Right, let’s get one thing out of the way before we start: the time travel in The Flash is nonsense. We’re not going to bother explaining why because it’s a waste of too many paragraphs and it’s all been said before about so many other shows and films. The only thing you need to know is the Flash seems to use the Back To The Future laws of time travel, and even Back To The Future ignored its own rules when the plot demanded it.
Sure, it would be nice if the time travel did make sense to stop people who get hung up on closed loops and paradoxes dissecting all the joy out of the series (and you have to wonder why a team of writers that’s clearly versed in geek culture makes all the same mistakes) but this truly is a wood/trees scenario.
Because in all other respects, this was one hell of a finale.
And an unusual one. The big battle between the hero and the big bad was last week. This was a finale surprisingly bereft of action and dialogue-heavy for the first two-thirds of its – ahem – running time. Instead what we’re given is a series of two-header character scenes, most of them dealing with Barry’s moral dilemma – save his mum, change the world – but not all. An exquisitely drawn counterpoint to the main plot has Dr Stein setting Eddie on a route that at first seems like his path to happiness before being revealed as the path to his self-sacrifice.
From the start the episode has you on edge. It’s a clever idea to have Grant Gustin re-record the weekly opening monologue as the strain in his voice is clear and immediately alerts you to the dark twists to come: “One day I'll find who killed my mother and get justice for my father. That day is today.”
The helmet that comes out of the future portal appears to be the one worn by Golden Age Flash Jay Garrick. Barry Flash first met Jay Flash in "Flash of Two Worlds" (1961). A different, younger version of the Jay Flash exists in the DC52 universe. (And when the helmet popped out of the portal was anyone else reminded of the Eleventh Doctor’s fez popping out of a time portal in front of the Tenth Doctor in “The Day Of The Doctor”?)
The succession of dialogues that Barry has – with Joe, with Iris, with his dad etc – could have so easily been dull and repetitive. Instead, they are all riveting. This has less to do with the actual arguments they’re voicing than what those arguments reveal about the characters saying them. What helps is the level of acting on display. Gustin is once again in astounding form; this may be a “silly” superhero show but he acts every scene like he’s going for an Emmy. Little gestures and eye movements say so much more than just the dialogue. Candice Patton as Iris, Jesse L Martin as Joe and John Wesley Shipp as Henry are all on top form too.
Victor Garber gives great value as Dr Stein. While Ronnie Raymond continues his search for a personality, Stein has all the best lines. It’s great to see the writers giving a senior member of the cast so much attention and amusing dialogue. He’s especially great officiating at the wedding, though we’re still suspicious if Caitlin and Ronnie’s marriage is actually legal…
After a couple of episodes of moustache-twirling, Eobard/Wells regains some of his intriguing depth. He seems to positively enjoy watching Barry grapple with his moral dilemma but his best moment is his conversation with Cisco. The strange dichotomy between his fondness for Cisco (“A great and honourable destiny awaits you now – I hope you remember who gave you that life and that it was given out of love”) and his cold-hearted pragmatism (“I’m sorry. Not for killing you – I’m sure I had good reason”) makes him such a fascinating and compelling villain.
After all the chat and technobabble, the episode reaches a pulse-pounding conclusion. There’s the visually spectacular time travel sequence with its cheeky hints of future plot-lines. There’s the Golden Age Flash’s helmet popping out of a time vortex. There’s Barry choosing not to save his mum, partly thanks to a nod and a kink from his future self. There’s Wells’s shock demise when Eddie writes the last page of his story with a bullet aimed at himself. There’s the singularity sucking up everything in its path (including Eddie’s body) in a series of jaw-dropping FX shots.
It’s a glorious end to an excellent first season. This version of The Flash may be a little light and fluffy for some but if you can still tap into that child-like sense of wonder, it’s been one of the best small-screen superhero series ever, with a genuine feel of the Silver Age of comics brought to life.
Barry: “Why did you kill my mother?” Eobard Thawne/Wells: “Because I hate you.”
Barry’s mission into the past must last no longer than one minute and 52 seconds. (Clearly that’s why the singularity occurred – we timed his teary farewell to his mum at over two minutes.)
Vibe Is Born
A few weeks back we said that Cisco’s ability to remember his own death in an alternate timeline was suspiciously convenient. The writers have come good by finally giving an explanation, and confirming at the same time that – as in the comics – Cisco will become the metahuman known as Vibe.
So super scientist Caitlin doesn’t know what a singularity is? That seems very unlikely, but somebody had to ask for the sake of the non-sci-fi-literate in the audience.
The music playing as Caitlin and Ronnie are wed is “Don’t Dream It’s Over” by Crowded House.
Future Shocks 1
Barry’s visions as he prepares to time travel include some glimpses of the future (that we’ll presumably see more of next season). That includes our first glimpse of Caitlin as the supervillain Killer Frost (who’ll probably be annoyed that Captain Cold has already used up all the best ice puns).
Future Shocks 4
And not one of the visions, but still a taste of the future, this is Kendra Saunders/Hawkgirl, who we’ll be seeing more of in the Arrow/Flash spin-off Legends Of Tomorrow.
Eobard Thawne mentions that Rip Hunter (aka Time Master) was the inventor of the first time sphere, as he was in the DC comics universe. He will also be appearing in Legends Of Tomorrow.
Cultural References 1
Lots of geek references this week, with Dr Stein catching up with Cisco (though we suspect his are more in-jokes than the character actually aware he’s making a geeky reference). Here he’s paraphrasing the opening voiceover from Quantum Leap.
Cultural References 2
This one’s a bit cheeky, as he considers using Marvel Comics overlord Stan Lee’s famous catchphrase.
The Flash airs on Sky 1 in the UK and the CW in the US on Tuesday nights.
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