Late in the season finale of ‘The Flash’, Barry warns another character that, “This won’t make any sense.” That’s certainly an understatement! Somehow, despite its erratic and frequently nonsensical plotting, the show closes its first season on a pretty satisfying note anyway.
Dr. Wells is in captivity in the Pipeline and he’s willing to answer Barry’s questions – though he doesn’t really tell him much we hadn’t already gathered. His name is Eobard Thawne. He’s from the future (born 136 years from now). In that future, he and Barry are mortal enemies, for some transgression still unexplained. Wells/Thawne (I’m just going to call him Wells) decided that the best way to end their war was to travel to the past and kill Barry as a child, ‘Terminator’-style, but future Barry followed and rescued his younger self. In retaliation, Wells stabbed his mother in the heart, figuring that a major childhood trauma like losing a parent would prevent Barry from ever becoming The Flash. (I guess Wells has never read a superhero origin story in his life.) Unfortunately, he got stuck in the past and needed to mold Barry into becoming The Flash anyway in order to return to his own time.
The details on that last part had always been a little confusing. The gist of it is that, once Barry becomes fast enough, he can use his connection to the Speed Force to create a wormhole that will allow him to travel anywhere in time he wants. Wells proposes a deal: He will help Barry open that wormhole and go back in time to rescue his mother. In exchange, Barry must let Wells also enter the wormhole and return to the future he came from.
Barry agonizes over this decision. On the one hand, he has dedicated himself to finding a way to save his mother and prevent his father from going to prison. On the other, the timeline that currently exists molded Barry into the person he is today, and if he changes that, everything will be undone. He’ll never move in with Joe and Iris. He’ll never meet Cisco and Caitlin. He won’t become The Flash – at least, not the same way or as soon.
Joe encourages him to do it anyway, but Barry’s father tells him not to – that there’s a natural order to the universe and things worked out the way they did for a reason. The two halves of Firestorm, Ronnie and Dr. Stein (Robbie Amell and Victor Garber), stuck around after last week’s events. Stein tries to explain a theory of parallel universes, and suggests that the timeline they’re currently in is actually an alternate timeline that branched off from the way things were originally supposed to go. However, for as hard as the episode tries to lay out some rules for time travel here, it will just contradict them all later.
Wells wants to fire up the particle accelerator again. Barry will need to run at least Mach 2, faster than he ever has before. Once he achieves that speed, the team will fire a particle in the opposite direction. When the two collide, the impact will open a wormhole, and Barry will have just under two minutes to save his mother and come back so the team can close it. If they don’t close it in time, the wormhole may transform into an unstoppable singularity that could destroy the world. That would be kind of bad.
But wait, if Barry’s going to come back to this timeline, where his mother’s dead, why bother saving her in some other timeline he’s not going to stay in? Why does he gnash his teeth so much about undoing everything if he expects to return right here where everything is the same? Yeah, don’t bother thinking so hard about things like that. You won’t get any answers you like.
As Barry frets over his decision, Ronnie gets back together with Caitlin and asks Dr. Stein to officiate an impromptu wedding ceremony.
Cisco sets about building a “time sphere” Wells can use to travel into the wormhole after Barry returns. To do that, he needs some help from Wells. When he mentions that he can remember the alternate timeline where Wells killed him, Wells posits that Cisco may in fact be a meta-human, and the ability to see multiple simultaneous universes is his superpower. Remarkably, this actually plugs a plot hole from an earlier episode. Good job on that one, writers.
Eddie laments what Wells had previously told him about being the biggest loser in their family tree. Dr. Stein lifts his spirits by telling Eddie that he’s something remarkable – a coincidence or wild card – and that he’s the only person among them who truly has free will to set his own destiny. That sure sounds nice, but I have no idea where he gets any of that from. In any case, Eddie’s confidence is boosted enough that he gets back together with Iris. “Screw the future!” he declares.
Of course, Barry ultimately decides to go through with the plan. He needs to save his mom. From his cell right inside the accelerator, Wells encourages him to, “Run, Barry, run!”
Once Barry hits Mach 2, Cisco launches the particle. Barry collides with it and runs into the wormhole, which brings him right to the moment before his mother’s death. From his childhood bedroom, he watches a later version of himself battle the Reverse-Flash. For just a moment, the other Flash halts and looks directly at him, signaling Barry not to save his mother, that it isn’t the right thing to do. The older Flash then swoops the child Barry out of the house. Our Barry, with tears streaming down his face, realizes that he was never meant to save his mother. He stands by as Reverse-Flash stabs her then runs away.
As his mother lies dying (you’d think she’d go a lot more quickly if she’d been stabbed in the heart), Barry walks into the room to console her. He assures her that her husband and son are safe, then takes off his mask and tells her who he is, and that he loves her. Barry watches his mother die.
Back in the present day, a metal Wally West helmet tumbles out of the wormhole and clanks on the floor. Without bothering to explain that, Wells announces that it’s his signal to go. He climbs into the time sphere. Cisco tells him, “Don’t ever come back.”
Before Wells can enter the wormhole, however, Barry flies out of it and smashes the time sphere. He and Wells have an epic fight while Ronnie, Caitlin and Dr. Stein frantically try to close the wormhole. Ronnie is shocked by an electrical jolt in the process.
Wells gets the better of Barry and stands poised to finish him off when a gunshot rings out. Of course, bullets don’t have much effect on someone who can move faster than them. That’s why Eddie chose to shoot himself in the chest. As Wells’ great-great-great-something-grandfather, Eddie’s premature death will end the family line, preventing Wells from ever being born. With his dying breath, Eddie declares, “There’s no such thing as a coincidence.” After Eddie dies, Wells disintegrates before everyone’s eyes.
Which makes no sense at all given the “alternate timelines” explanation we’d been given in this very same episode. Even if Eddie stops Wells from being born, that would happen in some alternate future timeline. The Wells standing in this timeline is already here. He wouldn’t just disappear. And even if you accept that he never existed at all now, why does everyone remember him?
Argh. Sloppy writing like this kills me.
Anyway, despite Caitlin and Dr. Stein closing the wormhole in the nick of time, it reopens again and sucks Eddie’s body into it. As feared, it becomes unstable and transforms into a singularity, which swirls in the sky in a big VFX showcase, tearing apart the city and sucking whole buildings up into it. Dr. Stein says that nothing will be able to stop it, but Barry announces that he has to try anyway. He runs up the side of a collapsing building and hops from debris chunk to debris chunk, flying around in a counter-spin to slow it down, in direct contradiction of gravity and most other laws of physics. The episode closes on a cliffhanger as Barry leaps forward, directly into the singularity.
Given that the series has been renewed for a second season, I think it’s safe to assume that Barry will stop the singularity. There’s not a whole lot of suspense to that.
In the final moments, the episode tosses in a bunch of fan service references to the comics, some of which I got (like that Wally West helmet) and others I have no idea about. It conveniently also gives brief cameos to several characters announced to star in next season’s ‘Legends of Tomorrow’ spin-off show.
The science and time travel stuff in the finale is extremely frustrating and doesn’t make a damn bit of sense, even by the low standards this show has set for things like that. It’s kind of a big problem with the writing when the show blatantly contradicts itself within the same episode. With that said, amazingly, the episode has tons of great drama and excitement, and is filled with really emotional character moments – enough so that I was willing to shrug off the dumb parts and just go along with the ride.
During its first season, ‘The Flash’ was at times very uneven, yet still far more entertaining than I expected going in. It turned out to be one of my favorite new shows. I hope it can iron out some of the rough patches next season. I look forward to finding out what happens next.