For anyone who reads this, general disclaimer of the fact I’m trying to connect the dots between throwaway lines that the writers likely forgot about as different pairs wrote different episodes, cues given by the actors in their delivery, as well as trying to make sense of what is most likely some bad and misogynistic writing.
First I’ll tackle Barry, as it is his secret in the end. In the earlier episodes, he struggles with losing nearly a year of his life, the fact that Iris is now in her first serious relationship ever (and therefore in some ways further from him than she’d ever been), which must come as double the shock considering he was actually about to confess his feelings for her right before his coma, and dealing with his new powers plus the consequences that come along with that.
Looking back, in the very first episode I think it was originally Barry’s intention to tell Iris about his super speed right before he found out about Westhawne. Granted, this is before the real danger, beginning with the appearance of other metahumans, comes into play, but I think it is a good place to start. The rest of the episode comprised of dealing with Barry’s speed and the Mardon case, and he really didn’t get another chance to talk to Iris before Joe finds out about the speed and tells him not to tell Iris, presumably for her safety.
Now, I really don’t think he should have listened to Joe, but it’s been discussed by several others that the likelihood of Barry having issues with anxiety and abandonment after the incident with his mother. Barry being raised by Joe for half of his life left an impact on his relationship and so I think in some ways Barry still defers to Joe as his parental figure and therefore his authority figure. He may not view Iris as a sister but they share a parent and an authority figure, and with Joe appealing to his want to keep Iris from getting hurt, those two things combined would lead to Barry keeping his mouth shut for the first several episodes. Throughout the entire season, pretty much every time Iris gets close to Flash related danger, Joe seems to immediately turn to Barry to convince her to stay away.
From interaction we saw in the first episode, Joe seemed determined to keep both of his kids out of danger, attacking both Iris and Barry for being almost killed, though he also makes a point to rail on Barry for putting Iris in danger (whether because it actually is part of Barry’s job working with the police or due to misogynistic views on the man protecting the woman I’m not sure, though from what Joe’s actions in the most recent episode it seems the latter is more likely). It seems that despite Iris having to teach Barry how to fight essentially as kids, it seems that Barry is essentially in charge of keeping Iris out of danger according to Joe (which is odd considering it was Barry who just woke up from a coma and you would think Joe would see Barry as the one needing more protection at this moment).
When Iris starts her blog, Joe essentially turns to Barry to convince her to stop the blog to keep her safe and away from danger. Following the previous line of thinking, I think even though Barry is most likely more aware of Iris’s ability to take care of herself than Joe seems ready to accept, that he feels a certain responsibility due to this apparent view that Joe has on their relationship and this is what causes him to continue to encourage her to stay away from the metahuman problem. I also think it is in part due to the fact that as the Flash, he is a hero and feels that he should be trying to keep people out of danger where he can. Considering the fact, that Iris even says that she was trying to help Barry out in getting people to actually believe in the things he was always ridiculed for believing, he’d feel even worse. He’d feel touched and guilty over this.
We do actually see Barry struggling with telling Iris about his identity, as he even said that he’s used to telling Iris everything. He doesn’t due to wanting to keep her safe, which at this time still seems like a possibility in keeping her in the dark. As time goes on and Iris keeps getting put in danger either due to her blog or her family/boyfriend, I think the struggle continues because at this point he is still trying to keep her safe while also dealing with increasing danger on his own part and eventually the reappearance of the Reverse Flash.
Then he tells Iris his feelings, which is a big step towards him revealing to Iris all the things he’s been keeping from her. This secret may not have been a danger to her, but he did fear he would lose her, and this caused a rift to form between them for several weeks before they finally awkwardly reconciled.
At this point in the series, things are picking up and becoming more chaotic, Barry is under an increasing amount of pressure from several different sources, and he starts trying to move on from Iris as he sees her in a happy relationship and emotionally everything is out in the open. Relationship drama causes tension between the two but it soon falls to the wayside in the wake of the time travel in episode 15.
Before the time travel actually takes place, we get Iris’s confession, finally confirming her feelings for Barry in the wake of impending death via a tsunami. In the moments following, Barry reveals his identity as the Flash to Iris, saying that he “didn’t want [her] to find out this way.” This implies that he does in fact want Iris to find out about his identity, and furthermore, that he has thought about it.
