The Flash, Season 2, Episode 23, “The Race of His Life”
The finale for the second season of The Flash played out like a perfect snapshot of its fractured second season. A few memorable moments wrapped up in a conclusion that left you scratching your head asking, “All that buildup, for this?” The show’s creators must have felt the same way because they spent the last few moments of the episode hitting the reset button on the whole thing.
For all the menace and fear that Zoom brought to the table when he was introduced, his ultimate evil plan left a lot to be desired. He gets high marks for ambition – he’s created a worlds crushing Ferris wheel – but the execution (he needs to race Barry to power it up) leaves a little to be desired.
The Big Deal
Barry’s state of Zen and one-ness with the Speed Force lasted all of one episode. Barry is shattered by his father’s death at Zoom’s hyper vibrating arm. A after a chase, Barry actually catches Zoom and is about to deliver coup de grace when another Zoom does it for him. Zoom created a time reminant (don’t ask it involves Fake Science and time travel) to sacrifice (this becomes important later). For the rest of the episode, Barry is dangerously consumed by grief and anger. When Zoom challenges Barry to a race that everybody knows is a trap, Barry’s ready to damn the consequences for an opportunity to ice Zoom in the most cruel way he can imagine. It gets so bad that the remaining dads, Harry and Joe, band together with Team Flash to tranq Barry, lock him in the Star Labs basement and go after Zoom themselves. The plan mostly works except Joe manages to get kidnapped Earth 2. The team reached an agreement among themselves that as long as Zoom is stuck on Earth 2, nothing else matters even the possibility of teammates being stuck there with him. Luckily for Barry, Wally wasn’t part of the plan and is not pleased with its outcome. Wally unlocks Barry and after an impassioned plea from both, the race is on. As Zoom and Barry go round and round the Ferris wheel, Barry’s plan springs into action. He creates a time reminant of his own. That double saves Joe then messes up the wheel to prevent it from destroying the multiverse. OG Barry occupies Zoom long enough for the Time Wraiths (remember them from eight episodes ago?) to swoop in after Barry but take out the juicer prize in Zoom. With the multiverse saved, it’s party at Joe’s house. At this point Barry appears to have everything he ever wanted. He’s helping people, he has a loving extended family and he even got a
moonlight streetlight kiss from his beloved Iris. Unfortunately Barry has moved on to the “denial” stage of grief. If Legends of Tomorrow taught us anything is that a time traveler in denial is a scary thing. Barry goes back to the past and corrects an old decision. Once before, he had the chance to save his mother from being murdered, but decided against it for the greater good. This time, Barry wants his mommy too badly and saves her, thus changing the timeline for Season 3.
On the Side
All the loose threads of the season were tied off nicely before Barry took a flame thrower to them. Wally comes to grips that Barry is the Flash and immediately becomes president of the Flash Fan Club. Caitlin survived another season of loss and personal hardship without going evil. Harry and Jesse decide to go back to Earth 2. Cisco’s terrible luck with women stays alive when Jesse leaves. Iris is ready to start a romance with her foster brother. The most satisfying revelation however is the identity of the man in the mask that Zoom kept in that glass cell all season long. Hunter Zoloman (aka Zoom) needed a heroic alter ego to make his takeover of Earth 2 all the more satisfying. In his jumping around from alternate Earth to alternate Earth, Zoloman discovered a heroic speedster, kidnapped him and stole his identity, Jay Garrick. The twist is that once the iron mask is removed, Jay Garrick is the spitting image of the late Henry Allen (whose mother’s maiden name was Garrick). This sends the emotionally fragile Barry into a tailspin that leads to his decision to mess with the timeline. The show’s costume department deserves big credit getting the look of Jay’s uniform down. However, the show did have to cheat a little. Jay says he’s from Earth 3, leading you to believe that it is the Earth where DC’s Golden Age heroes live (and his home to the Justice Society). The show basically flipped the comic themes of Earth 2 and Earth 3. In the comics, Earth 2 is home to the Justice Society and Earth 3 is home where the heroes are villains and villains are heroes.
Observation and Speculation
*This reset opens up a lot of possibilities for not just The Flash but CW’s DC television universe as well. The most notable is that it should make the Barry-Iris relationship seem more palatable because without his parents suffering tragedy Barry won’t be adopted by Joe West and raised with Iris as his sister.
*The time stream change also gives the show reason to keep Tom Cavanaugh around as some version of Harrison Wells.
*It didn’t hit me until later but for a while there Team Flash literally kept Barry in a Glass Case of Emotion.
*Someone needs to start a Cisco pop culture drinking game. One drink if it’s loving like his nod to Harry Potter a couple of weeks ago and two drinks if he’s throwing the kind of shade he threw at the Transformers in the finale.
*I’m not saying it was tacky but the sparkly dress Iris wore to Henry’s funeral seemed more appropriate for the club than the graveyard.
*Wells’ diving laser shot was almost as good as Oliver’s twisting launch on Arrow last week. Wells’ gets docked for lesser degree of difficulty.
*I hope the change in the time stream doesn’t make the hologram generator go away. They’ve made improvements on it. It can talk when it couldn’t before.
*Don’t you think someone would notice a giant space Ferris wheel going up in Central City’s Abandoned Warehouse District and at least stop by and see if the builder had the proper permits?
The time stream obliterating coda notwithstanding, the whole finale just felt flat. There were big stakes there with the multiverse in the balance, it was hard to care. Everyone we liked from another Earth (except for Supergirl and we knew she wasn’t going anywhere but to Monday nights on The CW this fall!) was already in Star Labs. Maybe if they sent Barry jumping around more alternate Earths this season instead up setting up Hawkgirl for a spinoff, the threat to the other realities would have been more tense. Up until the point where Barry left for his walkabout, the episode was filled with deflating, head scratching moments (A race, really? Harry’s leaving, really?). Let’s hope now that Barry has everything he’s always wanted, some of the joy that made this show unique in the genre comes back, because watching Grant Gustin cry every week is getting old.