Welcome back to my weekly review and recap of “The Flash.” To catch up on previous coverage, click here.
I have some immediate thoughts:
What the hell is the cliffhanger ending.
“Don’t fight with me on our wedding day.”
Sonic punch of doom!
Cisco is still the MVP of season one.
I will be thoroughly displeased if this is the last we’ve seen of Tom Cavanagh on The Flash, whose mere presence elevated an already strong show.
The finale of season one of The Flash may have stalled a bit towards the halfway line, but it made up for it in a rousing ending, some strong character beats and its multiple surprises along the way. Barry has spent the entirety of the season voicing how he hopes to save his mom and set his father free from prison. Beyond his good-natured heroics where he wants to use his gifts as the Flash to save people and stop other meta-humans, he’s also still the young boy, who found his mother dead and saw his father wrongly incriminated. He believes he can fix those wrongs.
The episode is a meditation on what that means, who it could affect, and would it all be for the best if he did. Sure, he could save his parents, but he also may never meet the Star Labs crew and grow to see Joe as a father and live with the West’s. He loves these people, so even without the possibility of catastrophe, the stakes are already high when he has to juggle the many what-if’s populating his decision making.
His possible death and/or the death of Central City and the world beyond is simply a capper to Barry’s day. As Harrison Wells tells him, if he doesn’t run fast enough through the particle accelerator to merge with the element and create the wormhole at the right time, he could die. If he spends too much time in the past, he could create a black hole.
These aren’t great odds, and Barry isn’t helped elsewhere when both of his father figures give him differing opinions. Joe tells Barry to try, even if it means having to let him go; while his dad, Henry, tells him he can’t mess with the past, even if it means getting a brighter future for him and his past wife. Both are doing it for understandably selfish reasons–they both love their son. Joe doesn’t want him to hold himself from potential happiness on his behalf, and Henry doesn’t want him to do anything that changes him from the man he is today.
However, the biggest and most ominous voice is Wells, who tells Barry that he looks upon him with the same pride as either Joe or Henry, and even the same love. Wells tells Barry that he can save both of them and right the evil Wells has caused. Overwhelmed, Barry takes a backseat for part of the episode as he looks on at the lives around him and the connections he made. We see a revitalized Eddie tell Iris that he loves her, Caitlin and Ronnie have an impromptu wedding, and Cisco gets one of the most satisfying reveals of all.
VIBE IS COMING!
Wells and Cisco have become one of the strongest pairings on the show, largely in part because of Carlos Valdes and Cavanagh bring an invaluable amount of depth to their characters, delivering two of the most consistent performances of the season. It makes Wells revealing that Cisco was affected by the particle accelerator explosion all the more riveting. Cisco was already the secret weapon of the season, and I can’t explain how excited I am that we’re given the possibility of him at some point becoming a superhero in his own right.
This is all leading to one moment where Barry chooses to go back in time, trust in himself and his friends and family and take the leap, setting it up so that Wells can travel home through the portal his creates. However, all doesn’t go as planned, as is to be expected in a series finale. Barry runs through the time stream, sees potential outcomes of his life (including a peak at Killer Frost and Barry behind bars) before landing in his childhood home. He’s given his split second, is about to take it, but stalls when he makes eye contact with his future and/or parallel self and sees him gesture to stop. Barry hides and listens as his mother is left to die and shares a moment with his mom that he has been longing to have for so long. He tells her that it’s her Barry and gives her some peace in knowing that he and his dad are fine and safe. Her “you look like my father” is suitably moving, as is Barry’s increasingly childlike “moms” as he’s forced to watch her die again. It’s a hard earned hero moment for Barry who must put his wants and needs aside for the life he’s built back home.
It’s a stellar scene for Grant Gustin, who I’ve grown attached to as Barry Allen. Much of this episode is spent with a misty-eyed Flash which can get tiresome in an episode where we’re expecting action, and, in a few moments, it did lend itself to redundancy, but this one is powerful, giving us a hard look at what he’s sacrificing. I said it a while ago, but with Phil Lord and Chris Miller announcing that their Flash will in fact be Barry Allen, it’s worth repeating: I am going to have a very difficult time accepting another actor in this character’s role. Sure, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Gustin is synonymous with the character in ways that Robert Downey Jr. , Chris Evans or even Charlie Cox are with their respective heroes, and I don’t doubt that Miller, Lord and Ezra Miller could possibly create something great, but Gustin brings a sweetness to the role, an optimism and charisma that makes me wary of seeing another actor play the role just yet.
The episode ends on a surprisingly shocking note as Barry comes back, knocking Wells out his ride home and everything is thrown into distress. Barry and Wells fight until everything is brought to a halt as Eddie shoots himself, stopping the line of destruction before it begins. Eddie getting the biggest hero moment of the episode is clever and gives him a bittersweet goodbye (one I can’t help but hope it isn’t what it seems) and the world around them crumbles. Wells disappears, and the black hole begins. The crowd of civilians watches the oncoming destruction, and Barry decides that even if it seems hopeless, he has to try and save the day.
The entire first season of The Flash has exuded a confidence hard won by most shows. At the start, I wrote about how excited I was not only because of how long Barry Allen/The Flash had been one of my favorite superheroes, but also because of how thoroughly the creators seemed to enjoy their character and the world he inhabited. This was a comic book show that did away with any false pretense of mood or tried to appeal to a larger fanbase by grounding its stories in reality. They had the psychic gorilla, the Reverse Flash, a wonderfully campy Captain Cold and yes, even a diabolical swarm of bees. Along with all the fun and Cisco’s one liners, they also created a show populated by strong actors, they further advanced what to expect out of CGI on television, and a superhero that earned the love of its supporting characters and audience (not as easy as it sounds as Arrow and Gotham would support).
I can only hope season two keeps up with the pace it has struck.
Episode Grade: 8/10
Season Grade: 9/10