Longtime fan of comic books and their various adaptations. Aspiring writer who works in advertising for nonce.
The Flash is heating up, and our Tatiana Hullender is here to give her thoughts on the show’s direction.
CW’s The Flash is in the midst of its most exciting chunk of episodes this season, starting with last week’s chapter in which Barry disappeared into the speed force after attempting to recover his powers through another particle accelerator explosion. Theories have abounded all week about how he will get back, how he will defeat Zoom, and whether Wally and Jesse will also be gifted with speed. But there’s one aspect of the episode that has been debated more than the rest – and that’s whether Iris West’s confession of feelings for Barry is “genuine” or somehow forced on her due to her learning about their destiny.
Before watching Kevin Smith’s highly-touted installment “The Runaway Dinosaur” and hopefully having all our theories confirmed or corrected, I’d like to take a moment to tackle the question of Iris West and her emotions. It’s certainly true that Iris has brought up the question of destiny twice now when discussing her choice to move forward romantically with Barry, but to suggest that she is somehow forcing herself to do it is to deny aspects of her characterization that have been emphasized since day one.
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Last year, before she ever saw a newspaper from 2024 and long before she knew about Earth-2, Iris West admitted that she hadn’t been able to stop thinking about Barry since his confession. She couldn’t stop because she didn’t want to stop, and the only reason they didn’t move forward from there was because Barry ran back in time and erased her confession. Later, Iris repeated the admission but clarified that she wasn’t going to let herself keep thinking about Barry because she was with Eddie. She had a boyfriend whom she had grown to love and she wanted to be loyal to that relationship.
When this season started, Iris was still reeling from Eddie’s death and naturally needed time to process her grief before she could think about moving on with either Barry or anyone else. This is where I think some of the criticism about her romantic arc is warranted, because as I myself have complained at length, the show did not give her an opening in which to talk about her feelings for over ten episodes. It would have made sense for both Iris’ personal growth and the West-Allen romance for Iris to explain to her father that she needed to set aside any feelings for Barry out of guilt for the part their relationship played in Eddie’s death. Instead Iris was silenced on everything from Eddie to Barry to even her secret brother until the writers felt it was the right time to drop some plot bombs.
That being said, it is still crystal clear the story that Iris did and does have romantic feelings for Barry. Before his trip to Earth-2 – and therefore before Iris has any knowledge that they are married in another universe – Iris asks him to “come home.” The implication is clear: she wants him to come home to her. She even brings that moment up herself in her confession, saying that she hadn’t been talking about Patty then but herself. However, Iris has had a lot of mental hurdles she needed to clear before allowing herself to admit that she is in love with Barry. First she needed to move on from Eddie’s death, which a video procured from Barry’s recent trip to the past allowed her to do. Then she still tried to go on a date with her boss, which we unfortunately didn’t see onscreen. But what we did see onscreen was the way she started to see Barry differently.
Throughout the back half of this season, Iris has tentatively reached out to Barry several times before coming clean about her romantic intentions. She referred to herself as his home and waited around STAR Labs until his return so that she could welcome him back, she flirted with him at a nightclub and dared to bring up “Netflix and chill,” and she even gauged his reaction to her going on a potential date which she immediately canceled. The fact that her knowledge that they were together in the future and in parallel earths factored into her decision-making process doesn’t negate her very real feelings for Barry – it just points to what a methodical and cautious woman Iris is. She’s always been afraid of screwing up her relationships, which we saw when it took her nine months to admit to her father that she had a boyfriend because she was afraid of what would happen once the relationship became serious. Knowing that Barry Allen is her destiny helps Iris West take the leap of faith and be with him, not because it removes her choice in the matter but because it eases her fear that they will fail.
Tatiana Hullender is a Contributor to ComiConverse. Follow her on Twitter: @MyrcellasEar