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We’d heard since the series premiere of The Flash that Barry Allen was fated to vanish in the looming Crisis that turns the skies red. Well, he did, but the writers put a surprising — and heartbreaking — twist on that plot point.
In Night 3 of the Crisis on Infinite Earths, Flash and his team of heroes find the source of the antimatter wave taking out universe after universe. It’s all being powered by a captured Flash on a super-fast treadmill, as they realize the Barry Allen from Earth 90 is being forced to juice the destruction of the multiverse. As suspected, this Flash, played by John Wesley Shipp, is the universe from the short-lived 1990s Flash TV series that was cancelled after one season.
Grant Gustin’s Barry Allen gears up to reverse the treadmill, stop the antimatter wave, and sacrifice himself to fulfill his destiny. But then Shipp’s Barry takes matters into his own hands. He temporarily steals Gustin’s Flash’s powers, and sacrifices himself to stop the wave. His final scene finds him flashing back to the 1990’s series days, before evaporating in a flash of lightning. So, a Flash vanished in Crisis. Just not the one we expected.
Flash showrunner Eric Wallace told Entertainment Weekly the decision was made as a way to honor the Flash’s death from the original Crisis comic, while also keeping Gustin’s Flash around to — you know — still have a hit TV series for a few more years.
“You have gotta come up with a way to honor what was said with the Monitor in [The Flash] 601 saying the Flash must die, but also give it a nice story twist, get in some emotion. We thought about it for quite a while, and we got to what I hope the audience thinks is a satisfying conclusion, which is a little bit of the best of both worlds,” he explained. “Grant almost doing it, wanting to, being the hero we always thought he was gonna be and at the very last second, in comes John Wesley Shipp, and it completes a 30-year arc … Hopefully, we honor the original Flash from the ‘90s show.”
Wallace said Shipp was thankful to the creative team for giving him an opportunity to close off this dangling chapter, as the 1990s series was cancelled without a proper finale. So, letting Shipp’s Barry go out a hero was a story three decades in the making: “That was real emotion you saw in that scene as they kinda realized, Grant’s like, ‘He’s passing a real torch to me. This really is the end of him.’ And then John, he told us I think afterwards, ‘Thank you for giving me this opportunity to close a chapter.’”
In an interesting twist, producer Marc Guggenheim said the flashback scene to a clip form the 1990s series, which shows a young Shipp with his original co-star and love interest Tina McGee (Amanda Pays), wasn’t in the original script: “We’re like, ‘You know what? We want to a little bit of his life flashing (no pun intended) flashing before his eyes.’ We just craved it. Our amazing post-producer Geoff Garrett went to the archives and got the footage … But man, it’s awesome. It’s like one of my favorite moments in the hour.”
Crisis on Infinite Earths is on hiatus until January 14, 2020.
What’d you think of the Flash’s death? A good twist? A copout? A fitting end to the old Flash’s journey?