The Flash Season Finale (And Time Travel) Explained

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Last night, CW aired the finale episode of The Flash's first season. How many times is about 9 PM on Tuesday going to roll around, only to hear us say, "That was the best episode yet."

The Flash finale was gut-wrenching with emotional moments but equally mind bending when it comes to the plot. Time travel can be a danger thought to delve into when you really try to think about it. Let's just and hash out some of those paradoxes you keep running into and see if Flash is going to run into the same ones. Be warned: SPOILERS follow for The Flash season finale if you haven't seen it.

There are several different ways of telling a time travel story.

Whatever Happened, Happened

In this theory, you can't change the past but it will all seem new to you if you are transported back. Let's say you were born in the year 2000. Today, you are 15 years old. Obviously, the events of the 90's already happened and were a part of a series of events that lead us to right now.

Now, let's send you back in time 25 years to 1990. While the events of 1990 already happened when you were born, you hadn't experienced them for yourself. Think of time as a record and you're the needle getting all that beautiful sound to play. You started listening to track 2000 and continued to 2015, but when you pick up the needle and move it back to 1990, you've never heard that track. That doesn't mean it wasn't there all along, though. This is you're first time hearing it! Even if you stay in that time for 10 years until 2000 when you were born, the song will be the same, but you've heard it before!

In this theory, the rule is you can't change anything even if you try, so whatever you do when you're back in time will, in fact, lead you to going back in time in the first place (and if you're going back far enough, maybe even being born). It's mind boggling, I know.

The Butterfly Effect

This theory is equally tough to follow but in completely different ways. Under the rules of the butterfly effect style of telling a time travel story, one little change in the past would change everything. Of course, that would the person never went back in time in the first place, so we're brought to an awful paradox. The alternative to that result would be an alternate universe. Rather than cancelling out the universe you came from to create a different timeline, it continues parallel to the new one you exist in.

This seems like the most likely candidate for what's going on with our characters on The Flash. Considering they didn't disappear when Eddie shot himself, cancelling Eobard Thawne's existence altogether, it would appear that they are not in a new universe. In their new universe, Eobard came from the future, killed Professor Wells, trained Barry, and eventually disappeared. This leaves Eobard's original place of existence in question. Perhaps it's on the other side of the giant wormhole above Central City?

It's tough to say which one of these is the theory being used on The Flash, because technically Barry didn't change anything about the past when he didn't save his mother. However, Eddie sacrificing himself and eliminating Eobard's existence follows the butterfly effect theory. Time travel is a fun way to tell a story, though, so season 2 can't come soon enough.

The Flash finale wasn't all confusion. It was packed with Easter Eggs, especially during Barry's journey through the Speed Force.

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To highlight a few things Barry saw when traveling above the Mach 2 speed, we should mention the vision of himself handcuffed on the wrong side of a prison phone call, the Flash Museum, the Legends of Tomorrow, and Caitlin as super villain Killer Frost.

Barry in prison is the most eyebrow raising scene of all. How does Barry end up in prison? Is that the future or an alternate universe? The Flash Museum got everybody excited. We'll be seeing more than one Flash, that's for sure. On top of that, Jay Garrick's helmet came through the wormhole and alerted Eobard that it is time to get the heck out of there. That makes me wonder if Eobard has tried to kill other Flash's or if he knows a catastrophe could be following when different universes collide.

Had the Legends of Tomorrow trailer not been released last week, the image of Sara Lance as White Canary would have been stunning. Even having seen this footage - just watching the Legends of Tomorrow become a part of Barry Allen's universe was really exciting.

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One big Easter Egg came at the very end of the episode: the first appearance of Hawkgirl. Ciara Renee, who will be playing the hero set to appear in Legends, popped up and could have easily been missed as she looked at the wormhole above in distress.

What do you think is in store for season 2 of The Flash? Do you think that an alternate universe was created when Eobard's existence was eliminated?

If you have any questions or theories yourself (especially about time travel!), leave them in the comment section!

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