Welcome back to the weekly recaps of The Flash. To read previous coverage, go here.
Season three of The Flash was not great. It was so not great that I wasn’t keeping up with the show on a week to week basis for a while, due to how aggravated I was getting at poor writing decisions and contrived moments of drama that kept the entire series at a standstill rather than allowing characters to move forwards. While the season finale doesn’t totally rectify all of the stumbles the series made throughout its third season, it made great strides in reevaluating itself and what type of show it was going to be moving forward into it’s season four.
And, if the mood of the episode tells us anything, we may just be getting back to our fun loving and optimistic roots of season one, still the best season of the show to date and arguably the best season of any of DC series on the CW. Barry even says it himself this week, he’s sick of letting hate dictate his actions and anger his motives. He’s ready to be hopeful again and see if love truly can conquer all.
All of this happens of course after he finds out that H.R. pulled a switch with Iris, masking himself as her and sacrificing himself to Savitar. It’s a truly heroic moment for a character that has largely floated on the outskirts of the main narratives, simply an excuse to keep the much adored Tom Cavannagh on our screens and it gives a weight to the character in his final moments that had been lacking throughout the rest of his tenure.
He gives his life for Iris’s, and beyond being happy that Iris is here to stay, her being alive is also a key aspect of the series. She and her relationship with Barry is the heart of the series because it’s Iris who is always able to bring Barry back. Season four would get off to a great start if they began to give Iris more isolated, character driven storylines but it’s hard to deny the impact of the pairing and just how much chemistry Candice Patton and Grant Gustin exude together. They’re one of the only “end game” couples in the DCTV universe worth rooting for and, if I were a betting person, I’d make the safe assumption they’re here to stay.
Their history together gives other elements of the episode some poignancy that might’ve been lacking otherwise. Barry makes it his (albeit short lived) mission to court Savitar to the good side, looking to draw out the pieces of him that are still Barry and simply looking for a sense of redemption. Once we think that perhaps The Flash has managed to surprise us in their manner of taking Savitar down, in large part due to his and Iris’s interaction, we’re reminded that this is, in fact a superhero show, which means there needs to be portals in the sky and a big show down.
Lucky for us the show down is a marvel to watch, merging everything from wonderful stunt work, to high stakes to character drama that makes for possibly the finest scene in the whole third season (“Superfriends” aside of course). Jay, Barry and Wally all racing to capture Savitar is thrilling work, utilizing the different characters and their speed to add an urgency to the chase. Equally as thrilling is Barry taking over Savitar’s suit and ultimately destroying it, seconds after being tempted to kill him. However, the best parts come with our two female heroes. The first, when Caitlin/Killer Frost saves Cisco’s life, blasting Savitar away from him and the second when Iris shoots and kills Savitar before he can kill Barry. As she puts it herself, they spent all of those months worrying away at trying to ensure Iris’s safety, only for her to be the one who saves Barry in the end.
Of course all of these happy endings can’t last, as we learn soon after H.R’s funeral that the speed force can’t stabilize without a speedster, meaning that it’s time for Barry to “cross the finish line”, so to speak, and take his place as an omnipresent guardian. Seeing his world crumbling around him in a blaze of hellish lightning, Barry makes the ultimate heroes sacrifice to return to the force, wearing the face of his mother, calling it both his penance and redemption after causing Flash Point in the first place.
There’s been this undercurrent throughout this season – verbalized or not – that much, if not all, of the problems facing Team Flash were due to Barry’s one selfish mistake to save his parents lives. This is his chance to make right by the people he loves and the mistake his made that tore some of their lives apart. And while my editor did have to call me out on how obvious it was that Barry would in fact return, the sacrifice felt genuinely moving because it indicates that Barry and co., are on the path to a redemptive and more hopeful future and that’s what we need to see right now on television about heroes who can accomplish great things by simply believing in doing what’s right.
Episode Grade: 8/10
Season Grade: 6/10