With Barry focused on stopping Zavitar, there isn’t much to push him into heading into the future. Even with Caitlin in full on Killer Frost mode, destroying everything in sight, Barry’s thoughts are always with Iris. Using Wally’s speed to launch him into the future, Barry sets his sights on discovering Zavitar’s identity.
Barry lands in 2024, eight years after Iris’ death, in hopes to find his future self to get the answers he needs. What he finds instead is Central City plagued by Meta Humans with no one to stop them. Team Flash disbanded and has abandoned each other. The first person he finds is Cisco, who is surprisingly not bitter about his situation, just desperate to make it right again. With Cisco, past Barry finds his future self locked away in Star Labs. After Iris’ death, he pushed everyone away to wallow. Future Barry pushes his past self away, angry and unwilling to help, putting a damper on past Barry’s hopes. He bids him goodbye and warns his past self to enjoy his time with Iris as much as he can.
I’m not surprised at future Barry’s current state, but eight years of grief when he was once so passionate about saving Central City seems excessive. Past Barry, put off by his future self, tries to return home but can’t. He briefly panics, but Cisco reminds him he can always go back to his time and begs him to stay and help reunite Team Flash.
It’s like a scene out of The Christmas Carol, Barry meeting all his friend’s future selves that his future self has abandoned. Most of Team Flash has made the best of the situation, even Joe. He has often been depicted as an alcoholic in many alternative worlds and spends his days devoted to Wally’s care and visiting Iris’ grave. The strongest emotion Joe feels towards Barry is sadness; he feels abandoned by his son, like he lost all his children in one night.
Visiting his friends isn’t just a warning, it gives him small clues as to what he’ll be facing in the months to come. One of the saddest fates, aside from Iris, is Caitlin’s full transformation to Killer Frost. There is no talking her down from her metahuman self. In fact, she aligns herself with Zavitar relatively quickly after nearly dying in Star Labs. She knows his identity, but won’t help past Barry by revealing it.
His friend’s future shakes past Barry so much he confronts his future self in a fit of anger. In Past Barry’s present, he had just promised Iris he would take care of Joe and not let him spiral into a depression. He feels his future self has tarnished Iris’ memory and broke an important promise. The two bicker as future Barry tells his side; he was just as broken over Iris’ death as everyone else. Having her take her last breath in his arms was too much to bear. He warns past Barry not to fight it, just enjoy his time with Iris. While one day he’ll be able to stop Zavitar and lock him in the Speedforce, it won’t matter with Iris gone.
This isn’t the Barry past Barry sees himself as; he doesn’t understand what eight years of grief and fighting can do to a person. He begs Cisco to help him get home, but all Cisco does is push back, as his pain of losing their family is strong despite his optimism. Briefly, Barry considers running home, but he realizes he needs to help push everyone back together.
Cisco is overjoyed as Barry drags H.R., Julian, and Joe to Star Labs. It’s perfect timing as a Meta Human alert goes off, causing the team to scramble and get the lab back into working condition. Past Barry takes off to take on Top and Mirror Master who are in the middle of a robbery. It’s laughable how easily he falls under Top’s power and is quickly rendered useless. Lucky for him, his future self has been watching and is inspired by the team coming together. Donning his suit, he runs to join past Barry to negate Top and Mirror Master’s powers. Together, they arrest them and help make Central City just a little safer.
Perhaps seeing his past self’s unwavering optimism reminded him who he is, future Barry is committed to keeping Iris’ promise and making this work. In thanks, he tells past Barry how he captured Zavitar, four years after Iris’ death. It’s a physicist, Tracey Brown, who helps develop a trap for him. He gives his past self her work in hopes Tracey will be able to read it. It’s their last hope to take Zavitar down before Iris is killed.
Past Barry returns home just as quickly as he left. His trip was not a complete waste and has a new found determination to not only save Iris but save his family as well. This includes Caitlin, as he knows she will be aligning herself with Zavitar fairly quickly. In fact, Zavitar locates her easily and manages to win her trust by revealing himself to her. I can’t imagine who he could be that she’d trust on sight, but I’m sure we’ll find out soon enough.