Did THE FLASH Finale Stumble to the Finish Line?
By Justin Carter
I don’t think it’s exactly heresy to say that this season of The Flash has been all over the place, right? It’s disappointing that we’ve reached this point; last year’s debut made for one of my favorite TV shows of the season. It was fun, the cast was great, there was some great action, and it had a really good villain at the center of it who had plausible motivations for their actions. (To the show’s credit, Tom Cavanaugh is also really great as Harrison Wells and has good chemistry with just about anyone in the cast.)
Season two, in theory, should be just as better as the previous year. It’s introducing the multiverse and other Earths, it’s got a crossover with Supergirl, it introduces Wally West and has the villainous Zoom. All of these are things that heavily work out in its favor, in particular Zoom. His twisted visual design, plus the excellent voice work by Tony Todd, make him a creepy bad guy to anchor seven months’ worth of weekly adventures around. Just ignore that we’re in once again the exact same situation where someone is manipulating Barry with the goal of stealing his speed, and that’s a pretty fun season.
To be fair to the series, it also had to spend the bulk of its first run setting up its spinoff series, Legends of Tomorrow. Most of that show’s cast members were being transferred over from here, and Flash certainly spent its time reminding folks who Firestorm, Captain Cold, and Heatwave were, while also slowly introducing Hawkgirl and Hawkman. While the yearly crossover with Arrow was fun and set up that show pretty well, it understandably could feel like all that time setting up that show’s main story could have better been spent building up our main villain and figuring out just what his deal actually was.
In introducing Zoom and the concept of doppelgangers, the show tried very hard to hide the connection between him and the Earth-2 Flash, Jay Garrick. Last year did a good job in dropping the “Harrison Wells is Reverse Flash” bomb at just the right time, while revealing Jay to actually be serial killer Hunter Zolomon went on too long to be anything but underwhelming when he finally showed us his face. Teddy Sears eventually gets into the right headspace of Zolomon to make him an alright villain during the last run of episodes, but he does fall into the weird territory where it feels like two completely different people are donning the black costume and neither of them are in sync with each other.
Case in point, whenever we see Zolomon talk with the mask off, he feels like he’s just missing a mustache on his face to twirl as he talks about making Barry embrace his anger enough to kill him for killing his father. All of that, plus his declarations about using some Mercury Labs tech called the Magnatar to destroy every other Earth in the multiverse, don’t fully gel with his desires to just simply steal Barry’s speed and become the fastest man alive. I can buy him stealing the identity of Earth-3 Jay Garrick and keeping him as a trophy, but not deciding to just wipe out other Earths in order to prove himself as “the best.” If this was something the show had been building towards all season, it’d be one thing, but it’s not. It just feels like he’s deciding to destroy the other Earths for the hell of it, and we know that it won’t work at least in full because Supergirl’s migrating over to the CW come October.
Oh yeah, so we finally learn the identity of the Man in the Iron Mask, and he is none other than Jay Garrick of Earth-3, doppelganger of the recently killed Henry Allen. Like with revealing Jay as Zoom, the mystery has worn off at this point and is pretty predictable. It especially feels weird for the show to act like we haven’t spent the last seven months getting used to the idea of doppelgangers, and while I’m perfectly willing to accept Barry’s shock at seeing a man who looks like his father who he just buried earlier in the day, I’m not ready to buy Zolomon’s cryptic lines of “you wouldn’t believe me if I told you” when he’s asked about who he’s keeping prisoner.
Before we finally learn about Real Jay, we have to go through a middle act that involves the team benching Barry while they come up with a plan to take down Zoom. On paper, this sounds like a somewhat logical idea; it’s clear that Barry isn’t in his right state of mind and for him to try and race Zoom while kill crazy isn’t going to end well for anyone. That said, the characters seem to have forgotten the part where Zoom can apparently either come back through breaches during a brief window or just make his own breaches altogether, so their plan is a moot one that serves no point besides to have Caitlin hopelessly try to appeal to Zolomon’s human side and get Joe captured.
Thankfully, it’s Wally who has the sense to break Barry out of the Pipeline prison the others put him in and the race is on. The race itself is alright, if a bit lacking in stakes because it’s just two dudes running around what’s essentially a giant track. Had they been running through breach after breach and coming across different Earths, that would’ve at least given the implication that things were serious, but not so here. What we end up with Barry managing to create a Time Remnant of his own that absorbs the energy of the Magnatar while the real Barry takes down Zoom long enough for Time Wraiths to deliver the killing blow and deliver him to…I guess Time Hell? Barry was somehow gambling on the Wraiths being more pissed at Zolomon than him, which makes sense, but why didn’t they show up to nab him during the opening when he used a Time Remnant for what had to be the second or third time this season?
And if the Time Wraiths just viewed Barry as annoyance before, they should definitely be on his ass now after he goes back in time to save his mother from being killed by Thawne. Much like the idea of him not being over his mother’s death a few weeks ago, this development just comes out of nowhere. It’d make sense if he tried to prevent his dad from dying, but the show has never really given an indication that he’s had second thoughts over letting his mom die at the end of last season, so it comes out of nowhere. If anything, it just completely kills the growth he had last year to not make that decision based on just being in the room where it happened.
During the final moments of the episode, Barry says that he feels like he’s won, but also lost. It’s a perfect summation of this season of The Flash. It’s got its high points–those crossovers with Supergirl and Arrow were fantastic, and the show is pretty good when it gets over itself and gets to cut loose. But it feels like things that were intended to be big deals got mishandled in translation, like including Wally into the main cast or the incredibly slow way they’re integrating Vibe into things. Maybe in October, the change to the status quo will change things up for the better, but for now, this is one race where the runner stumbled to the finish line.
Jesse and Harry head back to Earth-2 to help Real Jay get to his home. I’m sad for two reasons, the obvious one being that Harry may not be a series regular next season. The second is that Jesse and Wally never got together, even the show was practically demanding them to with every interaction they had.
On the subject of romances, the show is really dedicated to drawing out Barry and Iris becoming a thing, huh? Sure, they kiss and exchange “I love yous”, but it still feels like back to step one.
Real Jay’s Flash jacket is way better than Zolomon’s, but the helmet still looks dumb.
- Overall season grade: C+. See you in October!