Grant Gustin’s Barry Allen used to be such a loveable chap. The protagonist of The CW’s The Flash was a relatable hero, with personal tragedies in his past and a caring support network surrounding him in the present. He was a smart guy, who used his CSI training coupled with his super speed to protect Central City on two fronts.
However, in order to keep creating new dramas, the writers have given Barry a strange new character trait over the last couple of years: he tends to make absolutely awful decisions rather regularly, setting in motion terrible things that he then has to fix. Then, when all’s said and done, he can mope about how badly he did.
During that sad patch, he’ll press ahead and make his next naff decision, and set in motion a few more weeks of story. It’s getting a bit frustrating, although some recent season 4 news suggests there might be light at the end of the tunnel: after his Speed Force Prison experience, Barry might be able to "forgive himself," apparently. Perhaps that’ll break the cycle of moping and mistakes.
While you wait for the new season to arrive, though, let’s look back at some of the lowlights. Here are Barry Allen’s 15 Worst Decisions From The Flash...
15 Plucking Captain Cold From The Timeline For A Bank Job
Let’s start with a recent one. Barry had already beaten himself up for messing with the timeline via Flashpoint, and he had heard a message from his future self, warning Rip Hunter about the same kind of thing. Still, somehow, Barry thought it was okay to jump back in time and mess around once again.
Yep, in season 3 episode 22, Barry nipped into the past and picked up Wentworth Miller’s Captain Cold. Barry needed Leonard Snart’s help to retrieve a piece of valuable tech from an impregnable vault, because Iris’ life was on the line.
The stakes were high, but that doesn’t excuse Barry’s behavior. He’d already seen first hand that making changes to history can cause real damage, but he still went back and meddled once again.
What if Snart had died on this mission, and therefore not been able to sacrifice his life later on in his timeline? Perhaps all the Legends would've died. Will Barry ever learn?
14 Lying To Lyla And Argus And Therefore The Government
You got two silly errors for the price of one in season 3 episode 22, as Barry went to any length necessary to save Iris. As well as plucking Snart from the timeline, despite his important destiny, Barry also bare-faced lied to Lyla, the director of the shady government branch known as ARGUS. Suffice it to say: that is not okay.
When Lyla denied Barry access to the potentially Iris-saving piece of tech, he went behind her back, used H.R. Wells’ face-changing technology to sneak into the facility, and attempted to steal it from her. That is not the behavior of a rational man, let alone a hero.
Couldn’t Barry have asked Oliver Queen and John Diggle to help him talk Lyla around? Why was robbing the government his plan B after asking nicely didn’t work? Desperate times call for desperate measures, sure, but this was just shoddy.
13 Asking His Arch Nemesis For Speed Tips
In season 2 episode 17 – while Zoom was wreaking havoc – Barry went back in time, to the era of season 1. Needing, as always, to get faster, Barry sought the help of Eobard Thawne (who was disguised as Harrison Wells at the time). Barry knocked out his younger self, and tried to get Thawne-as-Wells’ advice, without revealing that he wass visiting from the future.
This plan is pretty awful: in going back to meet with Thawne, Barry is running the risk of getting himself killed and revealing to Thawne that his initial villainous plan isn’t going to work. Giving Thawne this foreknowledge could have major repercussions, and it could seriously screw up the timeline.
Inevitably, Thawne works out Barry’s ruse. Thawne imprisons Barry, and considers killing him. It’s only some fast thinking and a pack of lies that allows Barry to survive. (To be fair, though, it was great to see Tom Cavanagh back as Thawne.)
12 Sending A Super Ambiguous Message To Rip Hunter
In the far-flung future of 2056, it would seem that Barry hasn’t got any smarter. Although we didn’t see him to do it on screen, this older Barry sent an incredibly ambiguous message to Rip Hunter's Waverider computer during Legends Of Tomorrow season 2:
"A war is coming Captain Hunter and at some point you are going to be called back to Central City to fight it. So you need to know that while you and your team have been in the temporal zone, I made a choice that affected the timeline. As you know, whenever you alter the past those changes affect the present and get compounded in the future. When you return, you will be in the new timeline I created where everyone's past and everyone's future has been affected. Including yours. When you come back don't trust anything or anyone. Not even me."
Barry must’ve been having a bad day in 2056 to send such a vague and self-sabotaging message. All he achieved was making everyone a bit suspicious of him during the “Invasion” crossover event. It’s unclear if they're all meant to go on distrusting Barry indefinitely, although that would probably be quite a smart thing to do.
