by Spencer Irwin
This article will contain SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
Guilt alone is not usually enough to help somebody change for the better. It’s an important first step, of course, but unless it leads to self-reflection, guilt can often do more harm than good. That’s certainly true for Barry Allen throughout Joshua Williamson and Howard Porter’s The Flash 26, where Barry’s overwhelming guilt leads him to make yet another stupid decision, despite the best of intentions.
And I do think it’s important to reiterate the “best of intentions” part. Barry has not once been purposely malicious throughout this story, but just because he’s trying to help doesn’t mean he actually is — his secrets and distracted attitude have only put those around him at a disadvantage. Barry finally begins to realize this at the worst possible moment, as Eobard Thawne, the smuggest man alive, shows Barry a possible future supposedly ruined by his inattentiveness.
Seriously, I love the condescending expression Porter gives Thawne here, like he’s trying to explain something incredibly simple to Barry and he’s just not getting it. On a micro level Thawne isn’t wrong, as both the cast of The Flash and even the readers themselves have been frustrated by the same faults of Barry’s for months now, but Thawne is the absolute worst person who could have broken through to Barry. Frustrated as they are, the rest of Barry’s friends still want to help him — Thawne only wants to hurt him.
That should be clear to Barry, but he’s so overwhelmed by guilt that he’s blinded to the obvious, leading him right into Thawne’s trap despite Iris wanting to help him.
Iris doesn’t hate Barry despite his lies, but Barry’s so blinded by guilt that he can’t see it; he feels like he has to take drastic measures to make up for his “sins.” That’s why guilt without self-reflection is so dangerous; Barry’s been made to know he should feel terrible about himself without really understanding why, and thus, in trying to rectify the situation, he ends up making the exact same mistakes that Iris and the others are mad at him about in the first place, ignoring the people he loves because he’s too caught up in his own head. In the wrong hands guilt can be a powerful weapon, and Thawne wields it like a true professional.