A review of The Flash season finale – but mainly thoughts on the final scene – coming up just as soon as I watch Transformers in 4D…
Even if the last two minutes of “The Race of His Life” had been less surprising and status quo-altering, I don't know that I'd have much to say about the rest of it. As discussed a few weeks ago, Zoom turned out to be a much less interesting rip-off of Reverse-Flash, killing off Henry immediately after a (great) episode that allowed Barry to get over his grief for his mother was a pretty trite way to generate drama and, as Barry himself noted tonight, keep him from ever feeling really happy(*), and there was no tension, surprise, or emotion to most of what happened as Team Flash took down Zoom once and for all. There was no way Joe was going to be stranded on Earth-2, no way that Wally or someone else wouldn't free Barry, no way Barry wouldn't win the race of his life, etc. Formula's expected in superhero stories, but it doesn't have to feel quite as perfunctory and lacking passion as it did here.
(*) I know that the mode for these shows involves lot of serialization and a lot of angst, but I don't know if I'd mind a version of the show that went retro and light: a smiling hero having fun standalone adventures. The Supergirl teaser for the CW's fall schedule was a potent reminder of how much fun Barry's visit to her show – full of laughs, jokes, and ice cream, and with Barry freed of the baggage of all the ongoing story arcs from his own series – was.
The finale played like the creative team had a checklist of necessary moments to get through – Barry grieves Henry, Zoom explains his plan, Wallay frees Barry – and did it as painlessly as possible. Even the revelation that the man in the iron mask was the real Jay Garrick, who happens to look exactly like Henry, didn't have much impact. Not only was it one of the more common fan predictions (an increasingly tough problem to avoid with these kinds of lengthy mysteries), but it felt exactly like what it was: the show finding an excuse to keep John Wesley Shipp around if need be (and even let him be called the Flash again), but without restoring the character who had become nearly as important to the audience as he was to Barry.
So, no, this wasn't a great arc, or sophomore season, for The Flash. Given that, the clean break offered by the final scene – where Barry goes back in time to prevent his mother's death, again, only this time goes through with it, erasing the Barry from the end of season 1 in the process – should be promising. Instead, it bothered me for several reasons.
First, Barry never seems to learn his lesson when it comes to using his powers to get what he wants. The original trip attempt to save his mom last season literally ripped a hole in the universe when it failed – and even if it had succeeded, Barry never seemed particularly troubled by all the other people whose timelines would have been rewritten in the process, including perhaps some other people whose parents might no longer be alive as a result of his actions. Him dealing with the murder of one parent by undoing the murder of the other is understandable, but I tend to like Barry less when he does things like this.
Second, while it may be fun for an episode or three to see all the changes made to the timeline – including, I would guess, Tom Cavanagh getting to play a third version of Wells, the original guy from Earth-1 whom Thawne murdered – the changes Barry must have caused are going to be pretty huge. Remember, he became Flash at a much younger age than he was supposed to because Thawne was impatient to get home, so I imagine there is going to have to be a lot of reintroducing and exposition going on at least at the start, and for however long this new timeline lasts. It also takes away the emotional impact not only of every story we've had so far, but of many that are to come, because they could always be overwritten by another Barry time trip.
Third, there's the matter of The Flash now being just one corner of a four-show CW/DC multiverse, and what will this mean for at least Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow, and maybe for Supergirl, too? Will they have to spend parts of their fall episodes dealing with the ripples of Flash' actions, to the frustration of viewers who don't watch them all? Will they ignore them altogether, at least until the December crossover? Because Barry's important enough to what's happened at least on the other two current CW shows for this to not have any effect(**). DC Comics did a version of this story, in a line-wide crossover called Flashpoint, but that was setting up a hard reboot of its entire universe and all its titles because management felt recent approaches had grown stale. It's hard to imagine something similar being planned for the Berlanti-verse shows, which means that any timeline rewrite on this show might have to be halfhearted at best.
(**) If they choose to ignore it, the weirdest and yet most appropriate precedent may be what happened in the '80s on Dallas spinoff Knots Landing after Dallas killed off Bobby Ewing, then infamously revealed a year later that its most recent season had all been a dream and Bobby was still alive. Knots Landing had done a bunch of storylines building on characters' reactions to Bobby's death, and that show's producers (who, unlike with all the Berlanti shows, weren't in constant communication) decided to just leave Bobby dead in their reality so they wouldn't have to undo all the stories they had just told.
Again, seeing all the changes could be fun for a bit. I'm a time travel nerd. I usually live for this stuff. But the previous two times the show had Barry rewrite the past (in season 1's “Rogue Time” and in the Arrow half of this season's crossover) were far from creative high points for the show, and rather than fill me with hope after an underwhelming season and finale, Barry's stunt mainly had me worrying that the fallout for the show would be more trouble than the surprise was worth, just as I expect Barry himself to realize the many unintended consequences of his good deed.
What did everybody else think? How did you feel about the conclusion of the Zoom story? Were you sorry to see Harry and Jesse go back to Earth-2? And are you excited or concerned about where Barry's time trip will lead?