Considering what we know of Barry, how he took years to confess his love for Iris and he tried so many times to tell her and afraid that he’d lose her, it isn’t surprising that he’s wary to tell her of this secret considering how she reacted to the last. And this time, Barry has been lying directly to her face about something she is intimately involved in. He knows she’s going to be upset and rightfully so, and he doesn’t want to risk losing her for good. It seems that he’s probably trying to come up with the best way to tell her, and on his own prerogative rather than in a crisis such as episode 15. In the middle of the panic of finding out Wells is the Reverse Flash is not the best time to do so and he knows it.
In the most recent episode, we see two final things that give away Barry’s thoughts on the matter. The first being his response to Eddie’s comment about everyone knowing but Iris, “It seems that way.” He shrugged and his expression looked frustrated, belying that he was upset about it though not as vocally as Eddie was. The second was his speech to Iris when trying to convince her that Eddie wasn’t cheating on her. Now Barry has never been a good liar, ever, but this speech came out so quickly and smoothly that I think even Iris was taken aback. Here, we see that Barry has become better at lying and much more at ease with it than he was in the beginning.
Most troubling, he seems to have fallen into the habit of lying, and habits are hard to break. After having to lie to Iris for so long and at every turn (well he didn’t have to, but he did so), it is almost the natural response now, which is only going to make things worse when Iris does find out about the extent of his lies (especially as she is already suspicious). I think this bothers Barry as well, and may be why he was so bitter when asked if Iris was the only one who didn’t know.
At the point we are in the series, it seems Barry, while concerned about Iris’s safety still (as he always is), is more so wrapped up in the fact that the lie has been going on for so long and he isn’t sure how to end it.
Moving onto Eddie, I’m going to start with episode 15 and 16 because I think that is very significant for what we know about Eddie and Iris’s relationship. The obvious starting point is how we see Eddie deal with the Westallen interaction during episode 15.
I’ve seen people go back and forth on this issue, with some people saying that this must be how the two of them act with each other all the time so Eddie can’t be mad while others gush about how romantic the gesture is and how married the two are while they’re on a double date with their boyfriend and girlfriend. We see Barry and Iris act like a couple, Eddie gets upset and shuts Iris out when he leaves, and then we see him confronting her later in the episode.
Now, there was a line in his speech to her that is important, “Something has changed between you two.” Looking back to the previous several eps and how Barry and Iris have acted around each other all season, it’s obvious that something has. In earlier episodes we see them being affectionate, sure, with hugs, hand touches, cute gestures, confiding in each other, etc. but also Barry struggling with lying to Iris as well as his feelings for her while faced with the fact that Iris might marry this guy. They clash over issues regarding the Flash, and Barry stops talking to her one point because of it. They’re still extremely close but there are things standing between them now that add distance.
Then in the Christmas episode, Barry actually confesses to Iris, which causes them to barely talk to each other for over a month. When they finally start talking again they’re still somewhat awkward around each other, and then Barry starts dating Linda. This causes its own drama, and things only just settle down as the double date is coming around.
What it seems like is that now that they aren’t fighting and both of them are in seemingly happy relationships, they feel comfortable and have relaxed around each other once again, just like they were before everything went sideways. However, something is still glaringly different- Iris is now aware of Barry’s feelings (despite his various claims about whether he still has them or not). We’ve been told from interviews that Iris’s attraction to the Flash is a manifestation of her feelings for Barry, meaning she doesn’t even know yet that she has these feelings, but suddenly they’re all bubbling to the surface.
So, it seems to me that they are acting differently around each other, hence why things got a little more intimate than we’ve ever seen them. Eddie can be a bit oblivious at times, but he isn’t blind. He probably shouldn’t have walked off to work angry at Iris but he brought up the issue rather soon after the fact, and was fair about it, explaining what upset him. Iris of course didn’t even realize fully what was up until Linda laid it out for her, so she’s not to blame here either, but it seems from this conversation that they have a rather open relationship and that they feel comfortable talking to each other about their issues.
So when episode 18 hits that throws everything off. Eddie from the beginning tells Joe multiple times that he doesn’t think lying to Iris will keep her safe. At the end of the previous episode he specifically mentions that they will discuss it later as dealing with the revelation regarding the Reverse Flash was more prudent.
