If you're a fan of superheroes, it's ridiculously easy to get swept up in the grandiose notions of the greater good and the overwhelming cool that comes with being on the right side of good versus evil.
The concept is simple: if you are gifted with insane strength, fearlessness and a kickass utility belt or the speed force after a freak and science-y lightning strike, then it’s your duty is to do as much good as possible. It’s the actually bedrock of superhero franchises, and most come pre-packaged with their very own mottos. I’m fond of the Star Trek movie, Wrath of Khan’s “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” Spider-Man, in most of its many iterations, is fond of “With great power comes great responsibility.”
So it’s no surprise that Barry Allen—the fastest man on Earth 1—has grappled with the concept of the Capital-G Good in the last two episodes of The CW’s The Flash "Versus Zoom" and this week's "Back To Normal".
In "Versus Zoom,” Barry, disturbed by the fact that he left Earth 2 vulnerable to Zoom’s wrath, was determined to use his tachyon device to lure Zoom into his trap on Earth 2. The episode was yet another thrilling and audacious display of what comic-book-turned-TV-show superherodom should look like: Barry and Team Flash launch a brave and risky plan to catch the Big Bad, are out-smarted and forced to make a grueling choice. Barry (Grant Gustin) could forfeit his speed to save Joe’s recently discovered son, Wally, or Zoom would kill him.
On the surface, it seems like a no-brainer, a human life trumps pretty much anything else. But what would Spock do? What would the webbed one recommend (MacGuire’s or Garfield’s. I’m not entertaining that new guy yet)?
However, the greater good doesn't mean adopting a Prince Charming code of honor that demonizes dishonesty, manipulation or even killing if the act protects far more people than it endangers. So when Barry agreed to Zoom's plan, he didn’t have to honor his word to keep his Superhero Card. He could have killed him while he gloated about winning or at the very least tricked him into thinking Barry was surrendering his speed, and still maintained some of his speed force. Instead Zoom strolled into the lab, kidnapped Caitlin Snow, and robbed Barry of his speed—the one thing that was protecting Central City from Zoom's wrath.
The pros for doing the unthinkable and letting Zoom keep or kill Wally are pretty compelling. In “The Man Who Saved Central City,” a dubious Barry was honored as the savior after his part in stopping The Singularity, and has vowed to defend it against evil meta-humans that law enforcement aren’t equipped to stop.
Also if Barry was so concerned about leaving another dimension at Zoom’s mercy, why would he risk the same thing happening on his earth?
“Back To Normal” detailed the very dangers out of an Flash-less Central City when Harrison Wells was kidnapped by a rapidly aging meta-human with super-strength. While Barry honorably stepped in to save the cranky damsel in distress, he was unable to do more be a derpily dressed punching bag and wait out Grandpa Hulk until he died.
The mortifying and painful encounter reminded Barry why he needs his powers back, despite the dangers.
So did Barry fail in his biggest test of Greater Goodom 101? Simply put, yes. But the failure is an honorable one. Iris West (Candace Patton) said it best in "Back To Normal" when Barry was struggling with his sudden normalcy: “You’re supposed to be the same guy you’ve always been. Suit or no suit, that guy is a hero.”
There's a distinctive difference between being a hero and executing the greater good. A hero is someone who swallows their fear and does the right thing in harrowing situations. The greater good is about executing an overarching agenda in which will lead to a noble outcome. One is a person running into a burning building to save an elderly man. The other is someone going after the construction company that put the the faulty wiring into the building which caused it to catch fire.
Admittedly and thankfully, Barry still doesn't have the pragmatism and coldheartedness of a solider. He's not "Arrow's" Oliver Queen, who was hardened by being stranded on a hellish island and the time he spent under Amanda Waller's control as an assassin.
There was never a doubt that Barry would make a great sacrifice to save Wally, regardless of the outcome. As a guy with a heart of gold who willingly risks his life to save others and a member of law enforcement, Barry Allen is hero, speed force or not.
Photo Credit: nerdist.com
Small Screen Girl
I am an unabashed pop culture and TV-aholic with no plans to ever seek treatment. Explore this blog and see just how deep my obsession goes.