The Flash: Secrets Don’t Make Friends

I don’t think this could have been a more awkward dinner if they tried.Barry_Allen_Grant_Gustin_Felicity_Smoak_Emily_Bett_Rickards_Ray_Palmer_Brandon_Routh_Eddie_Thawne_Rick_Cosnett_and_Iris_West_Candice_Patton

So. Secrets! Secrets, an integral part of any good superhero story. And always, always, forever always, something that comes back to bite said superhero in the ass at some point in the game.

Over these past few episodes since Eddie found out the truth about Barry, I’ve been giving Barry Allen’s secret a lot of thought. I’ve been thinking about who he’s told, why he’s told them, how they’ve found out. I’ve been thinking about those who know his secret and what they think of it. I’ve been thinking about the way the story of his secret identity has been playing out. And I’ve been thinking about it in contrast to Oliver Queen’s Arrow.

First things first. The Flash – Barry Allen’s abilities, his speed, and what he has chosen to do with them – is Barry Allen’s identity and Barry Allen’s alone. The team at Star Labs, Joe and Eddie, Team Arrow, whoever – they are people who partner with Barry, but they are not Barry. Joe and Eddie may currently hold more important roles in Iris’ life, but ultimately it is Barry’s choice when and if he reveals to Iris this side of him. They can posture at each other and compare dick size to determine who’s the better man all they want, but really it’s not up to either of them. It’s up to Barry. And honestly, as much as I want her to know – partly because I think it will better integrate her character into the show and give her actual storylines and partly because their reasoning for keeping it from her is ridiculous at best – Barry doesn’t owe this to Iris. He doesn’t owe his identity to anyone. Everyone has secrets. Everyone has pieces of themselves that they’ve never revealed to anyone or have only revealed to select people. And if Barry makes the decision that this piece of himself is not something he wants to share with Iris, that’s his choice.

That being said, the show’s made it pretty clear that that’s not Barry’s choice. He wanted to tell Iris in the beginning, but Joe said no. And I’m certainly not surprised Barry not only deferred to him on the decision – Joe’s not just Iris’ father, he’s Barry’s, too, for all intents and purposes – but eventually succumbed to his way of thinking: that by keeping Barry’s identity from Iris, they’re keeping her safe. And so now we have Eddie – who isn’t Joe’s son and so has much more of an equal footing relationship with him, who isn’t going to be swayed so easily – arguing for Iris being told. Barry may have eventually come around to Joe’s way of thinking, but he’s not a child who can’t think for himself, and I think Eddie arguing for telling Iris might reawaken some of his original feelings on the matter.

Not to mention, we’ve seen Barry tell Iris the truth. In Out of Time, when push came to shove, Barry told Iris the truth. And what he said in that moment is important: “I’m so sorry. I didn’t want you to find out this way.” Not ‘I didn’t want you to find out. Period.’ But “I didn’t want you to find out this way.” Barry knows Iris is going to find out eventually. He knows that keeping this secret has an end date. For him, it’s just a matter of there being a right time. A right way. But the secret is going to come out. And more than that, he apologized. He knows that at this point, revealing the secret is going to hurt her. It’s going to break her trust in him. It’s going to alter their relationship.

So for me, in my personal, humble opinion, I think that right time is now. As soon as possible. Because the longer he waits, the longer Joe and the Star Labs Team encourage him to wait, the worse the result will be. The more Iris will be hurt. The less she will trust any of them. The more damage she can cause in either her current ignorance or her eventual anger.

And Barry knows all this. He’s a smart guy. He knew to apologize to Iris before he even told her his secret. Somewhere, in the deep recesses of his brain, Barry knows that keeping this secret from Iris is a bad idea. But he also knows it’s too late. It’s Too. Late. The damage has already been done. There’s no right time or right way that’s going to not end badly. So at this point, he’s just holding off the inevitable. He’s just living in denial, in the peaceful bliss of the calm before the storm. Because soon all Hell will break loose when it come to Iris and this secret.

Joe, of course, is in even more denial than Barry. To tell the truth, I think he honestly believes his party line that keeping Barry’s secret is keeping Iris safe.

But…how? How does anyone ever think that keeping someone ignorant keeps them safe? Knowledge is power. It’s as simple as that. Knowledge. Is. Power. And without this knowledge, the knowledge that Barry is The Flash and is fighting other meta-humans and thinks Harrison Wells killed his mother, without this knowledge, Iris is powerless. How is it a good idea, how is it protection, for people who Barry and Joe think are evil villains – like Harrison Wells, like Captain Cold – to know who Iris is and her not know who they are.

