This is it, the first season finale of what is, so far, in my opinion, the best comic book superhero television series ever done – “The Flash.” The villain of the season, Harrison Wells AKA Eobard Thawne AKA the Reverse-Flash has been captured, and now muct answer for his crimes. Why does he hate the Flash so much? Why did he kill Barry’s mother? And can Barry save her by traveling back in time? Will he be “Fast Enough”? Meet me after the time jump and find out.
First things first, with Harrison Wells imprisoned in The Pipeline, and the Flash all done helping out Arrow with his season finale, it’s time for the two speedsters to have a little chat. Wells/Thawne/Reverse-Flash lays it out for Barry. He comes from 136 years in the future (as opposed to the 25th century in the comics), and they have always hated each other, why doesn’t matter, but once Thawne found out Barry’s name, he sought to eliminate him completely by going back in time and killing him as a child.
I found it interesting that no matter how much Barry hates Wells, or Wells expresses anger for Barry, there is still a bond. Wells is still the mentor, and still looks on Barry, and later Cisco, as sons. He has grown against his will fond of his archenemy. All along the way in this episode, even though they all know he is the Reverse-Flash, and know the horrors he has committed, he is still the man who has helped and guided them for years. At one point, Wells even chastises team Flash about how they have worked side by side for so long fighting super-villains.
Into the Past
The Reverse-Flash goes back in time, the Flash follows, they fight, and Barry manages to save his younger self by getting him out of the house as we saw inexplicably (at the time) in the series pilot. The Reverse-Flash is so angry that his enemy has foiled his plan, he decides that a tragedy is just as good as the murder of his foe, so he murders Nora Allen in a fit of rage. It’s then however, as we saw in “Tricksters,” that Thawne learns he can no longer access the speed force, and is trapped in that time.
Eobard Thawne has no choice but to create the Flash so he can get home. From there he kills and becomes Harrison Wells, and begins work on the particle accelerator. With all the backstory out of the way, the real negotiation begins. Thawne offers Barry a deal – get him home, and he’ll show Barry how to save his mom. With no Wells to consult with, Team Flash gets Prof. Stein and Ronnie Raymond. After a pep talk on alternate timelines and dangerous paradoxes, Barry is still conflicted over whether to save his mom. Joe tells him, “This is why you became the Flash.” Barry’s dad is against it. He doesn’t want him to change the way things are, his son, the natural order of things.
Love and Loss
Ronnie tells Caitlin he’s back for good. So they finally get married, which is long overdue, by Stein who apparently and conveniently is also a rabbi. Her wedding dress is quite close to the outfit worn by the original Killer Frost in 1978’s Firestorm #3, right down to the pearls. Rumors do have Caitlin making that transformation quite soon. I hear they already have the costume… or perhaps it’s just the wedding gown?
But that’s not the real decision at stake here. Barry seeks the advice of Iris. They talk a lot of what ifs, and Iris doesn’t really seem all that upset at the possibility of being Iris West-Allen, hyphen or not. She even suggests that it’s their living together as ‘brother and sister’ that kept Barry from revealing his feelings to her.
What if this was the showrunners’ intentions all along to erase this first season via time travel, and reset everything as it is (or at least closer to) in the comics? It’s not like it hasn’t been done before. “Dallas” did it decades ago by dismissing an entire season as a dream. They did it badly, but they did it. Would the folks at “The Flash” dare try such a thing… or would it just be… a flashpoint?
The Secret Origin of the Reverse-Flash
Time travel is a big part of the Flash mythos in the comics, and the folks behind the scenes are implanting that into the TV show as well. I’ve talked before about the Cosmic Treadmill, a machine that the Flash built to help travel not just through time, but also across dimensions. This machine is also a big part of the secret origin of the Reverse-Flash as well. In the 25th century, Eobard Thawne is the Flash’s biggest fan, so much so that he has his face altered to look like Barry Allen. He also recreates the electro-chemical accident that gave the Flash his powers and treats an old Flash costume with it, reversing its colors, giving him super speed when in contact with it. And he finally uses the ancient relic the Cosmic Treadmill to travel back in time to meet his idol.
The Treadmill is almost five hundred years old and faulty, transporting Thawne to a Central City years after Barry Allen has died saving the universe (the multiverse really) in the great Crisis. Wandering through the Flash Museum, a tribute to his hero, he finds that he is featured in a display… as not only the Flash’s most dangerous enemy, and an evil insane super-villain, but also as a man Barry Allen murdered in self-defense. Thawne’s mind snaps.
After some time thinking he is Barry Allen, he is confronted by Wally West, Barry’s protégé and the next Flash, who further reveals Thawne’s future crimes to him and hands him his first defeat as the Reverse-Flash. Once back in his own time, the now deranged Reverse-Flash dedicates himself to fulfilling his destiny and planning the Flash’s destruction – so he won’t die at his former hero’s hands. So yeah, time travel is also a bad thing in Flash comics.
