The Flash: 3.23 Finish Line
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Ending last week's episode with the death of Iris took the finale of The Flash season three into uncharted territory and left us with plenty of questions. Would the show get around that death and if so, how? Would anyone die in her place? Would Killer Frost turn good again? And how would Savitar be defeated?
I don't think any method of saving Iris was going to be 100% satisfactory; yes The Flash could have gone with the bold choice of writing Candice Patton out of the show, but she's emerged as one of the strongest players this season now that they've finally gotten Iris and Barry together. But for me, the solution worked. After his solemn words last week and the penchant for replacing Tom Cavanagh's Wells with a new version of Wells played by Tom Cavanagh each season, HR days were numbered. Face swapping with Iris and taking her place was a noble end to a great character without completely cheating time.
And with Iris alive and Savitar / future evil Barry formulating new memories as a result of events changing, the episode took a surprising direction in bringing evil Barry into the fold. It created some tense moments between thee cast - HR's killer and Iris's potential murderer walking around Star Labs under the vengeful gaze of Joe in particular, and Tracey's rage was heartbreaking, her impact on the show in a short space of time keenly felt. I hope she sticks around next year. But the finale continued to keep the audience on its toes, future Barry playing on good Barry's attempts to rehabilitate him and using the Philosopher's Stone to destroy half of Star Labs. Blowing up the set is always a good ploy for any season finale and it certainly left team Flash without a home.
Which led us to stage two of future Barry's plan, to use the reprogrammed Speed Force bazooka to fracture Savitar across every moment in time. Yes, we've seen this in Doctor Who before, but it was dastardly enough to raise the stakes further after a very personal quest to save Iris. Which led to a rather fun final showdown; Cisco reprogramming the device again to free Jay Garrick even when Savitar was threatening Killer Frost's life (I'll come to Caitlin's cure in a moment) and pitching the Flash, Garrick and Kid Flash against the evil speedster for a final race (as speedsters tend to do) while Cisco and Gypsy fought off Killer Frost herself. The speedster battle admittedly didn't amount to much until the moment Barry phased from the Savitar armour, becoming a glowing red version of the big bad while future Barry lay dazed on the ground.
Unlike last year's final battle with Zoom this final battle had meaning, for Caitlin and Cisco as much as Barry and his future self. I wasn't convinced by how readily Iris shot and killed future Barry to save her version though; she washed off killing someone pretty quickly, even if he was the monster that had almost slain her. As for Killer Frost, her turn on her boss was inevitable but worked too, stopping her from becoming a complete monster herself.
When Julian turned up with a cure for Caitlin earlier in the episode, I groaned. It seemed all too easy to reverse everything and restore the status quo. So I applaud the show's decision not to follow that through, even when she survived the battle and had the cure given to her. I've always liked Danielle Panabaker on the show, but she's suffered with bad storylines in the past and the Killer Frost transformation has certainly given her something decent to play with this season. I like that when it was all over, she chose to leave and find her own path. Yes, the cure is there, but she isn't ready and now I'm really intrigued to see where her story goes next season. Plus, we already have Tracey to take her place!
But then came the ending and I'm in two minds as to whether I liked it. We got one happy scene of Barry and Iris together, finally planning their wedding before the Speed Force began tearing through the city with red lightning. Having Barry being forced to enter the Speed Force as his punishment for changing time with FlashPoint felt like a natural conclusion to a season that has largely been concerned with the consequences of those actions - from the Dominator invasion to Killer Frost to Savitar himself. But it also felt like a smack in the face to these characters and the audience after all the struggles Barry and Iris have gone through to get to their happy moment. As a cliffhanger it felt tagged on and Barry seemed all to willing to accept his punishment and leave everyone behind.
What's more, we all know there's going to be a fourth season so it feels like a cheat; we know Barry Allen will be back, saving Central City as the Flash before long, particularly with new villain DeVoe teased yet again. Still, it wrapped up the story that was FlashPoint with Barry facing the cost of his actions. Ironically, as unhappy an ending as it might have been, it would have worked better if this had been the end of the show.
That little final grumble aside, Finish Line was a good season finale, possibly the best of the three season finales The Flash has done (though it doesn't always do too well in wrapping things up each year). It brought some very personal conflicts to a dramatic and largely satisfying conclusion and thankfully it didn't quite end with the status quo restored; the impact of season three are sure to be felt for some time yet.
And one final request, can we get mime Harrison Wells next season, at least for one episode?