Though the shocking end to last week's episode of The Flash had been teased for months, it was still a bit surprising to see the events play out as they did. Team Flash was desperate to change the future, doing anything they could to alter it, but even having the Speed Force Bazooka™ made little difference in the outcome. Just as Barry had seen during his unexpected jump into the future, Savitar killed Iris, fatally stabbing her through the chest.
Tonight's season 3 finale, 'Finish Line' -- written by Aaron and Todd Helbing, directed by David McWhirter -- has a lot of ground to cover. There's the fallout surrounding Iris' death, something which is sure to take a significant toll on all of Team Flash -- Barry and Joe, especially. Then there's the final showdown between Flash and Savitar, a confrontation that just became all the more intense. And don't forget about Cisco and Killer Frost's upcoming battle, they too are expected to throw down in their own epic confrontation.
Unless, what happened at the end of last week's episode isn't as it seems. What if Iris didn't actually die? What if someone else took her place at the last minute? What if Killer Frost isn't as devoted to serving Savitar as she seems? These are only a few of the theories brewing ahead of tonight's finale, meaning there may still be a chance to save Iris.
"The Future's Ours Again"
Flash fans go two for two this season as it turns out the prevailing theory over what actually happened last week on Infantino Street holds up. It was not, in fact, Iris West who Savitar fatally stabbed but H.R. in disguise. The switch even came just as fans predicted it would, with H.R.'s intense guilt over blabbing Iris' location to Savitar driving him to hatch a plot and switch himself for her so that no matter the outcome, Iris would be saved. And like a surprising number of H.R.'s half-baked ideas, it actually works. Only downside being that in order for Iris to live, H.R. must die. He goes out like a true hero, though, and his sacrifice makes for a far more touching send-off than anyone could have predicted for such a goofy character. Farewell, H.R, may flights of Jitters baristas drum solo thee to thy rest.
With H.R.'s passing and Iris' survival, the future changes, and the one which first gave birth to Savitar ceases to exist. But that alone doesn't solve everything. The time paradox of his very existence might be catching up with him, but Savitar remains a threat. So Barry and Iris make a choice, a choice to no longer be defined by darkness and embrace the goodness, to meet their greatest enemy with kindness instead of hate. It's a moment in which Barry and Iris act more heroic than they ever have, offering to do all they can to help Savitar continue living in spite of all of the pain he's brought them. Their offer is eventually turned down, of course, but these two are wearing their brightest, whitest hats in this finale. A person's actions define their character, and in moments like these, Barry and Iris make it abundantly clear why they're the good guys.
'Finish Line' is an episode where heroes are at their most heroic and villains their most villainous -- except for Killer Frost, she's "something else." It was no secret that Caitlin's Killer Frost persona would continue beyond season 3, so once Julian returns with a cure, it was only too obvious she would never take it. Instead, Frost retains her powers and redeems herself, proving that she too is defined more by her actions than a cold demeanor. And when Cisco's life is on the line, she turns on Savitar, blasting him with her powers before he can kill her best friend.
It isn't an especially surprising turn of events, but having Caitlin still be some version of Killer Frost and need to reconcile that part of herself is far more interesting than had she been cured. (And just how great have both Panabaker and Gustin been at exploring their characters' dark sides?) Frost's future alongside Team Flash remains questionable, but surely some kind of working relationship will be established. A scientist with ice powers is simply too good of an asset to let just walk away, so fully expect Cisco and Julian to make it their mission next season to win her back full time.
"Time to Rest"
It'd be a fair assessment to call The Flash season 3 finale predictable. The show had, after all, telegraphed where a lot of its various plot threads were heading. That is, until the very last minutes of 'Finish Line', where it so happens Barry must confront his real finish line -- entering the Speed Force prison. It's a cruel twist of fate but one that Barry is surprisingly at ease about, using his final moments to comfort his friends and family; again, ever the hero.
It's a turn of events that's been a long time coming, as both Barry and the Speed Force explain it away as his penance for creating Flashpoint in the first place. In this episode, however, it's a direct result of Cisco rewiring the Speed Force Bazooka™ not into a splicer -- as Savitar had wished, planning for it to copy him throughout time, allowing him to rule as a god -- but a skeleton key, releasing Jay Garrick from his internment. But once Jay is out, someone else needs to take his place, and when the Speed Force comes calling it only has eyes for Barry Allen.
So perhaps exactly why Barry has to go away doesn't really matter, but it's that he so willingly agrees to go. Barry accepts this fate, doesn't even question it. This is again the very mark of a hero: sacrificing his future to ensure there's a future for others. It's a perfect mirror to H.R. sacrifice at the start of the episode, ending 'Finish Line' a strong thematic note. It's also a fitting point for Barry to exit the show -- not permanently, of course, but at a time when it feels like his hero's journey has reached a plateau, and now it's time for other heroes to rise up in his absence.
The Flash season 3 may have started a little uneven, but it's finished strong with an episode that's as emotional as any that's come before it. (And with The Flash, that's saying something.) This finale dispatched with Savitar in as neat a fashion as it could have, giving audiences a spectacular if brief final battle, complete with speedsters, vibe-sters, and freeze-sters (?). With Barry's departure, it's tough to predict exactly what's in store for next season. Will Wally step us The Flash the city needs him to be? What will Team Flash look like next season? Will characters like Gypsy, Harry, and Jay stick around? And how will Iris cope with losing Barry? Could season 4 see her dig into her dark side?
The Flash returns in the fall to The CW.