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Barry’s Big Day has arrived. All the build-ups and the showdowns and the drama and the laughter and tears, it all came to a head in The Flash’s Season 1 finale ‘Fast Enough.’ The Flash’s inaugural season has had its ups and its downs to be sure, but the overall picture has been more than satisfying. There’s no way around it: The Flash is arguably the best superhero show on cable television. But was the finale worth the wait? Does it live up to the quality of the show’s best episodes or does it suffer the fate of the more mixed entries?
‘Fast Enough’ falls somewhere in between. It is neither one of The Flash’s highest points, nor is it anywhere near its low points. It’s just there. And that might be the most disappointing thing of all. This is the FINALE for a superhero show! Aren’t we supposed to feel roused? Excited? Shouldn’t it be keeping us in suspense, our nails bit to the quick as we watch every moment with bated breath? Apparently not. While the finale doesn’t qualify as a total disappointment, it does feel like it’s biding its time more than a satisfying season closer.
Things kick off with the opening voiceover we’ve come to know and love over the course of the past seven months, but something’s off. All the words are the same, but they’re so much sadder. Yup, it’s gonna be that kind of episode. You know, the…sad…kind…
Barry confronts Wells, who is getting nice and cozy in his metahuman cell.
“Why did you kill my mother?” Barry asks.
“Because I hate you.”
I don’t know about you, but this evoked some major shivers. Sometimes, when it comes to big villains and convoluted plans, it’s easy to forget what the bad guy’s ultimate motivation is. This line just cuts straight to the core of this relationship. All Dr. Wells wanted was to see Barry suffer. Of course, there was a master plan involved as well, but it all stems back to this simple motivation. It’s a chilling moment.
Dr. Wells elaborates. His plan, you see, was to head into the past and kill Barry as a kid, destroying his mortal enemy once and for all by erasing his entire existence. The plan backfired because the ‘Future Flash’ was able to thwart these attempts. Wells retaliated by killing Barry’s mother, but ended up trapped in the past. He realized that in order to get back to his time, he needed to ‘create’ the Flash himself with the particle accelerator explosion. He could then use the Flash’s super speed to generate a wormhole that would carry him home.
Now, Barry would be crazy to actually offer his assistance to Wells, right? I mean, come on, this guy murdered your mother for crying outloud! But Wells is a sneaky sonnuvabitch. He knows that the one thing Barry wants more than anything else is a chance to save his mom’s life, so he offers the opportunity on a silver platter. If Barry opens a wormhole to bring Wells back to his time, Wells will help Barry get back to the night his mom was murdered, allowing Barry the opportunity to save her from that horrible fate.
Barry can’t possibly resist the chance to save his mom, but at what cost? After all, if he saves his mom and changes the timeline, his relationships with Joe, with Iris, with Caitlin and Cisco, all go ‘ka-blooey.’ It’s all too much for a young superhero to take, resulting in an episode that features more tears, loving exchanges, and hugs than the end of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.
It also means the majority of the episode is more thoughtful and reflective than anything else, making for a finale which feels more repetitive than satisfying. There’s a lot of build-up to Barry’s ultimate decision – Barry asks Joe if he should go through with it. Barry asks Iris if he should go through with it. Barry asks his dad if he should go through with it. It’s a lot of these scenes, and not a whole lot of action or forward-moving plot. Thankfully the performances are strong, making for some touching exchanges, but it starts to feel a lot more like wheel spinning than anything else.
Also, everyone is surprisingly nonchalant about this whole time-travel thing. You’d think people would be a bit more concerned, considering that if anything were to go wrong, the entire universe could be destroyed. Who cares?? As long as Barry gets to see his mom, it’s all worth it, right?
Really though, doesn’t ANYONE think this is a bad idea? Sure, Barry’s dad warns him against changing the past, but he’s the only one! I would have loved to see a bit more conflict between the characters here. Barry struggles to make his decision, but it would have been nice to see a bit MORE struggle.
Still, after being reassured (and hugged) by practically everyone in the show, Barry decides he has to go through with the time-travel, repercussions be damned! He revisits Wells who walks Barry through the plan. Basically Barry needs to run superfast and collide with a particle accelerator in order to generate the wormhole. If he’s not fast enough, he’ll end up like a ‘bug on a windshield.’
The flipside of Wells’ deal to help Barry is that Barry has to help Wells finish a time machine that will allow him to travel through the wormhole and head home. Most of the equipment has been pulled together, but Cisco will need to provide the finishing touches.
Cisco is less than thrilled about this. After all, he was killed by Wells in an alternate timeline; why would he want anything to do with him? As Wells provides Cisco with the necessary calculations to get the time machine up and running, Cisco confronts him about the murder. Wells realizes that Cisco’s awareness and knowledge of what happened in an alternate timeline means that he too was affected by the particle accelerator the night it exploded. That’s right, folks. Cisco is a metahuman. Shiz just got real.
But we don’t get to spend much time dwelling on this because it’s back to planning Barry’s time travel party!
As Dr. Stein figures out all the different parameters and calculations and other science fun, Eddie, who seems to have materialized out of nowhere, stands around lamenting the fact that he has no purpose. (He’s not entirely wrong, but this just makes me love him all the more. I know everyone is busy hugging Barry, but can’t someone spare a hug for Eddie?) Dr. Stein helps Eddie realize his true potential and purpose, reminding him that he’s not only an ancestor of Wells/Thawne, but is capable of choosing his own destiny. (The more you know!) This makes Eddie feel a whole lot better and he skips off into the sunrise.
