Warning! Full spoilers for the episode below.
There are probably numerous changes, but the biggest and most important hit home for Barry. Cisco is no longer the happy-go-lucky nerd that he once was, and now holds a grudge against Barry. As previewed at the end of Flashpoint, Iris and Joe are no longer on speaking terms. The team at Star Labs that Barry was pining for is no longer whole. Paradox doesn’t hold back with these changes, putting Barry in an uncomfortable and dismal situation.
Another change, that will certainly hold importance as Season 2 progresses, is the addition of Julian Albert (Harry Potter’s Tom Felton) to Barry’s CSI division. Julian is tasked with meta-human related CSI happenings, and has been part of the team for over a year. Barry and Julian butt heads, and have done so at length. Felton’s Julian certainly holds the most mystery as we enter Season 2. Julian is currently investigating mystery husks that have been appearing around Central City, and more hostility between Barry occurs as they investigate a new discovery. Barry uses his speed to steal a sample from the crime scene, which leads to important discoveries later within Paradox.
As noted before, resentment towards Barry is a common theme in Paradox, with a large quantity of it coming from Cisco. We learn that Dante was killed, not by a baddie or because of the team at Star Labs, but from a drunk driver. Cisco resents Barry because he has refused to go back in time to save Dante. This topic comes to a boil when Barry attempts to manipulate everyone to get along for a nice family dinner. Barry tricks Iris and Joe into attending dinner through some quick tricks of speed, and even gets Joe to invite Cisco and Caitlin. Barry is noble in his goals, but his plan backfires in attempting to get everyone back on the same page. Barry is caught in his lies, and the unity he sought becomes even further from reach.
Teased in last week’s episode, we also see the true return of The Rival. Alchemy leads Clariss to the sewers, and claims that he can give him the life that was lost. Clariss yearns for this life, as he sees flashes of who he was in Flashpoint, and is easily manipulated by Alchemy. While the easy jump is that Julian is Alchemy, I hope that the team behind The Flash has more in store for viewers. Regardless, The Rival returns in full form with help from Alchemy. Clariss blames The Flash for taking away the life he was meant to live, but he’s back as The Rival, and exactly where he should be. After temporarily defeating The Rival, Barry lets it slip that he knew who The Rival was without any previous information, and the Star Labs team continues to distrust Barry’s lies and manipulation.
Paradox featured a great scene in the Star Labs’ hallway that mirrored the same scene from Flashpoint, in which Iris pulled Barry aside and challenged his behavior. Again, Barry sees resetting the timeline as the only option. Barry knows that everything is his fault, so he’s off to fix everything with his speed! Thankfully, Jay Garrick returns, yanking Barry into 1998 for a sit-down. Although we had glimpses of John Wesley Shipp in last week’s Flashpoint, it was always lovely to see him back as Garrick. Shipp was able to once again play a father figure to Barry, but in a much different role. He reinforces that there are consequences to time travel, that he himself has made the same mistakes. He challenges Barry, and asks what kind of hero is Barry going to be? It’s a much different scene between the two, but a necessary one.
We’re not gods. We’re men.
Barry returns to his time, and comes clean to the Star Labs crew. He admits defeat, and explains how they are now in Flashpoint 1.5. But things aren’t the same. People aren’t the same. Barry gives everyone the opportunity to know the differences between timelines, again desperate to make things right. This is where Cisco truly boils over, knowing that Barry tried to change the past when it came to his own family, but wouldn’t do the same for Cisco. It has been great to see Carlos Valdes stretch his acting legs as Cisco, and start to escape from the singular nerd persona that we have seen.
Barry tried to make amends with Julian, but to little effect. Barry wants to make things right across the board, but he isn’t fully equipped to do so, which is great. While Flashpoint rushed things immensely, Paradox pumped the breaks on everything being solved so quickly. Barry also attempts to rush to defeat The Rival on his own following his quick interaction with Julian. Alchemy joins forces with The Rival, and Barry has a rough go. While Julian was just at the CCPD, and Alchemy was with The Rival, it could just be a brief misdirection. Regardless, Julian still holds immense intrigue in The Flash Season 2. Iris, as the voice of reason, pulls the team at Star Labs back together, and they come together to help Barry. Cisco shows up, right on time, and helps Barry to defeat The Rival. It was a nice little moment, and surely one we will see again in Season 2.
The gang gets back together, and Cisco shows shades of pre-Flashpoint and crowns our new baddie, “Doctor Alchemy”. It’s also important to note that The Flash has chosen Tobin Bell, of Saw fame, to voice the big-bad this season. This is similar to the methods that they used where Tony Todd voiced Zoom in Season 2, but wasn’t the man under the mask. Whether or not Tobin Bell will actually be revealed as Doctor Alchemy, or if another familiar face will, is yet to be seen.
I don’t trust you. I don’t like things I don’t trust.
The Star Labs crew decides that they don’t want to know their Flashpoint counterparts, or how life was now different from the original timeline, and Cisco even quotes Harrison Wells, stating, “What’s the point?” Barry also tries to make final amends with Julian, but Julian refuses the offer. He catches Barry in a lie about how he stole a husk sample from the crime scene, and refuses to trust him. Again, it’s an obvious choice to jump that Doctor Alchemy and Julian are one in the same, but I hope that The Flash has more in store for us this season.
Paradox ended with three more tiny moments, that all hold future ramifications. We see Barry and Iris finally kiss again, and hopefully this one has lasting power. We also see that Caitlin is a meta-human in this timeline, although she is keeping it secret for obvious reasons. Finally, we see Clariss in his cell, but Doctor Alchemy appears and (possibly?) kills him. In this moment, we see that Doctor Alchemy has some sort of claw-like arm? I suppose that spooky hood has to be hiding something! It will be intriguing to see how Doctor Alchemy is supported as the big-bad of Season 3, especially with the character being introduced so early in the season.
Paradox gave us the first glimpses into both Doctor Alchemy, as well as newcomer Julian Albert. While the introductions of both came hand-in-hand, I hope that The Flash has bigger plans that the presumed connection. While Flashpoint rushed through the consequences of Barry’s actions, and were shortly erased, Paradox put Barry into a new and uncomfortable situation. Barry was introduced to a timeline where things may not have been entirely desolate, but they certainly weren’t up to par with pre-Flashpoint standards. We saw Barry have to deal with the consequences of his actions, despite his best efforts to fix things. Barry still remains a man out of time, figuring out and piecing his life back together, and I can’t wait to see more.