Warning: FULL SPOILERS follow for The Flash.
After years of delays, The Flash has finally run into theaters and given Ezra Miller the chance to portray two different versions of Barry Allen on the big screen. Although director Andy Muschietti and screenwriter Christina Hodson took their inspiration from Geoff Johns and artist Andy Kubert’s Flashpoint storyline in the comics, the specifics of the story are quite different. What remains constant between the comic and the film however is that Barry’s haphazard attempt to change the past creates a dangerous new timeline in which there are far fewer heroes.
Although many expected The Flash to end with a clean break from the Snyderverse films that came before it, the film’s conclusion is surprisingly open-ended with several unanswered questions. To make sense of it all, we’re taking a look at The Flash’s lingering threads. So consider this one last spoiler warning for the events of the film! We won’t be holding back on the reveals.
Behold the new (old) Batman
Considering that the now-canceled Batgirl film featured Michael Keaton’s Batman, it’s easy to envision an ending for this film in which that version of Bruce Wayne was the one who pulled up outside of the court at the end of the movie. And in fact, there were paparazzi photos set photos of Keaton outside of the courtroom that we can now presume were him filming the original version of this scene. Besides Batgirl, Keaton also went on to film a cameo appearance for Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom that has now been reportedly removed, which strongly suggests that he would have been the DCEU Batman going forward. Instead of that outcome, Barry comes face-to-face with yet another version of Bruce Wayne, as played by none other than George Clooney. This marks Clooney’s first return to the role since 1997.
Having spent the entire film learning how dropping a can of tomatoes in his mother’s shopping basket could screw up the timeline, Barry failed to absorb the implications of making any additional changes, even ones he felt would only change what he perceived to be the present. Indeed, during his last trip to the grocery store in the past, he placed the tomatoes on a higher shelf so that his father, Henry Allen (Ron Livingston), would be forced to look up and make his face visible in the recovered security footage. This successfully gives Henry an alibi for his wife’s murder, and paves the way for his release in the modern day.
But as it turns out, this is also Barry’s ultimate crime. By freeing his father, Barry has potentially canonized all of the events of Batman & Robin! So the ice-skating dynamic duo, the Bat-credit card, and the ice pun-loving Mister Freeze (Arnold Schwarzenegger) may now exist in the DCEU / DCU. Damn it, Barry. You broke the universe again.
We’ll discuss more of the ramifications of Clooney’s presence below.
Fish Out of Water
The post-credits scene finds Barry reunited with Aquaman (Jason Momoa), but this notably drunken Arthur Curry sure doesn’t seem like the king of Atlantis. As Barry catches Arthur up on the changes he’s witnessed the the timeline, their conversation implies Arthur still considered them to be friends and teammates in this timeline and the events of Justice League and possibly Peacemaker still occurred. Yet there may be some drastic differences in their shared history that we have yet to discover.
It’s likely that this scene exists mostly to confirm and reinforce that Momoa’s Aquaman is still around ahead of his own sequel, Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, which is coming later this year. That said, we don’t know for certain yet if Aquaman’s next appearance takes place before or after The Flash or how that film will reflect The Flash‘s events.
Who killed Nora Allen?
One of the biggest unresolved mysteries from The Flash is the identity of who killed Barry’s mother, Nora Allen (Maribel Verdú). Notably, neither the film nor Barry himself seem that interested in providing an answer. Though he’s intent on stopping her murder, time-traveling Barry never even considers the possibility of using his newfound ability to see who murdered his mother so many years ago.
Within the realm of comic books and in The Flash TV series, Nora’s killer was Eobard Thawne, the Reverse-Flash. But the film doesn’t hint at the possibility of a Reverse-Flash, and Barry’s solution for saving his mother wouldn’t have worked if her murderer was superhuman. Having Barry’s father at home wouldn’t have been a deterrent for someone like Thawne. Though if Nora’s killer was an ordinary person, it still begs the question, was there a greater motive? Barry believes that it was just a home robbery gone wrong, but is he correct?
Is Kara Zor-El alive in
the new timeline?
Sasha Calle made her DC debut in The Flash as Kara Zor-El/Supergirl, the cousin of Henry Cavill’s Superman. Within Barry’s newly created timeline, Kara was a prisoner for years and kept in an emaciated state until she was exposed to sunlight. And while she was initially unwilling to side with the two Barrys and Michael Keaton’s Batman, she ultimately proved to be a loyal ally and friend in the battle against General Zod (Michael Shannon) and his army. This ultimately cost Kara her life. And no matter how many times the two Barrys attempted to save Kara and Bruce, their deaths were inevitable fixed points in time.
