“The Trial of The Flash” saw Barry Allen sentenced to life in prison for the murder of Clifford Devoe/The Thinker — a crime that he obviously didn’t commit. As a viewer, I knew it was coming, but that didn’t make it any easier to stomach.
For most of the trial, Barry sat unnerved as the prosecutor built an open-and-shut case against him. Knowing that he couldn’t explain away the mountain of evidence piling up against him without revealing his identity, Barry seemed to already have accepted his fate. Barry’s hopelessness was evident in his blank expression, which the judge interpreted as a lack remorse.
(I also believe that what little hope that Barry had left evaporated once Cecile turned out to be an awful attorney, but I digress.)
Iris West, on the other hand, was having a hard time keeping it together. From the jump, Iris has been written as Barry’s rock, but even she couldn’t withstand knowing that her husband could be wrongfully convicted in the same way his father had been.
Iris Reached Her Breaking Point
After a particularly theatrical testimony, Iris squared off in the hallway with Marlize Devoe, during which she failed to convince the wife of Barry’s newest enemy to do what was right. Iris then acted on her desperation and attempted to reveal to the judge that Barry was the Flash. She managed to get out “Barry Allen is…” before being thwarted by Barry at the last second, with a cool display of a new power. Somehow, Barry was able to move them both fast enough that they could have a private conversation in the middle of the courtroom.
After sitting stoically for much of the hour, Barry softened only when Iris was on the brink of tears, but even as she cried, he explained to her that revealing his secret would put a target on both their backs. They would never be able to stop running. Reluctantly, she finally agreed to keep his identity a secret.
From the writers’ decision to finally allow Iris to make a selfish decision that would benefit only her and her relationship, to them reiterating once again that Iris shares a special connection to Barry and his powers that no one else does, I loved everything about this beautifully heart-wrenching scene. But I’d be lying if I said that my shipper’s heart didn’t break for them.
They’ve Faced Constant Tragedy
There isn’t a couple on TV, I’d argue, who’s experienced as much constant tragedy as these two have. Every time they come close to happiness, the writers snatch it away from them. Their weddings were crashed not once, but twice. First by Nazis, then by Felicity Smoak. This occurred less than two months after Barry had escaped from the speed force prison, which had housed him for six months. Now, Barry is a convicted felon, rotting away in Iron Heights for a crime he didn’t commit.
Anyone who’s ever watched television — specifically, superhero-based shows, know that there’s no way Barry Allen is actually going to live out his sentence, and he’s *probably not going to have to reveal his identity to prove his innocence either. As a viewer, this gives me peace, but this doesn’t change the fact that, to Barry and Iris, the sentence may as well be permanent. They don’t know that Barry will likely be out of jail within a few episodes.
They should be settling into life as a newly married couple and planning a family. Instead, they’ll probably be arranging prison visits, and looking up competent lawyers for future appeals. If this was one of the first obstacles they’d face, I wouldn’t harp on this, but Barry’s conviction is just another item on the long list of tragedies that they’ve faced together.
The writers seem to enjoy figuring out how to constantly traumatize them both. Season 1, Barry fell into a coma for nine months, after having been struck by lightning. Season 2, they had to grieve over the death of Barry’s father, and later, Iris’s mother. This was before they were even a couple. Soon after taking the plunge and getting together, Barry was thrust into the future where he saw Iris being murdered by Savitar, an evil version of his future self. Of course, Barry (and the viewers) had to relive that moment over and over again, as he continued to revisit that night to come up with a potential plan to stop Savitar.
Their Romantic Relationship Was Marked By Death
Having been dating only a couple of months, the beginning of their relationship as lovers was marked by death just as their childhood friendship had been.
Even after an entire season of trying to save Iris, Barry ultimately failed. It was only by HR’s sacrifice that Iris survived. Then, after HR’s funeral, in a moment of much-deserved solitude, the speed force prison went haywire because it needed an occupant to remain stable. Of course, Barry had to resign himself to the prison, much to the detriment of the team, but mostly Iris. After spending months not knowing whether she’d be brutally murdered on the street, she finally had a moment to breathe easy after Savitar was defeated, only to then lose her fiance for a second time that season.
(The writers first broke them up for an entire week just so they could reconcile during the musical episode because when you think your fiance is about to die, you obviously ask for time apart.)
I think I can speak for much of the fandom when I say that Barry and Iris need a break.
The strength of their love and devotion to each other has always been one of the building blocks of the show. After four seasons, there is no question whether or not Barry and Iris are meant to be together or the role they serve in each other’s lives. Barry and Iris love each unconditionally. It’s that love that’s given them both the strength to endure the laundry list of tragedies that have occurred in their lives over the years. If the viewers know nothing else, it’s that their love is unyielding to obstacles and roadblocks.
On a show where all of the characters are destined to suffer, it’s important to showcase this strength, but it’s just as important to let them revel in the good times as well. I get it — Barry and Iris have a love that can withstand almost anything but must the writers hone in on that fact repeatedly? Their bond and ability to survive under pressure have been demonstrated 10 times over, but what the viewers haven’t experienced enough are those moments between when the world isn’t being threatened, and when the thing that can be on the top of the list, for once, is each other.
Most Of Their Milestones Are Glossed Over
Every big milestone they’ve had has either been interrupted or glossed over altogether in favor of angst. Viewers have been denied a plethora of important moments in their relationship. We were denied their first time, their reunion, post-speed force sabbatical, their first dance as a married couple, their honeymoon — the list could go on and on. The only reason that they were allowed to get married, or enjoy their honeymoon (offscreen), is that those events played into the Thinker’s grand plan (which has yet to be revealed). Had he not wanted them to have two weeks of bliss on some tropical island, then you can bet that it would have been ruined as well.
Just going off of history, I doubt that once Barry is released from jail, the writers will give their reunion its just due either — unless, of course, it’s another situation which will eventually get interrupted.
Barry Allen/The Flash is destined to suffer, I know. Iris West, a living, breathing, extension of him is destined to suffer as well. But I argue that they shouldn’t have to suffer apart, but together, for starters. Can they stop being separated them before they even get a solid start together as a couple? But back to the inevitable suffering. In the midst of the suffering, we could allow them to genuinely enjoy the milestones in their relationship, no?
You may say that The Flash isn’t just about Barry and Iris’ romance, but when the writers have made it clear since day one that their love is the component that drives everything forward, I think its due more respect than it’s given. The constant trauma is getting old.