I’ve seen many people protest that because he was brought in for nefarious purposes (ie keeping Iris out of the loop) that he therefore has a right to share what he knows with her. For one, I would like to respectfully disagree with that idea, because yes someone should tell Iris but it really should be Barry due to the fact it is still Barry’s secret to tell. The others may be lying to her about it but in the end this is Barry’s identity and Barry’s responsibility. If nothing else, he owes it to Iris to be the one to tell her. Secondly and more importantly, Eddie himself most likely sees it this way as well. He considers Barry to be a friend (which is strangely sweet of him but may also be bad writing considering we haven’t seen him pissed about getting the shit kicked out of him during the first crossover) and doesn’t want to betray his trust like that, even to Iris. He would feel that he doesn’t have a right to tell Barry’s secret.
This of course puts a strain on Westhawne’s relationship, as Iris knows that everyone is lying to her and suddenly the one person she thought she could still trust, who she’s in love with (which she is even if she’s in love with Barry as well) and is in a relationship with is lying as well? I’m not surprised she’s paranoid and upset to the point of threatening a break up, though she assumes it’s cheating at first (though in actuality she may have just said that because she knew that if her dad and Eddie were working with the Flash than Barry probably knows). Eddie doesn’t enjoy lying to her, and so out of respect to Barry for reasons that are likely similar to what’s mentioned above, he tries to convince them to let him tell her.
After her threat, as well as the fact that Barry may have tried to help Eddie but still continued to lie to her, I’m predicting Eddie is going to end up taking matters into his own hands and telling Iris something. I’m not sure what it will be, whether it will be that Barry is the Flash, that the Reverse Flash killed Mason, or simply that he’s working with the Flash along with Barry and Joe to catch RF. From what we’ve seen of Eddie, this honestly seems like a more likely next step than proposing and then telling her when she rejects him (as I saw one user suggest). Most likely, this will still cause conflict between the couple as well even if Eddie does tell her the whole truth- she’s been lied to for too long to not be at least a little upset that her boyfriend was now complicit in it (though most of her anger will most likely be directed at Barry and Joe).
Joe, despite getting an exorbitant about of screen time, likely more than even Iris, does not have much of a backstory outside of being a parent to Iris and Barry. His entire thought process of lying to Iris seems to stem from trying to protect her. It is mentioned that Iris originally wanted to join the police force but that Joe wouldn’t let her due to not wanting her to get hurt, and we have a constant reiteration from him that Iris is not allowed to find out for her own safety.
At the beginning of the series this had a modicum of truth to it, especially as the danger was fairly limited and if Iris knew about Barry going out and risking his life, it isn’t unlikely that she would try to do everything she could to help. However, with the establishment of her blog and her rise to notoriety due to it, it quickly becomes clear that keeping her in the dark isn’t working and that it would be more beneficial to simple tell her rather than have her go looking for trouble. Joe holds fast to his view though, and when the Reverse Flash threatens Iris’s life, he flips. By the most recent episode, he has become extremely insistent of the fact that Iris can’t know, causing he and Barry to enlist Eddie in helping them covering up Mason’s murder.
The most recent episode was an eye opener for me to an issue I hadn’t realized the full extent of regarding Joe and his desire to protect Iris. What originally just seemed to be the cliché desire of a cop not wanting his kid in danger (especially with the other doing so, so willfully) revealed itself to be rooted in sexist and paternalistic ideologies. When Eddie confronted Joe about telling Iris the truth (in his typical foot-in-mouth fashion), Joe used the tired old excuse of being her father (despite the fact she is in her mid-twenties and very much an adult). Eddie protested, saying that he was her boyfriend and when did that count for anything (which was a little questionable on its own but I’m unsure about whether it was Eddie’s own communication issues coupled with unfortunate writing or if he has some misogynistic tendencies of his own), causing Joe to say his say became more important only when he became her husband.
Eddie looks rightfully put out, as Joe essentially heralded back to the times where women were passed from their fathers to their husbands as if they were cattle. Looking back, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen worrying signs of Joe’s old fashion thinking, as was mentioned earlier in article regarding Barry’s seeming role as Iris’s protector, and it looks as if he isn’t going to move on his position any time soon. And without any proper background on Joe, we don’t know how he came to this conclusion. It’d be nice, though misguided and still heavily problematic for similar and different reasons, to think that something happened to Mama West or a family member that made him so over protective, but as of right now we have nothing. From what we know about Joe, and have seen of his past, it’d make much more sense for him to be overly worried about Barry rather than Iris.
