“The Flash” Season Finale Review: “The Race of His Life”
Season two of “The Flash” seems to have come and gone in a, well, in a flash. “The Race of His Life” wraps up Zoom’s story line, the fight to take him down was great, but as a villain it took too long to get to Zoom’s true motivations. And so, by the time his big plan is revealed, which is to use the energy drawn from his and Barry’s speed to power a machine that will destroy the multiverse, it was too little too late. Instead, the episode finds its center by focusing a lot on Barry’s grief and the head space he’s in after losing Henry so soon after he’s seemingly come to terms with his mother’s death.
To fully examine this episode (which took me a while because my first reaction was to smack Barry upside the head for the stunt he pulls in the episode’s final moments), I had to take a look back at the season overall. If Zoom’s story wasn’t exactly a distinct progression, Barry, and by extension, Barry’s psyche since the events of season one’s finale, is easier to pinpoint. From the very first episode of this season, Barry has struggled to be happy. In the months after the season one finale, Barry tried dating Patty for a while and tried to be happy that way. He was happy when his dad was finally out of jail, only to have him leave town immediately after. He struggled with his guilt over Eddie and Ronnie’s deaths, Earth-2 Joe’s death, and finally, the guilt over letting his mother die when he specifically went back to save her to begin with.
Then, after finally (sort of) coming to grips with his mother’s death, Zoom kills Henry in the exact same place Reverse-Flash murdered his mother. It was like grief overload, a nail in the coffin just as Barry was ready to move forward in his life. So, even though I can somewhat understand his incredibly rash action at the end due to his overwhelming feelings and sense of brokenness, it’s not something that can easily be forgiven. It also kind of regressed Barry’s character development a bit since “The Runaway Dinosaur.”
“The Race of His Life” wasn’t a perfect season finale. Part of the reason is that Zoom’s big, evil master plan was revealed in the eleventh hour and while the take-down and final fight was good, there were still a few holes the show tried to fill fairly quickly in order for Zoom’s actions to make more sense. If I were to re-watch the second season, Zoom’s progression as a character would probably be one of the weakest parts of the season (along with the heavy sidelining of Iris in 2A, which I still haven’t forgiven and hope they never repeat).
That’s all I’ve ever wanted to hear you say. And I wish I was in a place where I could try that with you, but I feel so hollowed out right now. I feel more broken than I’ve ever been. If I’m ever going to be worth anything to you, I need to fix what’s wrong with me. I have to find some peace.
“The Race of His Life” begins right where “Invincible” leaves off. Zoom has just killed Henry and Barry is livid–anger and grief warring to take precedence. His anger momentarily takes over and he and Zoom fight, with Zolomon taunting Barry to kill him… only, Zoom does it himself. With another time remnant (which, honestly, still boggles me). After Henry’s funeral, Zoom challenges Barry to a race, threatening to kill more of his loved ones if he doesn’t acquiesce. Wanting to desperately take out Zoom, Team Flash worries that Barry isn’t in his right mind to do so because Barry doesn’t just want to defeat Zoom. He’s seeking revenge for Henry’s murder. Knowing full well that Barry going into a fight with Zoom with revenge on his mind, the team locks him up and concocts their own plan to send Zoom packing back to Earth-2.
Of course, this doesn’t work either (even though it’s a pretty good plan, except for the small fact that Zoom can still open his own portals) and Zoom ends up getting sucked into the vortex back to Earth-2, but takes Joe along with him. An angry Wally steps in and gets Barry out so that they can figure out a new plan to take out Zoom and get Joe back. Titled “The Race of His Life” for a reason, Barry does end up racing Zoom, and it’s a pretty awesome race! Zolomon has built himself a machine that will take down the entire multiverse, keeping this Earth (the central one) intact and ready for Zoom’s takeover. Using a trick he learned from Zoom, Barry enlists his own time remnant to help in the fight and help destroy the machine, while present Barry and Zoom fight hand-to-hand. In the end, the Time Wraiths (introduced in “Flash Back” to be the keepers of the time stream and speedsters who misused the speed force) take out Zoom, angry that he’s messed with the time stream far too often. This makes it clear that the Time Wraiths won’t exactly be happy with Barry for going back some sixteen years to save his mom. It’s definitely something to think about going into season three.
The team gets Joe back, Wally is now in the know about Barry being The Flash, they’ve saved the multiverse from destruction, and they’ve saved the mysterious Man in the Iron Mask from Zoom’s clutches. The big reveal is that the mystery man is no other than Jay Garrick. The real Jay Garrick, from Earth-3, who just happens to be Henry Allen’s doppelganger. Remember when Henry dropped a hint that Garrick was his mother’s maiden name? This revelation is jarring for Barry, as he’s just lost his father and it reminds him of his still very palpable grief, explaining to Iris that they’ve just won, but it doesn’t feel like they did.
Barry, listen to me. You waited for me for years. You let me get to a place where this was possible. So I am telling you I am gonna do the same thing for you. Wherever you need to go, whatever you need to do, do it. And when you get back, I’ll be here.