Further complications arise with the wormhole plan. Turns out that if the singularity stays open for longer than 1 minute and 52 seconds, it will self-stabilize and destroy the entire planet. After Caitlin, supposedly a brilliant scientist, stupidly asks, ‘What’s a singularity?’ and we get the obligatory explanation, Barry and Joe have another heart-to-heart where Joe continues to encourage Barry to move forward with his plan. Again, no one seems that concerned about the potential destruction of earth. I guess they’re all too busy hugging and crying to pay much attention.
But not everything is drama and tears. Eddie’s got a whole new lease on life thanks to Dr. Stein’s pep talk. He brings Iris Chinese food at work and tells her he doesn’t care what the future says is supposed to happen. The two of them are meant to be together. He takes her hand and, together, they skip off into the sunrise. (Am I the only one who thinks this episode would have worked better with more skipping?)
This brings us to the most absurd and pointless scene of the entire finale.
For some odd reason, Caitlin and Ronnie (who declares he’s here to stay for good because Legends of Tomorrow) decide to have their wedding ceremony at this very moment, and Dr. Stein just happens to be ordained by the state.
What?? None of this has anything to do with anything and considering the seriousness of all these ‘possible destruction of earth’ time-travel discussions, the wedding seems entirely out of place. Honestly, if they had cut this entire scene, nothing would have been missed. It further contributed to my fears that this episode wasn’t really going anywhere and was content with spinning its wheels until the final minutes.
But in the final 15 minutes, we come to the big moment. Barry has made his decision. He says a tearful farewell, gets one final ‘Run, Barry, run!’ line from Wells and then he’s off, hitting Mach 2 in no time at all. As he moves faster and faster, Barry begins to see images from his past and his potential future. Wells helps Barry keep his focus on the ultimate prize – the night his mother was murdered 15 years ago. After the particle is injected into the passage, Barry collides with it, creating a wormhole that transports him back in time. The timer is started – only 1 minute and 52 seconds to go.
Barry watches the scene from another room – his future self and the Reverse Flash engaged in battle as baby Barry screams. Right as Barry is about to make his move, his future self spots him, holds up his hand, and shakes his head. Barry can’t fully understand why, but for some reason, this moment has to happen and his future self is trying to tell him that. So, Barry stands by and watches as his future self gets his dad and younger self to safety and the Reverse Flash murders his mom.
And this next scene is, by far, the episode’s best and most moving. As Barry’s mother slowly dies, Barry gets his chance to say good-bye and to let his mom know that he and his dad are both okay. Grant Gustin absolutely knocks it out of the park. His performance is utterly heartbreaking and it is a truly beautiful moment.
Back in the present day, Wells prepares to hop on board his time-travel shuttle and we get a HUGE tease: Jay Garrick’s metal Flash Helmet flies out of the wormhole and clatters on the ground.
“That’s my cue to leave,” Wells says as he hops into his contraption. He also does his best E.T. impression as he stares into the wormhole and says, “Home.”
And just when it looks like Wells will make his big escape, THE FLASH leaps from the wormhole, flies into the time-machine and punches Wells in the face. His time machine in shambles, Wells is understandably furious.
He asks Barry why he didn’t save his mother. “You could have had everything you ever wanted!!”
Barry responds, “I already do.”
And then they have a super speed punch-fest, as the wormhole continues to grow. Caitlin and Ronnie start pulling every wire they can in the hopes to cut the power source. They finally manage to do so, but the Flash’s situation has not improved. Reverse Flash has the upper hand and as he moves in for the kill…BANG!! A gunshot. Reverse Flash stumbles…did someone shoot him?! And then we see Eddie, gun pointed straight at his heart. By killing himself, he has successfully erased the Reverse Flash’s existence. As he collapses, Iris rushes to his aid.
“I was the hero after all,” Eddie says as he passes away in her arms.
“You’re my hero,” Iris tells him to which Eddie responds, “That’s all I’ve ever wanted.” And then he’s gone. Another heart-wrenching moment thanks to the performances, but honestly, this felt more contrived, less earned. Eddie hasn’t had the opportunity to do much over the past couple episodes except mope, and this sudden death feels like an attempt on the writers’ part to milk some big emotions from the finale. Effective, but not entirely satisfying, like most of the finale.
The Reverse Flash is erased from existence, and as things start to quiet down, a new wormhole opens. (Perhaps a paradox resulting from the fact that now that the Reverse Flash never existed, Barry never became the Flash?) The gang rushes outside to find a giant, terrifying black hole in the sky. We get a couple random cuts to characters on the street (Captain Cold again?? Really?!) and then Barry decides that he has to try and stop it by running really fast in the opposite direction of the singularity’s rotation. And off a painfully-CGI shot of the Flash running towards the camera as he tries to stop the singularity, we cut to black.
Sigh. A cliffhanger? Really? Alright, fine.
Few things are better than a rousing finale to cap off a strong season, but ‘Fast Enough’ is not one of those finales. It feels far too much like a set-up for season 2 rather than a strong conclusion for season 1. The character work is pretty great, as are the emotional performances from the cast, but the storytelling and pacing unfolds a bit too leisurely. At first glance it feels like a lot is happening, but in reality ‘Fast Enough’ is more of a deep breath before the plunge than anything else. Ending on a cliffhanger only serves to make it feel less satisfying on its own terms, further supporting the notion that this is all one big set-up for season 2.