The thing that really gets me about this storyline, what really leaves me scratching my head, is that Barry should have a whole team of people telling him all this. He should have access to a group of people who have been through this same thing with literally catastrophic results who should be able to advise him to learn from their mistakes. And yet Felicity looked Eddie straight in the face and said “Don’t think of it as lying, think of it as protecting someone…with a fib.” Which leaves me incredibly concerned about the state of self awareness on Team Arrow. Does Felicity really believe lying to Iris is protecting her – did it ever protect Laurel or Tommy or Moira or Thea? More than that, can she seriously not see that a good bit of the destruction in her and the rest of Team Arrow’s lives are a direct result of the secrets they’ve chosen to keep? For instance:

  1. Slade Wilson was able to get close to Moira and Thea due to Oliver keeping the secret of his and Slade’s past – this resulted in Moira and Thea’s kidnapping and Moira’s death
  2. Quentin Lance has destroyed his relationship with his daughter, exposed Oliver and Roy, forced Roy to fake his death and leave Team Arrow and leave town, and effectively shut down Team Arrow due to Oliver and Laurel keeping the secret of Sara’s death from him
  3. Thea sought out a relationship with Malcolm Merlyn, something she wouldn’t have done if she had known about his identity as the Black Archer and Oliver’s enemy – this relationship directly led to a. Sara’s death b. Oliver being forced to fight Ra’s al Ghul to the death c. Ra’s al Ghul deciding on Oliver as his heir d. Thea’s death.

And these are just three of Team Arrow’s secrets. Do they still think any of those secrets were the right choice? Or have they collectively chosen to rewrite their history (as Felicity chose to do when telling the “non-creepy” story of how she met Ray)?

Now, to be completely fair, I’m not saying that some of these same things wouldn’t have happened had the secrets been told. Moira, for example, may still be dead at the hands of Slade Wilson, but maybe knowing he was dangerous could have helped her protect herself a little bit longer. Could have made things a little more difficult for Slade. Likewise, telling Iris that Barry is The Flash and he and Joe believe Harrison Wells to be a dangerous man won’t protect her from him. But that knowledge will make her more wary if he ever approaches her. It will keep her from being blind sided by him or anyone else. Because let’s be real, Harrison is well aware of the importance of Iris to Barry. How does her ignorance keep Harrison from using Iris against Barry? It doesn’t.

It’s funny then, that the one person from Team Arrow who makes any kind of impression on anyone regarding keeping secrets is Quentin. Quentin Lance, who’s become angry and destructive as a result of secrets being kept from him, gave Joe a little glimpse of what he’s eventually in for. And maybe because he’s a father, unlike Barry or Eddie, maybe Quentin is the first person to crack Joe’s unwavering faith in his decision.

In the end, the choice is up to Barry. But I hope he makes the right choice.

4 thoughts on “The Flash: Secrets Don’t Make Friends

  1. Thank you for this! Such a well thought out piece on why this particular storytelling trope stopped making sense years ago. Especially because it’s the same showrunners from Arrow, I don’t understand why they decided to make history repeat itself with Iris.

    Hopefully it’s precisely so that, for the first time, the female who’s been “protected” can be rightfully angry and the men doing the lying can suffer the consequences? Because with Moira, Thea and Laurel, it was dragged out for seasons and once they find out it’s like, “Ah, yes. Of course. I already knew / forgive you instantly / love you anyway.”

    I have a feeling Iris IS gonna read them for filth and let them know just how unacceptable their reasoning was. While I hope Barry owns up to the truth asap, I’m kind of hoping Iris finds out on her own.


    • I have a feeling that’s how it’ll play out, with Iris finding out on her own. And I agree, I hope she reads them the riot act and tells them where they can shove their condescending protective bullshit. I think the fact that Oliver actually decided on his own to tell Thea in a way that made it clear he had made a choice to tell her, not had his hand forced, had a lot to do with her much more positive reaction to finding out. She didn’t catch him in a lie, like I believe Iris is going to do, she was welcomed into the club.


  2. Wonderful article! I especially enjoyed this quote, “The more damage she can cause in either her current ignorance or her eventual anger.” Has he forgotten that she controls the public perception of the Flash? She could very easily turn the tide against him with one front page story in the paper. I too am surprised that his team and others have not pointed this out.

    I can’t wait to see how all of this plays out. Iris definitely deserves to be angry for a long while before all of this blows over.


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