Despite teasing us with an Iris (Candice Patton) who was taking control of her life in the face of an impending doom in "Dead or Alive" — a golden time that was also quickly dashed in the same episode — I still held out hope that Iris wasn't going to take a back seat to her fate, that she was going to look danger in the eye and say, "Come at me, bro. The only thing I fear is that speedster in an Ultron-meets-Sauron suit of armor, and then only in a park on a certain day. Otherwise, I will accept comers, for I am Iris West, destroyer of worlds."
Obviously, that did not happen. After facing down an arms dealer, Iris decided that one story was enough and went back to letting everyone else do the things related to saving her... That is, when she's not continually defined by being engaged and then not engaged and then engaged again to Barry ( Grant Gustin). Her absence loomed large over the future, but that episode was still about sad men in a timeline that probably won't exist come the end of this season; and not about Iris West as an active participant in her own fate.
Like I said in regards to "Dead or Alive," and The Flash's overall treatment of Iris, this has all been par for the course. The series simply can't decide who or what Iris is, if she's not the love of Barry Allen's wife, Joe West's (Jesse L. Martin) daughter, Wally West's (Keiynan Lonsdale) brother, or a S.T.A.R Labs cheerleader. This week's episode, "Cause and Effect," did little to address this problem, but at least it was about Iris wanting something.
In this case, Iris wanted the memory-wiped Barry Allen to maybe stick around for a little bit. And who could blame her? It was a Barry that didn't brood and talk in a Batman voice. It was a Barry that laughed and couldn't catch things and would get to discover Dragon Ball Z all over again. I mean, sure, there's the whole memory-wiped Future Time Remnant Barry Allen also existing, and that seems like a recipe for disaster on some level. But putting that aside, this memory-wiped Barry is a Barry free of the emotional turmoil that defines him. It may not be the Barry Allen, but it's an agreeable breath of fresh air.
Obviously the whole thing is sketchy on an ethical level, but this is a show that still refuses to engage with the ethics of S.T.A.R. Labs as a metahuman black site, so, shrug. However, as Joe points out, the Barry they all love is the Barry defined by the good and the bad that has happened to him. It's a lesson Barry himself has to keep learning and re-learning, and it's one Iris has reminded Barry of in the past.
Back in the Flashpoint timeline (remember that from the start of the season?) Barry experienced a happiness he hadn't previously known before. Iris, however, didn't get to experience any of that lightness or freedom. So even though it's a lightness and freedom that wouldn't have caused disruptions on a timeline scale (probably...?), this episode makes a "greater good" argument to sidestep making Iris look too selfish in a quasi-selfless act. By making sure that she was the one who triggered Barry memories, the show simply reaffirmed Iris was doing the right thing for others.
So, yes, Barry gets months of happiness in Flashpoint, only to undo it himself, and that in turn leads another way to brood about things. Iris gets a little taste of it, and the show is like, "Well, only a few hours, and you need to undo it RIGHT NOW, and not because you seemed to have a personal epiphany of any kind." It's good in one way as it makes clear that Iris is deeply noble. But wouldn't it be interesting to see a messier, more assertive Iris, one that made a stronger case for a Barry that would've led to, maybe, a happier her?
Alas, such rich possibilities are reserved for most everyone else it often feels like, but never for Iris.
The Flash airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on The CW.
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