SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for the season finale of "The Flash."
In 1998, writers Grant Morrison & Mark Millar along with artist Paul Ryan introduced me to a character who would go on to become my favorite DC Comics character, and one of my favorite comic characters of all-time. That introduction came in issue #134 of "The Flash" and it was the first time I really got to meet the Golden Age incarnation of the title character, Jay Garrick. I knew who he was. I had seen him before in book's like James Robinson's "Starman," which I loved, but with that issue Morrison and Millar showed me what made Jay tick and why he was such a special hero. He was presented as both a paragon and an everyman, posessing an attitude and outlook similar to my favorite Marvel hero, Captain America.
I would go on to devour anything I could find with Jay after that. I loved his appearances in Mark Waid's "Flash" run and in subsequent issues of the series. I went out and tracked down the Len Strazewski-Mike Parobeck 1992 "JSA" series and I was delighted when another "JSA" series featuring Jay was launched in 1998. Some of my friend's mocked the Golden Age Flash's trademark helmet and considered his outfit corny, but I didn't care. They just didn't get it. To me, Jay was full of both gravitas and everyman cool. He was the Paul Newman of super heroes.
As you can imagine, I was more than excited when Jay's helmet showed up in the final minutes of the finale to The CW's "Flash" TV show. How cool was that! I never in a million years thought they'd introduce him and I was so ecstatic to see that helmet.
Before we dive too deep into the finale and why this first season of "The Flash" has been so great, we need to circle back a bit and talk more about my other favorite Flash, Wally West. I started reading "The Flash" with the beginning of the Morrison/Millar run, so Wally was my first Flash. I loved his everyman qualities and that he was constantly trying to live up to the heroic example set by his late uncle. For the longest time, that's who Barry Allen was for me. He was the guy who died saving the DC Universe in "Crisis on Infinite Earths."
While Barry was an interesting guy, I was spending quality time with Wally both in the Morrison and Millar issues I started with as well as the the Mark Waid-written trades I sought out like "The Return of Barry Allen" and "Terminal Velocity," which to this day remains my favorite Flash story. One of my prized comic possessions is my "Terminal Velocity" trade signed by Mark Waid and the late great Mike Wieringo who was also gracious enough to draw a tiny head shot of Jay for me in the front cover.
I got to know Barry a bit more via Mark Waid in books like the excellent "The Life Story of the Flash" graphic novel and "JLA: Year One," which were fun stories, but for me my favorite Flashes were first and foremost Jay and then Wally. As the years went by, money got tight and the Flash stories that were being produced didn't move and inspire me as much as those early stories I read. I pretty much lost track of the character and moved on. I can't even recall the last issue of "The Flash" I read.
By the time The CW's "Flash" adaptation premiered it had been years since I read about the character, plus the series starred Barry Allen. That meant I wasn't super excited for it, but I still opted to give it a shot. It might be fun, I thought. Then something magical happened. A few episodes in I was quickly reminded of everything I loved about the Fastest Man Alive. Even though this was a show about Barry it was still a show about a super-fast, decent guy who genuinely wanted to help and protect people. It was a show with a sense of wonder, adventure, and a huge heart; all essential qualities for a Flash story in my book.
The other great and surprising thing about "The Flash" TV show was how much of the character's mythos the creators embraced and made work. As a comic fan I've come to expect television and movie adaptations to ignore or change certain fantastical elements simply because what looks good on a comic page doesn't always look good on a screen, or is too cost prohibitive, or the people involved thought was too silly.
I was blown away when the TV series began to bring in elements from the comic I thought for sure they would leave out. We got to see all the wonderful things The Flash can do with his powers! We got one of my favorite villains, Gorilla Grodd! We even got an appearance by the costume ring! And I got chills the first time the words "Speed Force" were uttered on the show. Best of all -- all of these things worked! The show invested time into these elements, and it paid off. They didn't feel silly at all thanks to the work done by the series' wonderful cast and crew.
Also, I enjoyed getting to know this version of Barry. I think Grant Gustin has done a wonderful job bringing to life a selfless, everyman hero whose actions and courage inspire those around him. That, coupled with his love of science and being haunted by the death of his mother, gave the character a fun, almost Peter Parker-like vibe.