There’s also the fact that Iris kept her relationship with Eddie a secret from Joe for months. This isn’t some high school movie where her father thinks she’s too young to date or whatever, and it’s not like their relationship just started. They have been dating long enough for both of them to consider it to be “serious” and yet she’s afraid to tell him for several more episodes. The fact that Eddie is Joe’s partner does make the situation more complicated but it is worrying that she was so worried, as not all of it could be attributed to her own worry about being in her first serious relationship. All in all, his actions regarding his kids and Eddie paint a troubling picture of his character.
Less important but still significant in what essentially is an entire conspiracy to keep Iris in the dark, is that of Caitlin and Cisco. I see the most complaints regarding Caitlin, especially as they are both females. While I would love for them to interact more and cultivate an actual friendship before Caitlin’s inevitable turn to villainy, it’s obvious that up to this point they are mere acquaintances, interacting only because of their connection to Barry. Therefore, Caitlin’s loyalty in this situation will be to Barry. There honestly isn’t any reason for Caitlin to tell Iris the truth, nor is there for Cisco to do so either, at least not unless a life or death situation came up. It would have been nice if Caitlin had been more sympathetic to Iris’s situation but it is also not in her character to be that accommodating (which is not a mark against her, I’m just saying it’s not in her nature).
One particular instance is of when Iris came face to face with Ronnie during his brief time with the Nerd Herd, as they immediately lied about who he was. Now, it seems weird at first, especially considering that it was Iris’s blog who helped them find out about the Burning Man, but that is most likely the whole reason behind the lie. As a group, under both Joe and Barry’s wishes they are keeping Iris in the dark, and they know that Iris is aware of the Burning Man’s existence. Most likely they were hoping she didn’t realize who it actually was, because she is the one who would find it easiest to figure it out (which she did).
Also, while Iris and Caitlin aren’t exactly friends, I would not find it surprising if at some point someone mentioned to Iris about Caitlin’s fiancé, maybe even Caitlin herself at some point. If they introduced Ronnie as Caitlin’s fiancé, even if Iris didn’t know he had died, she could have easily found that out if she got suspicious about where she remembered him from- she is an investigative journalist and considering the nature of Ronnie’s death it wouldn’t be that hard to find out that he died during the accident.
However, one such lie of Caitlin’s I found incredibly out of place, and though it doesn’t fully apply here I find the need to address it. The lie Caitlin told to Westhawne regarding Barry’s “lightning psychosis”, while beneficial to Barry’s secret keeping in the long run, only served to cover up for his messiness that episode when it was originally told. This trend of lying does seem to have become so much of a habit for the entire team, it’s actually really worrying.
While individual motivations are understandable here, this comes together to put Iris in a rather unfortunate position. Sadly, this is extremely common in superhero media, where the female lead/love interest doesn’t find out about the fact that the dashing hero was someone she knew all along (most often seen with Lois Lane), though unlike what is typical, due to her lack of friends outside the recurring cast, she is the only one not in the know. (This is most likely due to casting costs but could have been easily remedied if they hadn’t turned Linda into Barry’s love interest rather than Iris’s friend like she was originally meant to be.)
Now in all of this, Iris is at a distinct disadvantage and has in all reality been actively working against that. She is constantly trying to help Barry, whether by being there for him or starting her blog, and in that she has found her calling as a journalist. At pretty much every turn, she has one of the Nerd Herd or her father lying to her about the metahumans, and actually impeding her work. Now, she’s not just doing this for work but trying to figure out why her family is lying to her, and in some ways trying to protect them as she’s been a little suspicious of STAR Labs for a while.
Not only is it her right as a journalist to look into these kinds of incidents (strange science labs, questionable police practices, etc.- these are the types of things that are why investigative journalism started), the fact her family is actively lying to her face about it puts her even more in the right to figure it out for herself. It’s gone past the point where she should leave it be ever since Barry started meeting with her in while dressed as the Flash.
On the bright side, as one tumblr user has pointed out, it seems as if the narration is now in Iris’s favor. With the way everything is progressing and from interviews we have heard regarding the subject, it looks like Iris is going to get her moment of confrontation, and show that it was wrong of everyone, but especially Barry, Joe, and Eddie to lie to her (though the narrative is already encouraging this view point, having Iris actually tell them this would be amazing).
To point, I’m not condoning the massive amount of lying that is happening all across the board to Iris, I personally think that she should have found out in the first episode before even Joe did, or at least have been told around the time Barry started meeting him as the Flash instead of giving her the cold shoulder. I do however, think that the reasons and motivations of the characters go deeper than what I’ve seen tumblr address, and I hope I got that across in this piece. Here’s hoping the lying ends soon!.