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"I've always been so focused on everything that I lost that night, but I gained so much, too."
"You could have had the life you wanted. You could have had everything you ever wanted!"
"I already do."
"Not for long."
With "Fast Enough," an extraordinary first season of The Flash comes to an end, and aside from an earth-meltingly explosive final scene, much of the finale confronted our beloved characters with emotional stakes rather than collateral damage and villainous showdowns. Though we were treated to a very satisfying final battle between The Flash and Reverse-Flash, "Fast Enough" is more about the internal conflict Barry faced, in finally learning to accept the life he's been given instead of chasing the life that could have been, had Eobard Thawne never stabbed his mother in the heart and left his father culpable for her murder.
From the serious, toned-down opening voiceover, we learned that this episode of The Flash would offer a solemnity rare to the lighthearted show. Every actor was given his or her due, and every actor rose to the occasion - but none more so than Grant Gustin, who gave an incredibly affecting performance, especially as Barry stood aside and allowed his mother to die, but then took the unique opportunity to say goodbye to her, and to tell her that her son and husband are going to be okay.
But has that decision now been taken out of Barry's hands? With Eddie's beautiful sacrifice, Eobard Thawne has been erased from existence, and assuming they all survive the singularity swallowing the planet in the final moments of the episode, does this mean that the STAR Labs team now lives in a world with no particle accelerator explosion? Which means no meta-humans, no The Flash. Eobard never killed Nora Allen or framed Henry Allen, meaning that Joe and Iris never adopted Barry. Harrison Wells was never killed, nor his body possessed for Eobard's dark purposes. With the multiverse a certain development in Season Two, are we going to see a timeline where Eobard exists and one where he doesn't?
If Season Two presents a universe where Barry never lived with Iris and Joe, at least the characters were given sufficient goodbyes. Barry and Iris' last rooftop scene of the season was by far its most moving: with everything in the open, these two are more honest and kind to one another than we've ever seen them, finally selling the true depth of their friendship. And Joe's willingness to lose his only son so that Barry may gain a mother is a sacrifice as poignant as Eddie's; I admit that I sobbed when Barry told him, "Goodbye, Dad." Jesse L. Martin remains the real heart of this show, and the greatest strength of the cast.
The Season Two implications are too confounding to dwell on for long, particularly when there is so much to unpack from Season One. We know we can trust the writers for the future (futures) of The Flash - including a future that includes Killer Frost and The Vibe, both of whom were teased in "Fast Enough." Carlos Valdes is another performer who outreached himself this week, with a brief, but profound, scene with Eobard that addressed both the torment of his former death and the promise of his future identity.
The Vibe, Killer Frost, The Flash, Reverse-Flash, Firestorm, Iris West-Allen: everyone on The Flash has an historic destiny to which the writers must adhere, at least in lip service, except Eddie Thawne, a character we might once have considered inconsequential for that very reason. But Martin Stein's speech to Eddie taught him - and us - the beauty of a blank page, that Eddie's absence from the comics gives him more power and freedom than any other character combined. Eddie used that freedom to reunite with the woman he loves and then to sacrifice his life to save her. Maybe the singularity will erase that sacrifice, maybe it won't - but either way, Eddie proved himself to be the hero he's always wanted to be.
Firestorm's abrupt re-introduction into STAR Labs somehow fit perfectly into this episode, with Martin Stein's wisdom and Ronnie Raymond's love for Caitlin both adding to an already packed finale. Though Ronnie and Caitlin's wedding feels sudden, it also feels right, an earned happiness that's been delayed since the opening few minutes of the pilot. In an otherwise heartbreaking episode, seeing the extended family we have grown to love take a moment to celebrate felt exactly right - and though we don't know them as well as we know Caitlin, Cisco, Iris, Joe, Eddie and Barry, Martin and Ronnie seem at home in that family.
But someone is still missing, because even though the Harrison Wells we know has never truly been Harrison Wells - even if Eobard's sinister plans have tainted every interaction - Tom Cavanagh is a part of that family, and it doesn't feel quite whole without him. He says it himself: Joe and Henry aren't the only father figures Barry faces this week, and Wells feels pride and love in his surrogate son, the hero he created even for selfish reasons. And with one last "Run, Barry, run," he proves that he still has the power to compel Barry further, to inspire him to greatness. With the earth possibly ending ("So long, and thanks for all the fish"), Barry's going to need that inspiration more than ever. Maybe the real Harrison Wells can pick up the slack.
Season One of The Flash has been a tremendous journey, one that proves that superhero stories can be as emotionally engaging as they are thrilling and fun. On a personal note, the best part of this season, for me, has been the insightful and enthusiastic conversations we've shared in the comments each week. See you guys in Season Two.
Coolest moments this season:
Barry unravels a tornado in the pilot, tapping into his potential for the very first time.
Barry reminds us, in "Things You Can't Outrun," that life is "precious, and sweet, and extraordinary," and we realize we have a superhero who cherishes his gift rather than cursing it.
We meet Captain Cold, and Felicity Smoak visits Central City for the first time in "Going Rogue."
The Flash is born in "The Flash is Born."
We're introduced to Firestorm and Barry and Ollie have it out in "Flash vs. Arrow."
The Flash meets Reverse-Flash in a thrilling chase around a stadium in "The Man in the Yellow Suit."
Barry and Caitlin do a little "Summer Lovin'" karaoke in "Crazy For You," and oh yeah, Grant Gustin can sing.
"Not God. GRODD!" in "Fallout."
Barry accidentally speeds back in time and the entire audience heaves an enormous sigh of relief that Cisco is no longer dead in "Out of Time."
Mark Hamill goes Full Joker as The Trickster and then says the words "I am your father" in "Tricksters."
We finally get to see Tom Cavanagh give it his villainous all in "The Trap."
Grodd holds The Flash up by his neck and then throws him through a wall, and our Iris problem is finally solved, in "Grodd Lives."
And this week, Barry supersonic punches his way through a time machine built by Cisco ("Go on...") and engages in the most thrilling confrontation of his life with the man who both ruined him and created him. And what about that helmet?