It is time to bust out my time-travel movie reference arsenal, because things are about to get heavy, Doc. Yes, this recap title is a Terminator quote, and dammit does it apply. I am about to recap the crap out of The Flash’s first season finale, so SPOILER ALERT: you can’t go back in time and unread what you’re about to read if you haven’t already seen this magnificent episode of superhero time travel television. Alright, here I go:
AUUUUUGHHHHHHHH! AHHHHH! YOU GUYS! AH! BARRRRRRYYYYYY AHHHHHHHHHH! TIME TRAVEL FLASH HE’S SO FAST AUGHHHHHHHHH JOHN WESLEY SHIPPPPPPPPPPP WHYYYYY BARRY TWO BARRYS FUTUUUUUURE PAST PRESENT EVERYTHING EDDIEEEEEEEEEE GREAT SCOTT!! AUGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH AHAAAAAAAAAAAAA HELP ME I’M FALLING I NEED WATER I NEED AIR I NEED THE FLASH JOE NEEDS THE FLASH CISCO NEEDS THE FLASH CAITLIN NEEDS THE FLASH IRIS NEEDS THE FLASH AND SHE NEEDS EDDIE AND EDDIE’S NAME HAS THE WORD “DIE” IN IT HOW DARE THEY I’M FREAKING OUT AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!
Funny how an episode so focused on the events of the past excluded the typical “Previously on The Flash” season montage. Without preamble, Barry’s original voiceover follows our hero as he makes his way down to interrogate the no-longer-elusive Man in Yellow. Barry’s final voiceover is somber, yet powerful, changing the formally determined and optimistic words into something sad and almost dreadful. Perhaps Barry is dreading the truth? Maybe finally getting the answers he’s wanted for so long won’t satisfy him, but instead force him to make decisions that he’s not ready to make? Yeah, it’s totally the second one.
Barry makes the journey down into the heart of the lab in solitude. He leaves his suit upstairs with his team (both halves of Firestorm included) wordlessly waiting and watching the cameras. It is Barry Allen that is going to ask the questions, not The Flash.
BARRY: Why did you help me?
EOBARD: Because I needed you to get fast. Fast enough to rupture the space-time barrier and create a stable wormhole through which I could return home.
So it turns out that Eobard Thawne was/is born in 2151 (136 years from present day). Okay, what the actual hell? How does he get to 2024 for that famous headline? Eobard also killed Nora Allen in hate and anger when future-Barry foiled his Terminator plan to kill 10-year-old Barry by saving himself (his 10-year-old-self) and leaving him(self) in the street away from the crime scene.
Wells/Thawne won’t tell Barry/us why he hates him — which annoys me to no end — but he tells them that neither speedster will ever be strong enough to defeat each other. When Reverse Flash learned of The Flash’s true identity — which shouldn’t have been that hard considering everyone in Central City and Starling City knows — he used the opportunity to go back in time. AND THAT’S HOW WE ALL GOT HERE.
“What if you were to suffer a tragedy? What if you were to suffer something so horrible, so traumatic that your child self could never recover? Then you would not become The Flash. So I stabbed your mother in the heart.” –Reverse Flash
I’d like to point out that Wells/Thawne uses the phrase “a future” rather than “the future.” That’s when I realized that my brain would not survive this finale wrinkle-free. Wells/Thawne’s incentive for Barry to help him back in time is the opportunity to save his mother and prevent his father’s wrongful imprisonment. This “gift” pisses Barry off in a way we’ve never seen before. For the first time, Barry wants to murder someone… has anyone taught him that vibrating knife-hand trick? Barry’s rage triggers creepy darkside daddy feelings in Wells/Thawne and he likens himself to Joe and Henry. OH HELL NAH!
