Barry Allen, Comics, Continuum, Donald Trump, Flashpoint, Frequency, Grandfather paradox, Legends of Tomorrow, meddling in history, Nora Allen always dies, outdoors, The Flash, Time Travel, Timeless, TV shows
I do not know what I did or did not do, but I went back in time to walk my dog, and now Donald trump is about to become president. That makes every bit as much sense as the TV version of Flashpoint.
We had a good time. Dogs are a lot easier to manage when you don’t have kids (or non-outdoorsy adults). But I came back, and Donald Trump is somehow elected President.
And that’s one of a long list of strange things that definitely happened that I don’t remember.
If that sounds absurd – you’re right. It didn’t happen, and it couldn’t happen. Math forbids it.
Unless you’re on television.
This is the entire premise for Timeless, which we have already discussed.
It is also informs the premise of Frequency. Frequency gets a bit of a pass because it makes no pretense as science, and it’s really about daddy issues. Doesn’t mean the gag is working, it’s just not as in-your-face demented about it the way Timeless is.
Then the folks over at the Flash did the Flashpoint storyline because it was a big deal in the comics, so they felt they needed to do it. Only in the comics it was an excuse to reboot the entire universe. The TV series was kinda working on its own terms, but Barry ran back in time to save his mom – again – and this time actually does it. And that was bad. So he goes back in tears and fixes it – again – and comes back and things are worse, but he mercifully stops there, and spends the rest of the season (so far) living with the consequences of a past which he cannot accurately remember.
There are two prohibitive continuity problems: one is memory and the other is math.
Here is the thing one that makes me crazy: no one should be unable to remember events they lived through solely because of time travel. Barry Allen should be able to remember events in the timeline he is in because he has actually lived them. Even if he remembers going back and creating Flashpoint, he should still remember events in the new timeline, because there was still a Barry Allen, and that Barry Allen was/is him.
There is no separate Barry Allen that he replaced. (Compare with Continuum – where there were two or more versions of various time travelers).
Even within the show, in the timeline where his mother lived, he remembered that timeline as if it were proper, and his old timeline as if it were a dream. It is explained that as those memories fade, “time is hardening” and eventually he will lose the memories of the old-old timeline altogether. So before that happens, he repents, runs back, and undoes his undoing.
Only now he remembers the old-old timeline, and the old-new timeline, but does not remember what changed in the new-new timeline, because, apparently, dramatic reveals are more important than continuity.
What happened there, Flash-folk? Did time harden backwards? Or did you just throw up your hands in the face of a weekly deadline and say “Oh well. Time travel is all nonsense – let’s just get to some feels!”
Time travel is certainly nonsense if you forget your own few rules. And constant nonsense is not going to induce me to make time to watch your increasingly silly show.
In review: At the end of season 1 when Barry learns he can time travel, he goes back in time to save his mother (who was murdered by a speedster), but gets there and besides that speedster, he finds an older version of himself, who waves him off. So Barry holds off, and his mommy dies. And we are all sad.
At the end of season two, Barry is having an emotional crisis that seemed manufactured for plot reasons, and goes back in time to save his mom again, and does so, capturing the evil speedster (Reverse Flash), and taking him back to the new-old present and imprisons him, while Barry enjoys an idyllic life with mum and dad and their 27 year old son still living at home.
Reverse Flash, while still evil, becomes the voice of reason, convincing Barry that this is All Wrong, and not just because of unlawfully imprisonment. (Unlawful imprisonment bothers none of the heroes in Flash). So Flash goes back, and lets Reverse Flash loose in the past, where he kills mom, again, and also runs amok in a broad plot arc of Legends of Tomorrow.
Legends of Tomorrow has a similar sub-plot going about Martin Stein’s daughter he accidentally brought about by convincing his younger self to be less of a shithead. Stein should totally remember his own daughter – and sometimes he has flashbacks about her. I think the rest of that plot, both Stein’s daughter and the antics of Reverse Flash throughout history, is still forming, so we shall give that some time to, er harden..
Despite 3-5 speedsters from six different timelines running around her living room, Nora Allen is still dead. And all the nonsense surrounding that has robbed that event of any emotional impact it might have had.
Here’s the second problem: if you change the input variables, you inevitably change the outcome of the equation. We are the sum of our experiences, and if we go back and change those experiences, we become different people. Because math. People are stories, the liberal arts version of a formula, and if you can’t keep your story straight it’s hard to
solve for x suspend belief and thereby stay interested.
Hard – but not impossible. The poor put-upon androids of Westworld have multiple versions of their pasts floating about in the chips. But we know there is an actual past – they just can’t remember. Eventually they, or at least we, will figure that out.
In the comics, the more time travelers visit a particular point in time the harder it becomes to change it. Or at least it should work that way. Maybe that’s head canon.
Nora Allen will always die, as did my poor dog. That point is fixed in history.
Sorry about Trump though. I feel bad about that.