Synopsis of 3×10: Haunted by what he’s seen in the future, Barry and the STAR Labs team try to find a way to stop Iris from dying in four months. Wells opens the new STAR Labs Museum to a less than enthusiastic response.
This was always going to be a problem The Flash was going to run into. Time travel is built into every episode of the first season, requiring a host of less than solid plot decisions to make the Reverse-Flash series of reveals work. As the show comes back from winter hiatus, it leans into the time travel shenanigans more than ever before.
In “Borrowing Problems from the Future,” Barry’s dread over what he saw in the future forces him to find a way to deny the fate he feels is coming for Iris. To whit, he considers a list of items that could potentially change the future, even as everyone around him warns that it’s impossible to tell which decisions might save Iris from Savitar and which ones might just cause new, unpredictable problems.
The episode does its best to set up the idea that time isn’t flexible, that Barry’s quest to find a way to save Iris may be frutiless but this whole season, and much of the Arrowverse really, for that matter, don’t really support that reading. The creation of Flashpoint and all the changes it brought to reality, as well as recent developments like Stein’s daughter over in Legends of Tomorrow show that the rules of time travel are pretty flexible. If Barry wants to save Iris, he can.
However, the goals they come up with are sort of hit or miss. Sure, having Wally take down Plunder is clearly pretty straight forward but how would someone prevent gorillas from damaging the city? How do they make sure Music Meister gets a book deal? How do you make sure a frankly bizarre museum remains profitable for four months?
It’s a loose set of goals but one I could see a creative show exploring in an interesting way, but The Flash has frequently been an extremely literal and straight-forward show when it comes to plot developments and villains.
“Borrowing Problems from the Future” is devoted almost entirely to setting up a new status quo that rests entirely on Iris facing the specter of death. It’s a frankly bizarre, limiting choice, especially in a season that’s felt repetitive more often than it hasn’t.
While there are plenty of opportunities for the show to mix things up and play with its version of the future,, there’s little evidence of much creativity at work. There’s plenty here to hope for but the central question of the episode doesn’t need asked, much less debated in the context of this universe.