Here we are, Flash fans, the end of Season 2! It’s been a long, strange trip, with other dimensions, alternate versions of all our beloved characters, another wolf in sheep’s clothing, trips to the past, a sojourn inside the Speed Force, and more. It’s all led to this point – Barry’s (Grant Gustin) final showdown with Zoom (Teddy Sears). Was it a satisfying ending? Read on to get my thoughts. Here’s my Top 5 for episode 2.23, “The Race of His Life”:
#5: Time Remnants
When we first encountered the concept of time remnants back in episode 2.11, I thought the concept was a little goofy, and seemed to contradict every theory of time travel that could make any sense in the context of this show. “The Race of His Life” finally showed us a way for it to actually make sense. Both speedsters perform the trick in this episode. They each travel back in time just a few moments, to where they basically copy themselves. That actually works for me. However, it still doesn’t fix all of the problems with the concept. It still doesn’t explain how Eobard Thawne continues to exist in both Barry’s past (the night his mother died) and the future (the one Thawne appears from in 2.11), when we clearly watched him disappear from Barry’s present the moment Eddie took his own life, extinguishing the Thawne bloodline. The same problem occurs in tonight’s episode, but we’ll get to that.
#4: Barry’s Anger
Barry is so consumed with rage after Zoom kills his father Henry (John Wesley Shipp), that the team even takes the extraordinary step of locking him in the pipeline so he doesn’t give in to Zoom’s demands. Of course, trying to stop Zoom without Barry backfires, and Joe (Jesse L. Martin) ends up Zoom’s captive on Earth-2.
It seems like Barry has his emotions under control by the time the final confrontation happens, and the team is finally back on the same page again. But later we see that his grief is far deeper than we imagined.
#3: The Race
So what is Zoom’s plan, and why has Cisco (Carlos Valdes) been seeing visions of Earth-2 ripping apart? It seems innocent enough – Zoom just wants to race Barry, to see which of them is the Fastest Man Alive. But of course it’s not as easy as that, as Wells (Tom Cavanagh) quickly figures out that Zoom will use their combined power to charge a weapon that will destroy the multiverse. Joe’s capture forces their hands, however, and Barry agrees to the race. He can’t seem to beat Zoom, however, so the weapon is nearly charged when Barry pulls the “time remnant” trick and copies himself so that one can fight Zoom while the other, at the cost of his own life, can neutralize the weapon. By using time travel, it has the additional benefit of summoning the Time Wraiths, who neatly do Barry’s dirty work for him, destroying Zoom and pulling him back into the Speed Force.
This raises an interesting question: did Zoom secretly want The Flash to beat him? He shows Barry how to create a time remnant. He even tells Barry that he’ll have to be willing to kill himself to stop him. He slays Henry to try to awaken in Barry a desire to kill. Really, when you get down to it, none of that would be necessary, strictly speaking, to get Barry to race him. Kidnap another one of Barry’s loved ones, hold him or her hostage until Barry agrees. Boom, done, so simple. So why show your enemy everything he needs to beat you, and why make him desperate enough to try it? Classic case of villain self-sabotage.
#2: The Man in the Mask Revealed
While Joe is his prisoner, Zoom reveals that the man in the mask, his other captive, is the real Jay Garrick, a version of The Flash from yet another parallel dimension. Once Zoom is destroyed, Barry is able to keep the promise he made back in episode 2.14 (“Escape from Earth-2”) to come back for him. Nobody is prepared for the face they find under the mask, however. Jay Garrick is, in fact, the doppelganger of Henry Allen. Combined with Henry’s casual mention that Garrick was his mother’s maiden name a couple of weeks ago, it was pretty obvious that this is where the story was heading once Zoom told us his captive’s identity earlier in the episode.
While the team doesn’t know how to get Jay back to his Earth, Harrison and Jesse (Violett Beane) vow to work on it with him from their lab back on Earth-2. They all leave together. It seems, then, that we aren’t going to get to see Jesse Wells become Jesse Quick after all. It was kind of mean to show Jesse and Wally (Keiynan Lonsdale), specifically, get hit with the dark matter blast two episodes ago, and give us no payoff for it. I’m still holding out hope for Wally to become Impulse next season, however, and the door is always open, metaphorically, for Harry and Jesse to return at some point.
