The Flash was doing so well with “The Race Of His Life.” While it was never in danger of beating the amazing season 1 finale, The Flash was zipping along with an adequate if not great season finale. Then in the last 2 minutes, everything changed, literally.
While there is no denying that the shocking season 2 cliffhanger sets up a never-bigger shock for the upcoming season 3, it also seems like a huge mistake. In the effort to make a buzz-worthy ending The Flash might have just ruined what makes the show so special.
Been Here, Didn’t Save That
The season 2 finale cliffhanger is more than a little bit confusing so we should probably break it down before dissecting it for all its mistakes. Barry, still suffering from the loss of his father, decided the best way to deal with that grief was not to move forward and adapt. Instead, Barry made the decision that he was going to erase his entire life, from the moment that Reverse Flash killed his mother. In other words, in the last 2 minutes of “Race For His Life,” Barry erased the entire continuity of season 1 and season 2 of The Flash and for that matter might have completely changed the other Arrowverse shows Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow.
This is not just speculation either. This is established canon for time travel on The Flash. The whole point of the season 1 finale is whether Barry would make the selfish decision to save his mother or do the heroic and sacrificing thing to let her die. Yet in season 1 Barry made the right choice, he didn’t destroy the timeline and had to watch his mother die all over again. It was a heart-breaking and emotional moment but it fit. The relationships, history, and story of season 1 stayed intact and Barry proved his mettle as a hero.
This season 2 cliffhanger doesn’t just prove that Barry learned nothing from that experience. (Even after he did the right thing a portal to a whole different Earth opened up in the season 1 finale.) It gets rid of everything we have cared about for 2 seasons of The Flash. While season 2 of The Flash was not as good as season 1, The Flash is still a fantastic show and probably the best superhero show on TV. It in no way needed a complete reboot to make up for some of its mistakes.
Zoom might have been a meh villain but he wasn’t so terrible that The Flash needed to erase Barry’s entire history with the West Family, his friendship with Cisco and Caitlin or his connection to both Harrison Wells. Furthermore, why bother introducing a character like Wally West and taking a whole season to make him be apart of the show if you’re just going to completely change his origin next season?
If The Flash wanted to do this storyline it could have done so already. The season 1 finale would have been the perfect opportunity to do it. It still would have been a mistake, for all the same reasons, but it would have made sense. By putting this cliffhanger on the season 2 finale it just feels like The Flash is tacking on something shocking to “hook” viewers for next season. This is itself a misguided venture because what fan of The Flash is going to want to tune into a story that might be completely different? If you like a story you want to see more of the same story. You don’t want a reboot.
Same Flash Channel, Whole New Flash Time
Now I’m not completely naive. I know that this twist will not last forever. At most Barry’s rewriting of the timeline will last a half season. There has to be a reason that The CW is playing a massive 4-part crossover with all their superhero shows. The Flash is clearly adapting a story from the comics called, Flashpoint.
In that storyline, Barry does save his mother from being killed and he comes back to a world that is completely changed and near-apocalyptic. Flashpoint is a very short time crisis sort of story. Barry comes back to a world that is completely awful and has to work incredibly hard and quick to make things right. The Flash has to know how suicidal it is to erase all continuity and eventually it will probably go back to that time right before Barry completely screwed things up in the finale.
While this will probably appease fans like me upset with the change, it does beg the question — why go through with it at all? There has to be a reason for it and right now I see only one possible option. A theory that is only confirmed by some recent tweets by Grant Gustin.
Barry ends season 2 in the worst possible head space. He feels as dark and broken as Zoom by the end of season 2. Darkness is not a good shade on Barry and The Flash has to probably find a way to give us the happy and more likable Barry while still recognizing the character development he went through by losing his father (and mother).
If The Flash adapts the Flashpoint storyline, as everything suggests, and puts Barry into a horrible reality completely warped by his actions then perhaps we see a change in Barry sooner rather than later. Barry will be confronted directly with the wrongness of his actions and his recklessness. Once Barry puts time back into motion he will now fully understand he can’t just do whatever he wants with his powers. He can’t act off of emotion and nothing else.
Barry will also learn the lesson that just because tragedy strikes in someone’s life, doesn’t mean that it is the end of the world. If Barry is transported to a world where everything is wrong except for his parents are alive then perhaps he will finally and totally accept their deaths. Not only will Barry be able to move on from his mom’s death but The Flash will as well having (hopefully) finally exhausted every possible storyline surrounding the tragic event.
But what do you think? Are you just as upset by the cliffhanger?
The Flash will return for season 3 in Fall of 2016 on The CW.
(Images courtesy of The CW)