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!