‘The Flash’ 3.23 “Finish Line” Review – Closing a Chapter

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It was clear to see that, despite seemingly killing off Iris last week, that “The Flash” wouldn’t actually go through with it. Death in the superhero genre is often used as a catalyst, after all, but in this case would have been detrimental to the show. Effective as the scene was last week, the emotional reunion was just as effective in “Finish Line,” an episode which had moments of greatness interspersed with moments of questionable editing and story follow-through. “Finish Line” isn’t perfect, but the criticisms lie more with the season as a whole that one episode simply wasn’t going to fix. However, it ended up being the strongest season finale the show has had thus far. And while the ending felt a bit rushed, it was one that made sense and brought the first three chapters of Barry’s story to a close, while opening up new possibilities for the show moving forward into season four.

Photo: Katie Yu /The CW

Photo: Katie Yu /The CW

Even though I enjoyed this episode far more than I thought I would, there are still some pretty glaring plot holes and situations that can’t be so easily overlooked. Unfortunately, it’s a side effect of the pacing and plot of the season and this episode did the best it could with what it was already working with. Savitar, for all his confidence and provocation of fear, for a moment believed he could be redeemed. “The Flash” (and most of the DCTV universe, really) has always had a bit of a villain problem in that the reasons behind said villainy feel kind of empty. Essentially, Savitar is a petulant child who was neglected and left behind and who became so bitter that he had to go back and ruin his former self’s life and kill Iris because he’s selfish enough and angry enough to only think of his own existence. I did genuinely believe he wanted to try once he realized that the future had changed, but that didn’t last very long. No matter what, Savitar realized, he wasn’t the real Barry and he was too far gone. He’s the opposite of Barry, yes, but this season spent far too much time on the fear aspect than on anything else, so that by the time “Finish Line” rolled around, I didn’t know whether to feel bad for him, understand him, or dispose of him and his endless amounts of pain. That “The Flash” decided to not redeem two out of the three characters who sought some kind of reprieve is at least honorable because it would’ve felt undeserving.

FLA323b_0187bDespite the season three big bad feeling underwhelming due to story pacing and plotting, “Finish Line” was able to bring at least three things full circle. The first one is Barry’s hero arc. At the end of last season, Barry entered the speed force and made a decision that, while understandable, was selfish and affected a lot of people’s lives. He may not have been able to save Iris directly, but voluntarily willing to enter the speed force to save Central City and pay for his mistakes does serve as his redemption. It’s the close of a chapter, a way for Barry, and the show by extension, to let go of some of the angst and burdens that seem to have piled on over the course of three seasons. Having seen the episode twice now, it was a good scene and one that allowed Barry to go into the speed force without feelings of anger, grief, remorse, or hatred. These are the feelings that drove him to use the speed force selfishly for himself in the last two season finales. Barry has always been an emotional hero, but he came to the realization that he won’t let the darker aspects of his emotions rule him and chose to have hope and compassion rather than anger. Barry also knew he couldn’t let Jay and Wally shoulder the burden of holding up the speed force (something I still don’t quite understand) and it was his responsibility alone. It’s the only way that makes sense. In making peace and paying for his choices, it allowed Barry to become a hero once more.

If I don’t go, the whole city, maybe even the entire planet, could be destroyed. This, all of this, it started with my mistake with Flashpoint. This is my penance. This is my redemption.”

Photo: The CW

Photo: The CW

Speaking of heroism, something I really appreciated in this episode is that, while “The Flash” has quite a few metahumans, it was the two non-super-powered characters who pretty much did all the saving: HR and Iris. For HR, a character who has struggled to find his place among the STAR Labs crew simply because he wasn’t a genius or science-y, giving up his life in a last ditch effort to save Iris was a good ending to his story. For Iris, she had mentioned a while back that she doesn’t always feel like she contributes to the team in a way that matters, but her commanding presence, level-headedness, and her ability to get things done in dire situations always goes overlooked. And although Barry took a loss by not being the one to save her from Savitar, it was wonderful that Iris was the one who finally disposed of him. She and Barry tried to show him compassion, even after he tried and failed to kill her, something that speaks to both of their characters. Unlike Tracy, who became angry, Iris recognized that somewhere deep down was some version of Barry and she showed mercy to that version, until she could no longer do so. She did what everyone else failed to do and she did it without hesitation because Barry’s life was in immediate danger. It was a great and satisfying moment, even though the paradox was about to erase him from existence anyway. The superhero genre sometimes struggles with how heroism is presented (the need for a costume is required for many), but unlike “Supergirl” for example, “The Flash,” in its own imperfect way, followed through on the idea that a hero doesn’t have to have powers or wear a costume to prove their worth or be considered useful. HR saved Iris and Iris saved Barry and the rest of the team, all sans powers. And that, in and of itself, is amazing.

normal_TheFlash323_599Another aspect that came into further focus is Iris and Barry’s love story. More specifically, Iris being on the journey to becoming Iris West-Allen, something that has been alluded to since season one. Iris coming full circle in the realization of how deep her love runs for Barry is something she may have always known subconsciously, but has fully embraced it this season in particular. In the season one finale, she joked about not thinking she’s a hyphenator and Barry telling her that that future might not happen. So to have the byline reappear is a momentous occasion. It can be argued that season one was very much about Barry loving Iris romantically, and it’s something we’ve known from day one. But ever since Barry revealed to Iris how he felt, her journey has been coming to the realization that she has always felt the same way as well, it just took her longer to get there due to various circumstances. She went from being somewhat afraid of exploring her feelings for Barry to calling it unfair that her future with him might be taken from her as Barry decides to enter the speed force. What I love is that Iris is fully confident in her love now, her heart is overflowing, and she’s immensely happy. It’s been quite a beautiful story to watch unfold through the seasons. After all that the pair has been through, they did deserve that happy ending and, for the first time, Iris wanted to be selfish in trying to keep something for herself even though she knew she couldn’t.

