The season four premiere of CW's The Flash is just under a month away and a brand-new promo dropped tonight featuring Barry Allen's return from the Speed Force. But it's quickly clear that the Barry who has returned to Central City isn't quite the Barry who walked into the Speed Force at the end of last season.
In the promo, Barry not only looks different with longer hair and a beard but his very demeanor seems changed. In fact, Barry's eyes crackle with Speed Force energy even as the speedster himself seems to be looking off into space.
While the hair, the thousand-yard stare, even the seeming detachment from those closest to him could all just be Barry dealing with whatever trauma his time in the Speed Force inflicted upon him we can't help but wonder if the Barry who comes back to Central City is really the Barry Allen who left it in the first place.
It wouldn't be the first time "Barry Allen" wasn't who he seemed to be…
"The Return of Barry Allen"
Mark Waid's 1993 story arc "The Return of Barry Allen" dealt with a premise with some similarities to the upcoming fourth season of The Flash. In the story, Barry Allen is dead and Wally West has taken up the mantle of The Flash in his stead. However, on Christmas Eve Barry appears on Wally's doorstep alive and well.
The newly-returned Barry explains that he reformed himself from a being of energy back into that of a human being then used information from the Flash Museum to remember who he was. His friends, particularly Hal Jordan, are convinced that Barry is the real deal though Wally remains skeptical. The resurrected Barry is different. He's more aggressive and angrier than he was before and it's eventually revealed that this new Barry isn't Barry Allen at all. It's actually Eobard Thawne, aka the Reverse Flash.
The arc, which in goes a long way in developing Wally as a hero in his own right and not just as a junior version of the Flash, ultimately ends with Wally sending Thawne back into the future and the real Barry still being dead.
How it could work on 'The Flash'
While we already know that it's unlikely that Wally will become the Flash in season four and that the show is seemingly done with speedster villains, the Barry that comes back from the Speed Force could still be an imposter. We already saw Eobard Thawne return at the beginning of season three despite having previously been erased from existence. And while the same fate seemingly befell Thawne last season on Legends of Tomorrow, the Legends also broke time in the process leading to things being more than a little out of whack. That could be just the opening needed for Thawne to exist again and come back to Central City as "Barry Allen."
Of course, Barry could just be dealing with everything he experienced inside the Speed Force since time there may flow very differently than it does in the real world. Or it could even be that the Barry who returns is dealing with a whole host of new powers that he didn't have previously, powers that would come in handy considering that it looks like Iris might need rescuing from some intense-looking Samuroids.
Fans will find out if the Barry that returns from the Speed Force is the real deal and what that means for Team Flash when The Flash returns October 10 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on The CW.