The season 2 finale of The Flash, “The Race of His Life,” might as well have been titled “The Flash and the Furious,” because, as any proper competition does, the fate of not just Earth-1 or Earth-2 but all Earths came down to a race.
It doesn’t matter if you win by an inch or a mile. Winning is winning. But that doesn’t mean, win or lose, that race can’t have major, life-altering implications.
Before getting to the titular race, however, let’s rewind to the beginning… of the episode, not the timeline. “Race” immediately picks up from the death of Henry Allen, which sends Barry into a rage like he’s rarely, if ever, known. He chases after and does his best to pummel Zoom into submission; he has Hunter Zolomon, begging for Barry to embrace his anger and kill him. But Barry’s unable to bring himself to that point, so another Zoom shows up to kill the one before Barry, which turns out to be a time remnant of the foe.
Zoom is disappointed, promising Barry there could be two of him if he’s just willing to kill himself (a.k.a. that second version), and it looks like Zoom has every intention of pushing Barry to the edge so he’s willing to murder.
With Henry’s death looming over him, it wouldn’t be a total shock to see Barry reach that point. At his father’s funeral, he can’t bring himself to words to properly eulogize his father, so Joe steps in for him.
He’s a hurricane of emotion with one target on his mind — Zoom. He wants a plan to stop him without giving into the darkness Zoom so desperately wants to consume Barry. He’s not willing to let his prey off easy, either. After a brief window to grieve, Zoom appears yet again to Barry, this time as he and the rest of the team gather at the West house to grieve.
Zoom threatens Barry that he’s willing to take more from him unless… they race? Yes, Zoom can kill with ease. What he really wants is to prove he’s faster than Barry, and so he wants to race Barry. Should the scarlet speedster win, Zoom promises to leave them alone. If he doesn’t agree to these terms? Well, then Zoom will continue to pick off his family one by one.
The deal sounds almost too good to be true if Barry does race him, and their suspicions prove correct. There’s a device being created, a magnetar, that, when generated, could essentially do to Earth-2 what Cisco saw in his vibes in the penultimate episode. If Zoom races Barry, he can harness their combined power to energize this machine and take out not just Harry and Jesse’s homes but theoretically an infinite number of Earths. (Zoom did tell Caitlin he was going to begin measuring his success in the number of worlds conquered, after all.)
Barry sees no choice but to race Zoom. Joe tries to talk him out of it, but Barry says he has to if there’s even a sliver of hope that he can prevent Zoom from wreaking havoc across the multiverse. But Joe can tell there’s more lurking beneath Barry’s decision — he wants to kill Zoom, too. Barry openly admits to that being a possibility.
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So, with no other choice in their minds, Joe and Harry tranquilize Barry and lock him up in a metahuman prison cell. When he awakes, he finds the entire team gathered to explain themselves. He’s too angry and too willing to let Zoom determine the terms to have a hope of winning.
Instead, they come up with an idea to send Zoom packing without Barry, And it begins with Caitlin approaching Hunter on her own to bait him out into the open. She pretends to be willing to accept the darkness he saw in her; she asks for him to be with her as she makes this transformation. He tells her it’s too late and attacks Caitlin only to reveal she’s just a hologram (the same used by Barry while he pretended to be The Flash during his powerless phase).
NEXT: Run, Barry, run! [pagebreak]
Then, the group strikes. Cisco opens a portal, Zoom has a portal dampening collar on, and Joe is ready to tranq him… until the gun jams. He has to manually approach Zoom and inject him, just as Harry fires off a gun knocking Zoom into the portal back to Earth-2.
Joe is knocked through, too, however, becoming Zoom’s latest prisoner while the rest of the group recollects itself. The situation only worsens as Wally appears, now aware of Barry’s secret identity after the last episode. They break the news to him about Joe, and he’s doubly furious that they’re keeping Barry locked up and haven’t gone to save his father.
As Team Flash tries to figure out a new course of action, Zoom is back home teasing his new captive, filling him, and the audience, in on the long-awaited answer to a lingering mystery.
When Zoom gained his powers, he easily took control of Earth-2 but craved more. Creating Velocity 9, he propelled himself to other universes, only to slowly kill himself in the process. So he needed another speedster’s power because even attempting to manipulate the Speed Force proved impossible. Zoom discovered this poor soul on another Earth but couldn’t take his speed. Then, as he tells it, the clouds parted and he discovered Barry.
For now, he keeps this man as a trophy, just like he plans to do with Barry. But this man in the mask proved useful in one respect, as Zoom stole his name — Jay Garrick.
Yet if Zoom plans to have Barry suffer a similar, caged fate, Wally unknowingly ensures Barry stretches his legs again before that might happen. He frees Barry while the others are occupied, also freeing Barry’s furor in the process. Everyone tells Barry they just want to keep Barry grounded, just as, Caitlin notes, he helped her when she suffered a loss.
Revenge will only get Barry so far, and the team worries it won’t be far enough. But Barry knows they’re running out of time and convinces the rest of the group to help him. He uses Cisco to vibe into Zoom’s reality to set up the terms of their race on Earth-1, with the promise of freeing Joe as part of the agreement.
