[WARNING: This article contains spoilers for The Flash Season 1, Episode 20]
The central cast and supporting characters of The Flash may have enough to worry about in the here and now, but that didn't stop the writers from introducing more than a few time travel mysteries over the course of the show's first season. Yet the knowledge of the future possessed by Dr. Harrison Wells a.k.a. Eobard Thawne was established in the very first episode - but his secret is now out.
With the recent episode of The Flash revealing Wells' secret 'Time Vault' to Barry Allen, Cisco Ramon and Caitlin Snow, the time-traveling nature of the show's greatest antagonist was laid bare. The future newspaper was largely to blame, giving details of Central City's 'Scarlet Speedster' and his brighter uniform, and the mysterious crisis that sent he and Reverse-Flash into thin air.
But there was much more revealed in the newspaper than even the characters realized. We've gone over the images and news stories, and pointed out all the upcoming(?) twists and turns that viewers may have missed.
While not possible to miss (since it is directly called out in the episode, and sends Barry into a romantic maelstrom between Iris and Eddie), the reveal of 'Iris West-Allen' in the show's future was delivered without any ambiguity; Iris would, apparently, marry Barry at some point in the future. Unfortunately, the changing timestream that the show has already established complicates things significantly.
The constant monitoring of the future by Harrison Wells would imply that Barry Allen's future remains intact - despite Thawne fast forwarding his superhero origin by several years. We have continually wondered if a change to Barry's childhood - say, his mother not killed, and therefore not adopted by the Wests - would have a positive or negative effect on his modern-day relationship with Iris.
Apparently not, since (just like in the comics) Barry is destined to marry the intrepid reporter Iris West - although the hyphenated last name is something new. Interestingly, the previous looks at the newspaper had 'Evan Gibson' credited in the byline; take that as the writers keeping a secret, or another implied change in the timestream...
Even though Oliver Queen's future may seem more uncertain than ever, being pressed into the League of Assassins and expected to one day lead the order as Ra's al Ghul, this glimpse into the future seems to imply things work out alright in the end. Now that both of the Arrow star's identities have been compromised, eroded, or left behind, a new name and mission has been expected for some time.
Given that, it should come as no surprise that when Starling City's vigilante comes to the aid of The Flash in 2024, he will do so as 'Green Arrow' - the comic book hero's official title (that the show's writers have chosen to avoid to this point). As Stephen Amell promises an upcoming change to Arrow's structure that will leave fans spinning, we've speculated for some time that a run for office, and a step into the public spotlight not unlike Central City's Flash could be in the cards.
Things seem to be getting worse for Queen before they get better, but the newspaper suggests a few more steps toward his traditional Green Arrow history should be expected soon.
The mention of Green Arrow in the newspaper article was certain to get some DC Comics (and Smallville) fans excited, and confirmation that The Atom would aid in the fight and evacuation efforts sounds like typical Ray Palmer. But the first official presence of Hawkgirl in the Arrow/Flash universe is something else entirely, and drives the point home: Kendra Saunders, the winged crimefighter is coming to The CW's TV universe to stay.
Barring some sort of time-altering event or crisis, obviously (which, in this universe, is more likely than not). Hawkgirl has previously been confirmed to be joining the upcoming DC Comics spinoff, with actress Ciara Renée in the role. But more than anything, the newspaper seems to suggest that Hawkgirl (and The Atom) will play a predicted role in the universe - not one mired in time travel or alternate timeline lore - as another potential "founding member" of the organization the A.I. Gideon attempts to name.
It turns out Barry isn't the only member of the Central City Police Department who has a promotion in his future, as the article also confirms that in just under a decade, Joe West will be appointed Chief of Police. If you ask us, his placement at the top of the CCPD chain may be just what's needed to remove the mystery or suspicion from The Flash permanently.
Sadly, that also means that the Police Chief will have to see his son disappear into thin air, and still put on a brave face for the cameras, according to the article - written by the same 'protector's wife (which we've copied below):
Central City Police Chief, Joe West, held a press conference in the wee hours of the morning, stating, "We don't have very many details right now. What we do know is tonight Central City's greatest protector vanished in a flash. We can only hope he returns just as quickly." A sentiment shared by all who call this great city home.
It wasn't until well into The Flash's first season that the actual events leading up to Nora Allen's murder were clarified: a hole was torn in time, with the Reverse-Flash exiting into the timestream 14 years before the show's setting, with The Flash hot on his heels. Barry pursued Thawne into his childhood home, at which point they fought around Nora Allen, until Barry escaped with his younger self and Thawne - apparently enraged - killed Nora instead.
The details contained in the newspaper seem to confirm that this 'crisis' in Central City is what preceded Thawne's decision to travel back and kill Barry as a child. Although fans may never get to see the fight carried out (a ten-year life is a bit much to hope for, even given The Flash's early success), the scene confirms that the Allen/Thawne rivalry won't change much over the coming years:
According to reports, as The Flash and Reverse-Flash battled with each other between two overturned tanker trucks, the lightning emanating from the speedsters threatened to ignite spilled oil leaking from one of the trucks.
The smoke from the truck's engine made it difficult to see, but it appeared at one point they were having a very heated conversation before continuing the fight. Then, suddenly, The Flash sped after Reverse-Flash, and the two vanished, leaving The Atom, Green Arrow and Hawkgirl behind.
An eyewitness who watched the battle from her apartment building before being evacuated said, "It was hard to see, but The Flash and Reverse-Flash were zipping up and down M(____?) Avenue and then there was a whole bunch of lightning, and then nothing. It was weird."
Other witnesses described a similar phenomenon: a blinding light followed by darkness. Then the sky returned to black. And as the streets quieted, it took only a moment to realize The Flash and the Reverse- Flash were gone without a trace.
No 'Crisis' After All?
As the details of the fight reveal, it is somehow the battle between Barry Allen and Eobard Thawne that creates the 'crisis' unleashed upon Central City, as well as the red skies previously mentioned in another headline from the paper. When the pilot episode saw the word 'CRISIS' featured so prominently, the die-hard (and optimistic) comic fans immediately noted the reference to the "Crisis on Infinite Earths" comic event which saw, among other things, the death of Barry Allen.
It was clear that scale of story would not be adapted for The Flash, but the mention of 'Red Skies' - another effect of the villainous Anti-Monitor from the comics - suggested otherwise. Now the show's writers have let their fans down softly, seeming to confirm that the word choice and color were not a sign of things to come, but a nod to one of the greatest "Flash" moments in history.
The sky took on a deep crimson color as the ensuing battle created the most destruction this city has ever seen since The Flash arrived in Central City.
Even so, the crimson sky generated by Barry's Speed Force powers - and potentially Thawne's Negative Speed Force powers? - is a mystery in itself.
Those are all the tidbits we managed to pull from the single page of futuristic newspaper, and even these few points manage to both answer existing questions and raise entirely new ones. If you have your own thoughts and theories on what's been teased (and how much of it we can expect to see come to pass) be sure to share them in the comments.
The Flash airs Tuesdays @8pm on The CW.