‘The Race of His Life’
The Flash Season 2 concludes with an episode that magnifies this season’s strengths and flaws. All the amazing character moments and OMG revelations are present, but unfortunately, so is the baffling plotting and tendency to ignore Doc Brown’s time-travel advice. The finale does its job; don’t expect much more.
After killing Barry’s (Grant Gustin) father (John Wesley Shipp) at the end of the last instalment, Zoom (Teddy Sears) challenges Barry to a race. If Zoom wins, the entire multiverse, with its infinite Earths, is destroyed; if Barry wins… he just stops Zoom. The writers set up this moment poorly. Zoom needs a complex scientific machine to destroy everything but this machine has not appeared in any previous episode. He just has it and has been working on it for ages, apparently. As for most of the season, Zoom’s motive is also unclear.
Being evil for evil’s sake isn’t a strong motive and the finale shows why Zoom has been a lacklustre villain. He’s a terrifying symbol, but, beyond surface details like his excellent mask, we don’t know why he’s terrifying. And, having a troubled childhood doesn’t count when every superhero or super-villain has one of those. The writers have handled him so haphazardly he has become lost amongst the show’s spotty plotting. Apart from the aforementioned science machine plot hole, the episode is well-written and caps the season sufficiently. Every character gets a moment and even if the episode doesn’t stray from The Flash formula, it isn’t afraid to subtly subvert it. Joe West (Jesse L. Martin) gives Barry an emotional speech and wins another dad-of-the-year trophy. Harry (Tom Cavanagh) gets to be sassy and dive through the air while firing a laser gun. Martin and Cavanagh are the shows MVPs and always make it clear why their characters undertake their actions.
Both Iris (Candice Patton) and Caitlyn (Danielle Panabaker) act as emotional anchors. Whilst it’s annoying the show reverts to having its female characters be emotional syphons for the male characters, by the end of the episode they are seemingly free of this shackle and both Patton and Panabaker produce A-plus performances.
To talk about The Flash’s future, we must talk about the past. After the showdown with Zoom, Barry and Iris share a genuinely touching kiss. It is a pure romantic moment that pushes all the science-fiction mumbo-jumbo to the back of your mind. The characters are at a point where this moment feels deserved and there is shot that shows the S.T.A.R Labs squad relaxing and eating pizza. The show has put fan-favourite characters through hell and this moment of pure happiness is needed and welcome. Until Barry goes and changes it all. Barry, after suffering the loss of his family and friends, travels back in time and saves his mother. It is a truly baffling decision the writers have made. It negates every development and the growth these characters have gone through because Barry changes the show’s unchangeable moment. His mother’s death sets everything in motion and the writers have essentially rebooted the show. It feels disconnected from the narrative and makes no sense considering Barry’s growth. This is a character who would sacrifice himself for anyone, so why would he go back in time and change everyone’s lives? This decision stings because we’ve come to love these characters as they are. They don’t deserve this fate and regardless of the show the writers want to tell, they have to be true to what they’ve already written.
Rumours suggest the show is going to follow the Flashpoint arc, a storyline where Barry travels back in time and saves his mother. He becomes powerless and the world is awful. Successfully adapting this storyline will be down to how the writers juggle all their plot points. Plotting has been this season’s Achilles heel, so let’s hope the writers put their season 1 hats on and prove the doubters wrong.
The Flash will return in the autumn, but it is unclear just what type of Flash we’ll get to see.