Family and Loss on The Flash

Martin, Ronnie, Caitlin, Cisco, Iris, Joe, Barry, Eddie, Nora - The Flash

Warning – spoilers ahead. I will be talking about the new season of The Flash, and some news of what is coming which is available online. Nothing secret, but if you do not like spoilers, tread carefully! Also, full disclosure, I have not read the comics, so this discussion is purely based on the TV program. However, if you want to add anything that comes from the comic book universe in the comments section below, I welcome such input!

When tragedy strikes, a common reaction is to “circle the wagons.” Friends and family descend upon the person in crisis, seeking to assist in any way imaginable. How the individual who is the focus of this attention reacts varies greatly, from choosing to embrace the concern and assistance offered to pushing people away and everything in between. A popular trope I have noticed on TV shows, and in particular superhero shows, is for the character experiencing the loss to go lone wolf and reject the support offered. Many times there is guilt involved as the loss might have been prevented but the hero or the team arrived too late.

The Flash recently premiered its second season, and one of the things I really like about this show is the strong presence of family. Now please note that I am not talking about just the flesh and blood ties that comprise the traditional family. In today’s world, family goes way beyond that. In fact, on the season one finale of Fear the Walking Dead, who exactly counts as family was discussed with serious implications for all the characters.

The Team
 

Caitlin, Martin, Cisco, Iris, Joe, Barry - The Flash

The team on The Flash is a good example of people not related by blood that grow into a family. The team and the important people in their lives work the long hours apparently required if you are in the superhero business – or actually, thinking about it, in any aspect of crime fighting. Criminals do not relent in their attempts to commit crimes, and so the superheroes need to be on call 24/7. Of course, this on call status extends to the entire team.

Because of the supersized work hours, the team itself comes to be interdependent on each other for emotional support in addition to the actual physical support while fighting crime. In addition, the team may become a de facto family because of the bond of loss felt by many of them and the mere fact that their loss left holes in their lives that the team now fills. Loss of a loved one or a tragic back story adds to the drama of the show. It does seem to be a requirement that heroes and the members of their team must suffer some sort of loss.

Barry and Nora
 

Nora - The Flash

Barry is a good illustration of the loss suffered by superheroes. His primary motivations for what he does are to find out who really killed his mother and to prove his dad innocent and see him released from prison. Thus we know immediately and importantly that Barry grew up an orphan; his mother dead and his dad in prison. He was fortunate to be raised by Joe, a police officer who is also the dad of Iris, one of Barry’s childhood friends. Interestingly enough, we know nothing about Iris’ mom in the first season of the TV show universe. But, I have read that is about to change, as we will meet Iris’ mom in season two!

At the end of season one, Barry actually had the opportunity to save his mother – to change the past – by keeping the Reverse Flash from killing her. His future self, however, warned him off with a shake of the head, leaving Barry to watch helplessly from the shadows while his mother was once again killed. The one bright spot was the fact he was able to talk to his mother before she died and tell her that in the future he and his dad were ok. While not ideal, at least that gave Barry some closure.

Caitlin and Ronnie
 

Ronnie - The Flash

Caitlin has lost the love of her life, Ronnie, more times than is natural or even conceivable. To cope with the death of a loved one is bad enough once, but she has had to deal with it twice. At least the second time they were able to get married first! Interestingly, both times Ronnie perished, another member of the family felt terrible guilt. The first time, it was Cisco who was forced by circumstances to lock Ronnie in the chamber where he died during the explosion that created the metahumans. The second time Ronnie died, Barry was only able to save one of the Firestorm pairing, and Ronnie drew the short straw.

Iris and Eddie
 

Eddie - The Flash

Also in the season one finale, Iris was forced to stand by helplessly as Eddie took his own life. In a move worthy of a true hero, Eddie realized that his death would mean that Eobard would never be born, and thus would cease to exist in Central City’s current time. His sacrifice saved Barry and the rest of the team, but Iris’ loss was profoundly felt and likely cause Barry to feel guilty over Eddie’s death.

 

Sadly, these casualties likely contributed to the team separation that occurred between seasons one and two. At a time when they most needed each other’s support, they instead move on in separate ways. It is a strange quirk of human nature that at our lowest point we sometimes avoid the very people that can help us heal. We can now see why this family is so important. Only by remaining and working together, as Barry finally realized in the season two premiere, will they all heal and grow stronger from their ordeal.

Do you have any other thoughts about family and loss on The Flash? Please let me know in the comments section below!