The CW's Trial of The Flash left Barry Allen in a prison cell, and left fans with their most disappointing comic adaptation yet. With the midseason finale of The Flash ending on a cliffhanger, The Thinker having bested Barry Allen by framing him for murder, the stage was set. Comic fans were quick to deduce that an adaptation of "The Trial of The Flash" was coming - the DC Comics story that put the speedster on trial for the same charge - but with a Thinker twist. How would Barry Allen, forensic scientist, be able to use his expertise to foil his villain's scheme and prove his innocence? How would his friends deal with the pressure of Barry's future hanging in the balance?
The good news is that the won't have to be in suspense, and neither will fans. After describing the trial as "their take" on the classic Cary Bates storyline from The Flash comics of the 1980s, the showrunners wrapped it all up in a single episode. And suddenly, the stripping down of a years-long story from the comics into a handful of scenes brought flashes of Flashpoint's adaptation to the TV show, as well.
The TV show's adaptation of the Flashpoint comic event was more than a disappointment, condensing a universe-altering event in the comics into a single episode. In that case, fans felt let down after dreaming of a season (or seasons) long adventure through a parallel timeline, encountering twisted versions of Barry's friends, and some seriously painful emotional turmoil. But with the adaptation of "The Trial of The Flash" - and the episode which bears that exact name - the issue is far more concerning.
Just Like Flashpoint, This Simply Wasn't 'The Trial of The Flash'
The problem lies in the fact that this story is simply NOT "The Trial of The Flash" in any meaningful way. In any way that a fan would ever recognize, any more than The Dark Knight is an adaptation of Alan Moore's The Killing Joke. Joker is in it, sure, and Batman has to beat him. But no fan would ever conflate one story with the other, nor would one of the filmmakers encourage that expectation (by naming the movie The Killing Joke, for instance). This isn't a case of splitting hairs or letting small changes affect enjoyment for hardcore comic fans, either. For starters, the episode title only makes sense if it's interpreted as "The Trial of The Flash TV Show," as in the episode of the show concerned with a trial.
A more accurate title for the episode would obviously be "The Trial of Barry Allen." And as small a detail as that might seem to some, it's what the entire story is based on. Barry Allen, facing criminal charges as a result of his enemy's scheming, framing the hero for a murder he didn't commit. Despite lacking any unique motive, and without ever convincingly explaining how the wheelchair-bound victim ended up in Barry's apartment, he was found guilty. The trial ends as quickly as it started, missing the meaning of the comic book story by a wide margin.
But even worse is just how incredible a story the TV show's version of the story could have been.
The TV Show Misses The Trial of The Flash's Point
Before getting into the specifics of the original (actual?) "Trial of The Flash" comic story, a two-year saga condensed into half an episode, let's get the big beats. It isn't Barry Allen who faces murder charges, but The Flash, as the title of the story implies. He's not charged with murdering The Thinker, but his most iconic Reverse-Flash, Eobard Thawne. And unlike the TV show, The Flash is on trial for a murder... that he did commit. It's that detail which makes the story what it really is, shaping the conflicts, and leading to some of its best moments.
After all, it's The Flash who the citizens of Central City and the world look to for heroism and moral fortitude. To see him go too far and take a life - even the life of a supervillain - is what "The Trial of The Flash" is remembered for. And done right, the show could have delivered a version of the story that was even more powerful.