The Flash wasn’t the franchise game-changer some superhero fans expected, but it still delivered some big superhero changes. The film’s surprise ending and post-credits scene revealed exactly how Barry Allen’s actions in the past altered both the present and future. What does it all mean, including for Warner Bros.’ switch from the old DCEU to James Gunn’s new DCU? Here’s what happened and what it tells us about a post-Flash timeline.
Why Did George Clooney Appear as Bruce Wayne at the End of The Flash?
“Who the f*** is this?”
Uh, it’s Batman. No, not that one. No, not that one either.
Michael Keaton’s Batman wasn’t The Flash‘s only alternate Bruce Wayne to appear. Once Barry Allen realized he couldn’t save his mother’s life without dooming the whole world, he went back and stopped himself from stopping her death in the first place.
Doing so had created an entirely new reality. Time in The Flash is not linear, and by altering one single event Barry changed history both before and after his mom was supposed to die. Letting her go, painful as it was, stopped General Zod from conquering Earth. But Barry’s decision to ensure his father’s eventual release from jail still resulted in an alternate timeline.
By moving those tomato cans to the top of the grocery store shelf years earlier, Barry exonerated his dad in the present. He also completely changed Bruce Wayne as a person. Instead of the version played by Ben Affleck, Barry walked outside the courtroom to discover a different version of Bruce Wayne. He was now played by George Clooney.
When Did George Clooney First Play Batman?
George Clooney’s first (and until now only) time playing Bruce Wayne came in 1997’s Batman & Robin. Fans have panned both the film and his performance since the movie’s release.
Clooney himself agrees with that assessment. The Oscar-winner has said he messed up the role “so bad.” (In fairness, there’s only so much you can do when your Batsuit has nipples.)
Not only did The Flash give Clooney a bit of Bat-demption with his surprise cameo, it also used turned his previous performance into a great meta joke. Upon seeing the alternate Bruce get out of his sports car, Barry said, “You’re not Batman.” To that an incredulous Clooney answered, “What’s wrong with you?”
As the movie’s post-credits scene revealed, what’s wrong with Barry is that he didn’t feel the need to immediately fix his timeline and bring back his friend.
What Did The Flash‘s Post-Credits Scene Reveal About the New Timeline?
Ben Affleck’s Batman might be gone (at least for now), but Jason Momoa’s Aquaman is still around. An extremely intoxicated Arthur Curry appeared with Barry Allen in The Flash‘s only post-credits scene. Though mostly played for laughs,* the scene did provide vital information about the state of the world, the timeline, and reality at the end of the film.
Barry was trying to explain to his fellow Justice League member that he had traveled back in time and altered the past, resulting in an entirely different Bruce Wayne. Arthur had no idea what he was talking about, showing that only Barry remembers the old Batman. The Flash is the only bridge between the world that was and the reality he finds himself in now.
This reality still resulted in Barry working with other meta-humans and heroes. But to get Batfleck back, he’d need to go back in time again and put the tomato cans back where they originally went. Clearly he did not do that, and there’s no indication he has plans to anytime soon, if ever.
That leaves George Clooney in place as Bruce Wayne, for now anyway, along with all the other changes to the timeline we don’t know about yet. To save his father Barry sacrificed his friend, which raises one last major question.
*A passed out Aquaman can’t drown in a puddle. But you can. Even if you have a friend who can travel back in time, please drink responsibly.
Did Barry’s Decision to Rearrange Those Tomato Cans, and Thus Change Bruce Wayne, Completely Undermine His Entire Character Arc in The Flash?
Yeah, kinda! Weird, right?
But time travel and tragedy are both complicated. Besides, if there’s one thing we learned from the end of The Flash it’s that Barry Allen can always go back and change things if he wants.
Mikey Walsh is a staff writer at Nerdist. You can follow him on Twitter at @burgermike. And also anywhere someone is ranking the Targaryen kings.