If there's anything we as a nation can agree on, it's that at around 8:50 local time last night, everyone watching The Flash simultaneously cried, "THERE ARE STILL 10 MINUTES LEFT?!"
For a midseason finale, you'd expect that the self-aggrandizing speedster ancient Savitar murdering Iris (Candice Patton) would be the last thing the show would want to leave fans with going into the break. (Happy Holidays, West-Allen fans!) But instead, we got a pleasant denouement with a cute scene of Barry (Grant Gustin) gifting an apartment to Iris, and a special moment where Barry just tries to be present with his soulmate. An adorable scene — but also, who shops for an apartment alone, signs a lease, and tells another human being, "OK, this is where we live now" without any input from them? Barry Allen, I guess.
The denouement also included yet another lecture from Jay Garrick (John Wesley Shipp) about the timeline. Now that Barry knows it's possible for him to go into the future, of course all he wants to do is stop the darkest timeline (don't we all). Jay reminds him that 1) the future he saw was only one possibility of infinite possibilities based on his present decision-making, and 2) stop trying to mess with time, you jerk. Gah, Barry. Learn a lesson.
But the part about being able to avoid the dramatic demise of Iris West through present decision-making is a powerful one. This is the push and pull of a time traveler who is able to change the course of true events, and who also — at least occasionally — believes in destiny. But staying present matters more than anything his powers can do to help. So what are some of the ways Barry can save Iris from such a stabby fate? Here are a select few from the near infinite myriad.
1. Just don't go to that park.
That park didn't seem so great anyway. Just avoid Infantino Street for the rest of your lives. There are other parks. You might have to bail on a food truck festival here and there and people might be like, "Why are you so against this festival? The grilled cheese and bacon truck is going to be there." But, then again, Barry and Iris only have five friends and they all know about The Flash, so I'm guessing Cisco (Carlos Valdes) might be disappointed but he'd bring them something back. It won't be as fresh, but Iris also won't have a Savitar claw hole in her.
2. Put Iris-shaped dummies all over the place.
If you don't think you can avoid that park (even though it really seems like a boring park), it's time to start thinking traps. Start working on uncanny Iris dummies and put them all over the place. Make them as life-like as possible (if Cisco can whip up a Kid Flash suit on a moment's notice, I'm sure they can make some Real Girl dolls). Then play out that scene with Savitar and just point to one of them. "Oh no, that's Iris. Don't pick her up; that'd be terrible." And then Savitar runs her through, the red corn syrup flows out of the dummy, Savitar leaves happy and everyone's cool. We did it, team!
3. Go all Home Alone.
Maybe Savitar won't be totally fooled by a Real Girl doll because it doesn't scream and squirm like a human being held by a metal speed beast normally would. But he might be distracted for at least a second. That's when he gets conked in the head with a paint can swinging from a tree branch, and then he slips on Barry's old Micro Machines. Then, when he's on the ground, lightning bolt, lightning bolt, and then bonk him on the head with the business end of a snow shovel. That'll teach him.
4. Assemble the Superfriends.
When it looks like everything is going to play out with Savitar doing his thing, it's time to assemble the crossover pals. Get Kara (Melissa Benoist) and Kaitlin (Danielle Panabaker) to freeze the dude (once Barry points in his general direction, since Savitar is hidden from non-speedster eyes), and then it's just about punching and super-punching him into oblivion. I know Barry can't call everyone from their separate cities and Earths to save his girlfriend all the time but, come on. It's Iris. And even though it's just one enemy that the Superfriends have to pummel and it seems like overkill to have everyone gang up on him, it's like watching your favorite sports team win big against a rival. Sometimes you want to see them run up the score.
5. Packs your bags and move away.
So maybe you've come to the conclusion, like I have, that the game won't start in the park that it ends in. Maybe Savitar shows up at S.T.A.R. Labs or at the newspaper office, or maybe Barry and Iris catch Savitar having a crumpet at a local tea place and he gets so embarrassed he overreacts by stabbing people to death. The point is that maybe avoiding the park won't stop the future. But perhaps avoiding the Earth will. Now that Cisco seems able to throw together some inter-dimensional tech willy-nilly, it looks easier to get from Earth-1 to Earth-38 than it is for us to fly from Los Angeles to Boston. Sure, Earth-38 has its own troubles with a constant influx of aliens in a bad mood and legendary screaming nightmares inhabiting a generation of women, but at least you've got a couple of Supers there and you can go back to visit Earth-1 whenever you want. It'll be tough to go from seeing your dad every single minute of the day to only visiting on holidays but, you know, a lot of adults already do that and they get by somehow.
6. Face the future.
If all of that sounds like terrible advice, it is. The only way Barry Allen can really change the future is the only way Barry Allen knows: face it head-on in the most self-sacrificial way he can. If there's anything we can pull from Jay's scolding, it's that, while knowledge of a possible future is dangerous, it also means he can train and be a few steps ahead of wherever he is when Savitar kills Iris. It's about existing in the present and being the most he can be now. It's a good lesson for us all, actually. Fight for a better future by acting in the present. Because it's all we or Barry Allen or any person who exists in linear time can do.
Maybe those aliens from Interstellar have different advice — but they only speak in math, and who has the time for math?
The Flash returns with new episodes in 2017.
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