The Flash Season 1 Finale Review: Home Is Where Your Timeline Is

The Flash S01E23: "Fast Enough"

When "Out of Time" aired back in March, I said that it felt like a season finale instead of Episode 15. It had big reveals and an insane cliffhanger... and all of it was wiped out the following week, even if the show was amused with itself that it now takes place in an alternate timeline from when it began (something they reminded us about in this episode). "Fast Enough" didn't go as big as "Out of Time," but I'm very happy about that. It was wildly pleasant, wildly emotional, and then just plain wild. "Fast Enough" was one of the most satisfying season finales to a show that I've seen in a while, and it's not just because I wish it were possible for me to run real fast in a circle and time travel to the day that Season 2 premieres.

Certainly the cliffhanger does play into how much I liked "Fast Enough." I mean, there's a wormhole gobbling up Central City, and Barry ran into it at super-speed in the opposite direction to stop it. And that's just ridiculous, even though I appreciated the writers making a nod to the tornado from the pilot. I love that I legitimately don't have any idea about how Season 2 begins based on this cliffhanger, other than that Central City and Barry Allen will still exist. It's very exciting to be in the dark. This is one instance where The Flash benefits from its time travel aspect—and now alternate dimensions, maybe, who knows?—in that it could very well do anything and still feel like The Flash.

However, the cliffhanger was also the least interesting part of the episode. It was cool and all, but everything that led up to it was just that much better. This was an episode where Barry was able to have two Joe-Barry Talks, a talk with Henry, a talk with his dying mother, and a talk with Iris in which Iris was written like a human being and in a way that said, "Hey, this is the woman that Barry has feelings for! It kind of makes sense now!" This was an episode where there was time for a wedding, time for Eobard to drop some Cisco-related seeds for next season, time to reunite Eddie and Iris, AND time for Eddie to sacrifice himself to eliminate Eobard from existence. Despite all the time travel and time paradox stuff the episode was geared up for—I'm sure there's an explanation for how the timeline didn't just radically change once Eddie died—it spent pretty much the entire episode doing character related stuff, and that was great.

It had to be a tough decision to make, though. The easy but exciting path would've been to have "Fast Enough" occur in the past for much of the episode, maybe even having Present Barry and Future Barry teaming up and stopping Past Reverse-Flash from killing Nora a few different times. Or they could have Groundhog Day'd it, and had Barry try but fail a few times before he was actually able to save Nora. Pushing off the return to the past to the episode's last 10 minutes or so to instead focus on all these other elements was a bold move, and it demonstrated that The Flash is, despite how poorly they wrote and plotted Iris (and her relationship with Eddie) for much of the season, invested in its characters more than in its special effects and superhero daring-do. As the show begins to really dig into time travel and alternative dimensions, it's this core that I hope doesn't get lost.

Because that core helped to make sure that the conclusion to "Fast Enough" worked. All the "What should I do?" conversations and Ronnie and Caitlin's quickie wedding weren't just filler to pad out the episode's run time. Without experiencing his support system exactly how it is now in this timeline, and seeing how the people he cared about existed in it with loved ones, Barry's decision to tell Nora that he and Henry end up safe and they love her wouldn't have meant as much. Sure, it would've meant something since Barry has benefitted from this support system all season, but the episode went out of its way to remind us—and Barry—of how good his life is even though (and because) his mother died and his biological father's in prison. It gave his decision a little more weight because of the context of the episode.

Due in no small part to two other finales I reviewed this season where character decisions happened with a little too much subtlety albeit it with a good bit of groundwork or simply happened because the show needed them toThe Flash making sure Barry realizated his life was exactly how he wanted it made sense across an entire season and in this episode really elevated things for me. There's a throughline to Barry's decision to allow Nora to still die that would've been very easy to either bungle or somehow lessen the impact of, and "Fast Enough" managed to dodge those bullets for something that demonstrated just how much Barry has grown over the course of the season. He's gone from an adult who wanted to undo a childhood trauma to an adult who accepted how that trauma has played a part in making his life exactly what it is and how that isn't such a bad thing after all.

It did not hurt that most of the episode's big talks involving Barry managed to get me very, very misty. Joe and Barry's first talk where Joe basically told Barry to change history so that Barry could have two parents instead of just one—and so that someone else can be Barry's father—got things off to a moistened eye start since I am very deeply invested in the Joe and Barry dynamic and in watching Grant Gustin and Jesse L. Martin act in scenes together. 

So writing an emotional Joe and Barry talk very early in the episode is a little mean of the writers, but I managed to work through it. The Flash, however, decided to play dirty pool and follow that up with a Henry and Barry talk in which Henry told Barry not to change history, that Nora wouldn't want Barry to sacrifice the life he had now for her, and that he, certainly, did not want Barry to do it. I'm getting a little choked up just thinking about it again as I write this because Gustin and John Wesley Shipp pretty much nailed this. Pile on the one-two punch of both of Barry's dads willing to sacrifice themselves so that Barry could be happy and there was just a lot of dust in my apartment even though I swept and dusted yesterday.

