The Good: Most of the acting, Special effects, Moments of character
The Bad: Terrible plot
The Basics: The Flash reaches its second season finale with "The Race Of His Life," an episode that once again puts a ridiculous spin on a simple problem.
Season finale time is upon us and this season one of the hardest finales to execute is coming from The Flash. The episode is entitled "The Race Of His Life" and the burden upon it is one that will reverberate into the future seasons of The Flash. The fundamental problem facing the executive producers of The Flash is that the franchise has three truly great villains: the Reverse Flash, Zoom, and Captain Cold. In the books, Captain Cold gets reformed post-Forever Evil and that has essentially already happened thanks to his role in Legends Of Tomorrow. Eobard Thawne - the Reverse Flash - was dispatched in the first season finale of The Flash and while there are implications he will continue to return as an out-of-time temporal fragment that makes no rational sense, leaving just Zoom as a constant, menacing adversary for The Flash. Don't get me wrong; in the books, The Flash has a ton of adversaries and when Mirror Master pops up, I'll be thrilled if they do it right and I'm already dreading the dumbed-down PG version The Flash will be forced to present with Murmur should Geoff Johns ambitiously try to bring that serial killer to the small screen. But villains from The Flash make for tough season-long or series-long arcs for network television (if The Flash was on AMC, I'd have different thoughts on the matter) and the Metahuman Of The Week style has already proven to be a very unsatisfying concept for The Flash, which has an audience that can easily handle serialization. So, going into "The Race Of His Life," the burden on The Flash is to satisfactorily thwart Zoom and set up the third season in a way that makes viewers want to return.
"The Race Of His Life" picks up in the last second of "Invincible" (reviewed here!) and given the climactic nature of that episode and the way it reverberates into "The Race Of His Life," it is impossible to discuss without some conversation of where that episode ended. After all, "The Race Of His Life" opens in the wake of Barry Allen losing his father and the shock of that leaves him appropriately shaken at the outset of the season finale.
With Henry Allen killed in front of him, Barry Allen is furious. The Flash and Zoom begin to race through Central City when Zoom abruptly appears to kill the version who is fighting Barry. Zoom taunts Barry with the idea that The Flash is almost ready to completely become him. Following Henry's funeral, The Flash and Zoom square off and Zoom challenges Barry to a race. The S.T.A.R. Labs team, however, knows exactly what Zoom's trap is; a device was stolen from Mercury Labs that could be used to destroy Earths throughout the multiverse - which is the vision Vibe saw previously. The speed from Zoom and Barry running will power the device and allow Zoom to destroy Earth-2.
To protect Earth and the Flash, the S.T.A.R. Labs team knocks The Flash out and sticks him in a prison cell in order to keep him from racing Zoom. The rest of the team attempts to entrap Zoom and when they throw him back to Earth-2, Joe West is pushed through the breach with him. When Wally West finds out, he rescues Barry and The Flash demands the right to race Zoom to save Joe's life.
"The Race Of His Life" has moments of true greatness, but it falls down ridiculously fast. Opening with the sudden macguffin of the Mercury Labs device that can destroy Earths across the multiverse and Zoom informing Barry just how he can defeat him, there are elements to the episode that are tragically bad. Zoom telling Barry how to defeat him opens an instant plot problem with the episode. The Flash is told by Zoom that Barry has to be willing to kill his own temporal remnant and that being the case, all Barry has to do to stop Zoom from executing his plan to power the world destroyer (why the hell does Mercury Labs have this thing anyway?!) is make Zoom believe he is dead already. In other words, create a temporal remnant of The Flash, then have him killed in front of Zoom so Zoom doesn't have The Flash to rely upon. Similarly, Barry has had numerous experiences now with time travel; there is virtually no temporal consequence to Barry going back in time a day to save his father's life from Zoom. Or going back in time, creating a temporal remnant of Henry Allen and letting Zoom kill the temporal remnant while the proper Henry Allen remains alive somewhere safe.
So, up until the last act, "The Race Of His Life" is wonky at best; before the episode turns away from its potential to completely trash the series. The Flash takes a dive, as if the executive producers realized that they had shot their wad on the potential of the series far too early. The best analogy I have for what is happening with The Flash now is Glee. Glee reached its peak success early with a cast that was solidly constructed; the moment its first season succeeded, the subsequent seasons should have been re-constructed to make each season a semester of the school year to keep the cast solid. It would have given the show four more years before the producers had to deal with reinventing the show. In a similar way, the second season of The Flash banked heavily on keeping Zoom around and thwarting him in "The Race Of His Life" . . . without having a strong idea of how to get there.
The special effects in "The Race Of His Life" are great, as is the performance between Grant Gustin and Candice Patton. Danielle Panabaker is unfortunately stiff as Dr. Snow and Zoom is ridiculously monolithic in the episode. Ultimately, "The Race Of His Life" is a flawed premise with a series of leaps that make it fit poorly with what immediately came before it. The third season premiere will bear the weight of the final moments of "The Race Of His Life," but viewers will be returning to something that is already struggling to make sense of itself.
For other big season finales, please visit my reviews of:
"Legendary" - Legends Of Tomorrow
"Fast Enough" - The Flash
"Doomsday" - Doctor Who
For other television season and episode reviews, please visit my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing!
© 2016 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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