It’s finale time for The Flash, but I’ve got some major gripes about the way this all goes down.
Let’s bitch it out…
I’m a television critic, though I’d like to think that I’m not super critical by nature. In fact, if you look over the scattered reviews and Quick Take reviews for The Flash‘s first season, you’ll see that I’m actually totally picking up what the show is putting down (aside from Candice Patton’s Iris, but that’s mostly because she was usually written like she had a negative IQ).
In some ways The Flash‘s consistency is what makes several aspects of this finale so disappointing. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of good stuff in here, too, but then as we approach the big climax, it’s like the show falls into a huge plot hole that I simply can’t overlook because it has such major implications for what’s to come in S2.
Let’s review: Eobard Thawne (Tom Cavanagh / Matt Letscher) was captured and in the finale’s opening moments he proposes the equivalent of an evil ‘Let’s Make A Deal’. Thawne will provide Barry (Grant Gustin) with the means to save his mom, Nora (Michelle Harrison), in exchange for safe passage back to his own time, plus or minus a few complications like a completely altered timeline and a black hole that will consume everything if it isn’t shut down in exactly 1:52 minutes (The Flash super fans: is there something meaningful about this particular number or is it just a tight enough deadline to seem appropriately daunting?)
So far, so good. Moral dilemmas, big emotional decisions, crocodile tears from nearly every regular cast member = love it. Gimme more. I mean, we know as soon as Thawne makes his offer than Barry will take it; he kinda has to after all of the talk throughout the season about the influence his mother’s death has on him*. It’s only a matter of time until Barry dons his suit, hits Mach 2 (with relative ease) and time jumps into the past.
*It’s a bit amusing that the finale leans so heavily on the loss of his mother considering how much mileage the series has traded in daddy issues all season.
Before Barry travels through time, he spends the first two-thirds of the episode debating whether or not to go. I appreciated that both Cisco (Carlos Valdes) and Barry’s father, Henry (John Wesley Shipp) have the balls to do more than placate Barry by suggesting he do what he needs to; instead they remind him of the madness that could accompany changing the past and question his desire to change the present. Let’s get real for a moment: if the evil mastermind that manipulated you for the better part of a year makes you an offer that’s too good to be true, you take a hard pass – that shit is clearly not going to go according to plan. It’s a bit of a relief, then, when Barry makes the sensible decision and simply says goodbye to his mom rather than save her, thereby preserving his timeline and enabling him to prevent Thawne’s escape into the future.
Unfortunately this is also my big problem with ‘Fast Enough’. Why the hell do they let Thawne out of his cell? What makes them feel like they need to fulfill their end of the bargain? There’s absolutely no incentive to release him or help him to get back to the future. Thawne isn’t holding anyone hostage, and he isn’t holding back any information. He is literally being held in a prison, with no leverage, and yet the team builds him a time machine, lets him out and – from all appearances – would have let him wreak havoc had Barry not returned. It literally doesn’t make any sense to me…unless we consider the snowball effect of what occurs as a result:
- Because Thawne gets out, he and Barry fight (This makes sense. After all, it is the finale. Heaven forbid a finale without a big climatic fight scene)
- Barry and Thawne fight, but Barry obviously loses since it took three heroes to subdue Thawne last episode.
- Barry’s inevitable defeat requires drastic action! Enter narrative dead-weight Eddie (Rick Cosnett), who has spent the episode proclaiming himself a “coincidence” (ie: wildcard). Eddie elects to martyr himself to become a hero – proving Thawne wrong, eliminating a character the writers frequently had no clear path for and paving the road for Iris and Barry to get together, all in one fell swoop.
So in one conspiracy theory version of this narrative, Thawne’s release is a mechanism to eliminate the romantic roadblock between Iris and Barry and goose the action. This may not have been your viewing experience, but from where I sit that’s a pretty shitty development that smacks of the writers messing with the narrative in a really obvious and poorly executed fashion. As a result a lot of the goodwill generated by the good stuff in the episode (discussed below) was negated.
By the time the final scene involving a devastating singularity opening up above Central City arrives, I simply didn’t care (plus it feels like a badly executed mash-up of The Avengers + the inverse of The Flash pilot’s climax). This development is anti-climatic mostly because I have no idea how Barry will create an upside down tornado by jumping into the center of the wormhole. I suppose that I should be grateful, however; Barry entering the void portends that he may wind up appearing in several other timelines. Maybe in one of those the crew will leave Thawne locked up and act like their usual rational selves?
- The plot hole is especially aggravating because there are so many truly great moments in the finale. As always John Wesley Shipp kills it as Henry Allen and his scene with Barry in the prison is appropriately emotional (even if maybe they should be more mindful of who could be listening). Similarly, the Cisco/Thawne scene, when Cisco informs his former mentor about his death in the alt-timeline, generates one of the few legit non-evil responses from Thawne since his outster as a supervillain. And naturally Caitlin’s (Danielle Panabaker) and Ronnie’s (Robbie Amell) impromptu wedding is sweet, even if it feels kind of arbitrarily inserted to reinforce that Eddie and Iris have gotten back together in order to make Barry all sad.
- So Eddie’s dead, but we saw his body get sucked into the wormhole. What’s the likelihood that he comes back in some fashion? Ask yourself this before you answer: how often do characters stay dead in comic books/superhero stories?
- While I think the writers made the right decision with Barry and his mom, I can’t help but imagine how it would have been if he had of saved her. Doing so would have dramatically altered the entire structure of the series and The Flash could have spent S2 repairing the damage and rebuilding its world. Sure, it would have been a massive (and admittedly unnecessary) undertaking for the series, but it would have a nice way to make up for the disappointing ret-con of Barry’s first time travel adventure.
- Before anyone cries time travel paradox because Eddie killed himself and Thawne is no longer born and therefore can’t come back to kills Wells and turn Barry into the Flash, etc…just breathe and say to yourself that this is an alternative timeline. Either that or it’s the reason why a giant hole appears in the sky.
- Admittedly the minute the singularity reappears and threatens to kill everyone, I wondered if this was in service of the Arrow/The Flash spin-off, Legends of Tomorrow. That show focuses on an evil spread out across time and features several members of The Flash‘s cast (including Victor Webster’s Dr. Stein and Wentworth Miller’s briefly glimpsed Captain Cold), so it wouldn’t be a stretch Although it doesn’t debut until mid-season, so maybe not…
- Finally, I couldn’t tell if there was new footage in the wormhole when Barry races into the past, but it did look like we saw a new masked villainess and an image of Barry in prison. Am I hallucinating?
Your turn: what did you think of the finale? Were you frustrated by the plot hole? Is Eddie really dead? Which emotional scene was your favourite? Did you spot any new footage in the wormhole? Are you hoping that we’ll see some kind of new timeline when the show returns for S2? Sound off below.
The Flash has finished airing its first season. It will return for S2 in the fall on The CW