Warning: Spoilers ahead for tonight's episode of The Flash, titled "The Present."
Tonight's midseason finale of The Flash, titled "The Present," delivered a key moment that will drive most of the story through the spring of 2017, as promised. And the moment -- which was seen on-camera, but in the form of a "maybe-this-could-happen alternate future -- chilled Barry (and social media audiences) to the bone.
Now in its third season, The Flash had been lagging a bit, but had been energized by two back-to-back episodes that had the fans excited and curious for what would be revealed in the mid-season finale. Heading into tonight's episode, showrunners said it would provide a trajectory-changing reveal.
Up to now the main source of this season's villains has been Dr. Alchemy empowering individuals whose personal histories were altered by Flashpoint, but according to executive producer Andrew Kreisberg, that's going to get back-burnered as Savitar's real plan comes into focus.
"There's a villain coming up who's another one of the husk villains that was created by Alchemy, so there's that to deal with, but the midseason finale kind of creates a new problem for our heroes that they weren't anticipating -- something that they've never faced before," Kreisberg said. "And it's so big we're actually considering changing the saga sell from talking about Flashpoint to talking about that, because that's what's driving a lot of the episodes, actually. Flashpoint won't loom as large as the threat that presents itself in 309."
Whatever that is, it's likely to need an army to deal with it; Jay Garrick appeared in this week's episode, and recurring guest star John Wesley Shipp (who played Barry Allen in 1990's The Flash TV series) has been telling interviewers that he'll be spending much more time in Central City in the second half of the season. Set photos have also revealed what appears to be the Flash of Earth-19, the universe that gave us "H.R." Wells.
What's likely to be the main focus of their battle is a showdown on Infantino Street in Central City, between The Flash and Savitar in five months.
There, Barry watched as another version of himself stood by helpless while Savitar killed Iris and then disappeared into the night.
This certainly makes it clear what the key difference between the first half of season 3 and its second half are "about." Following the events of "Flashpoint," Barry spent the first half of the season trying to fix damage he'd done to the timeline following a trip to the past. Now, following a trip to the future, Barry has to find a way to avert an event which has an unclear path. The challenges will be finding the edge of what he can do about it without jeopardizing time again, and presumably finding that balance while acknowledging that the future hasn't taken place yet and can be changed, unlike the events of the past.
The Flash airs Tuesday nights at 8 p.m. ET/PT on The CW. New episodes return on January 24, 2017.