The Flash’s season finale (“The Race of His Life”) was good and bad. Obviously, Barry is devastated over the loss of his dad. The episode picks up where the last left off, allowing Grant Gustin to shine in his soul-deep grief. It is well done and believable, as is the funeral scene that follows later. Joe delivers a beautiful piece of truth: “Henry Allen was proof that love can get you through the darkest of days. And that love will keep him alive in our hearts.” Love can get a person through anything, and that love is what we carry with us, after we lose someone. It was a very real moment.
But the entire episode hinges on…a race. A literal race, between Flash and Zoom. And as far as plotlines go, that’s a little dicey for me. We will get to that in a minute. Let’s talk about an interesting turn: the Nerd Gang teamed up to save Barry from himself. He’s hellbent on racing Zoom, which will power a multiverse-exploding death machine (which is what Cisco had been Vibe-ing: “One pulse to rule them all.” Never change, Cisco. You’re my favorite. Bless Carlos Valdes). So, if Barry loses? All the Earths go POOF, except the one Zoom rules.
Joe and Wells team up, tranquilizer Barry in a twist I didn’t see coming, and lock him up. They notice that he is quietly unraveling, which is true of a painful loss. You’re not quite yourself in a way that might lean toward anger or revenge. Too much grief, as Barry later points out, can hollow a person out. Seeing what amounts to Barry’s two surrogate dads team up was a nice move. How many times has everyone gone BARRY NO, only to have him do something a bit…stupid? I lost count. Unfortunately, the plan that the gang had was nothing short of also stupid—and it results in Joe getting kidnapped by Zoom.
Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up: Barry just lost his dad. Now his father in practice has been kidnapped by the fast murder-y dude as leverage. Wally, who conveniently wasn’t in on the Barry coup, has a fit, lets Barry out, and more chaos ensues. Although, I did enjoy a bit more of the snarky banter from Wells. That scene illustrates how Barry ignores everyone and does what he wants, which is going to be SUPER problematic.
Meanwhile, Joe and Zoom have a nice little chat about how the Speed Force hates having its rules broken and how the Man in the Iron Mask is a trophy of sorts. But this is just a setup for the pivot at the end of the episode. Barry and Zoom do race—love the repetition/bogarting of the “Run, Barry, run” line—but the Nerd Gang just sit around and did nothing. The race was thwarted because Barry made a time remnant, which helped out and drew the Time Dementor Ringwraith banshee things (the enforcers of the Speed Force…? Which…yeah, that was a wee bit hard to swallow). They take Zoom away. Remnant Barry sacrifices himself, and all is well in Whoville.
Except, of course, it isn’t. You know the Man in the Iron Mask? Well, it turns it out it wasn’t Leonardo DiCaprio. It was Henry’s doppelganger, which was genius (because it got the original Flash, John Wesley Shipp back into his suit, which I adored). I didn’t see it coming, but there were enough subtle hints that I should have. Henry’s throwaway line a few episodes back about maiden names was a clue.
This episode meant we said goodbye to Wells (hopefully, this is not the last time we see Tom Cavanagh) and Jess, who went back to Earth 2. I’m going to miss Wells quips with Cisco: “Ever work with a tool before?” Cisco: “I’m working with one now.” Perfect banter is perfect. They’re going to help Jay (aka Doppelganger Henry) get back to Earth 3, nicely driving home Wells’ admission: “I’m a better man than I was when I got here.”
Barry and Iris have a touching scene in which he admits that he’s not ready for a relationship. It feels a bit ironic, in Alanis Morissette’s sense of the word: having what you’ve dreamed of in your grasp, but not. He’s devastated and he needs time: “I feel more broken than I’ve ever felt in my life. If I’m ever going to be worth anything to you, then I need to fix what’s wrong with me.” That bit cracked my heart in half. There’s a special kind of brokenness that comes with loss, and Gustin’s delivery is pitch perfect. His earnestness to be able to show up for their relationship was well done. I happened to really like how Iris responded: “Barry, listen to me, you waited for me for years. You let me get to place where this is possible. So I am telling you, I am going to do the same thing for you. Wherever you need to go, whatever you need to do, do it. And when you get back, I’ll be here.”
Isn’t that what we all want? Someone who isn’t keeping score. Someone who waits, who returns the favor? Who gives us space and time to work out our issues, so that the possibility of something is given a real shot at becoming a tangible thing? Barry waited for Iris to come around. And now it’s her turn, and she’s up for it. It’s beautiful and poetic.
Unfortunately, it’s all for nothing. Because now, dear readers, we have to discuss the part of the episode that made me want to light things on fire and roast marshmallows in the flames. Barry goes back in time and saves his mother. The catalytic event that makes him who he is, the very thing that drives him the most was undone in a single fit of rage-grief.
And I have questions. Namely, pointing backward to Kevin Smith’s episode (“The Runaway Dinosaur”), why bother doing all that character development? Why put in all that brilliant damn work, only to undercut it? It feels like a huge disservice, honestly. Not to mention the fact that, what the actual crap is it going to do to the timeline? Because this is starting to feel a little bit like Southland Tales, and I don’t mean that in a good way.
Am I giving up on the show? Absolutely not. I love it. But this particular plot twist did not sit well with me. I know that Barry is the fastest man alive, but it is extremely possibly that he’s also the dumbest.
I suppose we’ll have to see what hell grief-rage hath wrought when season 3 starts up in the fall.
I’ll race you there.