The Flash: 3.02 Paradox
Last week's season three opener saw the ramifications of Barry Allen running back through time to save his mother and the follow-up Paradox saw the ramifications of those ramifications as he discovered that reversing his reversing of history actually created a third reality.
I was a little disappointed by Flashpoint, mainly because it didn't go far enough with its alternate reality concept, because it was reversed all too quickly and because it made Barry Allen not just look stupid but the villain too. Fortunately Paradox was much, much better, suggesting that three month dream world was just the start of bigger things to come. In this new version of reality, things were subtlety but irreversibly changed and we look set to see the consequences of Barry's actions for some time to come. Furthermore by the episode's end, Barry seemed to have LEARNED SOMETHING...you can't just go back and change things when it doesn't work out. It was a strong message, courtesy of a brilliant scene where Jihn Shipp's Jay Garrick burst through Barry's speed tunnel to deliver some pearls of fatherly wisdom, and it finally looks as if the Flash is going to get back to being a hero rather than an angst-fuelled moper making all the wrong decisions.
There was a general sense that the show was acknowledging its faults and looking to move forward in a fresh new direction while using the altered timeline to progress one or two storylines. By the end of the episode, Cisco had suited up as Vibe (even I it was a one-off for now) and Caitlin was starting to show signs of becoming Killer Frost. There was also progression in Barry and Iris's storyline with them finally sharing a kiss (the first two didn't count as Barry wiped those from existence with his time travelling shenanigans) and looking to progress their relationship.
But the episode also had fun way of revealing all these inconsistencies in the new timeline. Barry zooming over to Star City to seek support from Felicity offered a fresh, amusing perspective on Barry's actions and subsequent consequences. It was another great use of the regular crossovers between Arrow and The Flash, something that will likely become a bigger feature with Supergirl and Legends of Tomorrow. Interesting that we saw at least one permanent change to Arrow as Diggle's daughter was replaced with a son...the future Green Arrow perhaps from Legends of Tomorrow season one episode Star City 2046? I'll be interested to see how Arrow adopts these timeline changes into its own story.
There was plenty of angst here, from Iris refusing to talk to Joe after he failed to tell her her mother was alive to the more tragic death of Cisco's brother months earlier. It wasn't frustrating 'Barry being stupid' angst. Instead, it provided an emotive conflict between Cisco and Barry, who refused to travel back and save Ramone... Barry finally starting to learn his lesson.
And then we had new season villain Alchemy, who rather refreshingly isn't a speedster, but a shadowy figure with the ability to restore powers belonging to people in other timelines. This meant the return of Edward Clariss's super speed, transforming into The Rival once again for a dramatic and brutal showdown at the saw mill in the direct replay of the fight in Flashpoint. He might look like Baron Greenback's crow henchman from Dangermouse, but Alchemy is certainly an intriguing foe. Tom Felton also made a strong impression as rival CSI Julian Albert, who has apparently been working in Barry's lab for a year. Felton did a great job of giving his character a sneer without making him totally unlikeable. He doesn't trust Barry Allen and given the evidence of Barry's actions over the last year, I can't say I'm surprised.
Paradox was a really great episode that took its time to deal with the ramifications of Flashpoint and set up some interesting new plot lines. It was great to see Barry Allen emerge as a stronger, more learned character who hopefully won't be making the same frustrating mistakes as before. With an intriguing new villain in play I have hope that we might see a stronger third season after a somewhat frustrating second.