Barry Allen may be the Fastest Man Alive in the Arrowverse, but how powerful has The Flash truly been from season to season? Despite some inconsistencies from episode to episode, Barry Allen has generally been shown to be boosting his top speed, slowly but surely.
One important factor to keep in mind when considering Barry Allen’s powers is the Speed Force; a semi-mystic dimension of pure velocity, which empowers every organically created speedster. The Speed Force basically acts like the nitro booster on a muscle car’s engine, pushing a speedster beyond their natural abilities in short bursts. The Speed Force also acts as a protective influence, negating the effects of friction and impact upon a speedster and anyone they are touching when they use their powers.
This distinction is important, as the idea that Barry has a superhuman top speed when he isn’t tapping the Speed Force explains some of the seemingly random elements in Barry’s performance over the years. For instance, it was a running gag early in Barry’s career that he kept setting his street clothes on fire whenever he ran at his top speed without changing into his costume first. Later, after Barry learned about the Speed Force and how to use it to protect himself and others, he stopped having this problem. This idea was also confirmed in the second half of The Flash season 6, when it was revealed that the Speed Force was dying and there was a limited amount of Speed Force energy in Barry’s system, limiting his ability to utilize it as time went by.
Barry managed an impressive feat during his first outing as The Flash, offering a quantifiable baseline for his starting speed. The pilot episode of The Flash pitted Barry against Clyde Mardon; one of a pair of bank-robbing brothers, who gained the power to control the weather after getting caught in a thunderstorm when STAR Labs’ particle accelerator exploded. Driven mad with power, Mardon set out to destroy Central City with a massive tornado described as having achieved a steady speed of 200 mph, marking it as an F3 tornado (158-206 mph or 254-332 km/h) on the verge of becoming an F4 tornado (207-260 mph or 333-418 km/h). Cisco Ramon said Mardon had the potential to build turn this into an F5 tornado (261 mph or 419 km/h.) – the highest designation ever recorded on the Fujita Scale. In order to stop the tornado, Barry had to run around it in the opposite direction at over twice its speed, clocking in at 700 mph or 1126.54 km/h, just under the speed of sound.
Barry broke the sound barrier five episodes later in The Flash season 1, episode 6, “The Flash Is Born.” This episode introduced Girder; a metahuman with the power to turn his body into organic steel, who just happened to be Barry Allen’s childhood bully. To put Girder down for the count, Barry developed a supersonic punch that multiplied his mass by his velocity, giving him the power needed to hurt a man of living metal. This required that Barry run in a straight line for 5.3 miles (8.5 km) at Mach 1.1 (837 mph or 1347 km/h) marking this as the first time that Barry officially ran faster than the speed of sound.
By the end of The Flash season 1, Barry had learned how to tap into the Speed Force and how to accomplish feats like phasing his molecules through solid matter. His most impressive deed came during the season 1 finale when Barry traveled back in time for the first time in a bid to prevent his mother’s murder at the hands of Eobard Thawne. Though he ultimately didn’t do this, after being waved away by his future self, Barry still attained his fastest speed to date, running at least Mach 2 (1535 mph or 2470 km/h) to attain the speeds needed for STAR Labs’ particle accelerator to open a controlled singularity.
The Flash season 2 saw Barry Allen diversifying his powers beyond simple speed. Under the tutelage of the man who called himself Jay Garrick (who was later revealed to be the speedster serial killer Zoom in disguise), Barry began mastering tricks like throwing lightning and traveling between alternate dimensions in the Arrowverse Multiverse. Barry also learned how to create a time remnant; a clone of himself, born of a paradox or a potential future, created by the Speed Force to maintain the continuity of the main timeline. In terms of raw speed, however, season 2 provided enough information for Barry’s improvement to be measured.
Season 2, episode 16, “Trajectory,” introduced a new speedster criminal who was seemingly faster than The Flash, thanks to the dangerous drug called Velocity-9. In order to apprehend an escaping Trajectory, Barry had to briefly attain Mach 3.3 (2532 mph or 4075 km/h) in order to jump a bridge and head her off at the pass. Later in the season, Barry was said to have increased his base speed by training with a tachyon device once used by the Reverse Flash. This enabled Barry to travel to other dimensions without the aid of any other equipment, as his trial run with the tachyon device led to his accidentally running to Earth-38 and his first encounter with Supergirl. When he returned to Earth-1, Barry was informed that he had run four times faster than his previous top speed before he jumped dimensions, marking his top controlled speed at just over Mach 13.2 (10,128 mph or 16,300 km/h)
Season 3 of The Flash pit Barry Allen against his greatest challenge yet; the self-dubbed god of speed Saviatar. A base speed was never given for Savitar, who was fast enough that even Barry’s heightened senses and connection to the Speed Force couldn’t detect him until he chose to make his presence known. However, we know that Barry continued to boost his base speed throughout the season, as he tested himself against Jesse Quick in a relatively relaxed state in season 3, episode 4, “The New Rogues.” Barry was revealed to be just a bit faster than Jesse, with both comfortably able to jog at just under Mach 3 (2,302 mph or 3,704 km/h) without their heartbeats becoming elevated.