As an aside, since I’ve been so effusive with my praise for the costuming this season, it’s time to balance that out here: the costume for this Jay Garrick is not good, at all, especially in contrast with the costume that the fake Jay wore earlier this season. Nothing about it looks the least bit like the Golden Age Flash, and it looks almost worse with the helmet added in. A rare misfire for The Flash‘s wardrobe team.
#1: Barry Hits the Reset Button
One would think that, since Jay Garrick is an alternate version of his own father, it would help Barry deal with his grief. Instead, it only seems to intensify it, because what Barry does after saying a painful goodbye to Iris (Candice Patton) is truly shocking. This is a cliffhanger I was not prepared for in any way.
Opening a time portal back to the night when Thawne killed his mother, Barry does what he warned his younger self not to do, and stops The Reverse Flash from killing Nora Allen (Michelle Harrison). Then, we watch as his smiling self from season 1 fades away, indicating that Barry has undone everything that happened over the past two years. If and when he returns to his own time, it will be to a world where Eobard Thawne never killed and took over the life of Harrison Wells, and thus hasn’t yet built the particle accelerator to give Barry his powers. That accident is still two years from happening in the “original” (?) timeline, based on what Thawne said in season 1. Presumably, Caitlyn (Danielle Panabaker) and Cisco don’t even know Barry yet. Iris, presumably, will be with Eddie Thawne, who, not being dead, will have restored Eobard Thawne’s future. Ah, the paradoxes are already piling up!
But wait, there’s more: if Barry never caused the breach to Earth-2, does that mean Zoom is alive and well and wreaking havoc over there, or has he died already from the effects of V-9? Or are the effects of the timeline change limited to just the Earth-1 universe, meaning that everything that happened this season still did happen from the point-of-view of Harrison Wells and the others, but nobody on Earth-1 knows anything about it? Is Grodd, rather than living on Earth-2 with the other super-advanced gorillas, back on Earth-1, or are there now two of him? The mind reels with the difficulties. Something tells me that, before any of those really tricky questions come up, Barry is going to realize he can’t erase his own timeline like that, and will have to stop himself from stopping Nora’s murder within the first few episodes of Season 3.
#0: Unanswered Questions
OK, this one’s a bit of a cheat, but there are still a lot of unanswered questions that now appear like they won’t get answered, and I feel like I should list them here so we can all reflect and try to come up with answers.
- Why is Zoom’s costume, like Thawne’s, a direct reflection of The Flash’s costume? Thawne’s had an explanation – he was directly inspired by The Flash. But Zoom didn’t meet Barry until 2 years after he gained his powers, so why is his costume identical expect for the color, the mask, and the direction of the lightning bolt? Seeing the true Jay Garrick’s costume doesn’t shed any light on the matter, either. In the comics, Hunter Zolomon took the same identity as the first Reverse Flash, Professor Zoom, but all three men were from the same universe in that storyline.
- Barry being in the past will neatly explain why he won’t be on hand for tomorrow’s Arrow finale to help Green Arrow take on Damien Dahrk, but don’t you think the news that a nuclear explosion wiped out a town of 10,000+ people would have made some sort of dent in the world of The Flash? And, conversely, wouldn’t Oliver have at least tried to help Barry stop Zoom? Even more perversely, shouldn’t Barry’s erasure of his own origin have had ripple effects into Arrow‘s chain of events? See, this is where shared universes can be a bit tricky; you can’t have them stopping over on one another’s shows every week, but it’s weird when they aren’t there for one another in their darkest hours. It’s a little easier on Legends of Tomorrow, as they’re at least unplugged from the normal flow of time for the other two.
- Did Barry really never tell anyone about his stopover on Kara Danvers’ Earth? I feel like the revelation that he can break the dimensional barrier with yet another parallel universe is kind of a big deal. All I can figure is that there was some sort of licensing issue preventing The Flash from being allowed to reference Supergirl. Presumably that will be resolved now that both shows will be on The CW starting next season. In fact, I would expect to see Kara popping up in Central City some time fairly soon.
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