[WARNING: This article contains SPOILERS up to The Flash Season 2, Episode 20.]
Barry Allen learned the hard way - along with his fans - that even for The Flash , making lightning strike twice is harder than it sounds. As the villainous Zoom brought his master plan to fruition by stealing Barry's speed and keeping it all for himself, our heroes were left with no choice but to attempt to recreate the particle accelerator explosion that granted the gift in the first place. And, like so much mad science often does, things went horribly awry.
While that's bad news for Barry, having been turned to into dust and energy - find out what really happened to him here - the unpredictable meltdown may have had even more world-changing effects on two other members of the cast. They were simply unlucky (or lucky?) enough to wind up in the wrong place at the wrong time, but for Wally West (Keiynan Lonsdale) and Jesse Wells (Violett Beane), being blasted with mysterious orange energy is likely the first step in their own transformation in to superheroes - torn straight from the pages of DC Comics.
Assuming that there are fans of the show who may not be familiar with the Wally West of DC lore, and even seasoned comic book readers without much experience with 'Jesse Quick,' we'll break down the show's latest twist - and what superheroes (and superpowers) may have just been added to The CW's shared universe.
The Particle Accelerator Disaster 2.0
First things first: we need to offer a bit of explanation, since it isn't just energy from the particle accelerator that strikes our two young heroes. While the experiment's overall goal - recreating the conditions and events which gave Barry his Speed Force powers - failed miserably (or so it seems), the two youngest members of the S.T.A.R. Labs family got a surprise themselves. And it was set in motion when Barry Allen proved unable to absorb/tolerate the energy being expelled from the particle accelerator, and was violently and completely disintegrated, shattering the containment field and funneling the energy through the facility.
Having escaped from their bunker in the bowels of S.T.A.R. Labs, and investigating the strange rumblings in the building, one-time Zoom hostage Wally West and doctor's daughter Jesse Wells found themselves walking down the exact same corridor that the energy was heading out.
Enter Our New Heroes(?)
Rounding the corner just in time to take the full brunt of the energy, both Wally and Jesse were thrown backward, somehow able to survive what Barry had not. With the strange, otherworldly/quantum energy saturating their cells, they were left unconscious on the floor. The episode ended before the two could be reached, or even before their parents and friends knew that anything had gone wrong.
But for those who are familiar with the DC Comics universe, be it live-action, comic book, or animated series, this scene was much, much more than an experiment gone wrong. It may have been the origin story of not one, but two new DC Comics superheroes joining the shared Arrow/Flash universe. So as much as fans may demand to know what happened to Barry Allen, the characters will have a whole new batch of questions to ask while he's gone.
Allow us to break down what was likely witnessed, and what powers and storylines may manifest soon.
The (Possible) Origin of Kid Flash
It's hard to even call this twist a surprise as it pertains to Wally, since mere introduction of Wally West seemed like confirmation that the boy known as 'Kid Flash' to comic fans wouldn't be far behind. Taking its cues from the New 52 take on the character, Wally was following some bad paths through life until his crossed with Barry Allen - unfortunately, that's where the similarities to the 'canon' New 52 character end. But fear not: the writers are already up to more than the comics version.
Wally has yet to take on the mantle of Kid Flash as he has in decades past, most notably - hint, hint - after Barry Allen died saving the world in "Crisis on Infinite Earths". But from Wally's admiration of The Flash after having his life saved by the masked man, to the modern storyline that saw Wally given his own superspeed by the death of a speedster, the hints are coming faster than they can be caught.
Here's where things get tricky: so far in The Flash, the actual source of Barry's power has been kept fairly ambiguous. If you go by the show itself, the lightning and particle accelerator explosion combined, somehow, to inject his cells with speed energy from a mysterious 'Speed Force.' And following those rules, it wouldn't make much sense for Wally to actually assume the same powers Barry was given. Unless, of course, there's more going on with Barry's power than we have yet seen. Villains of the first season may have gotten powers tailored perfectly to the hobbies, so Wally's obsession with clean speed would feasibly do the trick. But there's a better explanation, should the writers stick with the comics.
With Barry having traveled - not disintegrated - into the Speed Force itself, as we believe is the case, there's no better chance to lay out the real truth behind the Speed Force. Primarily, that Oliver Queen was more right than he knew in the pilot episode: the lightning chose Barry Allen to become its champion. And, if the show follows the Wally West origin from the original comics, it chooses Wally, too. The fact that Wally has turned from a delinquent to a fan of Flash's heroism and sacrifices for everyday people means that he's primed and ready to take the next step. And with Barry absent for the next episode, at least, he may get his shot.
Of course, that's assuming his powers start showing this season - or on this show...
The (Possible) Origin of Jesse Quick
Somewhat more of a surprise, since the character is not quite as famous as Kid Flash (especially in the animated universe) is the fact that Harrison Wells' daughter was subjected to the same explosive energy. But from the moment Harrison Wells of Earth-2 first called his daughter the affectionate nickname 'Jesse Quick,' DC fans knew what the writers were up to (and dreamed of what they might actually have planned). The character may have been born with the name of Jesse Chambers in the comics, but different father or not, 'Jesse Quick' is yet another certified member of the flash Family of speedsters.
Jonathan Chambers a.k.a. "Johnny Quick" of Earth-2 was the first one to start the family legacy of superheroics, unlocking the secrets of the 'speed formula' (a subplot on this season of The Flash already), and following in the footsteps of his world's Flash, Jay Garrick. By reciting the formula - "3x2(9yz)4a" - Johnny gained access to the Speed Force (with later comics explaining that the equation was simply a means for him to understand and mentally access speed). And when Johnny eventually joined the higher plane of the Speed Force, he left his legacy in the capable hands of his daughter, Jesse.
It's a bit of a surprise to see the show actually add yet another speedster to the cast, and those doubting that's really what's happening will point out that none of the comic book origin focused on Jonathan Chambers has been adapted at all. They're fair points, but on a grander scale, it seems that the writers are shoring up the Flash Family reserves. The only way to take down Zoom, at least in the comics, was to rely on teamwork. And if fans of the show have been waiting to see what could possibly shift the odds in Barry's favor against Zoom, the addition of two new speedsters may be just what the doctor ordered.
But for those who worry that The Flash may grow tiresome with not one, not two, but four speedsters at play, there's another side to Jesse Chambers...
The Liberty Belle Factor
Her father may have been a famous Earth-2 speedster, but Jesse Chambers' mother was no slouch, either. Libby Lawrence began her career without powers (like most Golden Age mystery men and women), but over the years, enhanced strength and speed were made genetic enhancements that Libby passed onto her daughter, Jesse. Although she was closer to her father (or possibly because of that), Jesse was drawn to carry on her mother's banner for a long period for her own career.
Having joined the Justice Society (Earth-2's Justice League) as the new Liberty Belle, Jesse would eventually unlock the Speed Force once Barry Allen returned from the dead in "Flash: Rebirth". So, could the wave of dark matter energy that slammed into Jesse Wells result in such physical augmentations, instead of speed? Since the answer to that question hinges entirely on the sketchiest, most unclear part of the show's fiction, it's impossible to know.
Either way, Jesse may have big things in her future - on this world, or her own.
Which do you think the writers are pursuing: a family of hero speedsters bringing down Zoom, or some larger, more mysterious purpose? We hope our explanation and crash course in the superheroes has prepared fans for the final weeks of The Flash's second season. But if you have question, theories, or twist we've missed, make sure to leave them in the comments.
The Flash airs Tuesdays @8pm on The CW.