11 Erasing His Own Memory
Upon realising that Savitar was an evil Time Remnant of Barry, with all of his memories of current events, Team Flash came up with another ingenious plan: to stop Barry from making new memories, so that Savitar doesn’t have anything to go on.
Barry goes along with it, because... of course he does. This is exactly the kind of dumb idea he could’ve dreamed up on his own. Allowing Cisco – not a medical professional – to give him brain surgery is the very definition of questionable thinking.
Of course, things go wrong and Barry loses all of his memories. Everyone loves this new baggage-free Barry, and a fun romp of an episode is had. In the end, Barry’s mess is cleaned up when Cisco undoes the impromptu brain-altering, and everyone goes back to their normal lives. (It’s a good thing that brain damage can be reversed at the touch of a button in this universe.)
10 Locking Up Criminals In His Base Of Operations
Again, you have to blame all of Team Flash as a whole for this one, but Barry is still complicit. Locking up super-powered criminals in your own base is just asking for trouble, especially when breaking into your base has proven to be incredibly easy.
Forget about the weird little questions like "how do the pipeline prisoners go to the toilet?" for a second, and think about the overall concept here: STAR Labs is meant to be a secret base, and Team Flash literally bring all of their enemies here. It’s a marvel that the place hasn’t been absolutely destroyed yet.
In the “Invasion” crossover event, it was established that STAR Labs – now under Barry’s ownership – do have other buildings in its portfolio. Why not turn one of those into a high tech prison and keep your secret base a bit more, well, secret?
9 Pushing Patty Spivot Away
Now’s not the time to get into a shipping debate, but Patty Spivot was a perfectly nice young woman, and Barry treated her like total garbage. She had a strong sense of right and wrong, and firm desire to take down rogue Metahumans, but Barry refused to reveal his secret identity to her. He didn’t even extend an invitation to Team Flash to Patty at any point.
This is a weird one to look back on. There was loads going on during season 2, and the writers obviously want Barry to be with Iris in the end, but still, it felt harsh that Barry pushed Patty away when she could’ve been a powerful ally, a good friend, and perhaps more than that.
It’s particularly strange that Barry didn’t want to tell Patty about his secret double life as The Flash. Nowadays, he’ll tell pretty much anyone, but his stubbornness during season 2 led to this loveable character being written out of the show. What a shame.
8 Giving Eobard Thawne All The Info He Needed
Here’s another season 2 misstep: remember the time that Eobard Thawne – with his original Matt Letscher face – popped up and scoped out Team Flash, before the events of season 1 took place (from his time-jumping perspective)? It was all a bit convoluted, but there were a few classic Barry mistakes in there.
Right at the start, Barry confronted Thawne, called him by his real name and exclaimed that he saw him die. From this, Thawne is able to work out what time period he is in and plan his next steps. Barry should’ve played his cards a little closer to his chest, and worked out exactly which Thawne he was dealing with.
Barry also captures Eobard and brings him to the aforementioned STAR Labs pipeline prison, allowing The Reverse-Flash to have a good long look at the facility and Team Flash. Effectively, season 2 Barry’s sloppy superhero work allowed Eobard to learn everything he needed to be the big bad of season 1.
7 Letting Cisco’s Brother Die
Like the "message from the future" thing, this is another Barry error that wasn't actually shown on screen. However, it seems totally in character, doesn’t it? While Barry is willing to break the rules to save his own family, he won’t do the same for Dante Ramon. In doing so, he lets a man die and pushes Cisco into a very dark place.
You’ve got to assume that there’s another mistake in there, too. Dante was rundown by a drunk driver. Was there really nothing that Barry could do to save him? It’s impossible to know for sure, but let’s just guess that there was. Damn it, Barry.
Of course, Dante dying was actually a ramification of Barry’s timeline meddling known as Flashpoint.
6 Blindly Trusting 'Jay Garrick'
This one’s easy to miss, but very annoying once you realize it. Season 2’s big bad Zoom (or Hunter Zolomon) spent the whole year pretending to be a speedster hero by the name of Jay Garrick (a name he stole from Earth 3’s version of The Flash). If Team Flash had done a bit more research, they could have sussed this out very quickly, rather than playing Zoom’s games for so long.
You wouldn’t hire an employee without checking their references, and before allowing Jay into their inner circle, the gang should have double-checked his back-story. They’ve got access to Earth 2, after all.
All they had to do was pop over there and Google the name "Jay Garrick." They quickly would’ve seen that no such person existed. Then they would’ve known not to trust him, and they certainly wouldn’t spend all year helping him fix his speed issues.
