WARNING: This article contains SPOILERS for The Flash Season 3 finale
The makers of The Flash promised a major twist in the Season 3 finale, but the death of Barry Allen was NOT what fans were expecting. They were prepared for heartbreak, before learning that Iris West was NOT killed by Savitar. Surprisingly enough, even the final moments of Barry Allen's life among his family and friends aren't as tragic or heartbreaking as it sounds. Quite the opposite, in fact: after years of trauma, loss, sacrifice, pain, and grief, the third season of The Flash sees the Speed Force itself reach out to Barry Allen, knowing that only he is capable of bringing stability to it once and for all... and only he is deserving of the peaceful rest it will offer in exchange.
The surprising end to the season comes after the twists and turns the audience has come to expect: Savitar's master plan was thwarted, Barry's descent into Savitar stopped permanently in the process, and things finally seemed to have reached some semblance of stability. As if on cue, the ground itself began to shake beneath them, and the finale promised to call Season 4 of The Flash into question delivered its most devastating turn.
It was a twist some fans will be left reeling from for weeks, even unsure of whether it's a tragic, or terrific plot development. We've (hopefully) got the answers those fans seek, even if the future of The CW series is every bit as unclear and mysterious - and likely to stay that way for the foreseeable future.
The Speed Force Threatens To Destroy The World
Savitar's plan to occupy all of time, becoming a true 'god of speed' in the process is thankfully foiled with help from Jay Garrick, having been broken from his Speed Force prison just in time to help take down the season's villain. Unfortunately, the victory over Savitar (and the relative peace brought to Killer Frost) is short-lived. There is time to bury H.R. Wells in peace, but not long after trouble strikes again. It's not a supervillain, not a tear between parallel worlds, or even a natural disaster. No, the rumbling striking Central City is the Speed Force itself, calling out to the city's speedsters in the form of multi-colored lightning strikes and a massive earthquake.
The speedsters get the message loud and clear, since Barry, Wally, and Jay all know that the Speed Force prison created to hold Savitar and bring stability to the otherworldly energy source needed an occupant. Jay had taken the place of Wally when the two ventured into the Speed Force, but all knew it was a temporary solution - a passing of the ball so that Barry and Wally could figure out how to stop Savitar for good. With Jay having been brought back to help save the day, someone else needs to step up to fill the role "in Hell," as described by both Savitar and Jay Garrick.
The most vocal fans watching the finale may have been crying out for the speedsters to reach some kind of compromise, solution, or Speed Force wizardry allowing them to keep the cast intact. But if there was any doubt that only one speedster could bring stability to the Speed Force, and therefore reality itself... the form it takes when appearing before Team Flash erases it.
The image of a portal opening in space to allow Nora Allen to come calmly strolling out isn't one the show's storytellers would employ lightly, and Barry understands the situation instantly. While he and Jay had managed a clever switch inside the Speed Force thought up on the spot, the new problem requires a single savior. The Speed Force has taken the form of the person Barry loves most... meaning it has come to welcome him, and him alone, into it once more.
As a bit of good news, the form of Nora makes it clear that it is not a "Hell" that Barry is destined for. Barry seems to know this intrinsically, explaining in his goodbye to Iris West that the Speed Force is "not taking him anywhere," meaning he is going freely, and voluntarily. Nora then explains - in a bit of language pulled directly from the heart of the most meaningful, iconic Flash comics - that Barry Allen's race is finally over. The time for him to run has come and gone. And like all speedsters before him and after, the time has come to return to the Speed Force as its victorious champion.
In other words, Barry Allen is being welcomed back into the Speed Force to return balance and stability to it, and the reality it is tied into and throughout. But forget a "prison" to occupy - it's essentially the Speed Force afterlife Barry is headed to, at peace with his family and friends.
The idea that death - the good kind, not the Black Flash - has come for Barry Allen is treated with as much gravity as you would expect. Which means a chance for Barry to give his final goodbyes to his father and fiancée, just hours after this ordeal seemed to be behind them for good. They're the scenes fans will remember over the summer, awaiting the next season. But there's no doubt that Barry informing Iris that she must go on, must find new loves, and live her life to the fullest as he leaves this world for the next will draw reactions of both sadness and resentment from the fans. That's what you get when dangling a happy ending before fans desperate for one.
As Barry claims that Central City will still have its Flash in Wally West, the show's final moments add new meaning to the finale's synopsis - and the question of how, and in what form, The CW's show will continue into a fourth season:
SEASON FINALE (MAY 23): After discovering Savitar’s true identity, Team Flash prepares for a final, epic battle with the God of Speed… while struggling with a major setback. Expect a season-ending cliffhanger that will leave viewers — and the heroes — questioning how they will move forward in Season 4.”
The instant reaction among fans is likely disbelief, and wondering how quickly the show's writers will see Barry heroically resurrected. Shocking ending or no... it's not the first time that The CW has led its audience to believe a hero is dead and gone, only to return them before fans have even thought to miss them. That being said, this death having the air of somber serenity, not a 'shocking cliffhanger,' per se, it's possible this decision could be a lasting on.
Wally West claimed the proper title of The Flash in the world of DC Comics, so doing so here would be completely in keeping with the source material. But The Flash sidelining one of the most beloved and successful superheroes on The CW's shared universe? That seems a decision nobody would make, and no fan would actually want (if given the choice to have both).
So we ask the fans of The Flash: do you believe that Barry's future is as blank or absent as this finale implies? Or are you simply enjoying the impact and emotion of the episode, before speculating on how, and how quickly the showrunners throw Barry back into the action?