Warning: This article contains spoilers from Tuesday’s The Flash, part 3 of the “Crisis on Infinite Earths” crossover.
In the third part of the Arrowverse crossover, Team Flash found Earth-90 Flash (John Wesley Shipp) running on a cosmic treadmill that was powering the Anti-Monitor’s anti-matter cannon. They quickly realized that the only way to stop the cannon and the wave threatening to destroy the multiverse was to run as fast as possible in the opposite direction, which result in the speedster’s death. The Flash‘s Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) was ready to do what needed to be done because he’d been steeling himself to die in Crisis since season 6 began; however, at the last minute, Earth-90 Flash stole his speed, took his place on the treadmill, and ran until all that was left of him was his lightning crest. With his sacrifice, the heroes managed to (temporarily) stall the anti-matter wave. (Read our full recap here)
For the crossover writers, this twist was their way of respecting the original Crisis on Infinite Earths comic, which features the memorable death of the Flash, without having to, you know, end The Flash as a show.
“You have gotta come up with a way to honor what was said with the Monitor in [The Flash] 601 saying the Flash must die, but also give it a nice story twist, get in some emotion,” The Flash showrunner Eric Wallace told Kevin Smith during EW’s after-show Crisis Aftermath, which aired on The CW. “We thought about it for quite a while, and we got to what I hope the audience thinks is a satisfying conclusion, which is a little bit of the best of both worlds. Grant almost doing it, wanting to, being the hero we always thought he was gonna be and at the very last second, in comes John Wesley Shipp, and it completes a 30-year arc.”
The 30-year arc to which Wallace is referring to is, of course, the fact that Shipp played Barry Allen on CBS’ short-lived 1990s series The Flash, which was canceled after one season and never received a proper series finale. As “Elseworlds” confirmed, the Earth-90 Flash is supposed that Flash, so this ending was the Arrowverse’s way of tying off that dangling thread.
“Hopefully, we honor the original Flash from the ‘90s show,” said Wallace. “You have these two great performers, two generations, where you had Grant Gustin who loves John…and John loving Grant, and to see them working together. That was real emotion you saw in that scene as they kinda realized, Grant’s like, ‘He’s passing a real torch to me. This really is the end of him.’ And then John, he told us I think afterwards, ‘Thank you for giving me this opportunity to close a chapter.'”
“To actually bring closure to his incarnation? Come on, that’s a gift,” replied Smith.
Interestingly enough, one of the most emotional moments in the scene — the throwback clip from the 1990s’ The Flash show featuring Shipp and his on-screen love interest/lightning rod Tina McGee (Amanda Pays) — wasn’t originally part of the plan.
“We didn’t script that originally. That was something we added in the editing room,” said crossover executive producer Guggenheim. “We’re like, ‘You know what? We want to a little bit of his life flashing (no pun intended) flashing before his eyes.’ We just craved it. Our amazing post-producer Geoff Garrett went to the archives and got the footage. We have to change the aspect ratio, because [it has] a different aspect ratio…But man, it’s awesome. It’s like one of my favorite moments in the hour.”
“Crisis on Infinite Earths” resumes Jan. 14, 2020 with Arrow at 8 p.m. and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow at 9 p.m. on The CW.