(Excuse me while I take another capslock break: HOW DARE YOU HOW DAAAAAAAARE YOU DON’T YOU TELL BARRY THAT YOU LOVE HIM YOU FRIGGING ZOOM FREAK YOU ARE NOT EITHER OF BARRY’S DADDIES STOP STOP NO ONE EVEN LIKES YOU I MEAN SOMETIMES I THINK YOU’RE HANDSOME BUT OTHER THAN THAT YOU SUCK AHHHHHHHHH)
— The Nerds of Color (@TheNerdsofColor) May 20, 2015
So here we have Barry’s choice: Go back in time and undo all of the evil Wells/Thawne has caused. This implies that in Eobard’s timeline, the Allen family is intact. Here is what we know — from Thawne, who is shady. Remember.
Eobard’s Timeline aka the Original Timeline
- Nora Allen is alive.
- Dr. Henry Allen is not in prison.
- Harrison Wells married Tess Morgan, and they created S.T.A.R. Labs. They both lived to see the explosion that made Barry Allen The Flash in an unknown year later than 2014.
- Joe West did not foster Barry Allen. Barry and Iris were not raised together.
- There are no cows.
- This information comes from Eobard Thawne, the man who lies and manipulates purely to achieve his goal of getting home.
- “There are no cows” is bullshit. Just like Barry’s opportunity to “undo the evil” and reunite his family is bullshit. Wells/Thawne can say whatever he wants and claim that it’s The Future; we have no way of knowing what statements are true and what statements are false because he keeps mixing the truth with lies.
- I believe the only true fact from the above list is #2, and that fact is the only one that Wells/Thawne altered when he went back in time.
- Wells is lying about Barry’s family being intact; he’s only trying to a.) get him to create the time wormhole to achieve what he thinks is a possibility when it’s not, and b.) ultimately alter this current TV timeline where Barry has the strong support of Team Flash comprised of people brought together as consequences of Wells/Thawne’s interference with S.T.A.R. Labs.
Kinda trippy that the whole series is in an alternate timeline, right? #TheFlash
— Andrew Kreisberg (@AJKreisberg) May 20, 2015
Barry talks out the Butterfly Effect with his team in the lab. Fifteen years worth of moments and choices and relationships are possibly hasta la vista, baby if Barry stops his mother’s death. Joe and Caitlin are all for it. Joe immediately runs out of the lab, presumably because he has something in his eye.
Barry chases him
because he’s the fastest man alive and asks Joe if he’s okay with Barry never coming to live with him. Of course Joe’s not okay! Remember that speech from the winter finale? Here’s a refresher. Don’t cry.
“[…] you would change the whole dynamic of the house. Suddenly the house was filled with this light, this energy! I mean, you brightened up everything. […]So there I was, thinking that I’m changing your life by taking you in, but the truth is: you changed mine.”
But Joe won’t be selfish; if Barry has the chance to grow up with both of his parents, that’s what Joe wants for Barry. That’s what he wants… for his son. Oh, god. Joe reminds Barry that this is what he wanted to do all along, and that, finally, Barry should get to save his own life (not literally because that’s what the future Flash with the white logo on his suit does, but we know what Joe means).
— Black Girl Nerds (@BlackGirlNerds) May 20, 2015
— The Nerds of Color (@TheNerdsofColor) May 20, 2015
Barry relays all of this brand new information to Daddy Flash — during Iron Heights visiting hours, I guess. Can other prisoners hear what they’re talking about? Henry Allen tells his son that changing the past is crazy. He is right.
HENRY: What if it changes you?
BARRY: I don’t care.
HENRY: I do.
I am consistently impressed by the parenting Henry Allen does from prison. Here we see Barry acting very young, speaking slowly, tears in his eyes, trying to convince his father that he could make them a family again. Henry insists that they are already a family. It’s a big, beautiful speech portrayed perfectly and heartbreakingly by Shipp and Gustin. Oh, and this happened:
— David Taylor 2 (@DT2Author) May 20, 2015
— John Wesley Shipp (@JohnWesleyShipp) May 20, 2015
On a happier note1, Ronnie tells Caitlin that he’s back in Central City for good. They’re going to get married again! A SnowStorm wedding!
