Whereas many shows are happy to follow the pattern of “intro-build-build-shiny thing” then repeat, spacing out the ‘big’ events across the season as it develops, Flash hasn’t taken that approach. Instead it’s been “shiny-shiny-shiny-giant psychic gorilla”. It’s all been building to this. Last time, Flash had finally managed to capture Wells with help from some of the proto-Justice League. Where do they go from here?
(There will be spoilers)
One of the strengths of this show has been some of the character interactions, and this episode starts with five minutes between Barry and the imprisoned Wells that sets the tone for much of the episode.
We know that Thawne is a murderer who killed the real Wells, deliberately caused the explosion of the particle accelerator which led to the creation of metahumans. He connived with Eiling to experiment on a gorilla as part of a black ops super soldier project, but was happy to sacrifice him to the gorilla when he was no longer needed. In an alternate timeline, he had no compunction about killing Cisco when he learnt Wells’ secret. Basically, he’s the baddest of bad guys. Oh, and he hates the Flash.
Wells explains his plan to return to the future, and puts the choice into Barry’s hands. This is a double-value weapon to Wells because he knows Barry too well – he knows how he will eventually respond, so there’s no uncertainty to the decision; and he knows how much pain it will put him through to have to make that decision. Win Win to the man in the yellow suit again.
By running faster than mach 2 and colliding with an accelerated hydrogen particle, a speedster will be able to open a wormhole. Barry would then be able to choose to go back to the night of his mother’s murder to prevent it. At the same time, Wells would be able to travel back to his own time, 136 years in the future. The catch being that the wormhole can only remain open for a short time.
This is not an easy choice for Barry and this is where Flash differentiates itself from Arrow – where Oliver tends to take every decision and consequence on himself, Barry knows he has a team and ‘family’ around him of people he trusts.
He brings in Ronnie and Martin Stein to look at Wells plans while he talks to the two other father figures in his life – Joe (who unequivocably supports that Barry needs to do it, despite knowing that it might well split them apart in the revised timeline) and his father Henry (who is emphatically against it, despite knowing it will mean he stays in jail).
His decision made, Barry makes the run. As he passes mach 2, the accelerated particle is fired and the wormhole triggered. Barry starts to see fragments of future events including Caitlin with ice powers and a Flash Museum, before arriving at his home on the night his mother was murdered.
Despite years leading up to this point, Barry already feels some reticence about interfering in the past. When, just as he is about to join in the battle, his future self acknowledges him and indicates he should not get involved, that is enough. Realising what has to happen, Barry goes through what feels like an eternity as he waits for the battle to end, after which he gets to say goodbye to his mother in a scene that is very reminiscent of Father’s Day.
Meanwhile, back in the present, Team Flash have rebuilt Wells ‘Time Sphere’ and he is about to depart when the Flash returns and smashes it. Flash then battles Reverse Flash through the tunnels of the accelerator, but it’s a battle Barry cannot win.
And so the solution comes from the character that for so long in the show was seen as a third wheel, or possibly the real bad guy. Eddie Thawne was dismissed by Wells as just plain unimportant, but ended up being the elephant-in-the-room solution to the Reverse Flash problem.
It’s hard to single out any one performance this week as they were all well served with material. Barry’s scenes with his three father figures and mother are hugely powerful, with John Wesley Shipp putting so much into his brief scene. With Wells out of the equation, Victor Garber’s Martin Stein fits in perfectly with the right mix of scientific expertise and ability to motivate. There also has to be a cheer for Eddie, who manages to give so much in the two main scenes in which he appears.
Season finales always like to leave a couple of loose ends dangling to entice us to tune in next season – Oliver went on a road trip, Bruce found a remote control fireplace and Flash… has a massive singularity hanging over the city sucking everything up into it! It’s going to feel like a long time till the autumn resolution of this cliffhanger!