Warning – FULL SPOILERS for Tonight’s Season 3 Finale “Finish Line”:

Checking in on The Flash at midseason, my prevailing thought was that CW dramas have ever-more difficulty constructing twists that stay undercover very long. Any number of candidates for Savitar’s identity might have worked, but Season 3’s emphasis on time-travel turning Barry into his own worst enemy (not to mention a comic “Future Flash” that bore distinct resemblance to Savitar) all-but-guaranteed fans figuring out the Future Barry twist months before its unveiling.

As far as Iris’ death driving the second half of Season 3, there were just as many ways to keep that resolution opaque, but The Flash seems to suffer from two problems. For one, a great many viewers correctly surmised that last week’s refresher on H.R.’s Earth-19 projection tech (as well as his desire to feel useful) would lead to Iris’ “death” revealed as the two having swapped places before the “Infantino Street” showtown. To the finale’s credit, “Finish Line” didn’t drag that revelation out very long, but still unfurled exactly as predicted – a clear indicator that The Flash would do well to stop relying on the kind of puzzles that a Reddit-savvy audience unravels within minutes.

The other issue is that Barry successfully changing Iris’ and Savitar’s futures creates an interesting problem “Finish Line” lacked the wherewithal to explore. It might seem anti-climactic of a finale, but Barry bringing Savitar into S.T.A.R. Labs to help spare him temporal oblivion presented the kind of compassionate, creative choice Season 3 had built toward. Having your star double-up as big bad is reasonably unique to begin with (and those scenes of Barry/Savitar embracing a return to Team Flash were about as dramatically rich as it gets), so it’s disappointing that “Finish Line” quickly cast off that notion for a more generic final battle. Granted, “generic” in this case amounts to a four-way woodland chase between Savitar, Flash, Wally West and Jay Garrick, a separate battle between Vibe, Gypsy and Killer Frost*, and even a visually-inventive climax with Barry phased into Savitar’s reddened armor.

*It’s easy of world-ending series like Flash, Arrow or Legends of Tomorrow to trip over one another’s continuity, but considering Black Flash/Zoom drove the entirety of Legends Season 2 with Thawne’s efforts to escape said creature, it’s pretty amusing Caitlin could destroy him with barely a moment’s preparation.

”I mean, Earth-2 you could barely muss Teddy Sears’ hair.”

Of course, the biggest development “Finish Line” brought us (other than confirming with anvil-thud clarity that “DeVoe” will think his way into Season 4) was Barry forced to take Jay’s place in the Speed Force prison, lest the imbalance destroy Central City. Season 3 leaned heavily into accepting the consequences of Barry’s mistakes, given the no pun intended running theme of mucking up time for his own selfish ends, and it makes a good deal of dramatic sense “Finish Line” would end with personal sacrifice balancing the creation of “Flashpoint.” The series itself seems to be adjusting for its own creative missteps (choosing a non-speedster villain in Season 4, for instance), and I’ll hope the Barry we meet after a stint in the Speed Force comes across more mature, and less angst-ridden than the character who overloaded Season 3 with so much literal self-loathing.

It’s worth mentioning that “Finish Line” had much more going on than just Barry’s struggle to save Iris, or himself. Cisco and Caitlin pushed their friendship far enough to the edge that she learned to embrace her icy alter-ego without a cold heart, but needs time regardless, and H.R. did technically die. Still  like Savitar turning on a dime and blowing up S.T.A.R. Labs  tonight’s finale seemed only to ask the kind of questions it could wriggle out of. Caitlin didn’t have to go through with killing Cisco, because Gypsy made a surprise save at the last moment. We never really learned why Caitlin’s cold powers turned her evil to begin with, but she’s apparently got a handle on them. And H.R. is still dead, sure, but Earth-2’s Harry will stick around, so presumably Season 4 isn’t about to rush out a fourth character for Tom Cavanagh.

I don’t mean to split hairs; this was about as unpredictable and appropriately bonkers as you can expect from a Flash finale, while still ducking its more interesting outcomes without any major sacrifice. Like Arrow, there’s a wide berth to do things differently next season, and considering how dark Flash Season 3 managed to skew, that overhaul is sorely needed. Remember when Season 1 had a fun wedding, daytime and all?

AND ANOTHER THING …

  • Hey, Julian’s back! Are we keeping him, or inventing an awkward reason for him to leave early next season?
  • Impressive how Cisco fails to convince Caitlin that Savitar will turn on her, despite Savitar threatening to kill her minutes earlier.
  • Is there a reason Barry using the Savitar suit turns its lights red?
  • Always count on a West to shoot someone in the back to protect Barry.
  • Central City certainly has some modern-looking headstones.

The Flash will return for Season 4 this fall, airing Tuesdays at 8:00 P.M. on The CW.

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