[WARNING: This article contains SPOILERS for The Flash season 2 finale.]
It was one mystery that remained pushed to the background, even as the showdown between The Flash and his new nemesis Hunter Zolomon reached a fever pitch. No matter how grand a plan Zoom had, or how many worlds he hoped to destroy, the one question that every fan kept asking had more to do with the masked man locked up in Zoom's cellar. And with the second season finale of The CW's hit superhero show, the question was finally answered - with more of a sense of tragedy than fans expected.
Fans had fielded some incredible theories, and the showrunners did their best to throw them off the trail of the real mystery. While the final unveiling may not have packed the punch, or tease of future storylines that some would have hoped, it's still one of the show's greatest moments of fan service yet. And in The CW's superhero universe, as in the comics, there is always the chance at future team-ups.
But now, allow us to lay out the final solved mystery of The Flash: The Man in The Mask's Identity & Backstory Explained.
The Clues Along The Way
Many fans were able to pick up on the clues to the character's identity based solely on his singular goal - and NOT the body, skin tone, or hairstyle (in a sad twist, it's fairly obvious that the actor revealed to be in the mask wasn't actually playing the part throughout the series). When Barry (Grant Gustin) finally came face-to-face with the man in the mask, he realized that his incessant tapping on the glass wasn't random, but a code. With one word spelled out over and over again: J. A. Y.
Once Barry spoke the name aloud, the mystery man dropped his shoulders, nodding with relief. But when Barry inferred the man was asking to the location and status of Jay Garrick, the Flash of Earth 2, the man became dejected, dropping to the cell of his floor. Something had gotten lost in translation, and it soon became clearer than ever that the man had insight into what was really taking place - and his face would spoil the entire surprise.
The mystery became even more tantalizing when Zoom (Teddy Sears) revealed himself to be both Jay Garrick and Zoom, arriving in S.T.A.R. Labs to negotiate a trade of Speed Force for a friend's life. But when Barry recalled the promise he had made to rescue the masked man, and asked the detail-spewing Zoom who the man really was, his response was more than cryptic - holding off answering, since they "wouldn't believe me if I told you."
He wasn't completely right, but again, the fan theories wound up a bit closer to the truth than they usually tend to.
The Real Jay Garrick
The idea that the man in the mask was 'the REAL Jay Garrick' became the most obvious conclusion when the showrunners responded to fans enraged to see 'Jay Garrick' exposed as a villain. Knowing how beloved and important Garrick, the first Flash was to the DC Universe, they explained, they would never turn him into a villain for the sake of a twist. It seemed clear: the man playing Zoom wasn't Jay Garrick, but the point would only really be driven home if the ACTUAL Jay Garrick showed up to prove it. And thankfully, he did.
With Joe West taken hostage, Hunter Zolomon laid out his own life story in a fairly straightforward manner. Hunter had, as he claimed, experimented with the Velocity drug to amplify his own speed and, in the process began to die on a cellular level as a result. His solution? Well, basically the exact same plan he hatched to steal Barry's speed - Barry's just happened to work. Having accelerated his speed to the point that he could open up breaches between the planes of the DC Multiverse, Hunter/Zoom accessed a new Earth - later referred to as Earth 3 - and kidnapped the planet's resident heroic speedster, Jay Garrick.
But once Hunter got Jay back into his prison, things went wrong. He attempted to steal The Flash's speed, but in his own words, it "didn't take." Still, he decided to keep Jay in his cell - held in place thanks to a Speed dampener installed in his metal mask (why he needed to conceal his identity is never actually explained. But then, he is crazy) as a form of trophy. But it wasn't long before the twisted mind of Hunter Zolomon realized that while he had used his gift to become a villain, Jay had used it to become a hero. So, in the way only a fractured mind could, he wondered why he didn't just play both parts?
And thus, the long-running feud between Zoom and Jay Garrick on Earth-2 began: Hunter continuing his reign of terror over the planet(?), while simultaneously playing the part of Jay Garrick (and keeping his inspiration locked away behind the scenes). The twisted biopic was pushed to the side when the skies opened between Earth 2 and yet another world, where Jay's attempt at stealing a speedster's energy actually did work - leaving him to defeat Barry and add him to his speedster collection. At least, that was the plan.
The Face of Jay
Just as his return to the events of the show had us suspicious that a terrible twist was in store for Henry Allen (John Wesley Shipp), his death and absence from the show definitely gave the de-masking scene some serious foreshadowing - not to mention the pretty obvious hint of "Garrick being his mother's maiden name." So, whether stunned, vindicated, disappointed or confused, the reveal that it was Henry Allen's doppelganger - known as Jay Garrick on Earth 3 - underneath the mask brought the mystery to an end.
Again, the fact that Shipp was inserted into the facial prison for the reveal scene only may be seen as a bit of cheat, but considering the new place given to the original live-action Flash in The CW's Multiverse, you won't hear many complaining. Especially once the showrunners dusted off Jay Garrick's true costume, putting Jay's old-fashioned leather jacket to shame. We can only assume that Jay never had a son, since he never seemed to recognize Barry - but with Jay's famous super-team, the Justice Society of America being alluded to on Legends of Tomorrow, this may not be the last we see of Mr. Garrick.
What did you think of the reveal? Did your suspicions of a Jay Garrick/Henry Allen doppelganger come true, or were you hoping to see a different face once the mask was removed? Let us know your thoughts in the comments, and whether you would like to see more of Jay in the future.
The Flash will return to Tuesdays on The CW in Fall 2016.