So, has your head exploded yet? Because The Flash just dropped some major time travel paradoxes on us. In the show’s emotionally gut-wrenching first season finale, Barry spent the majority of the episode debating whether or not to go back in time to save his mother, but once he did travel back in time he briefly locked eyes with the future version of himself who was already there to fight Reverse Flash. The nonverbal message from his future self was to let poor Nora Allen die. So, Barry bid his mother a tearful goodbye and returned back through the wormhole he had opened and landed a supersonic punch to Eobard Thawne’s Harrison Wells-shaped jaw. That caused the wormhole to lose containment, but Caitlin and Ronnie shut it down at literally the last second. After an ensuing fight, the Reverse Flash had Barry dead to rights when Eddie unexpectedly shot himself in the chest, sacrificing his life to ensure that the Thawne bloodline would end and dear old Eobard would never be born. It’s like a weird mix of Terminator and Looper!
Then a massive black hole appeared above Central City, threatening to engulf the entire planet. Victor Garber’s Dr. Stein shouted some “This cannot be stopped!” science babble, Barry threw down your standard heroic, “ I’ve got to try,” before racing up the side of a skyscraper, the camera following behind him as if we were watching a Flash-themed version of Subway Surfer. Barry might be able to close the black hole if he runs around it fast enough, and the episode and therefore the season ends with him entering the black hole and jumping toward the camera.
What the frak just happened? Caitlin and Ronnie shut down the wormhole. So, why did a new, much bigger one appear? Did Eddie’s heart-breaking self-sacrifice cause a paradox threatening the very fabric of reality? Is this what Doc Brown was always warning Marty about? Is Barry inadvertently traveling to an alternate dimension? Why did Jay Garrick’s signature Flash helmet fall out of the wormhole earlier in the episode?
When Barry was in the speed force why did he see a version of Caitlin who had become the villainous Killer Frost ala her character’s fate in the comics?
If Eobard Thawne has been erased from existence and Eddie Thawne is super dead then why are the producers telling everyone that Tom Cavanagh will still be a regular cast member next season and Rick Cosnett might return down the road even though Eddie is ever so dead?
Moreover, if Eobard Thawne has been erased from history then doesn’t that mean every single episode of this show has now been undone? After all, “Fast Enough” deftly established that this whole show had actually been taking place in a parallel universe. In the timeline Thawne came from, Barry Allen’s mom was never murdered. Dr. Wells and Tess Morgan built STAR Labs together, but they didn’t create the particle accelerator until 2020. If Thawne never existed then no one would have murdered Nora Allen and framed Henry, Barry never would have moved in with Joe and Iris, and Caitlin, Cisco and Ronnie may not have worked at STAR Labs together. The particle accelerator never would have exploded when it did. Barry wouldn’t have become The Flash when he did. Ditto for Ronnie and Dr. Stein with Firestorm. Central City would presumably still be years away from being overrun with metahumans. Oh yeah, both Dr. Wells and Tess Morgan would still be alive (probably explaining why Tom Cavanagh will still be a regular cast member). That’s before we even begin to ponder how the world of Arrow might be changed if they hadn’t had The Flash to pop over and help out during their cross-over episodes.
Andrew Kreisberg told THR, “Our time travel, hopefully holds together as much as it can,” and everyone, from AV Club to BirthMoviesDeath to IGN, seem to be giving them the benefit of the doubt, taking comfort in the general idea, “I don’t know how any of this will make sense, but I trust that the show’s writers do.” We could be plunging headlong into DC’s notorious multiverse, Flash’s writers taking on a challenge which routinely gets so out of hand and confusing in the actual comics that publishers eventually wipe the slate clean and start over. We could be heading toward a Fringe situation in which we have main universe versions of characters and alternate universe versions, audiences telling the two apart by affixing “Faux” in front of the names of all the alternate versions. Or it could be a more straightforward time travel scenario where everything will be different next season, but only Barry will notice the difference (or maybe Cisco since he can sense the vibrations between dimensions). Barry’s devastating moment of self-sacrifice in “Fast Enough” of letting his mother die instead of undoing his own personal history may have already been completely undercut since with Thawne erased from history she never would…
You know what? I am going to stop pulling on that thread. A reader of the site recently accused me of loving “logic over entertainment” and implied that I shouldn’t be wasting my time and energy with reviewing anything. The time travel logic of “Fast Enough” is exactly the type of thing I could harp on forever. It’s just so dense that it demands to be discussed. However, “Fast Enough” was an immensely entertaining episode. I openly wept the first time I watched the scene with Barry crying over his dying mother. Grant Gustin and Michelle Harrison’s acting absolutely gutted me, particularly the moment Nora seems to realize the stranger before her truly is her son. The buzz on this episode was that fans should come prepared to cry because at the first table read prior to filming all of the actors couldn’t stop crying. I can see why.
As I wrote in my assessment of the entire season, the secret to The Flash’s success is the way it remembers that emotions are the best special effects. This season finale was their ultimate achievement, foregoing an Arrow-esque escalating battle against the big bad in favor of a series of conversations. Barry sought advice from his father figures. Caitlin and Ronnie re-connected and finally confirmed that they are indeed still engaged. Cisco confronted his fallen mentor Dr. Wells and learned a hard truth, namely that he is a metahuman thus explaining how he remembered being killed in the lost timeline. Dr. Stein propped Eddie up. Eddie declared his love for Iris in a lovely speech about fate and coincidences. Caitlin and Ronnie finally got married, in a scene which felt nice to see but would have meant a little more if Ronnie had actually been a bigger part of the season.
