Spoilers ahead for “The Race of His Life,” the Season 2 finale of The CW’s Flash!
The short version: In the wake of Henry’s death, Barry finally faces off with Zoom/Hunter/Jay once and for all. Oh, and apparently the real Jay Garrick (aka John Wesley Shipp!?) was the mystery man in the mask locked up in Zoom’s lair all this time. But just when you think things are settling down, Barry shoots back in time and saves his mom, which the time stream probably isn’t going to like too much.
We finally know the identity of the Man in the Iron Mask
We’ll start with arguably the biggest reveal of the episode, which was the culmination of a mystery that’s spanned the better part of the season: Who did Zoom have locked up that iron mask in his lair? Turns out, Zoom didn’t just make up the name Jay Garrick — he stole it from The Flash of Earth-3, who has spent the season sitting in a cage with a speed dampener strapped to his head (i.e. that face-blocking mask). Thank you, Hunter, for that lengthy bit of exposition!
Better yet, Jay is played by John Wesley Shipp, aka Barry’s (recently deceased) father Henry. Though many fans certainly saw it coming (that random callout with Henry revealing that Garrick was his mom’s maiden name was a telltale sign), it worked pretty well. The move was also a not-so-subtle nod to the original 1990s Flash TV series, which actually starred Shipp as Barry Allen. So Shipp is still The Flash (a different Flash, but still)! But, beyond the geek-tastic callback, this was the best thing they could’ve done for a lot of reasons.
A fair contingent of fans were upset when it was (seemingly) revealed Hunter Zolomon essentially made up the existence of Jay Garrick so he could pretend to be a good guy, just to take the hope away from Earth 2’s residents. Which was, admittedly, kind of silly. But now we know Hunter actually stole the moniker from the real Jay Garrick, who is a hero in his own right over on the (until now unseen) Earth-3. So Shipp is still kicking around out there for a potential cameo in the future, while fans can rest easy knowing the real Jay Garrick is out there still kicking butt and taking names. Win, win.
The gang sidelines the Flash in his own finale, but it’s pretty much okay
With Barry still (understandably) upset about the death of Henry, and after getting the drop on Zoom in an early brawl through the streets of Central City, Barry wants to go after Hunter and take him out once and for all. But, when Barry is fully prepared to walk into a trap (Zoom wants Barry to race him, in a not so subtle attempt to power a multiverse-destroying device), the gang knocks him out and locks him up.
It’s a little contrived, sure, but for the most part it works. The gang develops a plan to use Caitlin as a distraction (holograms for the win!) so they can open a breach and knock Zoom into it, then close all the breaches (but how can you do that, if Zoom can just randomly open them anywhere now?). The plan works, but Joe is accidentally sucked in with him. Oops. As for how Zoom can’t just reopen another breach after the tranquilizers wear off, they never really dig into, but this is mostly just an excuse to galvanize Barry’s resolve and refocus him on a mission to save Joe.
The future Kid-Flash also gets a chance to shine here, as Wally realizes what the team is up to and decides to free Barry himself once Joe is taken. It’s taken most of the season, but Wally is on the cusp of joining Team Flash here. Definitely look for him to be a key player in Season 3, and even to a fault, it’s kind of nice to see someone have some real faith in Barry. Plus, did you catch where he calls Joe “their” dad? Sweet moment.
With Barry free, he accepts Zoom’s challenge to race in exchange for Joe’s return. They race, and just when it seems like Barry will never catch up, he pulls out the ol’ time remnant trick Zoom has been using most of the season to get some help in the final fight, with one version of Barry sacrificing himself to stop the multiverse-exploding device, while the other lays a beating on Zoom. It’s a crazy moment, really, to watch Barry disintegrate.
With the fight over, and Barry standing over Zoom, the hero is spared the tough decision of what to do next. It turns out Barry used his time remnant jump to lure out the time wraiths, which go after Zoom and yank him into oblivion once they realize he’s down the for count. It made enough sense, and was a clean way to wrap up the big bad arc without having to try and lock Zoom up in a cell and feed him Big Belly Burger.
We know more about the multiverse now
It’s worth wondering: Had Supergirl not been picked up for a new season, would they have used Zoom’s multiverse device as an excuse to explain it away (Sorry guys, Kara and the gang were all killed off screen!). Kidding, mostly. But, before getting carried away by evil angels, Zoom drops some fascinating intel about the multiverse. It turns out Earth-1 (aka the reality in which The Flash is set) is apparently at the center of the multiverse, and serves as an access point to just about everywhere else (ahem, can you say Flashpoint? We’ll get there in a minute).
This point could come back into play with the positively shocking final scene of the episode, where Barry decides to travel all the way back to the night his mother was killed, and get the drop on Reverse-Flash, saving his mother. That’s right: Grief stricken after his father’s death, Barry (inexplicably) went back and saved his mom, which is almost certainly going to wreak absolute havoc on reality itself. We get a glimpse of that here, as the Barry from earlier in the series (who came back to save his mom the first time, but decides against it) poofs out of existence.
This begs the question: Are they setting up a Flashpoint event for next season, or at least an homage to it? Just think — how awesome would it be for the first half of the season to deal with Barry living in a bizzaro reality of his own design? Plus, it’d also be an excuse for Tom Cavanagh to remain on the cast in some alt-reality capacity, since Harry is heading back to Earth-2. Problem solved!
Line of the night: Cisco’s exchange with Harry over working with a tool. Man, they have a fun dynamic.
Up next: A very long offseason. Le sigh.