It's not easy being The Flash. And for Barry Allen in particular, his life in the history of DC Comics has been marked with as many defeats and sacrifices as victories. First, he died saving the universe during "Crisis on Infinite Earths" - and then stayed dead for decades, until he emerged to protect the world once again in "Infinite Crisis," "Final Crisis"... the list goes on and on. But when Barry finally returned to mainline DC continuity, it was all leading to one universe-changing event: Flashpoint.
Those who read the comic, or enjoyed the animated version told in Justice League: Flashpoint Paradox will know the cost of Barry Allen finally deciding to use his powers of time travel in the one way he swore he never would: to return to the night of his mother's death, and prevent it - in the process, undoing the world that had taken shape as a result. Things only got worse from there, which means the minds behind The CW's version of the hero making the same decision in just the third season may be their bravest move yet - or their most foolish.
Obviously, all evidence to this point suggests it's the former, since the team's willingness to go straight to the comic book hero's richest stories, instead of holding back their trump cards has only proven to be a success (Reverse Flash, Zoom, a play on "Crisis" and the Speed Force). And the first trailer for season 3 shows they're staying true to their season 2 cliffhanger, showing how the life of Nora, Henry, and Barry Allen being preserved sent the world into strange new places. Just... don't expect them to be the same ones from the comic.
When we spoke with the cast and crew about the upcoming season at San Diego Comic-Con 2016, the word on everyone's lips was obviously 'Flashpoint.' And as fans would hope to hear from the star of the series, Grant Gustin told us that Barry's meddling with the universe is a story he's been familiar with from the very start of his own superhero career. And that also means he's already aware of the biggest issue with adapting the story to the small screen:
"We can try to talk about Flashpoint, yeah. I'll tiptoe around stuff. It's different. It's its own thing. When I was cast last... God, it's been almost three years now, one of the first things I did was watch Flashpoint Paradox, because it was... everyone talks about it. I loved it. But obviously we're not going to have Batman, we're not going to have Superman or Wonder Woman, and that's kind of like... everything that happens in Flashpoint Paradox."
Gustin isn't exaggerating, either: because as much as 'Flashpoint' may be a story about The Flash, once you start breaking down the event's biggest points it becomes clear that Barry is merely the observer. The real meat of the event, which gave it meaning at all, is the chaos the world descended into - and the role that former heroes and villains played in it. After all, Barry is the only thing that hasn't changed... which means the marquee-level supporting characters or twists that actually make Flashpoint Flashpoint are missing from The CW's universe.
It's a serious challenge, since telling 'Flashpoint' without a captured Superman, a darker Batman played by Thomas Wayne, or a conquering Wonder Woman means coming up with worthy replacements. But it's a challenge that producers Aaron and Todd Helbing are prepared for, since they explain that the method of adapting the comic story to this particular version is the same as... well, every other time they've done it so far:
Aaron Helbing: I mean, we're really inspired by the comic book, I loved it personally. But there's certain limitations [on what] we can do just being a TV show. There's a lot of... I mean, Thomas Wayne, Wonder Woman and Aquaman. So we just try to do what we can and what we feel emotionally feels right for the story. So we try to take pieces that we can from it and tell the best story we can.
Todd Helbing: It's the same as any moment that's in the comics books. You loved it when you read it the first time, or the tenth time, or the hundredth time. And then you really think about how you could do that on our show. Like, the reaction you got when you read it for the first time, how can you get the same reaction? Because you can't do it verbatim every time. So Flashpoint is very similar, we approach it the same way: how do you get that emotional response from people? We might not use the exact same events that happened.
That idea of replicating the reaction, as opposed to copying the story itself is a sentiment that comes from the very top, with executive producer Greg Berlanti citing his main goal with The Flash TV show to be recreating the emotions he felt when first reading Barry's death in "Crisis on Infinite Earths" in his own childhood. So if the writers of the CW series can leverage their own heroes, or simply beloved supporting characters to the same ends as the comic did Wonder Woman, Batman, or Superman, we doubt fans would object.
Flash 'Flashpoint' Art by BossLogic
In fact, Gustin teased as much, promising that as different as the TV version of 'Flashpoint' may be, those familiar with the comic will see their homework pay off in smaller moments (as well as the unforgettable ending). Even so, the star stated plainly that the cast and crew aren't trying to get fan hopes of a massive, superhero-altering timeline skyrocketing:
"We do a lot of cool nods to Flashpoint Paradox using some other characters that have been on our show for the last couple years. But I want to give fans as much of a heads up as possible that it's not that animated movie, and it's not the comic book. It's our Flash's version of what Flashpoint would be in the universe that we've created and how things would have changed."
That's all the tease fans need to let their imagination run wild concerning which moments and character twists will be paid homage - a hero or villain's father taking the role? An alien hero being taken prisoner by shadowy government departments, instead of rising to superheroics? Only time will tell, but if the coming adaptation of yet another pivotal "Flash" storyline follows those which came before, it won't be long until fans start speculating on what massive twist or event will come next.
The Flash season 3 premieres Tuesday, October 4 @8pm on The CW.
'Flashpoint' Fan Art by BossLogic