We were supposed to have our happy ending. I’m ready to be Iris West-Allen.”

“And you always will be. But you need to keep living your life. Keep growing, keep loving, keep running. For me. Promise me you’ll run, Iris.”

“I promise.”

Finally, I have to mention special effects and fight scenes in this episode because they were really well done. The explosion in STAR Labs and the fight scenes in the forest were very, very well-executed, despite some of the strange editing in certain instances. In regards to Killer Frost, I was worried they’d try and give her a redemption arc, which would have been undeserved, but I can appreciate that she chose to not take the cure, as that would’ve been the easy way out. Caitlin/Killer Frost (Caitlin Frost?) is going through an identity crisis at the moment and she needs to figure herself out. It’s still frustrating that she continues to not take any responsibility for her actions and constantly chooses herself above everyone time and time again, so leaving the team is definitely the right decision. It doesn’t make up for everything, but it’s better than coming back to STAR Labs and acting like what she did never transpired. It would have been disingenuous to herself and to everyone else who was affected by her actions.

Photo: The CW

Photo: The CW

“Finish Line” wrapped up quite a few aspects of the season, even though the season itself could have been better improved by not delaying and dragging out the storylines and giving Iris more point of view, etc. However, it was a satisfactory finale in that it didn’t end in anguish, but rather a hope that all the darker aspects the show has often found itself wrapped in will fall away moving forward. It’s the first time a finale cliffhanger isn’t cause for frustration and there’s immense optimism going into season four. The show can’t get more dark than it has been by having Barry battle himself as his own worst enemy. Perhaps the showrunners have come to the realization, like most of us have, that “The Flash” needs to go back to being more optimistic and lighthearted. The cliffhanger (but not really a cliffhanger, let’s be real), of Barry atoning for his sins and having the weight lifted, speaks to the direction the show will most likely go in the coming season. Season three had its ups and downs and could have followed through on several plots in a much better and less frustrating way, but at least the finale made up for at least some of the missteps and didn’t throw the consequences of “Flashpoint” completely under the rug.

And that’s a wrap on my reviews for season three! And, as HR would say, “until next communion!”

Random Thoughts: 

  • Julian keeps trying and failing to get with Caitlin. It’s kind of funny at this point. I am glad he didn’t die though, but he does need to go back to the CSI lab.
  • “Thin crust pizza” and “Two-Face.” Cisco’s insults to Savitar gave me life.
  • I thought it was hilarious that Savitar has threatened to kill Iris all season and when that didn’t work and he realized he couldn’t have her, he was like, “nah, I can’t live this life.” What kind of…? I don’t even know what to make of this psycho. Truly.
  • Update: Barry and co. still don’t seem to care that he’s disappearing in 2024. This continues to be very amusing to me.
  • HR as Iris and Iris as HR was just so good. I love this cast. They did a great job this season.
  • When Iris says that she has a future now, he says “we have a future,” like his future doesn’t exist without her in it. I cry.
  • I did feel a twinge of sadness for HR, but I think he ended the season on a high note, so I’m ok with the decision if it means Iris is alive.
  • All of the emotional hugs in this episode. So many and I loved them all.
  • Can we keep Gypsy around forever? Can she and Iris be friends in season four?
  • “All these months you’ve been trying to save me from Savitar. Look at that, I saved you.” This scene!!
  • Savitar Barry and Iris have tons of chemistry, too. Yes, I know he’s a psycho, but damn I was affected.
  • “Because we are connected… jackass.” I laughed. I love them together. Kudos to the women doing the saving in this episode.
  • “I’ve always been Iris West-Allen. I’ve always been yours.” I weep.
  • Barry realizing he was holding HR must’ve been… awkward.
  • My sister: “I just… don’t understand why Jay couldn’t have gone back to the speed force prison.”
  • Iris singing the lyrics to “Runnin’ Home to You!!” I love them so much. It was such a sweet scene.
  • Barry and Joe’s relieved faces when they find out Iris is alive. I weep some more.
  • Barry telling Joe he saved him by giving him a home. I cry.
  • They destroyed STAR Labs. They actually destroyed STAR Labs. Yes, I know they’ll probably rebuild it eventually, but I hope this means we’ll see Iris at her job and more of the other sets as well.
  • I seriously expected to not like this episode much. I like when I’m proven wrong. I liked it more the second time around.
70%
70%
Pretty Good

Season three of "The Flash" had its ups and downs and could have followed through on several plots in a much more significant way than it did, but at least the finale made up for at least some of the missteps and didn't throw the consequence of "Flashpoint" completely under the rug.

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About Author

Mae is a Washington, DC-based film critic, entertainment journalist and Weekend Editor at Heroic Hollywood. A member of the Washington, DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA), she's a geek who loves discussing movies and TV. She is also a voting member of the Black Reel Awards. If she's not at the movies, she's catching up on her superhero TV-watching, usually with a glass of wine in hand.

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