Garrick takes Wells and Jesse back to Earth-2, with the promise that they’ll help him return to his Earth. Iris is ready to move forward with Barry romantically. But, he feels too broken and unworthy of being with her right now because of his head space. She looks crestfallen, but understands and vows to wait until he is ready because he did the same for her, declaring that she loves him and that he does too, and always will. They (finally!) share a kiss (bittersweet after realizing what he’ll do right after) and it’s almost like a promise that somehow, one day, after Barry undoes what he does (because he will), we will be back at that porch and Barry will be able to move past his emotional trauma and find some happiness and peace after everything.
Ultimately, “The Race of His Life” worked because the team was all together and everyone played a major role. Wally was finally in the know, the overall plan was good, but the stakes seemed less high because Zoom wasn’t truly fleshed out as well as he could have been over the season. The episode did have a decent amount of action, some emotionally-driven scenes, good character interaction and movement on the romance front. It was better than last year’s season finale, but it’s really the last few minutes (and the possibilities it may bring) of the episode that will really have people talking for months to come. The fact that the showrunners ever had the gall to do something like this is impressive, but I’ll withhold judgement until I see the first episode of season three.
Barry going back to save his mother is questionable in a lot of ways and frankly, incredibly foolish and a spur-of-the moment thing for him to do. When Iris tells him to go do what he needs to do for himself, I’m sure this wasn’t what she had in mind. On an emotional level, and in analyzing the fact that Barry’s attachment to happiness is intrinsically attached to the night of his mother’s death, it’s understandable, but it still isn’t a smart decision. However, this brings about some interesting possibilities for season three. It looks like the show will be doing a watered-down version of “The Flashpoint Paradox,” in which Barry goes back in time to save his mom and uses so much energy that he rips a hole in time. Of course, this is DC TV, so it won’t include Wonder Woman, Superman, Aquaman, etc. but I’m interested in seeing what changes and how Barry goes back to change it (again) after realizing there’s a bigger impact than what he probably believes there to be. Regardless, we’ll have to wait until early October to find out. The real question is this: How many times does Nora Allen have to die (there are approximately four Barrys in that scene at some point — I may write something about this theory)?
See you in October!
- They could have locked Barry up, waited for him to calm down, then gone after Zoom together. Just a thought.
- Barry’s pout as he sits stewing in the prison he’s subjected many a metahuman to is fitting.
- Zoom has a lot of nerve killing Henry in the exact same place as Nora. An aside: Zolomon knew that Earth-3 Jay Garrick had Henry’s face, so did he just never anticipate anyone ever removing the mask?
- Who, at this point, hadn’t guessed that the Man in the Iron Mask was another Earth’s Jay Garrick with Henry’s face? Speculation went on for months. Kudos to everyone who guessed correctly.
- I’m still sad that Earth-2 Wells went home. Really, I think I may have liked this incarnation of him better than Earth-1 Wells/Thawne.
- Wells finally calling Cisco by his first name instead of Ramon was just so well done and you could tell that no matter the snarky nature of their relationship, that they did care for each other.
- Iris West: Being Barry Allen’s rock since 2000.
- I am so happy Barry and Iris finally reached a stage where they’re on the same page and ready to move forward romantically, only for Barry to go back and change time. See the episode “Out of Time” for reference. Although, that time travel was by accident.
- Although Barry’s decision to go back to save his mom was a bit selfish and born out of immense grief, his decision to not go into a relationship with Iris while he was feeling broken is a mature choice. So is Iris’ decision to let him be ready and allow him time and letting each other know that no matter what, their feelings won’t change. Such good shit.
- Having said that, it’s been two seasons and patience is wearing thin.
- Wells: “Ramon, have you ever worked with a tool before?” Cisco: “I’m working with one now.”
- That speech Caitlin gave Zoom wasn’t very convincing.
- Joe looking on in wonder as Barry explains the time remnant to Wally. “Is that what I look like when they start talking about science?” Iris: “Pretty much.” Joe is all of us.
- After they killed off Henry, we knew they wouldn’t have the audacity to kill off Joe as well, so his kidnapping didn’t hold too much suspense because we knew Joe wouldn’t really have been hurt.
- Did Barry learn nothing from the Speed Force?
- Turning Zoom into a textbook psycho killer didn’t really do him any favors, but Teddy Sears killed it (no pun intended) being the evil counterpart to the “Jay” everyone thought they knew.
- I’m beyond happy that everyone was involved in taking down Zoom in some way.
- Barry mentions the Time Wraiths being angry. Um, how does he think they’re going to feel when they realize he went back and erased the last sixteen years?
- I feel like “The Flash” hasn’t really established solid rules for time travel.
- Season 1-finale Barry disappears as soon as present-Barry saves his mom. The damage done to the timeline is already making me excited and nervous as hell.
- Before being taken by the Time Wraiths, Zoom turns into Black Flash. Hmm…
"The Race of His Life" could have been elevated if Zoom's story line was more developed, but Team Flash working together to take him down, with everyone playing an important role, made up for a little of that. There was a great action sequence, some romance, good emotional beats, but it's the last few moments of the episode that will have you coming back for season three.