It was wonderful taking a season long journey with Barry and his friends and foes, and then reaching its thrilling end in the season finale. There were payoffs both for longtime fans of the Flash and ones who were meeting the character for the first time with this show.
Perhaps my favorite bits from the series were the scenes with Barry and Jesse L. Martin's Joe West, a new character created for the show. I especially loved the scenes in the finale where Barry expresses his worry over losing the father that he gained from tragedy, and Joe telling Barry he could never lose him. That scene, plus the subsequent one where Barry says "Goodbye, Dad" to Joe made me tear up. They gave me flashbacks to the emotions I felt while watching "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" episode "The Visitor," which is an epically poignant tale about fathers and sons. Joe West belongs in the pantheon of great TV single dads along with "Deep Space Nine's" Ben Sisko and "Veronica Mars'" Keith Mars.
The other new element I thought worked really well was the fate of poor Eddie Thawne. Rick Cosnett did a fantastic job making me like a character who I was ready to hate because of his pretty boy looks and ominous last name. I was excited midway through the finale when Professor Stein's story inspired Eddie to try and forge his own destiny -- and was also incredibly worried given that, as a comic fan, I knew there was more than one Flash rogue with the last name of Thawne. So I was moved, surprised, and a bit heartbroken by Eddie's sacrifice.
That was just one of the many significant surprises in a finale packed with revelations, especially for fans with knowledge of the comic mythos. Beyond Jay Garrick's helmet, viewers also learned more about the Speed Force -- and even saw Barry enter it. Plus, that definitely looked to be Caitlin's comic book alter ego Killer Frost while Barry's traveling through the Force on his way to the past, along with a glimpse of the Flash Museum. (Also, Thawne's talk with Cisco certainly hints that the show is heading toward its take on Vibe, Cisco Ramon's superheroic alter ego in the comics. When Barry arrives in the past we get a glimpse of his future self, and what is his future self wearing? Why, an incredibly faithful (read: much brighter) version of his comic costume! My reaction was, "No way! They did it! They didn't have to, but they did and it turned out great!" -- something it feels like I've said a lot while watching this show.
When Cisco says "We're living in a parallel universe," it was basically a confirmation that the multiverse and parallel realities would be ripe for exploration on future seasons of "The Flash." Does this and the appearance of Jay's helmet mean that next season we'll get a take on the classic "Flash of Two Worlds" story from 1961's "The Flash" #123 in which Barry and Jay met for the first time? Is the reason why there's no Jay in this world because some villains removed him from the timeline?
The Reverse Flash appears to have some knowledge of Jay since the appearance of his helmet spurred him to jump into his time machine, which as comic fans and folks who've seen the super fun "Legends of Tomorrow" trailer know is based on Rip Hunter's Time Sphere.
I cheered when Barry came running through the time wormhole, demolished the Reverse Flash's time machine, and kicked off another battle with his arch-rival. Really, much of this episode was a celebration of the rivalry and relationship between Eobard Thawne and Barry Allen. Tom Cavanagh nailed those scenes -- he perfectly captured Thawne's unhinged sense of menace, but he and the writers gave the character plenty of nuance and complexities. I love that Eobard Thawne/Harrison Wells, in his own sociopathic way, had genuine affection for both Barry and Cisco. (Even if he didn't show regret over killing the latter in an alternate timeline.)
Eddie Thawne's sacrifice ends the final battle between the Flash and the Reverse Flash, but not the episode. In the final moments of the finale things escalate even further and we're given an epic climax for both comic fans and television fans, where the Flash races up the side of a building and in true superheroic fashion tries to save not just his city, but the entire world.
The finale of "The Flash" was a fun and exciting episode full of elements for long time comic fans like me. It felt like a lot of this episode went toward emotional payoffs and building bridges to mine more fun comic book elements in future seasons and upcoming spinoff "Legends of Tomorrow" -- which was made especially clear in the final quick cameos in the episode by two characters from that series, Captain Cold and Hawkgirl.
I never expected to love "The Flash" TV series, because it starred my third-favorite incarnation of the character. But my love for the Scarlet Speedster has been reawakened. After watching all 23 episodes of "The Flash," it's abundantly clear that the Flash will always be a fascinating character, regardless of the incarnation. The the best Flash stories are full of adventure, wonder, and lots of heart, and the people behind the CW's TV adaptation clearly understand that.