They return to the site of the magnetar, Zoom’s planned multiverse-destroying device, and Zoom quickly follows. In true villain form, he reveals his master plan — he wants to destroy everywhere but this Earth. It just so happens to be the nexus point of all other Earths, and he’ll need somewhere to rule amidst the destruction.
Zoom gives the team a moment to say their goodbyes, but they all refuse to leave Barry’s side. Either he wins and they’re there to see it, or he loses and they’re all going to be dead by Zoom’s hand anyway.
So the race begins. The machine needs a certain amount of power to run, charged by their race. Barry needs to stop him before the machine kicks in, but if Barry stops racing, Zoom will kill all of Barry’s fanclub, as he describes them.
But they’re not a fan club. They’re the thing that will ensure Barry wins because he has something greater to fight for than Zoom does.
The two kick off the race, looping around the machine in a blaze of energy, Barry lagging behind Zoom. Realizing he only has one option, Barry pulls a page from Zoom’s playbook and creates a time remnant of himself. Barry and Zoom begin fighting hand to hand while the remnant runs circles around the machine, which is opening up a tear in the fabric of reality high above them. The remnant is creating its own pulse to counterbalance that one and does so successfully.
Yet it requires the remnant to kill himself in the process. Barry finally subdues Zoom; his hand quivers with the threat of death above his foe. Zoom knows Barry doesn’t have the gall to kill him now just like he didn’t earlier.
Barry’s not worried about that, though, because the Speed Force is on his side as he frequently proclaimed in the penultimate episode. Time wraiths appear to finally capture Zoom, pulling him far off and away from further posing any kind of threat.
NEXT: Barry makes a life-changing decision. [pagebreak]
The day is won, but that victory comes with some powerfully conflicted emotions. The group has also rescued Jay Garrick, taking off his mask to reveal that he is the doppelgänger of not Hunter Zolomon but of Henry Allen. He’s a speedster from Earth-3 who suits up yet again, but his appearance freaks Barry out.
He just had to watch his father die, killed senselessly by a horrible man, and Barry doesn’t know if he can handle looking at this man and not letting his emotions pour out of him. But as Joe acknowledges to him, this guy doesn’t know he’s the spitting image of Barry’s dad.
So The Flash of Earth-1 grits his teeth and meets with The Flash of Earth-3 as he puts on not just his speedster suit but also Hunter’s Jay Garrick helmet. It wasn’t originally the real Jay’s, but it stood for hope on Earth-2 according to Harry. Jay would like to reclaim that symbolism and take something from Zoom just as he took so much from Jay.
He needs to get home, though, and Harry along with Jesse will be the ones to get him there, first heading over to Earth-2. Jesse initially worried Harry wouldn’t want to come back, but in the end he can’t be away from his daughter and so they all speed home through a Cisco-created portal after a round of heartfelt goodbyes. Among them is the lingering sense of a possible romance between Jesse and Wally, along with Harry finally calling Cisco by his first name in a friendly gesture. (Seriously, however it needs to happen, order the Cisco-Harry office place half-hour sitcom now, The CW.)
Even with their world, and really all worlds, saved, Barry is still not at peace. Back at the West homestead, he takes some time to himself, though Iris quickly follows him outside to console him. He feels like he’s lost even though they just won, and that’s because he has. He’s lost so much, but Iris is willing to help him fill the void in his heart by giving the two of them together a shot. He would like nothing more than that, but, alas, he feels too hollow, too broken to be the person worthy of her.
Barry wants to fix what’s wrong with him, to find some sense of peace. And just as Barry waited for Iris, Iris promises to wait for Barry. Whenever he’s ready, she’ll be here for him.
With a kiss and the two telling one another they love each other, she leaves him alone. Barry takes that moment to apologize to the out-of-earshot Iris, as he speeds off, running fast enough to travel back in time.
He runs, runs, runs to the starting point of everything for him — his mother’s death. Yet as opposed to the last time he traveled back here, this time he decides to step in and stop the Reverse-Flash. He knocks his yellow-suited foe out, only to watch the other incarnation of himself that traveled here in season 1 disappear.
Whatever that means, Barry pays it little attention. He instead turns to his mother and tells her she’s safe now.
And she may be safe, but what of the rest of Earth — or the other Earths?
Barry’s decision will certainly have major ramifications when the show returns. Whether the changes to the status quo are short-lived or felt throughout the season is a total guess at this moment, though, particularly as the show has to contend with being now the fourth piece in the extended DC TV-verse.
Does this world reboot itself, and if so, for how long? It’s difficult to say, but it’s evident Barry has not yet moved on from the grief plaguing his life, first with the loss of his mother and then of his father. The Flash has almost from its start been about learning how to handle the challenges life throws at you not merely because of any one gift but because of the gift of love and support from those around you.
Barry is seeking to bring the love of his mother back into his life in the hopes of finding peace, but he, and the audience, will discover at what cost in the fall.