On a rooftop, another couple also reconnects: it’s the first time (that we see) Westallen single and with no secrets between them. They’re adorable and joke about their previous meetings when Barry was the “Streak” and Iris was superhero sprung on him. Westallen talks about Barry saving his mom, and Iris implies that maybe they get married there because they weren’t raised under the same roof? I scream. Time paradoxes force people to have real, adult conversations.
They hug and Iris cries beautiful tears. When he asks for her advice, she urges him to do what he needs to do for himself because he is always thinking about other people. The plot thickens: if Barry saves his mom, he and Iris might end up together! Lawd. That hug, in this timeline, felt like a mournful, “too late” hug; Iris’s heart is still with Eddie.
Barry re-visits our villain to ask how the time travel thing works exactly. Yeah, I was going cross-eyed wondering the same thing. Basically, Barry has to run into a particle at Mach 2 and punch a hole that become a wormhole gateway to “infinite times.” Infinite… crises? AUGH. The only one stoked about this is Dr. Martin Stein.
Cisco Ramon — loved-by-all, Nerd-of-Color champion — is the only one like, “This is stupid. Why are we talking about this? I’m not going to help my superfriend die.” He speaks for us all. Barry brings him back in by asking him to build a
TARDIS time machine. But seriously, THEY ALL LOVE BARRY SO MUCH THAT THEY WANT HIM TO CHANGE TIME. It’s… like… it’s not bad friendship but also that’s the space-time continuum, ya know?
So Ronnie and Cisco team up to do the timey-wimey thing. I like to think that Cisco would’ve invited Ray Palmer, but Ray’s busy being tiny, I think. Cisco casually visits Dr. Evil (Cisco’s nickname for Wells/Thawne) to ask about the “time machine” (imagine my Dr. Evil airquotes) blueprints.
As Wells/Thawne looks over the plans, Cisco paces around trying not to ask a bajillion nerdy questions. He cutely fails.
Cisco hates him, but Wells/Thawne kinda-sorta loves him and misses him and thinks about him and the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon… wait, what was I talking about?
I’m sad about Wells/Cisco. Cisco reveals that he remembers the alternate timeline where “Wells” murdered him, and Wells/Thawne perks up. It’s finally confirmed that Cisco became a meta-human who can “see through vibrations in the universe.” We all knew he’d be Vibe, but this shit is excitingly nerdy in a literary way, too:
NOC Breakdown: Cisco is a Meta
- In terms of metacinema and metafiction, the only character more meta than Cisco is Abed Nadir from Community. Cisco’s self-awareness is what lends this show most of its superhero/comic book tropes.
- Cisco is the one who usually gets excited about Metas and names them and is basically obsessed with them… turns out he is one. That is meta as hell.
- “OMG WAIT THIS EXPLAINS HIS REAL WORLD REFERENCES. BECAUSE HE GETS VIBRATIONS OF POP CULTURE THROUGH OUR UNIVERSE!” —ConStar
- The Big Bang Theory t-shirts make even more sense now.
— Keith Chow 周樂文 (@the_real_chow) May 8, 2015
Up in the lab, Doc Stein asks Eddie to move so that he could use a certain computer, and Eddie falls into an existential crisis. Oh Eddie, my cupcake, my cinnamon roll, my handsome smiley face… I love you.
Stein calms him down and tells Eddie that he’s not useless; he is the ineffable wild card anomaly. “You are the only person in this whole story that gets to choose his own future,” Stein tells beautiful Eddie. Eddie chooses Iris West2.
Barry’s freaking out because the possibility of a black hole eating up the entire world is added into the mix3. Oh yeah, you also have 1:52 minutes to do all of space-time changing stuff that you’re stressed about. No one told you that yet? You still sure you wanna do this? Because it seems like everyone is just peer pressuring you a little bit.
"I was born with one father and that tragedy gave me another." BARRRRRRYYYYYY #TheFlash
— Deepest, bluest, my hat is like a shark's fin (@NerdPoetics) May 20, 2015
OKAY, TIME FOR SOME HAPPY: a wedding right outside of the labs! Apparently, Barry is the one who sped to get Caitlin’s dress at her apartment. Ahhhh, deleted Snowbarry scene, I understand why you had to be cut. But I still want it. That’s okay because Stein/Ronnie bickering + Stein saying, “Let’s not fight on our wedding day” makes up for it.