Again, Team Flash as a whole is to blame for this one, but Barry is their leader, and he should’ve known better. You can’t blindly trust random speedsters who turn up out of nowhere.
5 Growing His Hair Out And Going Into Retirement
This version of Barry is worst, right? Having worked out that Savitar is a dark version of himself, hell bent on ruining his life, this future Barry decided to... grow his hair out and disband Team Flash. When modern day Barry went to 2024 looking for answers, all he found was a total waste of space.
Fans didn’t get to see the main Barry actually become this moody future version, but it’s not hard to imagine the transition. This is what Barry would look like if he couldn’t find a way out of his regular post-error sulks. To be fair, creating Savitar is one of his biggest mishaps.
Barry in 2024 still had his super speed and high intelligence, but the best plan he could come up with was to do nothing. That’s some very poor judgment there, even by Barry’s low standards. Let's hope the show steers away from this level of stupidity in future seasons.
4 Throwing The Philosopher’s Stone Into The Speed Force
This one passed without much uproar, but it’s got to be one of the worst errors of judgment from Barry and Team Flash: after successfully getting their hands on the powerful artifact known as The Philosopher’s Stone, Barry and Jay teamed up to lob it into the Speed Force. The idea was to keep it away from Savitar.
There’s just one flaw in the plan, really: Savitar already told them that he spent an eternity in the Speed Force. By chucking the stone in there, The Flash only made the stone more accessible to Savitar. Also, when Wally West threw the last remaining shard of the stone in, a few episodes later, he freed Savitar from confinement and set in motion countless horrific events.
Instead of throwing the stone into a place that Savitar can easily access, they might have considered taking it to another Earth, or perhaps placing it in one of those speedster-proof ARGUS vaults. Or why not in a speedster-proof ARGUS vault on another Earth? Heck, a hole in the ground would be better than the Speed Force.
3 Throwing Himself Into The Speed Force
At the end of season 3, with Savitar destroyed and Jay free from captivity, the Speed Force prison demanded an occupant. Red lightning jutted about around Central City, and Barry – after less than a minute’s thought – decided to accept the invitation, abandon his fiancé and his friends, and start a new life in speedster prison.
If he had stopped to think about it, instead of making another ridiculous decision at the drop of a hat, Barry might have remembered that a future version of Team Flash built the Speed Force Prison as a trap for Savitar. If Barry and his chums made the thing, couldn’t they find a way to dismantle it?
But no, Barry loves a dramatic gesture too much to come up with a logical solution to a problem. He’d rather lock himself up for an eternity than actually try to fix the Speed Force.
2 Shunning His Own Time Remnant And Creating Savitar
One of Barry’s most ludicrous decisions took place off screen, but, once again, you can totally imagine him doing it. As you probably remember, season 3 came to a head with the dramatic reveal that Savitar – the murderous big bad of the season – was actually a Time Remnant of Barry.
Barry brought this duplicate to life at some point in the future, while fighting Savitar. The whole thing was one of those time travel, closed loop, very confusing thingies. Savitar left the Time Remnant alive, safe in the knowledge that it would grow up to be him.
All Barry had to do to stop Savitar from coming into existence was be nice to his own Time Remnant. Instead of shunning the Remnant and sending him down a dark path, Barry could’ve done any number of things: help him relocate to another country, for example, or find an Earth in need of a Barry and send him there.
Any nice solution would’ve done, but instead, Barry selfishly chose to push his own duplicate away and set in motion all the drama of season 3.
1 Going Back In Time To Save His Mom
Finally, of course, there could only be one winner: many of the problems mentioned in this article could’ve been avoided if Barry didn’t make the shocking decision – at the end of season 2 – to go back in time and stop The Reverse-Flash from killing his mom.
This is easily the dumbest decision that Barry has ever made. By stopping the murder of his mother, Barry put his own heroic origin in jeopardy. All the lives he has saved were put right back into danger as a result-- not to mention the irreparable damage that any change to history can cause.
After trying to fix his mistake, Barry returned to a present where Cisco’s brother was dead, Caitlin was transforming into Killer Frost and Savitar and Alchemy were wreaking havoc. All of that could’ve been avoided if Barry had kept his cool at the end of season 2, and opted not to travel back in time for purely selfish reasons.
With any luck, Barry’s time in the Speed Force Prison will have helped him put everything in perspective. His character is certainly in need of a reset, because the "fixing his own mistakes" thing is getting really old now.
Which Barry Allen mistake from The Flash is your personal favorite? Head to comments to let us know!