‘Flash’ Finale Review: ‘The Race of His Life’ Zooms Into Insane ‘Point’-ed Cliffhanger
Warning – FULL SPOILERS for Tonight’s Season 2 Finale, “The Race of His Life”:
Well, that’s certainly a hell of a thing to kick-start Season 3. Obviously, Barry taking another trip through time and actually succeeding to prevent his mother’s death bears tremendous implication for viewers and fans alike, presumably setting the stage for a smaller-scale version of the Flashpoint story arc, a whole comic can of worms unto itself. There’s a little too much in that particular storyline to unpack from our current vantage, between alternate realities affecting Arrow or Legends of Tomorrow (more likely just within a Flash viewpoint, to start), but it’s a thoroughly surprising cap to “The Race of His Life” nonetheless.
For one, it seems absurd of Barry to so radically alter the lives of his friends and family (again!), let alone after witnessing Zoom dragged off by Time Wraiths for meddling with the Speed Force. To its credit, “Race of His Life” developed a consistent through-line of Barry’s mental state throughout the hour, to have lost his father so soon after coming to terms with his mother, that the desperation also dovetailed pretty well with Barry having hours-earlier seen a walking, talking reminder of his father unmasked* as Zoom’s prisoner. Understandably, a push and pull sign that the multiverse might just forgive him making one selfish change.
*You can read more about that particular reveal here, though it’s worth noting that the alternate-Earth Jay Garrick theory seemed more or less locked in by Henry’s weeks-earlier reference to his mother’s maiden name. It was at least cool to see John Wesley Shipp suited up again, and a smart device to keep the actor available, while buying back a bit of credit from fans irritated by the Hunter Zolomon/Jay Garrick fake-out.
And really, the “Flashpoint” ending so suddenly capped off an otherwise-packed finale, it’d be just as easy to have left off on Barry and Iris’ bittersweet kiss, or perhaps Barry rushing off through an unknown portal for a bit of personal time. The team certainly recognized how frayed Barry became in the wake of his father’s death, that the collective decision to temporarily lock him away made plenty of sense, just as their attempt to stop Zoom sans-Flash repaid Barry’s solo mission to stop the wormhole last year. “The Race of His Life” traded in a number of effective payoffs, including Joe and Harry recognizing when Barry would refuse to heed their advice (hence preparing the tranquilizer ahead of time), or Wally being the one to set him free, after his offering of gratitude earlier in the hour.
The final showdown itself felt notably convoluted and quick, just as Wally needing such extensive explanation of Time Remnants after didn’t bode well for the writers’ faith in the audience to follow along. However Barry managed to draft his time duplicate into a suicide mission, and concoct a technobabble plan to counter Zoom’s pulsar device, it also never tracked particularly well that Zoom so desperately wanted to destroy the other universes, the character having rarely developed a consistent motivation in the latter half of Season 2. Still, the resolution itself felt pretty cool, to allow a Barry a chance to sacrifice himself, while Zoom was left with a Ghost-style exit, rather than Barry taking revenge directly.
*Presumably, the decayed Zoom was an intentional reference/foreshadowing for DC’s Black Flash, whose design Zoom’s costume already more or less mimicked. The comic Hunter Zolomon dressed more or less like the Reverse-Flash, who himself also went by the name “Professor Zoom,” and you can see how things don’t get any less confusing from there.
This felt like a particularly driven and dark hour (literally, was there one daylight scene beside the funeral?), but one at least smart enough to leave a few items still on the able. No rushing Wally or Jessie into their own speedster powers, or committing to an Iris-Barry relationship* in the middle of universe-ending paradoxes. We also didn’t necessarily learn why, or how Cisco started vibing potential futures of another reality, and Caitlin too felt slightly overshadowed, especially in light of her point to Barry of having herself faced the exact same type of grief that was driving him to desperate acts.
*I thought for sure the duo would sneak a kiss before Barry rushed off to race Zoom around the magnetar, but the subsequent porchside chat felt like a wildly inappropriate time to Iris to reiterate her romantic intent, given what Barry had just been through. I couldn’t be happier the writing subsequently agreed, and had Barry be the one to make that decision, regardless of what he was about to do to the timeline.
There’s much more to consider going into Season 3 than “The Race of His Life” necessarily wrought during the hour itself, but the overall construction felt admirably solid, to effectively resolve so uneven a big bad as Zoom. Grant Gustin made wonderfully clear how Barry unraveled through the hour, but in the moment knew exactly what he was racing for, and thought better than to fulfill his revenge against our black-clad speedster.
AND ANOTHER THING …
- Barry facing a dead parent on the floor of his childhood home already made a powerful enough bookend to the first season, that returning to his mother’s murder felt that much more unexpected.
- Still not sure why Zoom needed to go all Palpatine on Barry, or encourage him to create his own time remnants.
- Potshots at Transformers are appreciated, but a tough line to tow, given The Flash’s own occasional missteps.
- Are there infinite universes, as Harry said? Were we not stopping at 52?
- Didn’t Zoom allow Caitlin to leave, despite what he said tonight? Something didn’t track there, that it repeatedly felt as if Caitlin’s return was some twist not yet uncovered.
- Incidentally, I wouldn’t credit Caitlin herself as a great actress, as opposed to Danielle Panabaker, but I’m astonished Zoom would fall for that deception.
- Worth noting, Supergirl’s CW move was decided long after The Flash Season 2 had wrapped, if you wondered why Zoom’s universe-hopping never broached the subject.
- I knew it was John Wesley Shipp ahead of time, but it took a solid few seconds before my brain registered that the unmasked Jay Garrick was bearded, and not somehow disfigured.
- Sure, tail-end career Jay Garrick is just going to start wearing a hat at super-speed, because reasons.
- Tom Cavanagh hasn’t left the show by any means, but do we really want a third character next season, or should we expect Harry back?
The Flash Season 3 will premiere this fall, airing Tuesdays at 8:00 P.M. on The CW. Stay tuned for more on tonight’s finale, including that big iron mask reveal.
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