Cisco is me if I’m ever asked to be a part of a wedding. He is just so so so into it. Cisco is basically the opposite of Barry Allen, who is still overwhelmed and thinking about literal global-shattering decisions.
I’m sure he’s not thinking about the fact that all of his love interests (WestAllen, Barricity, Snowbarry) are paired off with other people, because that’s not what I’m pretending it is, I swear.
— The Nerds of Color (@TheNerdsofColor) May 20, 2015
Hey now. Hey now, Barry, don’t dream it’s over. He says goodbye to all of the people that he loves, possibly forever. I can’t believe how supportive they all are of him, but I guess it’s because none of them (except Cisco) would remember this life.
Cisco gives him (and us) a final reminder that there will be THREE BARRY ALLENS IN ONE ROOM. “May the Speed Force be with you,” Cisco tells him4.
I cry at all of the goodbyes. This is a big fucking mission.
Mach 2? No problem. This is probably the coolest part of the entire episode: WE SEE THE SPEED FORCE AND IT IS GLORIOUS. Each still is a gorgeous and colorful piece of art… and a scene from The Flash’s past, present, and future.
- Barry moves in with the Wests
- Killer Frost, blonde and blue-eyed and icily powerful
- A golden statue of himself in front of The Flash Museum
- Scruffy Barry imprisoned in Iron Heights talking to an unknown visitor
- The Legends of Tomorrow sizzle reel featuring White Canary, Captain Cold, and ATOM
- The night of Nora Allen’s murder
Barry arrives — nearly late ironically — in his old childhood bedroom. All three Allens are yelling as the two speedsters fight within the lightning in the room. Our Barry makes eye contact with Future White Logo Barry for the first time.
Does Future-Barry know to look at the bedroom door because he remembers when he was there the first time? Does Future-Barry raise his hand to halt Our-Barry because he remembers seeing the Future-Him make the same motion when he was the one hiding? Causal nexus?
It’s Marty McFly in Back to the Future II ducking behind the soda shop counter or hiding in the rafters during the school dance…. except more heart breaking.
NOC Breakdown: Three Barrys
- Our-Barry peeks through the door
- Future-Barry sees Our-Barry and signals him to wait.
- Future-Barry grabs baby-Barry to put him(self) out of danger.
- At this point, Future-Barry has got to know that Our-Barry has made his choice: he won’t change anything and leave his fate on the path it was already on. This means Future-Barry is still leaving him(self) the opportunity to make the decision, but has faith/knowledge of what’s about to happen… I think.
- Our-Barry closes the door as the Man in Yellow moves in to stab Nora, effectively sealing her death.
- Our-Barry sobs, not watching, but then uses the time to say the goodbye he never had the chance to tell his mom. I don’t need to describe this goodbye. I won’t do it justice.
I do want to point out that, at first, Barry told her “I’m The Flash” like he wasn’t going to reveal his true identity. But then he took off his hood and became “Barry” again: the man who questioned his mother’s killer earlier and the man Henry Allen told him he was proud to know. Nora was at peace when she died, but baby-Barry on that street somewhere won’t know that for another 15 years.
In our present timeline, Reverse Flash is trying to get home in Cisco and Ronnie’s Time Sphere
and avoid flying Earth 2 helmets coming out of the wormhole.
He gives a really, really, really heartfelt thank you to Cisco, and I don’t know if it’s because it’s 2am and I’ve been
failing at writing this recap for over 24-hours… but I feel like crying. Does Eobard Thawne have any friends in his timeline? Probably not considering that even the people he seems to love (Barry and Cisco) are people he’d murder… in a flash.
OH, BECAUSE HE’S THE REVERSE OF BARRY. OHHHHHHH.
Thank god Our-Barry makes it back through the wormhole just in time to sock him in his
handsome, evil, imposter face. SONIC PUNCH, BABY!
