Barry didn't stay in the Flashpoint universe for very long, but the final scenes of the premiere hinted that the effects of that timeline jumping will ripple through The Flash throughout Season 3. The major casualty in Barry's personal life is the non-existent relationship between Iris and Joe West; the father and daughter aren't speaking when the speedster returns. And then there's the possible creation of a new supervillain, or at least the transfer of one from one universe to the next. At the end of the first episode of the season, a man named Edward Clariss woke up to the word "alchemy" written on his mirror and a voice rousing him. Who is Edward Clariss on The Flash and who (or what) is calling for him?
Viewers met the Flashpoint version of Edward Clariss (Todd Lasance) earlier in the episode. Known in that world as the Rival, Clariss is the nemesis of Wally West, aka Kid Flash. He's faster than this Central City's do-gooding speedster. Barry finds that Wally is a bit out of his depth with the Rival and offers to help out. Though they do end up besting him together, Wally is quite injured. He's slower to heal than any speedster should be, and Barry takes that as another hint that he shouldn't be living in this reality.
Over in Barry's home reality, a different version of Edward Clariss hears a voice in his bedroom. "Wake up, Clariss," the voice whispers, and Clariss sees the message left on his bathroom mirror. Is that a message coming through from an alternate reality? Is the universe righting the wrongs of Barry's creation of Flashpoint by adding one more villain to the prime Flash timeline? And what does "alchemy" mean to the character of Edward Clariss? Looking into the historical context of the character may help to answer some of these questions.
Clariss came to the show from The Flash comics. The character dates all the way back to Clariss's first appearance in 1949. At that time, Clariss taught at a university. Among his students was Jay Garrick, one of the several individuals who has carried The Flash title through the years. Clariss is credited in the comics for developing Velocity 9, the speed-enhancing drug that the TV version of Jay/Zoom was willing to kill for. When establishment science brushes off Clariss's work, he turns to villainy, dons a black suit, and rebrands himself as the Rival.
In one of his races against the Flash, the Rival clocks in at lightning speed and disappears. He's later rescued from the Speed Force and invited to join a criminal gang. But living in the Speed Force so long has driven Clariss completely insane. He goes on a maniacal killing spree, but is stopped by the Flash before he can claim his final victim: Joan Garrick, Jay's wife. In his most recent comics appearance, Clariss has lost his corporeal being. All speed energy, he possesses the body of another noble speedster, Max Mercury.
Note how the word "alchemy" didn't come into play in this mini-biography. Chances are good that the word scrawled on Clariss's mirror is a reference to Doctor Alchemy, a completely separate Flash comics villain. He's one half of the split personality of Albert Desmond and uses the Philosopher's Stone to transmute elements to make life difficult for the Flash. So the real question is: is The Flash combining Edward Clariss and Doctor Alchemy into one terrifying big bad? Or is Clariss going to be Doctor Alchemy's first victim? Keep in mind that everything is rarely as it seems on this mind-bending show.
Images: Dean Buscher, Katie Yu/The CW; corriganns