Spoilers are coming at a blur, so don't say that you haven't been warned!
Regular Cast: Grant Gustin (Barry Allen/The Flash), Candice Patton (Iris West), Danielle Panabaker (Caitlin Snow), Carlos Valdes (Cisco Ramon), Keiynan Lonsdale (Wally West/Kid Flash), Tom Cavanagh (Dr. Harrison Wells), Jesse L. Martin (Joe West); Guest Starring: Tom Felton (Julian Albert), Emily Bett Rickards (Felicity Smoak), Todd Lasance (Edward Clariss/The Rival), John Wesley Shipp (Jay Garrick/The Flash), Tobin Bell/Lance Henriksen (Dr. Alchemy body/voice); Written by Aaron Helbing & Todd Helbing; Directed by Ralph Hemecker
In past instances when Barry Allen has not listened to those around him and things have gone to hell as a result, he’s been able to travel back in time and pretty much restore the status quo. The events of “Flashpoint,” however, apparently represent something very different as driven home in the second episode of season three, “Paradox.”
There is a moment when Barry attempts traveling back in time to alter things yet again, but is stopped by Earth-2’s Flash, Jay Garrick, who pulls him out of the Speed Force and into 1998. They go to a diner where Garrick (who claims to have made the same kinds of mistakes that Barry is making now) breaks a coffee cup, puts the pieces back together and points out the cracks. Like the timeline, he says, no matter how hard one endeavors to fix the situation, things will never be the same again. It’s a deeply significant life lesson for Barry, who has to truly accept the consequences of his action, and the fact that that action has deeply impacted on those closest to him. It’s a tremendously important character moment.
As to what has changed: Joe and Iris don’t talk much, because Joe didn’t tell her that her mother was still alive; Cisco’s brother, Dante, had been killed by a drunk driver, and he can barely be in the same room with Barry because Barry has refused to travel back in time to save Dante’s life; Barry and Iris are close to starting their relationship, but haven’t done so just yet; when Barry visits Felicity Smoak in Star City to get some advice, he learns that Arrow’s John Diggle now has a son rather than a baby daughter; and Barry finds himself working with Dr. Julian Albert, a British meta-human CSI specialist (well played by Harry Potter's Tom Felton, who's accompanied by some Malfoy attitude and obvious disdain for Barry).
On the Flash side of things, Dr. Alchemy, who we met at the end of the previous episode, has come to this timeline and is turning people who were meta-humans in “Flashpoint” back in to those versions of who they were, leaving lifeless husks of this timeline’s versions in the aftermath. Among them is Edward Clariss, who has once again become the speedster The Rival.
Told by Garrick that he can’t change things, and taking Felicity’s advice to tell his confused friends what’s going on, Barry does so. They’re all stunned, but it is Carlos Valdes’ Cisco Ramon who really stands out here. In what is probably the strongest performance he’s ever given over the course of the series, his pain is a tangible thing, as is his anger and frustration that all of this time Barry has refused to go back and save Dante’s life, but now he’s learned that Barry didn’t seem to have a problem with saving his own mother’s. Grant Gustin is strong here as well, wanting to help his friend but fearful of the consequences of doing so.
Later, the Flash finds himself going up against The Rival, who has the memories and powers of the other timeline fully restored and wants nothing more than to use them to kill him. While that battle is taking place, Iris is actually the one who manages to rally the team, emphasizing that they’re a family and they’ve all made mistakes and have secrets like Barry did. The effect of those words are known soon enough when things switch back to the Flash and The Rival. Alchemy inserts himself into that battle, and stuns the Flash, giving The Rival the upper hand. The death blow is about to be struck, when Cisco, dressed in full Vibe gear, shows up and unleashes a bit of his power. Together, he and Barry take down The Rival, their friendship on the road to recovery.
At episode’s end, Alchemy, disappointed in The Rival’s showing, murders him in his cell; Team Flash is pretty much back together; Iris and Barry share that kiss; and, when she’s alone, we see that Caitlin has been affected by the new timeline in that she has indications of the powers of her Earth-2 counterpart, Killer Frost.
One of the problems with the preceding episode was that it wrapped up the Flashpoint timeline in a single episode, which felt too rushed. Conversely, even though most of the conflicts established in "Paradox" are resolved by its end, it plays much stronger. One likely reason for this is that much of the episode is driven by the characters and their emotions, which is the one place that The Flash seldom goes wrong.