H.R. Replaced Iris West - Here's How
Fans will be forgiven if they missed the change in tone and gravity to H.R. and Cisco's conversation, since it really does come about suddenly. But keep in mind what was being discussed, and it's easier to follow it from H.R.'s perspective. There's the guilt for slipping up and getting Iris kidnapped, sure. What clearly bothers H.R. more, though, is the sense that he hasn't been pulling his weight for some time. Ever, perhaps. He's been a passenger among these heroes and brilliant crimefighters, and while he's kept a cheery disposition all the while... he no longer can. Not when someone might die because of it.
He arrived on their Earth under dishonest means, in search of some kind of purpose or validation. And more than that, he found a family, and more recently, a woman to fall madly in love with. But he hasn't inspired anyone the way that they have inspired him; hasn't given to the world the way that he has taken from all of them. And more than anyone, it's Barry who stands as the perfect example of what one should aspire to: "a hero among heroes."
Cisco talks him down, but the speed with which H.R. sets aside his troubles shows he's hiding something. As Cisco leaves, and H.R. bids him adieu "until next time," his eye fall conspicuously towards the long, spiked, severed finger of Savitar the team has kept in their custody. H.R. knows a life could be lost because of him, and stares meaningfully at the very weapon that will be used to take it.
Here's where the rest of the episode comes in handy.
The Transmogrifier Reminder
There were large swaths of the fan community who assumed early on that H.R.'s face and appearance-changing "transmogrifier" would be a valuable tool in the season. Sure, it allowed him to exist on a planet where his natural face was that of a hated monster, but you don't introduce a 'Chekhov's gun' like that and expect the audience to just forget about it. In fact, when Barry's first trip into the future showed Iris being killed, theorists, speculators and rabid fans all immediately suggested that it wasn't Iris at all... in fact, with the transmogrifier's technology, it could be just about anybody. Yet as the weeks and episodes rolled by, and Savitar's vendetta against Barry and commitment to killing Iris became clear, it seemed her life really did hang in the balance.
Until this week, when audiences were reminded that a device existed among our heroes that could change their face and body perfectly. Just in case, you know, they had forgotten. As satisfying as it was to see Lyla Michaels knock out a squad of A.R.G.U.S. guards, it was even more satisfying to see her extract the transmogrifier from her pocket, and reveal that she was actually Barry Allen in disguise. For the seasoned TV watchers and genre fiction fans, this scene was as close as you could get to a confirmation that it wouldn't be the last use of the tech this season.
While important to gain the power source needed to run the Speed Force Bazooka, it's not the end-all, be-all disguise reveal moment we've been expecting. And when you watch the following scene between Savitar and Barry moment by moment... it's not hard to guess at what really took place.
Barry & Savitar Never Noticed The Switch
We know what you're thinking: even if H.R. did somehow want to take the place of Iris and be killed by Savitar, he never got the chance. Once Savitar grabbed Iris from Earth-2 (which couldn't have been H.R.), she was never seen again until appearing in his grasp, before being skewered. Right? Had the scene played out exactly as Barry witnessed it in the past, then yes, that would be almost impossible. Now if only the heroes had some way to get Savitar to toss Iris aside, allowing H.R. to move her to safety and take her place - it would be tricky, since he would not only need to keep Savitar from noticing the switch, but Barry as well. If Barry saw the plan, Savitar would know it, and it wouldn't work.
Cue Barry firing up the Speed Force Bazooka, sending Savitar sprinting across the entire park, onto the street, up a nearby building, and essentially killing a handful of time before returning to his starting point. In all honesty, this sequence and 'Aha!' reveal we expect may be the least convincing in the show so far. After all, there is no reason for Savitar to run anywhere. He has the Philosopher's Stone, which will prevent the Bazooka from working at all.
Essentially, Savitar arrives with his plan perfectly prepared and ready to be completed, turns his back for ten seconds, and then goes through with it. It's hard to see the purposeful abandonment and return to Iris as anything other than a chance for H.R. to show up and take her spot. Also, Barry has his attention focused on Savitar the entire time, so he can truly sell the moment of Iris's death well enough to convince everyone.
H.R. Wells Finds Love In Time To Die For It
As un-subtle as the method through which H.R.'s plan can work may be, it isn't any less heartwarming - or heartbreaking. Assuming that it is H.R. standing in for Iris, he's doing so out of pure heroism and self-sacrifice. Making the decision to risk everything he has for his friends shows that he was a hero all along, and having discovered true love with Tracy... he would finally know how much Barry Allen - the "hero among heroes" - has to lose. And remember: when H.R. takes Iris's spot, he's holding out as much hope as any other member of the team that Tracy's Speed Force Bazooka will work. Which means a double or triple dose of heartbreak in the season finale assuming this theory is true.
Not only does H.R. also realize he's about to die moments before it happens, but Tracy will have to deal with the guilt of 'failing' to save him. Not to mention the rest of the team having insulted or mocked H.R. over the past season, only to see him sacrifice his life so that Barry could hold onto his bride. So that Wally could keep his sister. And so Joe could keep his daughter. Not too bad a legacy for a man who came to this Earth in search of family and legacy - he found both in the end.
Of course, that wouldn't wrap up the entire season's story or suspense. If Savitar runs off into the timestream thinking he has guaranteed his own creation, there's a good chance he'll return when he realizes he's been fooled. Either that, or he'll fade into nothingness off-camera. But would he be able to return and kill Iris in a different place, at a different time, and still ensure his birth? We're better off leaving those question unanswered, in case our theory proves true, and it's H.R. Wells the team is saying goodbye to, not Iris West.
The Flash season finale airs Tuesday, May 23rd @8pm on The CW.