Before we begin disseminating the season finale of "The Flash," let’s take a moment to reflect on the improbability of this series. This is directed at old-school DC Comics fans: Did you ever dream you would one day see a "Flash" television series that not only presented a fully realized Barry Allen but also a functioning DC Multiverse? Since the pilot, "The Flash" has not only presented compelling personal stories involving a tight cast of engaging characters, it also offered a guided tour of the potentiality of the DC Universe. That came to head tonight in a climax that was almost too incredible for words.
"The Flash" not only built a universe, it introduced some compelling villains to challenge our neophyte heroes -- none more compelling than Harrison Wells/Eobard Thawne/Reverse0Flash. Rarely has a television narrative presented an antagonist so tied into the origins and motivations of the hero. Thawne was there every step of the way in the creation of The Flash: It was Thawne who murdered Barry's mother, and who created the particle accelerator that transformed him into The Flash. It was Thawne who set events into motion that led young Barry to be raised by Joe West, and who introduced him to Caitlin Snow and Cisco Ramon. This week, the road that twisted and turned through decades ended as Thawne presented Barry with a choice: Save his mother and help Thawne return home or do nothing and remain The Flash.
Of course, Barry doesn’t know what to do, so he seeks the advice of his father figures, including Thawne himself, who helped him defeat so many foes over the course of the season. It turns out that Wells that wells had an ulterior motive for aiding the young hero in his battles against Captain Cold, the Weather Wizard, Pied Piper and others: He wanted to ensure The Flash was fast enough to break through the time barrier and return Thawne home. However, Barry requires more trustworthy guidance, so he turns to Joe West and Henry Allen. Joe advises him to save his mother, that nothing else matters but stopping Thawne from destroying Barry's young life. Henry, however, urges his son to leave things alone, that the man Barry has become is worth saving. Both scenes are moving, and speak to why Barry has become such a great hero. But only Barry can make the choice to save his mom.
Of course, Barry won’t be the only person affected by his decision to save Nora Allen. If Barry’s mother hadn’t died, he wouldn’t have met Cisco or Caitlin, two close friends who found themselves in good places over the course of the finale. Cisco discovers he’s become the very thing he always desired to be: a metahuman. Remember those dreams Cisco had about dying at the hands of Harrison Wells? Those weren't dreams, but rather visions from an alternate reality. When the particle accelerator exploded, Cisco was given the ability to sense vibrations from other realities. That's right, this week Cisco takes his first steps to becoming Vibe.
Caitlin’s dreams also came true as she marries Ronnie Raymond. Sadly, we don’t get to any Firestorm action this episode, but we do see plenty of Martin Stein and Ronnie Raymond, as the professor (and rabbi!) marries the young couple. If Barry changes the past, he could be taking away Caitlin's marriage and Cisco's heroic ascent. Barry doesn’t know about Cisco's powers, but the viewer sure does, which fills the episode with an extra dose of dramatic irony.
Ultimately, Barry chooses to go back in time, which comes with its own wrinkle: If Barry goes back in the particle accelerator, Thawne will piggyback on Barry’s velocity and be hurled into the future. So Barry and Thawne both get what they want. In this episode, we discover the only reason Nora was killed was to punish The Flash; she wasn't a pawn in Thawne's machinations, just a target of his impotent rage for not being able to kill Barry Allen.
It's amazing that an evil entity like Eobard Thawne has such a selfless hero like Eddie Thawne as an ancestor. Fans were waiting for Eddie to break bad, to follow his ancestor's dark path, but he never does. Even after he discovers that Iris will never marry him, that she’s destined to be with Barry, he remains true to his nature. This week, he even reconciles with Iris because he’s determined to enjoy the time he has with his beloved even if time and destiny say otherwise. However, Eddie Thawne soon proves he’s a master of his own destiny.
Throughout the season, all of the characters have been at the mercy of Eobard Thawne’s plans, and this week he’s certain Barry will save his mother and free his father. Even when Barry is confronted with the possibility that traveling back through time could open a black hole that will swallow the planet, he still runs through the particle accelerator, arriving in his childhood home on the fateful night. With Nora Allen threatened by the Reverse-Flash, and his future self desperately fighting to rescue young Barry, The Flash could have save his mother, but he doesn’t. He stands there, tears in his eyes, and does nothing, because Barry Allen is a hero. He’s a champion of right and a friend, a superhero and a son. He doesn’t go back in time to save his mother; he went to comfort her as she dies. It’s a defining moment for Barry Allen as a person and as a superhero.
That moment in which Barry says goodbye to his mother instead of saving her is also when Eobard Thawne lost. While Barry is in the past, Thawne is making his escape in the present in a time sphere built with the help of Cisco and Stein (and yes, Thawne name-drops Rip Hunter). As the sphere revs up, a familiar winged helmet tumbles out of the wormhole. Welcome to DC television, Jay Garrick. Thawne seems taken aback by the helmets appearance, and speeds up his exit. If Thawne does indeed escape, the villain will have won, but after bidding Nora farewell, Barry races into the present and smashes the time sphere, trapping Thawne in the present.
That sends Thawne into a murderous rage, and he no longer has a reason to keep Barry alive. Nothing could stop Thawne except the actions of a true hero -- not Barry, but Eddie Thawne, who shoots himself to bring his family line to an abrupt end. It’s a shocking conclusion to Eddie’s character arc, which many thought would lead to a yellow suit. Instead, Eddie dies a hero, in the arms of the woman he loves. What more could one ask for?
Well, how about for reality not to end? The black hole Stein feared begins to open, and only Barry can stop it. As Central City is sucked into the singularity, Barry races to close it. At that moment, we get a glimpse of Captain Cold, a last look at our cast, and we even a sneak peek at Hawkgirl (not in costume).
As Barry races to rescue his world, we fade to black, forced to wait to learn whether he saves the day. But between the introduction of the DC Multiverse, the arrival of an artifact from DC's Golden Age, the defeat of Eobard Thawne, the coming of Vibe, the marriage of Caitlin to one-half of Firestorm and the noble and stirring sacrifice of Eddie Thawne, I think we have enough to keep us buzzing into the fall.
So here's to DC TV, a place that now seems to be part of the DC Multiverse. (Is the Barry Allen that originally ran back in time actually the comic book Barry? That might be a discussion for another time.) As we look forward to next season, let’s once again give props to a show that dared to present classic superhero action, time paradoxes and super-gorillas, a show that dared to be the one thing superhero dramas should be: a whole lot of fun.