I had some time to recover, though, because the show took a breather in order to move the plot along as Eobard and Cisco had an exchange, Stein bucked up Eddie, and explained all the science-ish stuff the show needed to map out for the big trip to the past. Just when I felt good again, Barry and Joe had another talk, and Barry said, "I was born with one father and that tragedy gave me another. And I don't think I can lose you." At that point, there was apparently a minor dust storm inside my apartment and I have no idea how that happened.

And then, before he stepped into the particle accelerator to save Nora's life and thus erasing their timeline, Barry called Joe "Dad" and I was done. I was out. I wasn't sobbing or anything, but I also won't jokingly play it off as dust or some such. There were real tears because all of these scenes were culminations of Barry's journeys with himself and with both of his fathers this season and because Gustin gives really good sad/crying face. Somewhere in my brain, I knew that Barry wouldn't save Nora, but across these scenes, it also didn't matter that I knew that. That's good writing and acting right there.

Right. So there was crying. But also there was fun stuff! Lots of fun and geeky stuff! Things like how Cisco wanted to know how the Reverse-Flash costume fit into the ring because he really couldn't help himself even though he absolutely hated Eobard. In fact, that entire exchange between Eobard and Cisco was pretty fantastic on all sorts of levels, from continuing that thread of Eobard having had very conflicting emotions about these people he'd had to work with—I loved him differentiating between Present Day Barry Allen whom he does not hate and Future Barry Allen who he very much does hate—to Eobard taking credit for Cisco's forthcoming "great and honorable destiny." The decision to tie Cisco's latent metahuman abilities into his ability to recall the smudged out timeline was rather clever, and I'm glad the show provided an explanation that also served a larger purpose to Cisco's development as a character.

Other bits, like Stein officiating over the Ronnie and Caitlin's wedding, were just as entertaining, and that the wedding was there at all is a small wonder. Yes, again, it served to reinforce the emotional pull that this timeline had on Barry, but there's something really lovely about the show taking a little breather from all its insanity to have a quickie wedding for these two characters. Even better was that the threat that Barry could erase this wedding out of existence was pure subtext. There weren't any jitters or angst about it. All the characters were living in that moment right there and then, and it was superb.

If there's one last thing to appreciate about "Fast Enough," it's that it really ended up encapsulating a lot of The Flash's best qualities. There was generally great character work. It had a mixture of tones that weren't in conflict with one another but instead complemented each other. It's a good-looking show that leaned into its comic book origins, both in terms of look—its slo-mo shots resemble splash pages—and near-anything goes attitude—they actually used Grodd for Pete's sake. For the finale, the writers decided that a black hole would open up above the city. You just don't get more ridiculous than any of this. 

The Flash also has a strong core ensemble that never faltered from an acting standpoint, and that ensemble was routinely backed up by great guest stars who would bring their own particular dynamics. Whether it was Gustin as the charming glue that held the show together, Martin's gravitas, Wentworth Miller going full ham, or Tom Cavanagh's slowly arching performance, The Flash rarely felt like a hodge-podge of actors swinging by for a paycheck. The only time it felt like that was when it struggled to fully incorporate its villain of the week into the main plot, or tell a good story around that villain. It didn't happen a lot, but as the season wore on, cracks in that format began to appear.

The Flash's biggest problem—the apparent inability to write anything consistently compelling for Iris—will hopefully be a thing of the past in Season 2 since she's now in on Barry's secret. With Eddie dead, there'll be an emotional fallout for Iris to deal with that will, likely, further delay the inevitable coupling of Barry and Iris. Going forward, the show will have to figure out a way to make sure that Iris feels like a fully integrated character. All the other characters have the benefit of their jobs feeding into Barry's superheroics, and Iris's reporting can do that and also be its own standalone element. In a show that that's this competent and this fun, it shouldn't be that hard to add one more character to the party.



LEFT IN THE DUST


– Eddie, man, I should've marked you as a goner as soon as Stein gave you a little pep talk. A little bit of me hopes your dead body getting sucked into the singularity plays a part in future episodes.

– Two characters from the forthcoming Legends Of Tomorrow ranked presences in the finale. Eobard mentioned Rip Hunter as he was admiring the time sphere, and Kendra Saunders—she who is Hawkgirl—made a quick cameo looking up at the big singularity in the sky. Even after the trailer, I'm still not exactly sold on or even excited about the spin-off, but their choice of a villain does have me at least somewhat intrigued.

– But seriously, have fun parsing out the whole Eddie killed himself so now Eobard doesn't exist but the current timeline still exists thing.

– Jay Garrick's helmet tumbling out of the wormhole? Little squee.

– Hi, Killer Frost!

– "Yeah, not mad we lost that name." "Hey! I thought it had pizazz!"

– "I need you to build a time machine." "Go on."

– "Cisco... I'm sorry." "Yeah, it sucks." "Not for killing you. I'm sure I had a good reason."

– "Let's not fight on our wedding day." I'm a little sad that Stein wasn't really a complete and utter jerk like he was in his earlier appearances, but I grooved on the idea that he and Ronnie have become closer in their time on the run.

– "I got a second chance to come back here and... tell you that I’m okay. Dad and I are both okay. And we love you, mom." Tears. All the tears.

– Best/favorite episodes of the season: "Going Rogue," "Flash vs. Arrow,"  "Out of Time," "Grodd Lives," and "Fast Enough."


What'd you think of "Fast Enough" and Season 1 as a whole? What do you want from Season 2?