Barry makes the ultimate sacrifice

By Chancellor Agard
May 23, 2017 at 11:08 PM EDT
Credit: Katie Yu /The CW
S3 E23

Over the course of The Flash‘s three seasons, we’ve seen Barry Allen’s teammates make the ultimate sacrifice to save the day: Eddie Thawne in the season 1 finale, Ronnie at the beginning of season 2, and Jay Garrick in season 3. Now, it’s finally time for Barry — who, let’s admit it, has screwed up royally — to be the hero he wants to be and to do what everyone else around him has been willing to do. In the emotional season 3 finale, Barry sacrifices himself to save his city and his loved ones; however, first, he needs to take care of Savitar.

“Finish Line” is honestly the best finale that the show could have made given this season’s missteps. (Note: Take the finale’s grade with a grain of salt because I’m definitely grading on a curve.) It’s a confident and at times clunky episode that manages to recapture some of the show’s heart right when it needs it the most.

The finale wastes very little time in revealing that Savitar, in fact, did not murder Iris. As Barry holds Iris’ body in his arms, H.R.’s drumsticks fall out of her pocket, and it’s revealed that Barry is actually holding H.R., who used his transmogrifier to take her place. As he explains with his dying breath, this was his way of making up for disclosing Iris’ location to Savitar in the last episode.

Given the focus on H.R.’s love life and his search for a purpose on Earth-1 in the past few episodes, H.R.’s death wasn’t necessarily surprising, but it did hit home. The show has done a pretty good job of making us care for this Wells doppelgänger, even if he was relatively useless. And to be fair, H.R. did serve a function on Team Flash, and on the show. His cheerleading often helped spark ideas, and, more importantly, he was a reliable source of comedic relief during this angsty-as-hell season.

With H.R.’s sacrifice, Team Flash believes the future has changed, and the future newspaper in the Chamber of Time Secrets that now bears Iris West-Allen’s byline quickly confirms that assumption. Saving Iris also means that Savitar should eventually cease to exist since it’s her death that leads Barry to create the time remnants, which he won’t do now that Iris is alive. However, Team Flash can’t just wait for the time paradox to erase Savitar for three reasons: First, that’ll take a few hours, and Savitar can get a lot done during that time. Second, Savitar stole the Speed Cannon, which he means he’s planning something else. And third, Savitar and Killer Frost kidnapped Cisco.

Savitar tells Killer Frost and Cisco that he kidnapped Cisco because he still intends on completing his apotheosis before the Time Paradox catches up to him. Savitar wants Cisco to modify the Speed Cannon so he can use it to fragment himself across time, basically turning him into a god. It’s a bloody ridiculous plan, but I love how wacky it sounds. (Also, Grant Gustin makes a very convincing villain, which isn’t entirely surprising given his role on Glee.) Cisco, though, is downright giddy knowing that his friends changed the future, and he refuses to do what Savitar demands. Well, that’s until Savitar threatens to kill Reverse Flash Killer Frost if Cisco doesn’t cooperate. The only reason Cisco agrees is because Savitar reveals that Julian and Caitlin’s mom developed a cure for her.
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Since Iris didn’t die, Barry has had time to consider Snart’s parting words, and he realizes that running quickly and punching might not be the best way to save the day. So, Barry chooses option three and approaches Savitar with an offer to help him avoid the time paradox if he frees Cisco and Caitlin. Even though this seems pretty naïve, it’s the kind of heroic action we want to see from Barry: offering friendship and compassion instead of fists. It’s the first step in Barry’s attempt to reject the darkness, which has been overwhelming him and the show all season long.

Savitar comes to S.T.A.R. Labs under the pretense of cooperating with Barry Allen, but it’s all a façade because he’s merely trying to buy time for Cisco to make the necessary adjustments to the Speed Cannon. Once enough time has passed, Savitar runs away from Team Flash and tries to kill them all by blowing up the Philosopher’s Stone in the breach room.

Once Cisco finishes the Speed Cannon, Savitar instructs Killer Frost to kill him. But, thankfully, Gypsy vibes in out of nowhere and saves Cisco, in the first of several genuine surprises in the episode’s final few acts. Apparently, Gypsy was able to sense he was in danger across the multiverse because they’re connected. At first, Cisco is annoyed that she rescued him because he wanted to save Caitlin, but learning about their connection shuts him the hell up. And now that he’s reunited with his team, it’s time to take Savitar down.