The time travel logic behind all of it was confounding. As Eddie himself eventually said, everyone seemed to be focusing way too much on Barry’s destiny. The only person who had a flat out negative opinion about the big plan was Henry Allen, although both Cisco and Joe eventually exhibited some apprehension. However, in general, the message was that Barry’s saved so many people it was about time he saved himself, but weren’t Barry’s friends more or less allowing him to kill them? For example, if he went all Flashpoint and saved his mom then wouldn’t the versions of Iris and Joe who grew up with him and raised him cease to exist? Or would they continue on living in their own universe fully remembering their lives with Barry and The Flash?
But if you just rolled with it you noticed Grant Gustin floating from one-heartbreaking scene to another. After all, how could they finish the season without giving us another tortured prison exchange between Barry and Henry Allen? Even with Tom Cavanagh in full Eobard Thawne mode, he still had moments reminding us how he has served as Barry’s third father figure, delivering one last patented “Run, Barry. Run!” to motivate him to be better. Ultimately, the season ended roughly as it began, with Barry running around something super fast in the opposite direction to neutralize it and save innocent people. In the pilot, it was a tornado; in “Fast Enough,” it’s a black hole. Blake Neely’s infectious musical score soared, and we were on the edge of our seats.
We are now transitioning into a potentially very weird time for The Flash, with the most thoroughly comic book-y film franchise or TV show of the moment just about to get even more comic book-y. The producers have a spin-off, Legends of Tomorrow, to set-up, and as a result “Fast Enough” had to force in moments like Eobard Thawne referencing someone named Rip Hunter or reaction cutaways to Captain Cold and an apparent stranger (who we know is actually Legends of Tomorrow’s Hawkgirl) during the climax. Similar to the way Arrow has been upping the crazy ever since it lost the organizing structure of Oliver’s enemies list, The Flash might also struggle now that Barry’s mission to save his mother and free his father has potentially been emotionally resolved and the “Who is Harrison Wells?” mystery officially solved. Kreisberg says they’ve cracked a new way to keep us hooked next year, “If you watch the pilot, there are clues that got laid out throughout the season. We’ve done the same thing for season two and hopefully we’ve created a structure and a scenario for season two that people will find equally compelling and equally interesting.”
However, in the here and now, The Flash has just completed a season which reminded us that super heroes can be fun and heartwarming. If you think you notice a loose thread it’s usually best not to pull on it, but The Flash is always entertaining and fun, with “Fast Enough” successfully balancing the emotions with the comic book fights and sci-fi time travel.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The time travel logic was a tad confusing, the amount of push back Barry received to the idea of changing history probably insufficient, and while it was a perfectly pleasant, potentially final happy moment for the show’s family there’s no way that Caitlin and Ronnie suddenly eloping wouldn’t come off as rushed. Yet “Fast Enough,” which completely gutted me multiple times, ended up being a very worthy finale to a thoroughly entertaining season of comic book television. Do we really have to wait until October for season 2?
1. They gave us an official explanation for Cisco’s ability to retain memories from the lost day. That gives me hope that they’ve really thought out all of the time travel conundrums their season finale just introduced.
2. So, Cisco is the Vibe. Who’s that? In the comics, Cisco was a latino gang member who became a superhero after gaining the superhuman ability to cause sonic shockwaves and detect interdimensional shifts. As a legit Justice League member super hero, he went by the name Vibe. However, he was criticized as being an offensive ethnic stereotype at the time of his mid-1980s introduction, and DC’s monthly solo Vibe comic book as part of the New 52 was canceled after just 10 issues.
3. So, Caitlin will become a cold-themed character named Killer Forst. Who’s that? In the comics, Snow is actually the fourth woman to take the title of Killer Frost, each one of them acting as supervillains against Firestorm.
3. “The Streak” – I’d already forgotten that’s what Iris used to call The Flash.
4. Joe’s comment about picturing Barry as a bug hitting a windshield was a perfectly Star Trek way of explaining all the techno babble for us.
5. It turns out that Victor Garber actually makes for a pretty decent Tom Cavanagh stand-in, bringing a far quirkier energy as the elder statesman of the group. However, I am beyond delighted that Cavanagh is in fact returning as a regular cast member.
6. “Thanks for all the fish” – Great Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy reference
7. Caitlin and Ronnie’s wedding song was “(Hey Now) Don’t Dream It’s Over” by Crowded House. I last saw that used in a TV show in ABC’s 1994 mini-series Stephen King’s The Stand.
AVClub – For now, The Flash leaves us with a season of television that was much better than we had any reason to expect. While not without its flaws, it captured the spirit of its source material in a fun, light-on-its-feet way that few other comic book adaptations have managed. In “Fast Enough,” it pulled off a season ender that paid off our affection for the characters even as it satisfied the requirements of comic-book plotting. It already feels like it’s going to be a long wait until season two.