The Flash: “The Race of His Life” Season 2 Finale Review

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With those final moments, The Flash betrayed its viewers. It took an average, relatively climactic season finale and turned it into something terrible. As Legends of Tomorrow viewers learned, not to mention Barry just last season, time travel is not something to be trifled with. If only the writers saw it the same way.

Barry Allen as a character is built upon three things: the tragedy that bespoke his childhood, how that made him into a hero, and what he’s done with that heroism. Now, I don’t think for a minute that “The Race of His Life” erased all three, but erasing just the first one puts the justification for the other two in jeopardy. After defeating Zoom and losing his father, Barry races to that pivotal moment where Eobard Thawne kills his mother, the very same moment he raced to in last year’s finale, and intervenes where his wiser older self warned him not to. Barry will now have had two parents growing up, no known association with the West family, and will need to find different reasons for becoming the Flash. Maybe the writers thought they wrote themselves into a corner, so they hit the reset button. In some respects, the idea of a brand new character dynamic in season three is enticing. But in others, The Flash just made a 46-episode character arc feel pointless. It transformed Barry from the wiser hero he was becoming at the end of season one and in “The Runaway Dinosaur” into an impulsive boy unable to see the consequences of his actions. Barry’s arc is going backwards and The Flash is getting dragged down with him. Or maybe it’s the other way around. Either way, unless this is all fixed in the earliest parts of season three, the show just made a crucial mistake.

Before that, “The Race of His Life” was a modest finale that contained a few solid moments to keep things moving. The team united in locking an angry Barry away felt a bit overblown, while Joe’s capture during Zoom’s exile was underplayed. But then it was great how Barry created another version of himself that then sacrificed himself to save the multiverse. This wonderfully played with the earlier moment where Zoom performed the same trick and said to Barry “You have to be willing to kill yourself.” Much like the mirror of positivity Flash is to Zoom’s negativity, he did indeed kill himself, but in an act of heroism.

The race itself was pretty anticlimactic before that moment, proving once again that these writers aren’t even close to as enthused with Zoom as they were Reverse-Flash. But then there was the cute, fan-service-y reveal that Earth-3’s Henry Allen is the man behind the mask, the real Jay Garrick, and the Flash on his world. This moment wouldn’t land nearly as well if you didn’t know John Wesley Shipp was the Flash on the old ’90s series, but then most of the show’s fans probably do.

But then, hey, how much of this will have really happened anyway when we return with a fresh new timeline for season three? Has a recent twist to a series been so unthinkably terrible? It’s like the superhero version of the infamous Dallas dream season. I’m not so sure The Flash can recover from such an event. Finale Grade: D+/Season Grade: B-

Some Other Notes:

  • The Flash‘s second season was criminally uneven. There were great episodes scattered throughout, featuring trips to Earth-2, giant shark people, spiritual Speed Force journeys, and Mark Hamill, but the second season never quite nailed exactly what it wanted to do with its characters. It was ultimately a season that just wanted to play with the physics of this world and Flash’s powers. Characters came second to that, with arcs contradicting themselves to fit in with the new worlds that needed exploring. Now the show is in a place where it can hit the reset button, but just two seasons in, it shouldn’t have to already.
  • So if time is significantly altered, it means that Earth-1 Harrison Wells may have never died. It could also mean that Caitlin has a chance of becoming Killer Frost. Those are some things that could win me back when the show starts up again in the fall.
  • With all the crossovers with all the other CW shows, I don’t even want to do the mental gymnastics for how this final twist could affect Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow. Hell, even Supergirl now.
  • I do look forward to a day where Cisco is out in the field with Barry as a fellow superhero.
  • Thanks for reading all year, folks. I’m undecided as to whether I’ll be reviewing The Flash again in the fall. It largely depends on how crazy different the dynamics of season three look and who they choose as a main villain. If it’s Gorilla Grodd, I’ll almost certainly be back.

By Matt Dougherty

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