Believing Cisco did what he was supposed to do, Savitar and Caitlin head to a field where he opens a time portal and instructs Caitlin to kill the Black Flash, who comes running out of the breach because the Speed Force doesn’t like it when speedsters play with time. Once that’s taken care of, Savitar goes through with his plan and has Caitlin shoot the modified Speed Cannon at him, leading to a pretty awesome-looking visual effect. However, it doesn’t work; Cisco actually turned the Speed Cannon into a Speed Force skeleton key, which frees Jay Garrick from the prison.

Now the final battle is set: The Flash, Kid Flash, Jay Garrick, Gypsy, and Vibe versus Savitar and Killer Frost. While the speedsters fight Savitar in a dazzling CGI extravaganza, Gypsy and Vibe take on Caitlin, and Cisco manages to change Killer Frost’s mind about stepping to the bad side. Killer Frost ends up being the one to stop Savitar from killing Cisco. Barry gets the upper hand on Savitar but refuses to kill him, because he’s a hero, damn it! And it would’ve cost him his life if it weren’t for Iris, who shoots Savitar before he can kill Barry. Good riddance to bad rubbish!

Does Iris being the one who saves Barry in the end make up for how poorly the writers have handled her this season? No, definitely not, but the gesture is definitely appreciated.
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Team Flash holds a pretty touching funeral for H.R. where Barry shares H.R.’s final words with Cisco: “This took strength, and he [Cisco] gave it to me.” Cisco is moved. Caitlin shows up at the funeral and reveals that she doesn’t plan on taking the cure because this is who she is now. She’s not Killer Frost, but she’s not the Caitlin they knew, and she needs to figure out who this person is. Since Caitlin transformed into Killer Frost, I’ve been worried the show would chicken out and change her back, and I’m glad to see that they’re going to let this version of Caitlin play out.

Unfortunately, all’s not well that ends well because Central City gets hit with a series of earthquakes, which are caused by instability in the Speed Force. Remember, the Speed Force prison needs an occupant. As Central City is ravaged by a lightning storm, a breach opens, and the Speed Force-as-Barry’s Mom walks out and beckons to Barry, indicating that he’s reached his finish line. No one on Team Flash wants him to go, but Barry realizes that this is his penance for causing all of this trouble. Barry and Iris’ goodbye is particularly heartbreaking because Iris and Barry just sent out their save the dates. Before joining “Nora Allen” in the Speed Force, he makes Iris promise she’ll keep living and loving without him. Then he enters the breach, and the Speed storm stops.

Is there any doubt in anyone’s mind that Barry will be back by the end of the season 4 premiere? No, because of course he will! But this needed to happen; Barry screwed up a lot this season and definitely needed to suffer the consequences. What will be interesting is how Team Flash will react to Barry’s return in season 4. Before leaving, he anoints Kid Flash Central City’s new Flash. Although Barry doesn’t run Team Flash like Oliver Queen used to run Team Arrow, I expect we’ll have similar situation to when Team Arrow had to fend without Ollie in season 3. Barry won’t be able to just come back in and be top dog anymore. Moreover, I’m curious to know how the show plans on working Caitlin into the action. This finale wasn’t without its flaws, but its heart was in the right place, which is all you can ask for from the show.

The Flash season 3 has been rough ride that suffered for sloppy plotting and pacing and never-ending angst. Going into season 4, The Flash needs to recapture that sense of joy and optimism it had in the first season, when it leaned heavily on genuinely heartwarming moments. Given the current state of the world, I could use a hero who reminds us of the need to push forward and focus on the good. Furthermore, the writers should spend some time carefully considering how they approach Iris West’s character, because she had very little agency this season when it was her life on the line! I want to know who Iris is outside of her relationship with Barry. What kind of reporter is she? What drives her to pursue a story? Is she interested in reporting on anything that’s not The Flash-related? In my dream season 4, The Flash would give us an Iris-centric episode like House season 6’s “Wilson” or “9 to 5,” which were focused on people who weren’t the titular lead.

Wall of Weird:

  • The finale hinted at season 4’s assumed villain again: Clifford DeVoe, a.k.a. The Thinker.
  • The episode featured several nods to “Running Home to You.”
  • “I’ll never let the pain, the darkness, determine who I am,” Barry, to Savitar.
  • “At least you’re not shopping at Villains-R-Us anymore,” Cisco to Caitlin at H.R.’s funeral.
  • I hope Barry asking Harry to keep an eye on the team means Harry is the version of Wells we’ll get next season.

Episode Recaps

The Flash

After the success of Arrow, Barry Allen (a.k.a. The Flash) gets his own CW treatment in this comic-themed spin-off.

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