Synopsis of 3×19: As Caitlyn goes rogue, Barry heads to 2024 to try to learn how he was able to stop Savitar but finds the team broken by his inability to save Iris in 2017.
It was virtually inevitable that The Flash would pull from Marvel’s ‘80s mainstay What If… before it reached the end of this season. The time travel shenanigans central to the plot this season made it so that we’d get an episode where we’d see what happens if Barry fails to save Iris. And, like pretty much every issue of What If…, it’s pretty much a disaster.
There’s not really a lot happening here that’s too unexpected or pivotal to understanding the season’s greater plot. Barry’s failure breaks the team, leaving Cisco handless after a battle with Killer Frost, who allies herself with Savitar. Only HR gets by without too big of a disaster, ending up as a romance writer who mostly just misses his days of heroism.
There’s a distinct lack of purpose here though. It becomes abundantly clear that the future-Barry and future-Caitlyn aren’t going to help much. It leaves a lot of time for wallowing, as Barry sees all the ways the people he loves have been broken by his inability to stop the god of speed.
That’s not to say that “The Once and Future Flash” isn’t a worthwhile hour. I’ve talked before about how I felt like the larger plot this year often failed to establish real, clear stakes and this is an episode that shows how pivotal Barry’s battle is going to be for more than just himself.
The biggest reveal here is Caitlyn’s alliance with Savitar and even that feels under-baked. It’s hard to not feel like this episode is little more than a prelude to Tuesday’s “I Know Who You Are.” That ends up saddling a lot of expectations on next week’s hour and those expectations are something this season has not always consistently been ablate meet.