“If I could turn back time / If I could find a way / I’d take back those words that’ll hurt you and you’d stay”
Who knew some Cher lyrics could sum up an episode of The Flash. After returning from the Flashpoint universe, Barry (Grant Gustin) has to fix the differences his time travelling has wrought whilst fighting a new enemy. ‘Paradox’ is about time travel and the choice it gives you when you make a mistake: do you go back for a do-over or do learn from your mistake? The Flash makes every parents’ job easier as Barry learns he may be a man with an extraordinary gift, but he is still a man and he has to learn from his mistakes and the pain they cause.
Narratively, it seems too late to discuss the ramifications of time travel. Barry has meddled with time on multiple occasions and this is the first time anything drastic has happened when it wasn’t supposed to. But, it allows the writers to stymie any future narrative quibbles because it creates a reason for Barry to stay put, learn from his mistakes and grow as a character.
It also ups the threat level, giving the cast more melodrama to play with and if the emotionally charged ‘Paradox’ is anything to go by, the emotional stakes will be higher and the cast will deliver.
Cisco (Carlos Valdes) bears the brunt of this episode’s emotional baggage. Whilst miserable Cisco isn’t particularly fun to be around, it adds more shade to his relationship with Barry and allows him to move beyond quippy sidekick. He was a character people love but now he is a character people can care for. The time travel fulcrum also allows Candice Patton to relish Iris’ agency. For too long Iris has always just sort of been there, the object of Barry’s affections without actively doing anything on her own. Here, she acts as the leader, instigating some good ol’ emotional catharsis to get the team together. She has threaded herself into the STAR labs squad without any scientific know-how and Patton is becoming the best thing about the show.
Unfortunately, her storyline is still tied to getting the guy. It’s a bit counterintuitive to her evolution and even though the Barry-Iris relationship is integral to the mythos, there are ways to not make their relationship the focal point every time they talk. Luckily, Gustin and Patton have good chemistry and sell the relationship. Although, for someone who has erased the two times he has kissed the girl of his dreams from the timeline, Barry was a bit chaste.
With some subtle and not so subtle character work, it was disappointing to see Detective Joe West (Jesse L Martin) fall to the wayside. He is The Flash’s ultimate care bear but he was distant and relegated from his dad role to big up Jay Garrick (John Wesley Shipp). It makes sense for the speedster who looks like his dad to deliver Barry’s compulsory fatherly advice, and Shipp does a good job, but it was a waste of Martin’s talents.
For an episode so focused on character relationships and coming to terms with this new timeline it was amazing the show squeezed in a weekly villain, a new supporting character and progressed the overarching storyline. Julian Arnold (Tom Felton — being the general British dick) hates Barry and Dr Alchemy has arrived on the scene, looking like a plague doctor. He is still an enigma at this point and he looks suitably menacing.