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Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Flash Season 3 Trailer Breakdown

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Edited by Robert Beach

In about two months, The Flash will premiere its third season on CW. After a shaky season 1 in 2014, The Flash busted out of nowhere to be the premiere series of the CW-verse. It continues to push the boundaries for how much a superhero TV show has ever adapted from its comic origins and bringing in hit new shows like Legends of Tomorrow and Supergirl.  

Even though Arrow kicked off CW’s superhero shows, it was The Flash that made them a force to be reckoned with. Its winning combination of weird sci-fi, cool CG action, big, operatic emotional storytelling, and the great collection of lead actors propels the material.  

Now, the show faces its biggest challenge yet, adapting the rolling dumpster fire that was 2011’s Flashpoint event comic into a good season of television. We won’t know till the show comes out if they’ve succeeded, but based on this first trailer, yeah, I’d say they managed it.

If you have no idea what Flashpoint is, here’s the primer: DC was looking down the barrel of tough financial times in 2011.  As an attempt to remain solvent and to compete with Marvel’s growing mainstream success, DC decided to reboot its entire line of comics. That reboot was kicked off by the even comic Flashpoint.  

In the comic, the world was suddenly remade as a dark and terrifying place where Thomas Wayne was a brutal and thuggish Batman, Wonder Woman’s Amazons were at war with Aquaman’s Atlanteans, Superman was an anemic government test subject, and Cyborg was America’s premiere superhero. 

The only person who remembered how things were supposed to be was Barry Allen, the Flash, who had to work to put things right. It turned out the universe had been reshaped because Barry had gone back in time and saved his mother, thus unmooring the Reverse Flash from history and allowing him to destroy the world with deadly alterations. 

Obviously, that’s not all going to be the case for The Flash season 3; the CW doesn’t own the rights to all the characters it would need to replicate Flashpoint’s more popular aspects like Thomas Wayne Batman. As we’ve now learned from the trailer, the new aesthetic seems to be much more focused around The Flash’s own internal mythology changing, but it also promises a lot of interesting new ideas. 

One big difference is that this Flashpoint is running purely off of Butterfly Effect-type changes to the timeline because of Barry saving his mother as we see the Reverse Flash all locked up.  That’s a good first step in fixing Flashpoint’s many problems as the weird, junky “Reverse Flash is unmoored from time” stuff from the comic didn’t work or add anything. 

The new status quo seems to have both of Barry’s parents alive and together while Iris is still working at the coffee shop we saw her at in season 1, presumably because her journalism career never kickstarted without her coverage of the Flash. Meanwhile, as we see at the end of the trailer, Barry is keeping the Reverse Flash under lock and key, hidden away in some unknown location. 

I’m not totally sure how Barry has secured the Reverse Flash, but the fact that he had might indicate Barry still has his super speed. That’s neither confirmed nor denied by the video, though we do see Barry in his Flash costume later in the trailer. 

The first big shock of the trailer comes about a minute in when Barry seems to experience a psychic flash of the word “ALCHEMY” etched on a mirror. This is pretty clearly a reference to the Flash villain Dr. Alchemy, one of his weirdest villains and my personal favorite of his rogues' gallery. Dr. Alchemy (previously the Element Man) was a brilliant scientist who developed his own philosopher’s stone: an incredible device that allowed him to transmute anything.  

Though its power varies, its deadliness has pretty much been constant. He can turn lead into gold or blood into sulfuric acid.  It’s a great gimmick, and his weird obsession with actual alchemy is a nice creepy angle made terrifying when we see his powers unleashed on normal people. 

We then cut to a revamped version of the STAR Labs set for our first major reveals. In this world, ‘Cisco Ramone is a billionaire industrialist with his company and lab. Even more impressive, he seems to be behind this universe’s speedster. This is seriously a "blink and you’ll miss it" moment. Within the Ramone Industries set-up, we see Wally West in the background, implying a connection between the two men. 

Assuming Ramone is an industrialist because he was never involved in Harrison Wells’ particle accelerator (it won’t be built for another four years), it would make sense if his company took over the job of looking into the meta-beings that would still exist without the particle accelerator explosion like Reverse Flash or Gorilla Grodd.

Speaking of changed friends, Harrison Wells and Kaitlin Snow are both conspicuously absent from this trailer and possibly this timeline as a whole. That makes sense for Wells as, without the Reverse Flash’s intervention, he’d still be living with his wife and doing science in Coast City. As for Snow, that one’s a little trickier. 

I suspect she’s probably back working at Mercury Labs. With all the changes in this timeline, I’m also not sure Mercury Labs exists at all. It does seem clear that this timeline has done something to rattle the connection between the Wests and the Allens as Joe seems very standoffish towards Barry, and it seems like Barry might not be a CSI in this world. 

Another big, mystery money shot is the scene of the Flash cast gathered around the hospital bed of what looks like Wally West.  This is probably tied to Wally becoming Kid Flash this season, possibly and probably through the aid of ‘Cisco and Barry. Kaitlin Snow is back for this scene, but it’s Joe West’s presence that raises my questions, specifically; does this Joe know Wally is his son? That’s certainly possible. 

With the idea being that in a world where Joe didn’t have a surrogate son, he put more effort into following his estranged wife and learned about Wally a lot sooner.  It’d be another neat way to make this world a better one before ripping it all away from Barry later. 

Speaking of which, we also get a really neat look at our villains for this season near the end, who seem to be Reverse Flash, locked up in Barry’s subbasement of solitude, Dr. Alchemy as the freaky guy in the hood and gasmask, and the mysterious new dark-suited speedster. I’ve discussed the new speedster before. His appearance in the industrial park makes me even more certain his existence is tied to Hunter Zolomon from last season.  

In Season 2, it was established the Speed Force is alive and has specific whims and wishes, most especially it doesn’t want time meddled with. I suspect this villainous new speedster is a manifestation of their will, a tangible enforcer of the Speed Force’s desire to correct time, a Black Flash. 

And the trailer ends with Flash walking away from the imprisoned Reverse Flash, as Thawne shouts after him “who’s the villain now?” This is an incredibly well-composed finale to the trailer and sets a wonderful tone for the season ahead. It sets a cadence for the season about the question of whether or not Flash’s actions are heroic. 

He’s reshaped all of reality to suit personal whims at what cost? Conversely, what personal cost is he willing to pay to put things right? We’ve been presented here with a world that’s incredibly ambiguous.  

Sure, some things are worse like the villainous Black Flash or Dr. Alchemy. Think of the things that are better: Joe West knows his son, and they’re close; ‘Cisco is a billionaire CEO; Barry’s parents are alive; why would any just and fair universe force them to give that up? 

This twists the whole idea of morally ambiguous superheroes and especially the vigilante superhero structure, the idea that the world is an inherently chaotic and terrible place that the hero must seize control and make the world good. Rather than making that story about surveillance or civil rights, however, here it’s about fighting the very fabric of reality, the ties binding our universe together.  

Are Flash and his friends heroes because they stand as enemies of the entire universe? Taking every step to build a better world, or are they exactly the kind of villains they fight to put away? I guess we’ll find out. 

Flash season 3 premieres October 4th, 2016

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