The newlyweds race to shut down the particle accelerator by, like, pulling wires out of everything. They are the red herring… the audience thinks that one of them is going to die since they just got a happy ending.
Wells/Thawne is shocked and angry that Barry didn’t save his mother. This is the part that leads me to believe that Nora’s death was key to Barry becoming The Flash; only if he had saved her would Barry have become the great man and nemesis of Eobard Thawne5.
Rage makes for powerful fighting. Reverse Flash unleashes his metaphorical red light saber and talks a little too long about killing everyone that Barry loves. Just as the man in yellow is about to stab Barry’s heart, a gunshot is fired.
Detective Eddie Thawne, the anomaly, makes the wild card Tommy Merlyn sacrifice; he shot himself. I don’t know what hurts the most: Iris’s scream when she realizes that Eddie’s no longer next to her, Joe’s repeated yelling of, “WHAT DID YOU DO?” or Dr. Stein’s face when he realizes that he is the one who hammered into Eddie’s brain that Eobard’s existence depended on the preservation of Eddie’s life.
As Eobard Thawne’s existence starts to flicker, he pleads, “Cisco, help me.” But Eddie made his fate and is dead. so now Eobard’s existence in our timeline is a paradox: he is erased. Before he ceases to exist, he turns to Barry — as Billy Chambers, now — and tells him in one final dick move, “I’ve controlled your life for so long, Barry. What will you do without me?”
As if things aren’t shitty enough, the wormhole reopens, which is not supposed to happen. And then the black hole opens up in the sky above the city, which is definitely not supposed to happen. They tear Iris away from Eddie’s body, which then gets sucked into the wormhole
leaving lots of possibility for him to survive/steal his DNA/come back/become the new Reverse Flash.
The singularity is pretty much an upside down tornado. Barry has experience with those; he’s going to try to stop it, just like 23 episodes ago:
Barry practically flies up the buildings and into the sky….
- “Because I hate you. Not you now. You years from now.” This just sounds like Thawne kinda sorta loves Barry right now. What the hell did Barry do to him to make him hate a man that everyone obviously adores?
- But why is Wells/Thawne sorry that Cisco is a metahuman who can see timelines? “A great and honorable destiny?” Is Cisco going to die? Will Cisco have a tragic story? Also, Wells/Thawne, you were so close to not being a dick.
"Goodbye, son" was the line where everyone in the cast at the table read broke down in tears. #TheFlash
— Andrew Kreisberg (@AJKreisberg) May 20, 2015
- Ronnie Raymond and Dr. Martin Stein have such a fun chemistry, and I am ridiculously pleased that he’s the one who pronounced SnowStorm at their wedding. That’s some fanservice, crackfic ish right there. I can’t wait to see the two of them more on Legends of Tomorrow. #Firestorm
- Iris happily jumping up and down with the bouquet… hurts me. She even glances at Eddie.
- Dr. Martin Stein couldn’t be any more Doc Brown from Back to the Future if he tried.
- Big Belly Burger
- Jay Garrick’s hat
- Killer Frost
- The Flash Museum
- Rip Hunter
- Kendra Saunders aka Hawkgirl
That’s it! I frame-by-frame over-analyzed this episode, and, guess what? No regrets. I guess this show (and Barry Allen) has that effect on me. So thanks, everyone for tweeting and reading and commenting and sharing.
A finale like this raises a lot of questions and confusion, so please keep us entertained during this tortuous hiatus and let us know what you’re thinking about our favorite speedster. Until fall… see you in a flash!
- Happier-ish… unless you’re a Snowbarry fan and you’re like me: torn between enjoying Robbie’s Amell’s face and crying, “WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?” ↩
- I’m crying. ↩
- This is kind of like The Undertaking earthquake machine for Starling City during Arrow’s first season finale. In the end it was all useless trying to stop it from happening. Oops, spoiler alert. ↩
- That sounds familiar, doesn’t it? ↩
- I’m sure we’ll find out the truth when Berlanti/Guggenheim/Kreisberg explains this summer, probably during Comic-Con. ↩