Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Flash Crosses The "Finish Line" With One Of The Best Episodes Of The Season!

The Good: Wonderful performances, Cool special effects, Good character moments
The Bad: All the characters become idiots for the season's final problem, Plot of the final few minutes of the episode
The Basics: The Flash ends its third season at "Finish Line," which is a surprisingly smart and well-executed episode!

The third season of The Flash arrives with "Finish Line" and it is a tough finale to get excited about. The big question for fans of The Flash is: will the writers and executive producers actually kill Iris West off or will the status quo be restored by the end of the season's final episode. The thing is, as "Finish Line" begins, the episode has the feel of being one where Barry Allen will either risk creating another paradox or the episode will hinge on a reveal that explains how Iris West was not actually murdered in the prior episode. Well before "Finish Line" began, the logic of creating a temporal remnant of Iris West made the most sense for setting up the long-awaited murder scene and given that in the prior episode, Iris West went to Earth-2 (where speedster Jesse Quick could, conceivably, help her create a temporal remnant), the clues to the easy resolution seemed to be in place already.

"Finish Line" was led into by "Infantino Street" (reviewed here!), which saw Savitar killing Iris West, almost exactly the way The Flash watched it happen months before. When Dr. Brand's Speed Force Bazooka fails to stop Savitar and Iris West is killed, all looks bleak for the S.T.A.R. Labs team. Thus "Finish Line" is instantly burdened with either committing to Iris's murder or finding an inventive way to undo it. Fortunately, it does.

Iris lays dead on Infantino Street, with the rest of the S.T.A.R. Labs team shocked at their failure to save her. H.R. used a holographic generator to replace Iris West, however, and he was sacrificed in Iris's place. H.R. gives inspiring words to Dr. Brand and Barry to deliver to Cisco before he ultimately dies. The Flash returns with Iris and Joe to S.T.A.R. Labs and the time vault where it appears history has been restored. Savitar prevents Killer Frost from killing Cisco because he needs the scientist to build something for him. Savitar wants to have Cisco alter the Speed Force Bazooka to splice himself in every moment in time to make him godlike and rectify the paradox.

Dr. Albert returns to S.T.A.R. Labs with a cure for Dr. Snow's metahuman DNA and Savitar uses that knowledge to extort Cisco into helping him with his work. Trying to save Savitar, Barry Allen approaches his future self and attempts to appeal to his humanity. Future Barry returns to S.T.A.R. Labs with Barry and Iris appeals to Barry. Dr. Brand is reticent to help Future Barry, so Iris turns to Harrison Wells from Earth-2 to try to appeal to her. But when Savitar recognizes that his own existence is not likely to be a happy one, he turns on the S.T.A.R. Labs team. That allows Team Flash the chance to band together to desperately attempt to stop Savitar one last time.

"Finish Line" is one of those rare episodes of television that manages to make a phenomenal and engaging end to a dog of a season. The third season of The Flash was riddled with conceptual problems and had a number of episodes that were just awful. As a result, the bar was set terribly low for the season finale, but "Finish Line" managed to exceed all expectations - up until the final scene.

The moment the reversal in "Finish Line" is revealed in the teaser, the finale for The Flash falls under a different burden; when Barry and Iris are reunited, Savitar will know that Iris is still alive. When that happens, Savitar should be consumed by either a paradox wave, time wraiths or the Black Flash. "Finish Line" addresses the paradox of Savitar, but it does not have the massive effects of Eddie Thawne killing himself to erase Eobard Thawne from existence.

What is refreshing about "Finish Line" is that the episode commits early on to not being a super hero slug fest. The best moments of the episode occur when Barry stands opposite his future self and has a conversation about a deeply human moment they both remember. The conversation has its desired effect and the episode spends much more time making intellectual arguments and character-based appeals than it does delving into science fiction device problems. In fact, the philosophical questions raised by Future Barry about what his place is in the world are very smartly delivered.

In fact, the power of Grant Gustin's performance in "Finish Line" comes when Future Barry Allen delivers a monologue where Gustin moves the idea of continuing his existence forward in the most minute of degrees. Future Barry's slow realization is incredibly well-executed in its subtlety. The realism of that moment is expertly executed.

While most of "Finish Line" is absolutely wonderful, the threat that is established in the episode's climax is increasing in magnitudes before the team is able to even identify it . . . it takes a convenient pause in its logarithmic development for an extended coda scene. Between that and the fact that the ultimate problem appears without any of the supposedly-smart characters attempting to head it off (most of the people in the climactic battle with Savitar knew of the issue presented by the appearance of one of the characters in that battle, yet none of them thought to attempt to put Savitar back within the Speed Force prison?!).

Despite the minutia, "Finish Line" is a (mostly) satisfying end to the troubled season and it is enough to remind viewers why they fell in love with The Flash in the first place.

For other DC Television Universe season finales, please check out my reviews of:
"Fast Enough" - The Flash
"Legendary"- Legends Of Tomorrow
"The Race Of His Life" - The Flash
"Aruba"- Legends Of Tomorrow
"Nevertheless, She Persisted" - Supergirl

[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into The Flash - The Complete Third Season on DVD or Blu-Ray, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the third season here!


For other television reviews, please visit my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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