It’s usually not a good idea to review a TV episode based on the promises it makes rather than what it actually delivers, especially when that episode is a show’s season finale. But The Flash is an unusual show, and producers Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg have, thus far, made good on its promises. After all, as we now know, that gorilla cage we saw in the pilot episode was no mere set dressing. So while “Fast Enough” provides a more than suitable resolution to the overarching story of season 1 — the mystery of the Reverse-Flash and the murder of Barry Allen’s mother — it runs the extra mile (sorry) by whetting our appetites for a new universe of wonders to come in season 2.
I say “universe” quite literally. For as star Grant Gustin has already revealed, the finale offers limitless potential for the series moving forward, with the host of worlds and dimensions that exist within the DC Multiverse. Once Barry has opened a stable wormhole in order to travel back in time and prevent his mother’s death at the hands of Eobard Thawne, comic book fans need look no further than that winged helmet that finds its way into S.T.A.R. Labs to imagine what’s to come. It’s entirely fitting, of course, that The Flash be the vehicle through which the Multiverse is introduced, since the DC Universe’s longstanding tradition of parallel worlds was first seen in September 1961’s Flash #123, “Flash of Two Worlds!”; in which Barry met the first man to bear the Flash’s name, the fellow who wore that helmet: Jay Garrick of Keystone City.
The biggest achievement of “Fast Enough”, however, is in giving Barry agency in triumphing over the Reverse-Flash. After last week’s “Rogue Air” with its last-minute capture of Wells, unsatisfying in that it was possible only with the help of Firestorm and the Arrow, it was unclear if and/or how Barry would be responsible for the final victory over his archenemy. But as the hero of this story, and the fulcrum of a gripping first year, it was wholly necessary that he earn that victory. Fortunately, while Eddie fires the shot that erases his descendant Thawne from history (and if this proves to be Rick Cosnett’s swan song in the role, both he and his character have done the the show proud), it’s Barry who makes the fateful decision not to save his mother and to return to the present in order to stop Thawne from wreaking havoc on the future. In so doing, he refuses to trade the family he has, Joe and Iris, for the parents he lost. Despite all the questionable science that’s thrown around in this episode (but then anyone watching The Flash for its science has long since lost their mind), it’s an emotional rather than an intellectual choice that defines Barry here.
But if we want intellect, there are plenty of other scientists on-hand this week. After capturing Thawne, Ronnie sticks around long enough to wed Caitlin, in a brief ceremony officiated by Stein, his other other half. Stein takes on the role in Team Flash usually played by Wells, that of adviser, since he explains that, should Barry decide to change the past, there’s no telling what consequences his actions will have on their present. He also tells Eddie that, since he’s present for these events as Wells’ great-great-great-grandfather, he’s a “wild card,” something that science can’t explain. Like Barry, however, Eddie decides his own fate, and determines that he’s not just a coincidence. He’s a hero, and he’s in love with Iris. Iris also decides she won’t be a slave to fate; and chooses to “screw the future” and stay with Eddie despite all the proof she winds up with Barry.
Iris has proved to be the show’s most problematic regular character this season; one whose fate has all too often been decided by the men in her life. Despite Candice Patton’s game performance, the result was a character with little life outside of the men who want to protect her. Here again, “Fast Enough” gives hope for the future. The rooftop scene Iris shares with Barry is the best one she’s had all season. For once, she’s allowed to be all the things we want Iris West to be: confident, clear-headed, independent, and strong. First and foremost a friend to Barry, as much of a rock for him as the various father figures in his life, and able to provide the emotional support his friends at S.T.A.R. cannot.
Though some may cry foul at this episode’s cliffhanger ending, with Barry racing into the sky to stop a singularity from destroying the planet, I applaud the show for trying something new within the DC TV Universe. Arrow has, for three years now, ended its seasons more or less conclusively, so it is understandable that fans may want more of the same. But The Flash has pushed the storytelling envelope for the better part of this season, giving us the most satisfying adaptation yet of a Silver Age comic-book superhero. So why stop racing now? May season 2 be every bit as breathless.
- Oh but the man-tears did flow this week. I counted at least four scenes of waterworks. But if any episode this season deserved them, it was the finale, especially when Barry is reunited for a few final moments with his mom. Still, someone needs to put together a supercut of The Flash‘s first-season crying scenes, if only to ease the producers off of them in season 2.
- The Speed Force has been name-checked before, but in “Fast Enough” it gets more or less defined; and we get to see it from Barry’s perspective as he’s traveling back in time.
- Also during that time trip, which presents the past, present, and future all at once, is a brief image of Caitlin as Killer Frost.
- Cisco’s memories of the alternate timeline are finally explained as we learn he’s become metahuman. He thus takes his first step towards becoming Vibe, the superhero he is in the comics.
- “It’s at that moment that I plan on shouting something along the lines of ‘Eureka’ or possibly ‘Excelsior.’ I am uncommitted.”
- Henry’s words to Barry about things happening for a reason call to mind Pa Kent’s final words to young Clark in Superman: The Movie.
- “Ronnie, I love you. But this is a time machine, not a bookcase from Ikea.”
- “So long, and thanks for all the fish.” Somewhere Douglas Adams is smiling.
- 1 minute, 52 seconds… You just can’t lay off the number 52, can you, DC?
- “Let’s not fight on our wedding day.”
- Several characters from “Legends of Tomorrow” are referenced in this episode. Wells mentions Rip Hunter (to be played by Arthur Darvill) as inventing the first time machine, and we see Captain Cold (Wentworth Miller) and Hawkgirl/Kendra Saunders (Ciara Renée) as the singularity occurs over Central City.
- “Goodbye, dad. Goodbye, son.” Alright, I’ll admit I choked up a little over that one.
Next season: Can Barry prevent a global catastrophe? Will he get an assist from the earth’s other champions? Until then, check out my exclusive interviews with the stars of The Flash as they look ahead to season 2!
What did you think of this week’s episode? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter (@JMaCabre).