while wearing a red suit, time travel is one of Barry Allen’s calling cards, yet Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is doing time travel better than The Flash. Both TV series have been on the air for years now, and while The Flash is arguably the most giddily comic-book-y of all of the superhero shows on the air, S.H.I.E.L.D. season 5 has taken on the Fastest Man Alive at his own game and is handily winning this unofficial Battle of Time Travel Tales.
It was certainly unexpected that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. would go full-stop into an epic about time travel to the future and a Terminator-style causality loop about the heroes attempting to save Earth from what appears to be a pre-destined destruction by one of their own Agents, Daisy “Quake” Johnson. This is par for the course with S.H.I.E.L.D., however, as the Marvel series uncannily reinvents itself every season and sticks its fingers in the pot of different genres while steadfastly remaining a show about super-spies fighting evil in the MCU. Season 5’s time travel saga is their most ambitious yet, and not only is it paying off with S.H.I.E.L.D. creatively galvanized, it also is putting The Flash‘s previous time travel story to shame as a result.
Once his solo series was launched as a spinoff of Arrow, it didn’t take long for The Flash to discover that his speed affords him the ability to not just cross into parallel universes but break through the time barrier. Time travel was always at the crux of The CW’s series; it was because Eobard Thawne, the Reverse-Flash, traveled back in time and killed Barry Allen’s mother that the Flash was created in the first place. For the first two seasons, the specter of how his mom died and his father Henry Allen was wrongly imprisoned for her murder haunted Barry.
All of this was inevitably leading to what Flash fans had hotly anticipated since the series began: that Barry would eventually travel back in time to save his mother and thus, recreate an alternate reality: Flashpoint. What ended up happening, however, is after two full seasons of build up, “Flashpoint” really dropped the ball.
The Failings of Flashpoint (This Page)
S.H.I.E.LD. V Flashpoint (Page 2)
THE FAILINGS OF FLASHPOINT
“Flashpoint” was The Flash‘s season 3 premiere episode and it was The CW’s series adaptation of the 2011 DC Comics event that transitioned its continuity into the re-invented New 52 universe. The Flash couldn’t – and wouldn’t – be so ambitious with its adaptation, but used “Flashpoint” as a way to reorganize some of the recurring characters not just in its series but others within the Arrowverse. More importantly, it dealt head-on with Barry’s lingering guilt about how his mother died and ultimately closed the book on that chapter of Barry’s life so that he could move forward. However, while it certainly had fun moments, it was still very disappointing.
In the revised “Flashpoint” universe, Barry traveled back in time, prevented Thawne from killing his mother, and imprisoned him. The result was a brand new parallel universe where Barry lived for a few months and enjoyed having both his parents in his life. There was still a Flash in Central City, but it wasn’t Barry – it was Wally West, who formed a crime-fighting duo with his sister Iris. However, Barry and Iris weren’t a romantic item in “Flashpoint,” a situation Barry wanted to remedy. Other differences included Cisco Ramon as the billionaire tech genius behind STAR Labs; meanwhile, they didn’t know Caitlin Snow at all. It was an entertaining “What If?” look at how differently The Flash could have turned out.
Soon, Barry, realizing he created Flashpoint out of his own selfishness, had to make the difficult choice to delete this unstable version of the timeline and set things right. He allowed Thawne to kill his mother, after all, hoping that would reset the timeline to how it was. It sort of worked; the timeline was mostly restored but many characters had aspects of their lives irrevocably changed: Cisco’s brother was now dead, Caitlin gained the powers of Killer Frost, and elsewhere in the Arrowverse, John Diggle’s baby daughter became a baby son. Barry inevitably had to do the right thing and come clean that his actions changed the timeline and many of his friends’ lives permanently. The hard feelings lasted for several episodes but eventually, after coming to a head in the Arrowverse’s Invasion! crossover, things went back to the status quo.
“Flashpoint” itself, however, lasted all of one episode. Fans got to spend time in the alternate universe they’d been hoping to see since the series began for a mere hour before The Flash reset itself back to normal. Fans hoping to see some of the wilder aspects of the comic book, like the epic war of Wonder Woman and the Amazons vs. Aquaman and the Atlanteans that destroyed all of Europe, were left disappointed, though to be fair, that was never possible for The Flash to depict, to begin with. The CW series was handicapped by the fact that the Flashpoint story of the comics is earmarked to be the basis of The Flash’s solo feature film set in the DCEU starring Ezra Miller. The TV Flash instead told a different version of the story steeped in the series’ mythology and its characters. Still, “Flashpoint” was unsatisfactorily brief before the series zoomed to hit the reset button. The Flash occasionally continues to dabble in time travel but always speeds to things back to The Way They Always Were (mostly).
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