Barry Allen slowly coming to terms with the risks associated with time travel has been a recurring theme throughout much of the third season. Barry's decision to travel back in time and save his mother had created an entirely new time-line – and, despite his best efforts, he had not been able to return things to the way that they were, before Flashpoint. More than that, though, many of the problems that Team Flash has been confronted by, throughout the season, have been a direct result of Barry's decision to meddle with the past.
Watching as Barry had slowly come to accept responsibility for the problems that he had caused, and resolved to do better in the future, had actually made for a fairly satisfying character arc – to such an extent that it actually seemed a little strange to end the previous episode with Barry's decision to travel to the future.
In this grim future, Iris is dead – and, Wally has been left paralysed and catatonic, following a confrontation with Savitar shortly after her murder. Cisco, meanwhile, has been forced to rely on cybernetic replacements for his hands which following an encounter of his own with Killer Frost – and, as a result, he is unable to use his 'vibe' abilities. Barry, himself, seems to have given up entirely, following his eventual defeat of Savitar – with the result that various villains, such as Mirror Master and Top, have been free to do as they please.
To make matters worse, it seems that Future-Barry never actually discovered who Savitar truly was, despite eventually being able to defeat him, and trap him in the Speed Force. Killer Frost, who seems to have taken over entirely and who has been held in custody since Savitar's defeat, claims to know – but, of course, she isn't willing to share that information with her former friends. So, it all seems pretty hopeless – but, then, things take another turn when Barry discovers something is preventing him from being able to open a portal to return to his own time, leaving him momentarily trapped in this depressing future.
Obviously, what this episode was intended to offer was a glimpse at a 'worst-case scenario' possible future – one where, despite his apparent success against Savitar, Barry still clearly feels that he has lost. The episode does a fairly good job of that, too. Grant Gustin does a fine job of portraying an older, and significantly wearier, version of Barry Allen – though, perhaps, not with quite the same skill of Stephen Amell's portrayal of different of Oliver Queen, at different points in his own life. Carlos Valdes was similarly called on to portray an older and wearier version of Cisco (though, in his case, one still clinging to a fragile hope that he might be able to bring the team back together) – and, does an equally fine job. The very strong friendship between the two came to serve as a strong point of the episode – as, even with Barry's realisation that it was actually Cisco who was preventing him from returning to his own time, he still felt compelled to do whatever he could to help.
It was also great to see Mirror Master and Top, again – with the two continuing their entertaining 'meta-human Bonnie and Clyde' partnership. They still aren't the most compelling, or well-rounded, of villains – but, they are fun. And, the combined effect of them using combining their powers against the Flash made for a creative, and very strange, moment in the episode. More importantly, though, the fact that they are still active eight years in the future clearly seems to suggest that we haven't seen the last of them in the present – so, that is something else to look forward to.
I do have to admit, though, that it was a little disappointing to see the series continue to draw out the mystery of who Savitar actually is. The idea that Barry would go all that way, only to not learn the one piece of information he was after was a little frustrating – for me, as much as for Barry. More and more, I'm just not convinced that all of this build-up is actually going to lead to a truly worthwhile reveal. At the same time, though, Barry's trip to the future did provide one significant development, as far as actually defeating Savitar is concerned – so, it didn't feel like a complete waste of time.
In all, while Barry's trip to the future did ultimately feel more like a filler episode, than the significant plot-development we were led to believe that it would be, it was still an episode which proved to be perfectly entertaining. More than anything else, it is clear that this episode was intended to hammer home, for Barry and the audience, the true cost should he fail to find some way to save Iris. In that regard, the episode was very successful. I just have to hope that the series actually does go ahead and reveal who Savitar really is in the next episode (and, of course, that the reveal actually proves to be worthwhile) – because, at the moment, the whole mystery has started to feel a little tedious, and much too similar to what we had last season.