Last night Barry Allen and Savitar—a.k.a. Evil Barry Allen—finally had their long-fated battle. But that wasn’t even the most insane thing that happened in last night’s season finale of The Flash, and we need to talk about what all this means for Barry and the STAR Labs team.
So aside from dealing with Savitar—I did like that, as she’s spent pretty much the entire season being threatened by him, it was Iris that dealt the killing blow—“Finish Line” also promptly splintered much of Team Flash as we’ve known it over the course of season three.
First, there the reveal that the Iris we saw stabbed last episode was actually H.R. using his face-changing device, which we very conveniently got reminded exists a few episodes ago. It’s a noble sacrifice by the show’s comic relief, and a good twist, even if the group’s happiness at Iris’ survival overwhelmed their sadness for H.R. Then there was poor Caitlin, who after Savitar’s defeat decided she needed some time off to discover herself again in the wake of her powers flaring up again. And then, we have Barry Allen himself, who went from thinking his problems had been solved and he could experience happily domesticated bliss with Iris to “Sorry, gotta sacrifice myself in this Speedforce prison forever, bye!” in about five seconds, which is a blistering amount of recklessness, even for Mr. Allen.
But what does Barry’s sacrifice to seemingly save Central City from the Speedforce’s wrath—a moment that came out of absolutely nowhere just for the climax of the episode—actually mean for The Flash going forward? After this season, which has been pretty rocky when it comes to both Barry ostensibly learning from his mistakes and admitting the consequences of them, I’m skeptical to imagine it means much.
Sure, he got some teary goodbyes and declared Wally as his replacement as the resident Flash, but is it going to stick for more than a few episodes, unlike, say, the last time we got Wally being the de facto Flash during the Flashpoint stuff from the start of the season? It felt like a sideways step into a cliffhanger season ending for its own sake, rather than something that made sense for where Barry Allen is in his life, professionally (in terms of being a superhero) and personally. And if Barry is out from the Speedforce by the end of season four’s first episode, does it mean he’s actually learned anything about being a hero if his self-named moment of penance and redemption ultimately amount to nothing more than a cheap cliffhanger?
The longer The Flash goes on, the more it feels like it’s uncomfortable with having Barry grow and evolve, whether that’s as the Flash or romantically with Iris, given all the roadblocks and will-they-or-won’t-they stuff the poor couple has been through over the years. The show is constantly slamming the brakes and having Barry mess up, flagellate himself for it, but then proceed to make the same messes.
We’ll have to wait and see when The Flash returns if this cliffhanger will actually set a new status quo for the series, or merely be something to ponder while the show’s off-air. Whatever it ends up being, hopefully it’s something different —something more—than what we’ve been getting out of the show lately. There’s only so many times we can watch Barry sacrifice himself to correct his own mistakes, after all.