For the better part of a year, audiences have been planning their Tuesday evenings around one of the best superhero television series’ to ever hit the small screen: CW’s The Flash. Fans have gotten to know Grant Gustin’s Barry Allen and have grown to love him and the band of friends always at his side. The series has been a superpowered roller coaster ride that had viewers truly invested in its characters and their lives and last night, the first season came to a close in the most exciting way it possibly could: with death and destruction. As always, spoilers ahead.
When we last saw Eobard Thawne a.k.a. Harrison Wells a.k.a. Reverse Flash (how does this guy NOT have some sort of identity crisis??), he was taken down by one of Arrow’s, um, arrows, which neutralized his speedster abilities long enough for the STAR Labs team to throw him into one of the metahuman prison containment cells. This week’s episode picks up right where the last episode left off. Thawne is still in his cell, giving Barry the opportunity to pick his brain a bit about who the villain truly is and why The Man in the Yellow Suit decided to murder Nora Allen. Thawne’s response was chilling and to the point.
You see, while Thawne was (will be?) born over a century from now, somehow he and The Flash are still enemies, indicating that there may be much more to the story. According to Thawne, he came back through time to murder Nora in an attempt to stop Barry from ever becoming The Flash but, instead, Nora’s murder wound up being the catalyst that sends Barry down the path of becoming the very superhero Thawne was trying to prevent. If that bit of time travel paradox has your head spinning, bad news: the paradoxes don’t end there.
The thing about Thawne being trapped is that it almost seems as if he wanted to be trapped. He deliberately baits Barry with the possibility of saving his mother’s life and acts as if he owns the place while he makes himself right at home in his cell. As Barry talks to Thawne, it’s almost as if Barry is the one behind the glass, not Thawne. In a later conversation with Cisco, again, Thawne is completely comfortable and at ease in his cell while Cisco seems to be the prisoner. From the moment Barry met him, Thawne, as Wells, has manipulated the young genius and pushed him in the direction best suited to the villain’s needs. He has done the same with Caitlin and Cisco, so perhaps it just seems that this was Thawne’s plan all along but chances are that a man from the future would know exactly how to play this game in a way that all but guarantees that he will win. By the way, did you catch that not-so-subtle clue that Thawne dropped that will eventually lead viewers to Vibe? Of course you did.
Much of this episode was focused on Barry coming to terms with the fact that he now knows he can actually go back in time to save his mother; a feat he has dreamed about his entire life and one that he now has the means to accomplish. Dr. Stein, who is still in Central City with his better half of FIRESTORM, Ronnie, warns Barry of the consequences of changing the past. After all, step on a butterfly, and all that jazz. Barry, for his part, truly agonizes over this decision, reaching out to his real father as well as his surrogate father, Joe West, for advice. While his real father pleads with Barry not to change anything, insisting that Nora would never have allowed the young Allen to do anything that could destroy the man he has become, Joe West makes a sacrifice and insists that Barry has no choice: he must save Nora. However, Barry knows that he DOES have a choice and the choice he makes could easily destroy everything he holds near and dear to his heart. After all, while it remains a painful memory, Barry has already mourned for his mother and has moved on and grown into a brilliant young man with friends and family who love him surrounding him at all times. Still, it’s his mother, and how can he pass up a chance to save the woman who gave him life??
It is absolutely essential that we take a moment to discuss Grant Gustin here. Since launching the series, Gustin’s Barry has been wonderful. He is playful, thoughtful, smart, kind, and strong but, most importantly, he is human. In Fast Enough, Gustin takes his acting skills to a whole new level. The scene in which Barry tells Joe that he never realized that saving one parent would mean giving up another is one of the strongest scenes of the season. It was heartfelt and gut wrenching, and if you didn’t tear up just a bit, you may not be human. The entire episode showcased Gustin’s acting abilities and challenged him with emotionally charged scenes that would have been tough for even a seasoned veteran actor to handle and Gustin pulled them off flawlessly. Bravo, Grant! Back to the episode.
While Barry agonizes over his decision, Dr. Stein has a nice conversation with Eddie, informing him that the only thing that science cannot prepare for is coincidence. As the wild card in the story, the man who just happens to be the historically insignificant great-great-great-great grandfather of the villain, Eddie has the power to choose his future. Stein pounds the magic of coincidence into Eddie’s head, which leads Eddie right to Iris. Eddie takes Iris aside and tells her the story of how they first met. Turns out that he had been stood up while waiting for a date at a restaurant, then decided to eat by himself. As he left, Eddie saw a thief running with a purse, and caught the criminal. Turns out the purse belonged to (you guessed it) Iris! In Eddie’s mind, so many coincidences led to their meeting that they would be stupid not to say “future be damned” and follow their hearts.
