By Seun Olowo-Ake
Like many shows, The Flash hadn’t completed its season before production shut down because of the pandemic. This means that us Flash fans were left without closure to the Mirror Master storyline of Season 6 and had to wait a whole 10 months before the Scarlet Speedster graced our screens again. So, to tide myself over, I resorted to re-watching old episodes.
Even though I would identify as a binge watcher, I had never actually binge-watched The Flash before. Watching all the episodes so close together like that made some character traits more obvious to me. For instance, Cisco (Carlos Valdes) is not afraid to call his friends out, Iris (Candice Patton) is always ready for combat and Barry Allen (Grant Gustin)–the Flash himself–has a saviour complex.
There are a few examples of this throughout the show. In every episode, it seems like Barry says some version of “I’m not fast enough to stop them”/ “this is all my fault”/ “I should have been there”/ “I can’t save them”. He also has to be told repeatedly by his friends that, “you are not God, Barry”. However, it’s the first half of Season 6 that really puts his complex on display.
The season opens with the Crisis where it was foretold that “the Flash must die”, which looms over Team Flash’s heads. At first, they think they can stop it from changing their lives, but after Barry pulls a Doctor Strange and sees billions of possible futures, he develops the conviction himself that he must die to save everyone. He spends a portion of the show trying to prepare his friends for a world without the Flash, training them so they can be heroes without his leadership and picking out who should lead the team when he’s gone. In this season particularly, I find that the show positions Barry almost as a Jesus-figure. He becomes a ‘paragon of love’ who is willing to sacrifice himself to save all of humanity.
My favourite episode of the season (and possibly of the entire show) is episode 7 “The Last Temptation of Barry Allen Pt. 1”. It plays with the choice between good and evil and, as the name implies, Barry is presented with the possibilities that his life holds if he chooses evil in an “all this could be yours if you bow down to me” type of situation. Aside from Grant’s phenomenal acting, the reason I love it is that we finally see that our hero has a dent in his armour. Still, even though he’s argued with his friends and family about the reasons for his conviction and has been preparing his team for his demise, Barry outrightly says to the Speed Force here that, “I don’t want to die.”
The Speed Force is a sentient, infinite source of energy that I like to think about as the speedsters’ God. It chose Barry to be the Flash and he only maintains his speed because of his connection to it (as of right now) and it frequently tells him of the sacrifices he must make as a hero. It even has laws that he must abide by, with repercussions for breaking them. The Speed Force shows up in this episode to help our hero make the right decision and Barry speaks to it about the trajectory of his life as a hero and as a man.
Since we’ve known him, Barry has developed close friendships with his co-workers (the aforementioned Team Flash), married the girl that he has had a crush on for over a decade, and even met his daughter from the future. He loves his life. So, even though he has always willingly adhered to the laws of the Speed Force and accepted its consequences when he broke them, Barry snaps when it states that it is just here to guide him on the path he has chosen. “A lightning bolt shot down from the sky and struck me!,” he cries out. “I didn’t choose this; this was done to me! … Why do I always have to suffer for you?”
I low-key relate to that resentment, feeling like I have to be strong for everyone–my family, my friends, even God–and then sitting in my bed going ‘I can’t do this’/’Can I just have a minute?’. Maybe you feel that way too as a parent, a guardian, a sibling, or a friend. It’s hard not to try to be strong when you have people who are depending on you. I mean the lives of millions of people rest on Barry’s shoulders! Yet, in this episode, he finally sees something his friends have been trying to teach him. Something we must all learn at some point in our lives:
We weren’t made to carry our burdens alone.
No matter how good or smart we are, we’re all flawed people who need help from our own Team Flash and from our Infinite Source.
The Flash returns on the CW on Tuesday, March 2nd, 2021.