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S1E1 Spoilers

In the very first episode Barry Allen receives his SuperSpeed due to a lightning stike in conjuction with Starlab's experiment

in S1E15

It's revealed that Wells is actually Eobard Thawne, who is also the Reserse Flash. Eobard is Eddie's descendant. He made it is mission to assure that certain events unfolded, such as the explosion at Starlabs and Barry receiving the superpower.

in the following episode (S1E16)

It's confirmed that Barry did in fact travel in time due to speed, thus Eobard probabbly used speed to travel back in time aswell, instead of other possible methods (such as a Machine)

However this raises a question

If The current Flash was created because of Eobard. And if Eobard was the Reserve Flash because The Flash existed, then how did The Flash that preceded Eobard receive his powers (Since there isn't anyone known to precede /that/ flash so far)

I'm accepting responses based on the Original Series / Comics despite knowing that in cannon things do diverge a bit, as long as those explanations are actually possible continuations of this story arch

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The previous Flash TV series and the comics follow an entirely different plot for the Flash's origin, so they're not a useful source of additional details for this series. In them, Barry Allen, police scientist who one night was working during a lightning storm. Him and his shelf of chemicals was struck by lightning, which then fell on him drenching him in electrified chemicals. This then granted him his superspeed powers. Later retcons in the comics then make this even more comic book-y.


As revealed in The Flash episode S1E17 Tricksters, the particle accelerator accident always happened, except originally Harrison Wells and Tess Morgan helmed the STAR Labs particle accelerator. Eobard has gone into the past to defeat The Flash before he became the flash, so he traveled 15 years before. The Flash discovered his plan and he followed him into the past to save himself. After doing so, Eobard in rage, killed Nora Allen to pay Barry(The Flash) back. He then found himself stranded in the past, his superspeed powers too weak to enable him to travel through time again.

With Eobard Thawne stranded in the past, he needed to ensure the creation of the Flash as soon as possible so he could harness the Flash's speed to get home. So, Eobard killed Harrison and Tess, then proceeded to use a gadget from the future to alter his own appearance to match Harrison's, and took over Harrison's identity. Eobard then had the STAR Labs particle accelerator project completed 5 years earlier than Harrison and Tess originally did. Originally Harrison and Tess created the STAR Labs particle accelerator and caused the accident in 2020.

  • My assumption was always that he came back to kill child-Barry, thinking that he could return. Future-Barry came back, and fought him, resulting in the death of Nora. Future-Wells becomes trapped somehow, but maybe Future-Barry makes it back. Trapped-Wells now realizes that he needs young-Barry's powers to get himself back into the future. – phantom42 Mar 26 '15 at 1:43
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It has not been explained in the show yet, and without knowing more about the mechanics of time travel within the Flarrow universe, there's no way to give a definitive answer. But, two major possibilities present themselves:

Stable Time Loop

One common trope in time-travel fiction is the concept of a stable time loop, also known as the Predestination Paradox. In this type of time-travel system, it's perfectly acceptable for cause and effect to create a loop, where event X causes event Y but event Y ripples back in time to cause event X. It's allowed because it's stable -- as long as the future events happen correctly, they will cause the past events, which will in turn cause the future events, etc.

To accept this idea, you have to basically give up the idea that cause and effect form a "straight line", in which you can always trace things back to the "first" event; in a stable time loop, there is no such thing as the "first" event; each event in the loop causes the one after it and was caused by the one before it, in a never-ending cycle. (Several examples of this can be found in Doctor Who, where time travel is a routine part of the show.)

There is some evidence that this is the direction The Flash is taking things; Wells chastises Barry for "changing the past" and that causes bad things to happen in the future. This would be because Barry created an unstable time loop; by doing something the past, he's changed the sequence of cause/effect that led time to time-travel in the first place, and that's bad.

By contrast, the events leading to Barry becoming The Flash are stable. As long as

FutureThawne goes back in time to become Well,s start Star Labs and cause the explosion

then the timeline of Barry's life will always play out the same way. Even if the details change, as long as the chain of cause and effect events keep happening, time is satisfied.

This theory has a lot of support from the comics; specifically, it's the central plot in the cross-over event called Flashpoint. During that event, Barry Allen travels back in time to prevent Thawne from killing his mother, and in doing so, shatters all of the timelines of all parallel universes, completely changing history. As a side-effect, Barry ends up removing himself from all chains of cause and effect, becomine a "living paradox". Thawne believes that this new situation will let him kill Barry, without losing his own Flash-derived powers.

Alternate Timelines

The other major way that time travel works in fiction is that people who change the past create an alternate timeline. Sometimes, there is an idea of a "split" timeline, where the original history remains intact and a new one splits off at the point of divergence. Other times, the original timeline "disappears" and a new one takes its place.

In this setup, Barry would have originally gotten his powers some other way, a way that we are not (yet?) privvy to. At some point in the future of this original timeline,

Thawne goes back and kills Barry's mom and starts Star labs, etc.

thus creating a new timeline, which we are seeing play out.

This scenario is a bit harder to justify within The Flash, mostly because Wells keeps checking the news paper from "the future" to see if things are going well. If there were alternate timelines, that would be a senseless idea: there would be any number of possible futures where any number of possible events happened, and no way to specify which one was "right".

However, this theory does have some support from the source material. Specifically, the origin of Eobard Thawne includes several instances where he traveled back in time to change his own past, creating a variety of alternate timelines.

  • Good answer, Michael. I was going to write something very similar. You address all of the previous iterations and the current stable timeloop. Now I have to hunt down a new question... – Thaddeus Howze Mar 25 '15 at 18:40
  • @Keen in chat has almost convinced me that his alternate-timeline theory is correct (in the show), but I'm still withholding judgement. – KutuluMike Mar 25 '15 at 18:48
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    The alternative timeline theory collapses because Wells CAN check the status of the future from the present. This means the events can alter the timeline redirecting the results FOR THAT TIMELINE ONLY. If it were alternating timelines, Wells' future would simply cease to exist and he would see nothing after his first "correction". The fact history CAN be changed is evident by Barry's alteration of the recent past and Cisco's return to the timeline. – Thaddeus Howze Mar 25 '15 at 18:58
  • unless Wells somehow tapped into "his" timeline from "the other" one, and both timelines still exist; a third option, which I think is the one that Keen's answer really proposes, is that there's only one timeline but it's not "stable"; Wells was able to change it and have the future changed with it. I hope that's not the path they take, because that way lies madness, but at the moment I can't rule it out. – KutuluMike Mar 25 '15 at 19:53
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Watch this clip, you are going to understand what is everything about. Yes, Eobard always muddled with time and created the Flash.

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    While this may answer the question, if the link to the video ever goes dead, your post will lose its value. Will you please summarise that video here? – Gallifreyan Jun 26 '17 at 13:26
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The way The Flash got his powers in this show is "similar" to how he actually got his powers in the fact that lightning was involved as well as a lab full of "chemicals". In the TV show from the 90's starring John Shipp(who plays the dad in this new Flash), it was a lightning strike during a thunderstorm while he was in the lab. This also seems to be consistent with comic book origins for Barry Allen(not the only person to be The Flash).

So most of Barry Allen incarnations have been relatively the same. Wally West also had a similar accident(lightning bolt and chemicals). Jay Garrick got his speed by breathing heavy water vapors. Bart Allen got his power by going back in time to see Wally to have his aging slowed. Once that happened, he had his super speed power, and became Impulse. Later he became Kid Flash, and eventually The Flash.

There are a few others, but you can read all about them online.

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