May 20, 2015

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Finale Review: “The Flash”


Despite the declining fortunes of network TV, it was a good season for newly-launched dramas, with big hits emerging for FOX in Empire, ABC in How to Get Away With Murder, and CW in THE FLASH.  The latter isn’t just one of its network’s highest-rated shows ever, but remarkably has outrated series in its comic-book/fantasy genre on the bigger networks, including Gotham, Agents of SHIELD and Grimm.  Along with its more moderately successful older DC Comics cousin Arrow, it’s spawned a pair of new shows for next season:  official spin-off Legends of Tomorrow, and CBS’s Supergirl, which is technically separate but produced by the same Greg Berlanti-led production team (and since CBS is a co-owner of CW, a crossover there isn’t impossible at some point).

Like the new Supergirl, and in contrast with the more angst-ridden Arrow, The Flash is an old-fashioned, rah-rah comic book adventure, with a stalwart, pure of heart hero in the person of Barry Allen (Grant Gustin), CSI technician by day and speedster whenever duty calls, ever since a malfunctioning particle accelerator gave him super-velocity and also created a slew of less pleasant meta-humans.  His sidekicks, too, are–with one exception–an uncomplicated group of do-gooders, including scientists Caitlin (Danielle Panabaker) and Cisco (Carlos Valdes), surrogate father Detective Joe West (Jesse L. Martin), who raised Barry after his real dad was unjustly put in jail for killing his mother, and Joe’s daughter Iris (Candice Patton), crusading reporter and holder of Barry’s heart.

Although largely a procedural, accumulating evil meta-humans in the super-powered jail underneath the lab where Cisco and Caitlin work, The Flash has a serialized undercarriage, concerning the murder of Barry’s mother and the revelation that her killer was Barry’s mentor, seemingly kindly scientist Dr. Harrison Wells (Tom Cavanaugh), who was actually a villain from the future, Eobard Thawne.  For reasons that were never completely clear even after tons of expository dialogue attempted to explain it, Thawne, despite his own super-speed (as the “Reverse Flash”), had to take over Wells’ body and over a period of decades create the circumstances for Barry to become The Flash in order to return to his own century, even though in the future he and The Flash are deadly enemies.  (Eventually, you just had to half-nod at the explanation in an “if you say so” sort of way.)

Tonight’s season finale, written by Consulting Producer Gabrielle Stanton and series co-creator Andrew Kreisberg, from a story by Kreisberg and Berlanti, and directed by Dermott Downs, provided a climax to that storyline.  It was largely a build-up to Barry’s speed-fueled creation of a wormhole that would allow him to return to the past to save his mother’s life, while giving Wells/Thawne the opportunity to get back to his own era.  There was enough jargon about wormholes and black holes in the episode’s first 45 minutes to make it feel like Interstellar Jr, but in the event, Barry-from-the-present, at the instigation of Barry-from-the-future, who had been fighting Reverse Flash in the past (just go with it), allowed his mother to die once again, preserving the current timeline.  That left Thawne stuck in the present, but before he could wreak revenge, the show’s other regular, the otherwise expendable Eddie Thawne (Rick Cosnett), who was both Iris’s inconvenient boyfriend and Thawne/Wells’s ancestor, killed himself so as to eradicate Thawne’s existence in the future and thus the present.  (Deep breath.)  After all of this, however, Barry’s mega-speed combined with the particle accelerator to create a black hole, and the season-ending cliffhanger had him flying into the mouth of the thing in an attempt to save the world.  (Spoiler alert:  he will.)

The Flash has been at pains over the course of the season to make it clear that despite their shared universe, it’s a different piece of work from Arrow–to the point that crossovers between the two shows have become increasingly awkward, however lucrative–and individual viewers will either prefer the light or dark side of comic-book sagas.  The preference here tends to be for the more morally complex approach, so The Flash, while accomplished and enjoyable, and with a charming lead in Gustin, feels a bit thin and predictable.  Viewers, though, are clearly drawn to the family-friendly slant, paving the way for Flash‘s tremendous success.  The series is keeping its timeslot and companion show iZombie next season (also a DC Comics property, but from a different wing of the mythology), and although shows aimed at younger viewers can have a short half-life (take a look at Glee and The Vampire Diaries), it certainly has years of big success ahead.  Whether The Flash will be able to outrun its audience’s attention span is something the show will learn over time.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."