Since October last year, this has been coming, the end of one of the best shows on television in the last five years. Something that a lot of people hoped would be great, but doubted would actually get to that stage. But CW’s The Flash beat pretty much every expectation that fans had of it. It breezed by, changed the landscape, and maintained one hell of a consistency week after week. Sure, there were the occasional silly things such as the Bug-Eyed Bandit and what not, but by and large, and for me at least, The Flash was so much better of a show than Arrow, and I don’t say that lightly.
In episodes 21 through 23 (“Grodd Lives“, “Rogue Air“, and, “Fast Enough“), we see some of the most incredible moments of the show as yet. The first of those is pretty obvious. Gorilla Grodd was hinted at as being a villain on the show since the pilot and much of my fascination with the show was because of that expectation, which this episode met in a really great way and did justice to one of my favourite villains from the DC verse. The second switched things around a bit when Barry got Snart and his gang involved in his fight against Harrison Wells, with some truly tragic results, but which also solidified his moralities. And then, and then we have the finale from last night, which was beyond incredible. I had such huge expectations from the finale, and I certainly wasn’t disappointed. It was what fans needed and deserved after a season’s worth of trust and promise.
Note: This review contains some major spoilers for all three episodes, though I’ll try to keep things simple for the finale.
First off, the Grodd episode. This is something that was hinted at right in the pilot, when we got a view of STAR Labs after the particle accelerator accident when Barry woke up and got a sad tour of the facility. An empty animal cage with a signboard saying “Grodd”. How freaking awesome was that? In the comics, Grodd is a sentient gorilla from Africa, part of a race of sentient gorillas who have built themselves a hidden civilization on the continent and have avoided human contact for all that time. But in the show we have the beginnings of a different track. Grodd is a regular gorilla who was experimented upon by Harrison Wells and General Eiling, and he got given psychic powers by the particle accelerator explosion, thus setting in motion the chain of events that had him becoming Wells’ pawn in his war against Barry.
That’s what this episode focuses on. Awesomely enough, the episode also marked the return of General Eiling, who is one of the best and also one of the most hateful characters on the show. General Eiling kind of started off as an antagonist on the show, and this episode makes a U-turn in that portrayal because it allows us to get to see things from his perspective for once. Being mind-controlled by Grodd, and knowing everything he’s doing because of that, it tends to give you a different way of thinking about what’s happening in front of you. And I loved how the writers mixed in Grodd and Eiling to give us a perfect stand-in episode for the upcoming fight between The Flash and the Reverse-Flash.
The best thing about this episode is definitely finally getting to see Grodd in live-action. I’ve been a fan of him for a number of years, and obviously this is a very different kind of portrayal of the character, but regardless, I loved him and see the same kind of direction with the character. He is not evil as yet, but he is a force to be reckoned with. He can stand up to Barry in a fist-fight. He is a primal force that he can’t really outmatch. Grodd doesn’t like bananas. Grodd is awesome. Grodd is the best. His portrayal on the episode is exactly the kind of stuff I wanted to see and the writers and the rest of the team did not disappoint one bit.
Episodes 22 and 23 however can be looked at as two-parts of the same story. All the stuff that has gone on with the team in this season is now past. It has all come down to one last fight between Barry and Harrison, one last epic fight to see which of them comes out on top. But it doesn’t start off so well. With everything going on at STAR Labs right now, the team’s priority is the safety of all the metahumans locked in the particle accelerator. They are some of the worst villains Barry has fought against, but even still, he is a hero and heroes don’t sacrifice their enemies for their own gain. So Barry decides to get all the incarcerated metahumans to safety so that whatever is going on in the particle accelerator with Wells doesn’t kill them. And he enlists the help of none other than Captain Cold, Heat Wave and Glider for this, which turns out to be an interesting decision indeed.
You could say that this episode is a filler episode. It certainly feels like one, though it is the penultimate episode of the debut season and it should have a lot more to do with the big themes rather than something so… inconsequential. And yet, that’s exactly what this episode does. Going into that final showdown, this episode reminds us that Barry is truly a hero who cares about people, even if they are his enemies. Sure, none of them measure up to the hatred that he has for Wells, but still, they are his enemies and many of them are willing murderers as well. And he isn’t one to compromise on his principles and his morals, no matter how much he might be tempted to. And I think that this was a great way to approach this episode.
