A disastrous decision to end with that cliffhanger almost makes you forget how great every other second of The Flash and its finale have been.
When last week’s episode ‘Rogue Air’ concluded with a short and immensely satisfying hero team-up battle against the Reverse-Flash, it conceivably left audiences asking “How can they top this next week in the finale?” Smartly, the finale was written with almost entirely emotional conflicts as the focus. There is little to no running or punching until the last ten minutes. It’s measured, intelligent, dealing smartly with themes of grief and the morality of letting the villain get his way when it gets everyone else something good. Yet they drop the ball down a black hole never to be seen again, in the last few minutes of the episode.
Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) can at last confront the man who murdered his mother: Eobard Thawne (Tom Cavanagh). However when Thawne presents Barry with the opportunity to save his mother’s life and undo all the bad that he has done, at the cost of letting the bad guy get away with it, Barry must make an incredibly tough choice. Should he risk losing everything and everyone he cares about to have the life that was taken from him? And will his trip back in time do more harm than good if he is not careful?
When you meddle in time travel it can always impact the past, the present, the future. When writers use time travel, it by and large needs concrete rules about paradox and causality that they must follow. Naturally, in being so desperate to pursue the emotional impact of the story, The Flash speeds past any form of logic it had previously established. So Eddie Thawne (Rick Cosnett) sacrifices himself so that he can be the hero. It is an emotional scene, where we can see just how good Eddie has always been. But then everything falls apart. Literally. A black hole appears in the sky above Central City and threatens to swallow the entire universe up unless Barry can run really fast around it and close it like a tornado. Wait, what?!
This comes right after the wormhole that could have been said singularity had been closed, and there is no reason given for the black hole to appear. It is a forced last minute addition to add conflict in the last few minutes and create a cliffhanger. It is the worst decision that the writers have ever made. Instead of following Eddie’s act to its logical conclusion, if Eobard simply vanished, everything changes, but not erased, they abandon any previously hinted ideas about how time travel would work in this world in favour of a big action sequence.
This is a disappointment because whilst the rest of the episode swings on a very black and white morality, and labours its points, it is still effective. Who can say their eyes weren’t misty when Barry’s father (John Wesley Shipp) tells him not to save his mother? When Barry calls Joe (Jesse L. Martin) his dad before making that fateful trip? Or when Barry lets his mother (Michelle Harrision) die at the behest of his future self, so uses his precious time to say goodbye properly? Nearly the entire episode swings on Barry’s decisions and it is nearly only his scenes that could turn grown men into sniveling wrecks. Gustin is so good.
Every single actor is good in fact. Seeing Firestorm/Ronnie Raymond/Martin Stein (Robbie Amell & Victor Garber) return to lend a hand is a real treat and although it feels a little out of place given everything else that is going on, Caitlin’s (Danielle Panabaker) wedding is very sweet. Cavanagh is back doing his extremely enigmatic act, at once scary and genuinely caring. His character and the reveal of his villainy has been the absolute highlight of a great first season. It would not be so without Cavanagh’s brilliant performance.
It is so hard to say this when the rest of the season has so frequently been fantastic, yet the last few minutes of The Flash almost completely ruined the episode. However there is so much in this episode that still needs to be talked about. As it is, it is still exciting to see where they will possibly go with a second season.
The Flash was broadcast on Sky One, 8pm Tuesdays.