When Barry returned after being imprisoned in the Speed Force for several months in The Flash season 4, he seemed to have attained a new level of speed and a number of new tricks. The most impressive of these was an ability Cisco Ramon later dubbed Flashtime; a heightened state of awareness where Barry briefly boosted his brain’s ability to react to events around him, effectively stopping time for himself and anyone he wished to bring into Flashtime with him. Like overclocking a computer, Barry couldn’t enter Flashtime for long without the risk of burning himself or his allies out, but he was able to train himself, Cisco Ramon and Caitlin Snow to operate in a state of Flashtime, enabling them to save multiple hostages from The Thinker in the penultimate episode of season 4, “Think Fast.” No measurement of speed was given to describe how fast Barry was moving while in Flashtime, but it had to have been just below the speed of light in order to see what he was doing while still moving fast enough to be effectively invisible to the rest of the world.
A different feat in the season 4 episode “Honey, I Shrunk Team Flash” offers a quantifiable base for Barry’s exact speed. After having his life saved by an inmate known as Big Sir, whom Barry had learned was innocent of the crime that sent him to prison, Barry repaid the debt he felt he owed Big Sir by helping him to escape prison, running him out of the prison at superspeed and leaving him in the Chinese city of Jiaju. Presuming Central City’s location to be roughly the same place as Kansas City, Missouri in our world, there’s roughly 7,480 miles (12,037 km) between Central City and Jaiju. For Barry to have run that distance and back without being noticed leaving his cell by a fixed security camera would have required him to be moving at least 119 million mph (191.5 million km/h) or Mach 155,096. That’s a drop in the bucket compared to the speeds suggested by Flashtime, but still far faster than Barry had ever moved in season 3.
Much like season 3, The Flash season 5 didn’t offer a great deal of hard data regarding how Barry’s powers were progressing. While he wasn’t shown to be appreciably faster, he did show a greater understanding of the Speed Force and how he could use it in a passive manner regarding other speedsters as he trained his daughter Nora. When he learned that Nora had been working with a future version of Eboard Thawne, an angered Barry was able to forcibly drag Nora back to her proper place in the time stream and warned her not to try returning to the past, saying that he would be able to sense her approach through the Speed Force.
The first two episodes of The Flash season 6 offered definitive yet contradictory limits for Barry Allen’s speed. The season 6 premiere “Into The Vortex” found Barry running into and out of a black hole, to the triumphant Flash Gordon theme by Queen, which Cisco Ramon had been saving for just such an occasion. Presuming the Speed Force had a hand in protecting Barry from the immense gravity and lack of an atmosphere inside the black hole, Barry had to be traveling faster than light to accomplish this feat. This means that Barry was moving somewhere over 670.6 million mph (1.079 billion km/h) or Mach 874,031 when he entered the vortex of the black hole and maintained that speed for just over 30 seconds before emerging.
The Flash season 6, episode 2, “A Flash of the Lightning,” had Barry confront a light-empowered villain called Ultraviolet, whose energy blasts of pure light were said to travel at over 80 times Barry’s top speed. Dividing the speed of light by 80 reveals Barry Allen’s top speed as The Flash to be roughly 8.3 million mph (13.5 million km/h ) or Mach 10,925. It’s possible this is a measure of how fast Barry is without fully tapping the Speed Force, which he presumably did to protect Big Sir and himself in the aforementioned cases. Or maybe Barry did something in between episodes that changed the history of the Arrowverse again along with his top speed.
The greater portion of The Flash season 7 didn’t offer Barry as much opportunity to showcase how far he had come in developing his powers as previous seasons, due to the storylines throwing Barry into situations where his heart was more important than his speed. A prime example of this came in The Flash season 7, episode 2, “The Speed of Thought,” when Barry connected to Cisco Ramon’s artificial Speed Force and developed a new power dubbed “speed thinking.” While Barry became capable of running calculations in his head faster than a quantum computer, this newfound efficiency came at the cost of his humanity. It was a price Barry didn’t think was worth the cost, leading to the creation of an organic Speed Force born of the power of love.
The reborn Speed Force (a.k.a. Speed Force Nana or Big Nora) claimed that Barry was faster than he had ever been before, but no hard numbers were given to back up this assertion. However, Barry Allen proved his powers had increased in The Flash season 7 finale, “Heart of the Matter, Part 2,” when he faced a rejuvenated Reverse Flash and easily side-stepped the sucker punch his oldest enemy tried to hit him with, catching his fist and throwing him several dozen feet. It’s been a joke since the earliest days of the Arrowverse that Barry Allen often described himself as “the Fastest Man Alive” when every season of The Flash pit him against speedster supervillains who were faster than he was. By besting Thawne, Barry Allen finally proved he was worthy of that title.
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