It’s funny that Iris West couldn’t explain Dragon Ball Z to Barry Allen, because her own show can be just as maddening. This week on The Flash, the monster speedster Savitar revealed himself to be a time remnant of Barry Allen, created four years in the future. This Time Remnant Barry begrudges his discarded life, and loss of family and friends, for being the “forgotten” hero. It’s a dark narrative that explores the consequences of time travel few other science-fiction properties are able to explore, but just how exactly does it all work out?
To be perfectly honest, the concept of time remnants is still pretty confusing. But, in short, time remnants are “leftover” versions of speedsters as a result of discarded timelines. Because speedsters are preserved by the Speed Force, time remnants act as “ghosts” in the timeline and can be plucked out for whatever purposes their “primary” versions need them for.
Hunter Zolomon used a time remnant to fool Team Flash into thinking his false “Jay Garrick” identity was murdered by Zoom, while Eobard Thawne used multiple remnants in the Season 2 finale of Legends of Tomorrow. Even Barry Allen used a time remnant once when he needed help in his fight against Zoom.
And, Barry’s use of time remnants led to Savitar’s creation. In “Cause and Effect,” Savitar explains what happened, or rather, what’s going to happen. Four years into the future, Barry Allen will create time remnants to fight Savitar. All the time remnants will die, except for one, and this “leftover” Barry gets outcast for not being the “true” Barry. “You all shunned me because I wasn’t the ‘true’ Barry Allen,” he tells, uh, Barry. He adds: “I was an aberration.” (Legends of Tomorrow fans know what those are.)
The creation of Savitar is a feedback loop, timey wimey stuff that’s basically a chicken-and-the-egg scenario: To defeat Savitar, Barry creates time remnants, only for one of them to become Savitar. That’s how Savitar exists on The Flash, a nightmare paradox serving as a living reminder of Barry Allen’s foolishness. Savitar scolds Barry for “playing God” by creating the Flashpoint timeline, and it’s unclear precisely how Flashpoint relates to the making of Savitar. But for now, all that matters is that Savitar is pissed and he’s got a legitimate reason to be.
The Flash airs on Tuesdays on The CW at 8 p.m. Eastern.