Not to be outdone, the other couple in the series, Caitlin and Ronnie, decided that now, while the entire reality that they live in may be completely unraveled if Barry decides to change the past, would be the PERFECT time to get hitched. This may have been cool in a different episode, after all, this is the FIRESTORM/Killer Frost wedding that many have been hoping for (kind of), but in this episode, it simply felt like set up. As a matter of fact, both love stories in the episode felt like bowling pins just waiting to be knocked down. The scenes were sweet, of course, and well done, but anyone who has seen any television series ever or, at the very least, has a basic concept of foreshadowing, knew that these scenes were simply to get the audience to care before ripping the world apart. And, that’s exactly what happens. Literally.
Barry decides that this time travel thing may not be such a bad idea, even if he may die attempting to go back or destroy the world if he succeeds, and decides to listen to Thawne’s plan on how to travel through time. He is told that he will only have 1 minute and 52 seconds to change the past before the wormhole he must create will become a black hole that will destroy the world. Jumping into his suit and heading to the now functional particle accelerator, Barry runs faster than he ever has before, giving him glimpses of his past and either a possible future or alternate reality as Killer Frost finally (briefly) makes her appearance.
Barry focuses on the night his mother dies and BAM! He succeeds in opening a wormhole/baby black hole and winds up in his own bedroom on the night that his mother dies. As he is about to try and save her, future Flash, the Flash that has come through time with Thawne, urges present Barry to stay put; to let things happen as they already have. Barry takes this advice and instead of interjecting, allows Reverse Flash to stab his mother, just as he did when Barry was a child. After Reverse Flash leaves, Barry walks over to his mother, who is still alive but in bad shape. The audience is finally clued into the fact that this trip isn’t about changing the past: it’s about accepting it and giving Barry closure. As he sits with his dying mother, it is impossible to be moved by Barry’s situation. Yet again, Gustin knocked it out of the park here.
While Barry is saying good-bye in the past, the STARS team is getting ready to send Thawne back to his time, for some strange reason, just as the original comic book Flash, Jay Garrick, drops a nice Easter egg onto the floor, reminding Thawne that it’s time to go. As he prepares to travel, Barry flies out of the wormhole with a super punch, destroying the time sphere that Thawne is occupying, and knocking Thawne to the ground. Thawne taunts Barry, insisting Barry could have had everything that he ever wanted. Barry assures him that he already has it before a brief struggle with Reverse Flash. This isn’t a huge superhero/supervillain showdown, which was a fantastic touch from the showrunners. The audience already had its big showdown, so why give them more of the same? Instead, just as viewers are trying to figure out how Barry is going to get away, a shot rings out from the screen. Eddie, the coincidence, the wild card, the man who has been quietly in the background for the majority of the season, the ancestor of Eobard Thawne, is the man with the gun in his hand but Eobard was not his target. Eddie turned the gun on himself, effectively destroying the family tree that grew Reverse Flash from its branches. As Eobard begins to fade from existence, Eddie and Iris share a tearful good-bye just as the wormhole, which had been closed successfully, becomes something else entirely. While the team doesn’t quite understand it at first, Doc Brown would have been happy to inform them that what they are witnessing is a paradox trying to compensate for its new timeline. After all, if Thawne was never born, he was never The Flash’s enemy, so he never went back in time to kill Nora, which means that the real Wells is still alive, which mean….You get the idea.
As the paradox centers itself above Central City, giving a glimpse of a couple of the Legends of Tomorrow as witnesses to the destruction, it manifests itself as an upside down tornado, for lack of a better description. In order to stop the singularity from destroying the world, Barry must run into the anomaly and reverse the polarity, just as he has done several times during the season, but this time, the stakes are real and just as The Flash manages to make it inside, the season closes, leaving viewers with the perfect cliffhanger to bring them back for season 2. Not that viewers needed another reason.
Yet again, The Flash proved why it is the most loved superhero show on television. The episode demonstrated the acting abilities of almost every star of the series, though they could have done a bit more with Caitlin. As a matter of fact, even the Eddie/Iris scenes, which are usually groan worthy, came off as sweet and wonderful. The choice that was presented to Barry was a tough one and there is no doubt that many viewers tried to put themselves in his place, trying to understand exactly what they would do if they were presented with the same situation. Of course, until you are presented with a choice, it’s easy to speculate how you would act but luckily, there aren’t too many metahumans out there who can travel through time. Or are there?…
Kudos to the entire cast and crew for a season well done and we cannot wait to see what season 2 has in store for us.
What did you think of The Flash’s first season? Was the finale everything you hoped it would be?