The Perils of Time Travel
If Barry tries to go back and save his mother, he has to be careful. As we saw in “Rogue Time,” the showrunners are fans of Back to the Future style time travel, where any changes made in the past can affect the present day in crazy ways. We’ve seen this before in other science fiction examples like Ray Bradbury’s classic “A Sound of Thunder” all the way to The Butterfly Effect, which it inspired, to Flashpoint in the comic books themselves. And Flashpoint is exactly why Barry shouldn’t save his mother…
Flashpoint is the event that changed the DC Comics universe forever from its old continuity to the New 52. There’s even an animated feature about it. Long story short, the Reverse-Flash goes back in time and kills Barry’s mother, so Barry goes back and saves her. When he returns to the present, the world is in danger as a war between Atlanteans and the Amazons threatens to destroy the planet. Barry has no super speed. And while Nora Allen is alive, Henry Allen has passed away. There is no Superman, there is no Justice League, and Bruce Wayne is dead – his parents so affected by his death they became the new present’s Batman and Joker. To save the world, to save the present, Nora Allen must die. Time is not to be tampered with.
Vibe, yeah, baby, Vibe. The reason Cisco could remember the alternate timeline is that he was affected by the particle accelerator accident too. He is possibly on his way to becoming something, someone very special – Vibe. Wells is shocked at first to learn that Cisco remembers what happened, and then realizes why. It’s part of that charm we spoke about earlier. Wells is still connected to Team Flash, hell, at times in this episode, he is still a part of Team Flash.
While the particle accelerator is being readied, and Wells’ time machine being built, there’s lots of downtime, and so a lot of talking. The best bit is the pep talk Professor Stein gives Eddie. The detective is feeling low obviously, and says that he doesn’t matter. While being held prisoner by Wells, he saw the newspaper that said he was nothing. Stein’s comeback was priceless. Oh yeah, he has a coffee mug that says he’s the ‘world’s best boss,’ but it doesn’t make it true. Eddie is the one thing science cannot explain – a coincidence.
Wells needs a time machine to get home so he has Cisco and Ronnie build him a time sphere, yeah, like in the comics of the Legion of Super-Heroes and Rip Hunter. The latter even gets namedropped. Don’t think this isn’t a coincidence because the new “Arrow”/”Flash” spin-off, “Legends of Tomorrow,” features the character of Rip Hunter, ironically played by Arthur Darvill, no stranger to time travel as a former “Doctor Who” companion.
Run, Barry, Run
Decision made to save his mother, no matter what the cost – whether it means alternate timelines, or Team Flash never knowing each other, or possibly losing (or gaining) Iris, Barry is doing it. Oh and yeah, when Barry first accesses the speed force, and sees images from his past and future, don’t blink, because that is Killer Frost! And the Flash Museum. When Barry gets back to the scene of his mother’s murder, there’s a surprise waiting for him – himself. As he waits for his future self, dressed in the bright red costume with the white chest symbol (when will our Barry get this outfit? Cisco, I’m looking at you), to save his younger self, so he can save his mom – some thing happens. Future Flash looks at him, holds up a hand, and shakes his head no. Don’t do it.
Future Barry knows something, whether it’s Flashpoint or something else we’ll find out later. Present day Barry stays hidden while the deed is done, and once the Reverse-Flash leaves, he shares the last moments with his mother. Bittersweet doesn’t cover it, but I think we were all tearing up as Barry holds and talks with his dying mother. It’s something, not what he wanted, but something. Barry is on the clock however and must rush back to the present.
While Barry makes his way into and out the past, Team Flash readies Wells’ time sphere for his trip home. As the machine warms up, a metal hat, like that of the god Mercury materializes. Someone asks what it is, and Wells answers that it’s his cue to leave. Comics readers will recognize the helmet immediately (and I was so happy and proud The Bride knew) as that of the Golden Age Flash, Jay Garrick. This was obviously an Easter egg for the comics folks, and possibly a mystery for next season (maybe from a parallel dimension?), but we don’t have too much time to ponder the question as Barry comes crashing into the time sphere.
With his way home once again destroyed, the Reverse-Flash is enraged and the super speed battle begins anew, lightning and fast punches flying everywhere. Suddenly a gunshot rings out. It’s Eddie. He’s shot himself in the chest, and I feel the lump in my throat as I realize what has happened, what he’s trying to do. No Eddie, no bloodline, no Reverse-Flash. By killing himself, he has assured that Eobard Thawne will cease to exist. His dying words in Iris’ arms are that he wanted to be a hero, her hero. …and is that the Flash ring around Eddie’s neck??
As the Reverse-Flash fades from existence, the wormhole opened for these little time trips has gone unstable, and has become a black hole. It’s not just Central City in danger, but the entire world. With nice cameos of many of the lesser supporting cast members looking up into their doom, the Flash doesn’t waste any time to rush to the rescue. His plan, the run the damned thing backward just as he did to Clyde Mardon’s tornado back in the pilot.
As the Flash runs up buildings and across debris to begin his reverse whirlwind, the credits roll. It’s not so much a cliffhanger as it is a full circle. We know he’ll do it, and he’ll be the hero. That’s what this show has always been about, and that’s why I love it. I cannot wait for the second season. I stand by my opening statement that “The Flash” is the best comic book superhero show, so far. Great cast, great writing, great effects, and my favorite superhero… I have no complaints. What did you folks think?