But if Kara existed in this offshoot timeline, it stands to reason that she may still be alive after Flash reset the universe again. If so, where is she? Is Kara still stuck in some Russian blacksite? Or has her Kryptonian rocket failed to arrive on Earth? Or is she an active superhero? Although Cavill will not be reprising his role as Superman in the DCU, we don’t know if Calle will return or not. What we do know is that Superman’s cousin will have her own movie, Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow. But could it be Calle playing her in that film?
The tagline for The Flash was “Worlds Collide,” and that literally happens during the two Barrys’ attempt to rewrite history and get a better outcome in the film’s final battle. Various cinematic heroes from DC’s past, some from beyond the grave, appear in cameos as they are forced to watch the destruction of their Earths before Barry puts a stop to it.
George Reeves, the very first Superman on the big screen and the star of the 1952 TV series, Adventures of Superman, returns posthumously in the cameo that kicks off the sequence. Although this world is presented in only shades of white, black, and gray, later seasons of Adventures of Superman were actually filmed in color. So it was a deliberate choice to present Reeves’ Man of Steel in this way, implying there are worlds that simply look like this.
Adam West’s Caped Crusader from the Batman 1966 TV series also appears on one the doomed worlds heading towards destruction. But West’s Batman only appears for a very short time compared to one of the most famous Supermen, Christopher Reeve. The star of Superman: The Movie is featured in closeups as he is joined by his cousin, Kara (Helen Slater), who headlined the 1984 Supergirl movie. Although their films took place in the same shared universe – a notably early attempt at such a thing for comic book films – Reeve and Slater never shared the screen while he was alive. Thus this is a glimpse of the crossover that we never got.
Curiously, the multiverse scene largely ignores many of the modern DC superhero shows. Instead of a cameo from Grant Gustin’s Barry Allen, Teddy Sears briefly appears as the traditional original Flash in the comics, Jay Garrick, in repurposed footage from The Flash TV series. That’s especially notable since Sears wasn’t actually playing Jay on the show. He was Hunter Zolomon, an evil speedster who was known as Zoom to his enemies. During The Flash Season 2, Zoom pretended to be Jay in order to win the trust of Team Flash. Regardless, The Flash movie treats this cameo as though Sears is in fact playing Jay Garrick. The footage was also converted to black and white, seemingly further distancing it from the world the TV Flash exists on.
[UPDATE: In an odd turn of events, Teddy Sears, while noting it sure looks like him, told TVLine he didn’t film anything or was even aware of his likeness being used in The Flash. The article goes on to note, “Well-placed sources on both the TV and theatrical side told TVLine on Thursday night that the alleged Sears sighting is a case of mistaken identity — that said cameo was absolutely not archival footage of the Flash TV series alum, but a generic Golden Age Flash representation played no actor of note.” So it seems like we have a Sears doppelgänger!]
However, the biggest cameo in this sequence features a Superman we never had in live-action before, Nicolas Cage. During the late ‘90s, Cage was cast as the Last Son of Krypton for Tim Burton’s Superman Lives, the exception that proved the rule when it came to less well known actors traditionally being cast as Superman. Kevin Smith wrote the script for that film before Burton joined the project, and Smith has regaled audiences for years about producer Jon Peters’ oddly specific demand that Superman fight a giant spider in the film. In a fitting touch, Cage’s Superman actually goes into battle against a giant mechanical spider as a nod to that unfinished chapter in the character’s history.
There cameos were included as nods to the past that represented the collapsing multiverse Barry’s actions had caused. The biggest lingering question of The Flash after the mid-credits scene is whether Barry and Arthur are moving over to the new DCU to co-exisit with James Gunn and Peter Safran’s reenvisioned characters or if they are now off on their own in a completely different universe.
Bringing things back to where this article began, there’s some glaring questions around George Clooney’s return as Bruce Wayne. Given Clooney is highly unlikely to be sticking around to play Batman on an ongoing basis, it feels like there needs to be another story between now and then to resolve the presence of Clooney’s Batman. If Barry and Arthur are indeed in a separate universe from the DCU going forward, that’s one thing, as Bruce/Batman could remain offscreen. But if Ezra Miller and Jason Momoa’s versions of these characters continue on alongside whomever is cast in upcoming projects from Gunn and Safran, there’s no way Clooney is playing Batman in The Brave and the Bold movie (which will introduce Bruce Wayne’s son, Damian, who becomes Robin)… is there?? If Clooney agreed to any sort of new long term deal, that would be quite a twist.
For now, we can only hope that Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom offers some clarification on where things stand.