Of all the problems a superhero must face, imagine how disappointing it must be to travel to the future only to learn that you’ll eventually turn into a whiny emo douchebag. It’s just not easy being ‘The Flash’.
Determined to go forward in time to learn Savitar’s identity (how that’s actually going to help him, I’m not sure), Barry does some TV Math* and calculates that he needs to visit the year 2024. Iris, meanwhile, has resigned herself to her death and asks Barry to take care of her dad when she’s gone. He doesn’t want to hear her.
[*TV Math bears no resemblance to actual math. It’s just a collection of random numbers and gibberish formulas that characters spout to sound like they’re doing something scientific.]
Caitlin is evil now, in case you’ve forgotten. She’s goes full-on Killer Frost and rampages through S.T.A.R. Labs. She even almost kills Julian with a face-freezing kiss until Cisco saves him. In the struggle, Caitlin crushes the necklace gizmo that suppresses her powers. She then stalks Cisco, Julian and H.R. through the lab until Barry arrives to chase her away.
Despite losing Caitlin, Barry announces that he needs to go to the future right away. The beauty of time travel is that he can come back right to this same moment as if he never left. In order to build up enough speed, Barry needs Wally’s help running around the reactor and tossing him into the portal. He arrives in 2024 to find Central City a run-down urban nightmare. Apparently, a lot of bad stuff happened in just seven years.
The meta-human villains known as Top and Mirror Master happen upon Barry in an alley and act like they own the city. They comment that The Flash has been gone a long time, and Top uses her power to give him terrible vertigo. He isn’t able to fight back against the two of them and barely manages to speed away before they beat him up.
Barry runs to his apartment and finds it abandoned. Cisco somehow knows he’ll be there. He looks old and disheveled. It doesn’t take him long to figure out that this is a Barry from the past. Cisco explains that the team broke apart after Iris’ death and Barry (future Barry) is a reclusive shut-in who hasn’t spoken to anyone in years. Without a hero to save it, Central City went to hell.
Barry insists that he needs to speak to his future self in order to ask him Savitar’s identity. Cisco brings him to S.T.A.R. Labs but won’t go in with him. The place is a wreck. Barry finds himself and… oh, how embarrassing, he’s a mopey, sullen loser with Chris Gaines hair. (Is Chris Gaines hair really going to make a comeback in the future? Please no!) Emo-Barry claims that he doesn’t know Savitar’s real identity, and is generally an unhelpful prick.
Feeling that this trip was an enormous waste of time, Barry leaves himself and heads back to the reactor core. Cisco begs him to stay because the city needs him, but Barry is adamant that he needs to go back to his own time to prevent any of this from happening. He races around the reactor trying to open another time portal, but nothing happens. He’s perplexed by this. (Umm, hello. He needed Wally’s help to open the first portal. What made him think he could do it again on his own?) Unfortunately, Cisco isn’t able to help. It seems that Killer Frost froze and shattered both of his hands. He now has robot hands. No real hands means no vibes.
Since he’s stuck in this hellish future anyway, Cisco takes Barry around to catch up with the rest of the gang. Julian now works at Iron Heights prison caring for an ungrateful Caitlin, who’s locked up there. In their conversation, Barry learns that Caitlin joined Team Savitar after turning evil. She knows who he really is but won’t tell Barry.
Wally is an invalid. When Iris died, he stupidly tried to take on Savitar on his own. Savitar broke his spine and he’s been catatonic ever since.
Barry finds Joe still mourning over Iris’ grave. Not realizing that this is a Barry from the past, Joe is mad at him for abandoning the rest of them. He refuses to speak with him.
Barry returns to S.T.A.R. Labs to try talking to himself again. Emo-Barry whines that there’s nothing he can do and he’ll never find a way to save Iris. He even tried creating Time Remnants of himself, but Savitar just killed them all. (I’m glad he brings this up, because that seemed like an obvious solution to me.) Iris is doomed no matter what he does. Although he eventually captured Savitar and trapped him in the Speed Force (the prison Wally stupidly released him from in the past), Iris was long dead.
Cisco confesses that he’s responsible for Barry being trapped in this timeline. He created a techno doodad that neutralizes his ability to make time portals because he wants Barry to stay and get the team back together. Even with the device disabled, Barry agrees to stick around a while and help fix the future.
The first step in that is to collect everybody (except Wally, because he’s a vegetable) and bring them to S.T.A.R. Labs, whether they want to or not. H.R., it turns out, is a very successful author of sci-fi themed trashy romance novels, and has horny housewives throwing themselves at him. He’s crushed when Barry tears him away from achieving the single most important goal any man can ever accomplish (a threesome).
Barry explains to everyone that he’s from the past, and promises them all that even if Iris dies he’ll never abandon the team like dickhead Emo-Barry did. He asks for their help capturing Mirror Master and Top. With only a little bit of hesitation, they’re all very excited to start fighting crime again.
Barry locates and confronts the two villains. Having not learned anything from their last encounter, he looks right into Top’s eyes and lets her disorient him again. He feels like the entire city is falling in on him. Cisco determines that the same gizmo that stopped Barry from time traveling will also disrupt Top’s powers, if only he had a way of getting it to Barry…
At this, Emo-Barry comes out of his room. He’d been watching everyone on the lab’s security cameras and realizes that it’s time to stop being such an asshole. He suits up and races the device out to regular Barry, who quickly regains his senses. The two Flashes make quick work of Mirror Master and Top. Returning to base, Emo-Flash apologizes to his friends.
When Barry asks how Emo-Flash eventually caught Savitar, he says that he had help from a scientist named Tracy Brand. Unfortunately, she won’t make the Speed Force trap until four years after Iris’ death, too late to save her. However, he gives Barry a data drive with information on her to bring back to the past with him.
Barry says his goodbyes and opens a time portal, leaving this dystopic world in the hands of himself and his friends to clean up. Arriving back in 2017, he fills everybody in on what he learned and gives Joe a hug.
In an epilogue scene, Killer Frost meets with Savitar, who promises her salvation. He won’t cure her meta-human powers. To the contrary, he’ll help her kill Caitlin so that only Killer Frost will remain. Skeptical, she asks why she should trust him. Savitar then bends over and removes his armor, revealing himself to her (but not to the audience; his face isn’t shown). Caitlin immediately signs on with his team.
Obviously, Savitar must be somebody that the other characters already know. My first instinct is that it’s another Barry from an alternate timeline. However, it could also be either Ronnie or Eddie, both of whom were sucked into wormholes. Could Eddie’s recent appearance in Barry’s Speed Force dream have been a clue?
As for this episode, the Emo-Barry stuff is ridiculous, as is the idea that Central City would turn into a terrible dystopia in just seven years. (Aren’t there any heroes from neighboring cities who could stop by from time to time?) The plot holds together well enough, though, for what that’s worth. That’s better than a lot of this show’s episodes can claim.