May 24, 2017

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Finale Review: “The Flash”


Did we really need THE FLASH to go dark?  What had been the peppiest of CW’s DC/Berlanti-verse shows spent its 3rd season marked by existential angst, 22 episodes of Barry Allen’s (Grant Gustin) penance for having created “Flashpoint,” a parallel timeline where his mother and father survived.  Even after Barry reversed reality more or less back to where it had been, remnants of Flashpoint caused fatal trouble, most notably the creation of the evil Savitar, a bitter offshoot of Barry who would murder love-of-Barry’s-life Iris (Candice Patton) in the near future.  Much of the season was devoted to Barry’s desperate attempts to keep that event from happening, and even though the assumption was always that he’d be successful in that aim, it made for a much more dour version of the series.

Tonight’s season finale, written by Executive Producers Aaron and Todd Helbing, and directed by David McWhirter, resolved all of that, but not in a particularly satisfying way.  It had appeared last week that despite all the efforts of Barry and Team Flash, Savitar had succeeded in killing Iris, but that turned out to be a trick.  Whenever a fantasy universe includes a device that can transform one character into a duplicate of another, always assume the person being killed isn’t who it seems to be, and in this case it was HR Wells (Tom Cavanaugh), sacrificing himself for having accidentally let Savitar know where Iris was in the previous episode.  Of all the characters who could “perish,” HR’s departure had the least weight, because The Flash has been rotating Wellses from parallel Earths every season anyway, and sure enough, Season 2’s Wells was back by the end of the finale.  It was a nice touch that Iris, finally, was the one who rid Earth of Savitar via gunshot, although even there it felt too easy that while Barry’s killing of his evil twin would have plunged him into eternal moral darkness, Iris just shrugged her shooting off.

The cliffhanger for Season 4 similarly pulled its punches.  Whatever the Time Force is–it’s sort of The Flash‘s take on God–it required a “speedster” to keep it stable, and with both Savitar and Barry’s alternate universe dad Jay (guest star John Wesley Shipp) absent, it called on Barry to exit Earth and do his part.  Since the show is called The Flash, we know he’s not going to be there long, and to make things even less serious, while everyone who had previously spent time in the Time Force had undergone agony, Barry was allowed a heavenly version with the spirit of his dead mother as his angelic guide.

The upshot of the season was that The Flash has gone all too deeply into alternate planes of reality.  Since the show’s mythology allows for unlimited futures and versions of its characters, everything feels disposable, and consequences don’t have permanence.  If there’s always another Wells, and if all unpleasant futures can be changed, events simply don’t stick.  On a more earthbound level, it also didn’t help that once Savitar was unmasked as a knock-off of Barry, playing evil proved taxing to Grant Gustin’s strengths as an actor.

There were aspects of Season 3 that worked, mostly those around the edges of the main storylines.  The journey of Caitlin (Danielle Panabaker) into villainous Killer Frost (and then tonight into a character who was midway between the two) was well constructed, and so was Cisco’s (Carlos Valdes) superpowered romcom with Gypsy (guest star Jessica Camacho).  Tom Felton was integrated smoothly into the ensemble as the arch Julian, although since he remained credited as a guest star throughout the season, it’s not clear how long he’ll be around.  The show took an episode-long break for its musical mash-up with Supergirl that was hugely enjoyable.

The Flash is CW’s biggest hit, with almost double the ratings of the network’s other superhero shows, but it, too, suffered a fall this season.  Some of that was just the same malaise afflicting all of broadcast TV, but The Flash was less effective as well.  The show will certainly be around for seasons to come, and that will hopefully give it time to restore it to its best possible timeline.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."