Wednesday, 20 May 2015

The Trouble with Time Travel

So the first season of The Flash just had it’s finale, and yes it was awesome. The whole series was awesome, satisfying our need for comic book silliness, but tackling it in a cool, modern way. But it will inevitably suffer from the same problem that anything attempting time travel will. There’s a huge paradox that cannot be escaped.

Unless you’re approaching it from a “history cannot be changed, everything will still play out the same angle”. Those will work. Anything that attempts to change the past to alter the present will fall into the gaping hole of “but what happens now?”.

Let me just stop here to post a spoiler warning ahead for the finales of both The Flash AND Arrow, so if you aren’t caught up, beware!


So Wells/Thawne goes nuts about not being able to get home, and vows to kill Barry and everyone around him. What a nut job. Cue he and Barry blurring around landing blows where they can. Barry’s about to lose, and enter Eddie. He shoots himself, and as one of Wells/Thawne’s ancestors, Thawne then fades out of existence, his whole line wiped out. Aside from the horrifying realisation that Eddie just killed god knows how many more people just to take out Thawne (yes I know that Eddie is also a Thawne but for the sake of clarity let’s go with it). I mean seriously, how many “greats” came before “grandfather”? All gone, along with any other relatives of Thawne. Nice job Eddie!

Anyway, back to the time travel thing. If Eddie shot himself, and Thawne was never born, we have the obvious issue of Barry not being the Flash. You could argue that Wells was eventually going to do the experiment anyway, and Thawne just needed it to happen sooner, sure, that’s fair enough. But now, without Thawne, The Flash isn’t around until Wells (the real one) gets around to doing it himself, which causes loads of problems.

And before you go saying “but without the explosion, there’s no meta humans to stop, so it’s all good!”, think about the other, non-particle-accelerator related issues that being the Flash has helped with. Eg that fire a few weeks ago? Did all those people just die?

Next up, let’s talk about the implications this has on Arrow. For starters, Ollie is dead. So is Roy. Remember that time that they were gonna be skewered on Boomerang’s…um…boomerangs? They were conveniently saved by a super speed rescue by the Scarlet Speedster…except, he’s not around yet. Wells is taking longer to build the accelerator. Which means that Ra’s Al Ghul is still alive and kicking, Starling City has been destroyed by the Alpha/Omega virus, Team Arrow is still trapped in Nanda Parbat (Barry didn’t come to save them, remember?) and everything’s going to hell.

We were shocked too guys.

But even looking past that, if you came up with some wibbly wobbly, timey wimey explanation (Doctor Who reference anyone? Geddit?), there’s still a MASSIVE flaw in any time travel story (excluding the aforementioned ones about how nothing can change). Many films and TV shows fall victim to this hole (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban springs to mind, and don’t get me started on Looper). If something happens to erase the bad things that have happened, the events leading up to the thing that happened never would have happened, meaning that the thing that would have happened was never stopped.

Confused? Me too. Let’s use the Flash to put it in context. Eddie removes Thawne from the timeline, meaning he never could have come back, caused all the issues that led up to the moment when Eddie shot himself. Eddie shot himself because Thawne was about to kill Barry, but if Thawne never existed, he could never have been there to try to kill Barry, therefore Eddie never shot himself, therefore Thawne did exist, come back and try to kill Barry.

The point comes down to this – time travel might be cool, but there’s a damn big hole to fall into. Nine times out of ten, the events of a time travel adventure will lead to a paradox that the writers will gloss over, and distract us with some fancy sci-fi visuals, and as much as I love the Flash and think it’s a great show, I have to say J’accuse!

No comments:

Post a Comment