[Review] The Flash (2014) Episode 2×23: “The Race Of His Life”

NOTHING ABOUT THIS MAKES ANY SENSE on this week’s recap of CW’s The Flash.


BECKY

Time for the Season Two finale!

Spoilers under the cut.

We start the episode off with Zoom murdering Henry Allen right in front of Barry while Barry literally begs him not to. Zoom then goads Barry into attacking him, insisting that they’re the same now. This sets the tone for Barry’s mental state this episode, and we’re in for a dark moment in Barry’s story.

We get a speed battle throughout Central City, with a notable moment of Zoom sharing a moment with his time remnant as they hit that magic speed threshold which means time travel is about to be a factor in the plot again. Barry’s vicious in a way we’ve never seen him, which is a disturbing moment for a hero whose essence is hope and seeing the best in people. Personally, Barry’s actions seem justified to me given what just happened, but I’m not as altruistic as the heroes I admire. Barry hesitates when he has the chance to deal Zoom the “villainous speedster hand through the heart” execution, but just then a second Zoom pops in and kills this one for him. (Time travel shenanigans.) Zoom suggests that Barry is “almost ready”, but for what we don’t yet know.

At Henry’s funeral, Barry ominously promises to take from Zoom what he took from Henry. With everything going on, I nearly forgot Wally finally got clued in that Barry is the Flash. Wally reminds Barry of all the lives he’s saved and offers to help him in any way he can. Iris and Barry have an important front porch heart-to-heart (until Zoom interrupts), which will be echoed again later in the episode.

“Almost ready” turns out to be a race with Barry to prove who is truly the Fastest Man Alive, a petty obsessiveness that almost makes sense with regards to Zoom’s sociopathy. Of course, that’s not all there is to it. Zoom has built an Earth-2 machine which will feed off their combined speed during the race in order to destroy the entire multiverse. Because success for Zoom is measured in body counts.

For the first time all season that I’ve sided with Harry Wells, Harry and Joe team up to knock Barry out and stick him in a pipeline “time out” box when he can’t be talked down from the race. It seems like a good idea, because Barry isn’t thinking straight through his grief. Team Flash has made a plan which takes out Zoom and the MacGuffin without having Barry race him. Now, the show is called “The Flash”, so you know that doesn’t work out. When things go wrong, we’re lucky Wally made that promise to help Barry out earlier. If I have to put up with Wells coming back as a major plot point every season, they do not get to kill off Joe West.

Joe ends up captured by Zoom back on Earth-2, and we finally learn the man in the iron mask is another speedster from the multiverse: the traditional comics-style Jay Garrick Flash, played by John Wesley Shipp (Henry Allen, and ’90s TV Barry Allen). Barry understandably freaks out when they rescue him later and he meets his father’s Earth-3 doppelgänger.

In traditional comics style, the destruction or salvation of the universe comes down to who can win the race. Barry and Zoom both create time remnants so we can have both the race and a fistfight. In even more traditional comics style, the winner of the race is irrelevant and thinking outside that box is how to win and beat the villain.

Speed Force boogeymen/Time Wraiths end up killing off Zoom for us so Barry’s hands stay clean and the villain can be eliminated without compromising the essence of the Flash. It’s a little bit of a cop-out which doesn’t fully resolve Barry’s emotional arc, but it’s a superhero story. You can’t have the Flash doing vengeance killings. The overall wrap-up of all the convoluted story pieces this season feels a bit overly trite and rushed to a conclusion for me. They could have cut some earlier content or story threads to get a cleaner storyline.

Harry, Jesse, and Jay leave for Earth-2, taking with them my immediate hopes for a Jesse Quick speedster and a Jay/Barry “Flash Of Two Worlds” team-up.

The episode (and the season) ends by going back to that vital Barry and Iris heart-to-heart on the West family’s front porch. As much as Barry and Iris are the Flash power couple, I’m glad this scene lets Barry deal with some of his emotional turmoil and that they both choose not to pursue a romantic relationship right now. It may not be the ending Flash fans hoped for, but it’s right for the characters at this stage, and I appreciate that.

Of course, Barry in crisis can’t be left to his own devices, and the moment Iris goes back inside, Barry travels back in time to save his mother from being murdered by the Reverse-Flash when Barry was a child. Because after that moment of maturity with Iris, Barry forgets everything he’s learned over two seasons about not fucking around with timelines and he does something that’s going to have a huge impact on his history. It’s grief-fueled, stupid, and ignores a swath of prior character development. Which is the setup for The Flash Season Three, a.k.a. “DAMMIT BARRY!”


GEORGE

So, I’ve been putting this off since the reveal of his past, but it’s time to talk about Hunter Zolomon.

What we’ve learned thus far was that Hunter was a little boy on Earth-2 (probably about the same age as Barry when his mother was killed), forced to watch his father murder his mother. After that, Hunter was placed in the creepiest orphanage of all time and then grew up to become a serial killer. He was convicted of twenty-three counts of murder and placed in an asylum where they still ran electroshock therapy. Hunter turned into Zoom when Earth-2 Wells’ particle accelerator pushed the dark matter through the ground and into Hunter during an electroshock session.

Though he now had speed powers, he apparently felt he wasn’t fast enough, so he devised a variation of the Velocity serum. It made him faster, yes, but it also began killing him. Meanwhile, he took up the Zoom identity and murdered a bunch of cops. Then he met Earth-3’s Jay Garrick somehow, imprisoned him, took his identity and started saving people and “battling” Zoom. He also organized Earth-2’s metahumans under his iron fist. Finally, once he learned of Earth-1’s Flash, he traveled to that dimension to make Barry faster in order to steal his speed and cure himself.

If that last paragraph seemed to jump all over the place, that’s because so did Hunter’s motivations. It became very obvious after the reveal that the writers never got a good handle on what Zoom’s master plan was. One week he’s an unstoppable monster, the next he’s a smug con man, the next he’s a crime lord. Comics have the luxury of filling in a character’s backstory when they need to fix things. They can do fill-in issues or a miniseries. TV doesn’t have that flexibility, so the need to have everything kinda nailed down first is important.

One final Zoom point: what was with his eyes and the vocal changes? Were those supposed to be significant? Was there supposed to be a Darkseid or Eclipso implication? And can we quit with the trope of having a character voiced by a black man being revealed as white? It makes it seem like deep down they all want to be white.


And on that note, that’s it for this season. Flashcaps will be on break for the rest of the year, so come back in January when we find out the Geoff Johns has only one idea for The Flash. One really, really bad idea. But that’s for next season, dear readers.

George Hatch just wants to celebrate the Saints’ win over the Bears last Sunday because this is his bio and he can do that if he likes. He can be found on Twitter at @Raeseti.

Becky Shire is everyone’s favorite Flash Guru, cosplayer and all-around badass. You can find her on Twitter at @ElfGrove.

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