A lot of people have criticized the writers for making Barry out to be a dumb schmuck in this episode, but see, that’s the point even. Barry can sometimes get blindsided by his morals, for seeing the good in people no matter what, something that Boy Scout Superman has always been criticized for himself. Like I said, this episode reminds us of all that’s good in Barry, and because of him. He believes in people’s capacity to change for the better, and that’s something we should do well to remember, because this does have an impact on what’s gonna happen in the finale.
And yeah, we do see that big showdown, coming in towards the final moments of the episode. And as we saw in the trailer, Barry gets some help from Firestorm and Arrow alike in that big showdown because just like Oliver, Barry is a hero because of his friends and allies, not despite them, and this is a reminder of that. This episode is just totally OTT in that regard!
It is a short fight admittedly, and it left me a little sad for that as well, but I still loved it. There are so many… moving pieces in the fight, and the choreography is really good too, not to mention that the way that Wells is… brought down (no spoilers for this is already in the trailer for the finale), is something you really wouldn’t expect. Nice little bait-and-switch there by the writers.
The finale now, well, that was something very different from where we were in the pilot episode. Then, the STAR Labs trio were a team struggling against impossible odds. Barry still had to discover most of his powers or even their… strength. Personal lives were really sucky. One year on from then, things have changed so much. Wells is revealed as the greatest villain the others have known to date. Eddie and Iris are contemplating marriage. Caitlin did get Ronnie back and they get married (in what was an awesome, simplistic, and also heart-warming ceremony celebrating the best of this show). Barry is at the peak of his powers and is preparing to go back in time. Wells is incarcerated in the Pipeline. Everything is up in the air.
And in this space we have the setup of the biggest confrontation of date, one not of flying fists and speeding heroes, but one young man wanting to know why his mentor for the last year killed his mother fifteen years ago. Barry wants some desperate answers and it is up to Wells to give them to him. But of course, there are schemes and schemes at work, and the long and short of it is that Wells can show Barry how to save his mother, but the price is letting him go scotfree back to his own time. Can Barry make that decision? Will he make that decision? Should he make that decision?
Since the start the show has been about family and relationships, themes that the finale encapsulates in the best way possible. We’ve seen before how Barry has fought with Joe about the latter being the man who been a father-figure for him for most of his life. We’ve seen how Barry went from seeing Iris as just a friend to falling head over heels in love with her. We’ve seen how Eddie has managed his relationship with Iris, giving her as much leeway as she wanted, but also putting his foot down when it came to it. We’ve seen how Wells came to look on Cisco as his greatest protege and son, even as he murdered him in an alternate timeline.
So going forward with all of that, it was mind-blowing to finally see Barry call Joe “father”, and the latter calling him “son”. It was great to finally see Cisco muster up the courage to bring up that deleted timeline in a conversation with Wells and confront him about it (thus setting in motion his own rise to superheroism when he gets a totally unexpected revelation about his future). We see Ronnie and Caitlin getting married with their friends as witnesses. With all the darkness that the show has incorporated in the last year, despite all the good times, it was humbling to see all these emotional moments.
And most of all, we got to see Barry go back in time to save his mother. And the decisions he had to make at that point.
It is certainly not an easy road, and the finale for me performed superbly in terms of reminding the viewer of all that was perfect about the show. All that was a highlight until now. This is now Arrow where everything is coated with angst and fear and dire threats and broken relationships and all that. This is The Flash, where the characters laugh more often than not. Where they all take a chill pill every now and then and really focus on the good in their lives, the connections they’ve made, rather than remember a horrible past and how that past has come back to haunt them.
Perhaps, the most amazing thing in this episode, was seeing a glimpse of the Speed Force interacting with time. That definitely blew my mind. We got glimpses of alternate realities, the past, the present, and even the future. The finale hinted at the upcoming Legends of Tomorrow spinoff even and got my really excited about what’s coming up in the next season in October.
And then it all ended with a cliffhanger that had me pulling at my hair because it was such a… cliffhanger. Remember how the season one finale of Smallville ended? Imagine something like that, but a bit worse.
Still, the finale was everything I’d hoped it would be, and I’m thoroughly excited for what’s coming next. It really has been an incredible year for this entire team involved on the show, and I’ve had a pretty incredible time too, more than I’d thought I would. Speaks well to how good it is, isn’t it?
I hope so!