[WARNING: This article contains spoilers for The Flash Season 1 finale.]
What if you had the chance to change the past - to undo the very worst thing that ever happened to you, sending your life on a completely different (and far more tragic) path? Would you make the choice to better your own life, or accept that we are what fate makes of us? That's the question that has come to define many modern comic arc centering on Barry Allen a.k.a. The Flash, and the dilemma the TV show's debut season has been building toward.
In The Flash's first season finale, "Fast Enough", crafted by Greg Berlanti, Andrew Kreisberg, and Gabrielle Stanton, Barry (Grant Gustin) is finally given the chance to save his mother's life fifteen years in the past, but forced to help Eobard Thawne (Tom Cavanagh) return home in exchange. Weighing his life with The Wests and his heroic calling against the family he could have had, Barry's decision winds up putting Earth itself in danger.
The show's first season may have seen Barry and co. deal with some less-than-memorable foes, and Eobard Thawne's master plan may have slowed following the midseason break, but the core question facing Barry has - thankfully - been building since the very first episode. Yet few expected the chance to travel through time and undo his mother's murder to be laid out so plainly by Barry's nemesis: save Nora Allen, or don't - and accept the consequences either way.
If it wasn't clear that the plot was all leading to this twist, then the exchanges between Barry and his friends shows the writers certainly were. The series established early on that Barry looked to Joe West (Jesse L. Martin) as a father figure, and the finale drove the point home with the honesty and heartfelt sentiment that had defined the series out of the gate. Similarly, Henry Allen (John Wesley-Shipp) remained pleased to see his son become a hero of any kind, believing that what is was always meant to be.
Surprisingly, it took a parallel universe to finally cash in on the sibling/romantic bond between Barry and Iris West (Candice Patton). Able to openly discuss the other timeline being one in which they fell in love (in different households), the pair got to - arguably for the first time - act as brother and sister (or simply friends) above all other drama. However, audiences have been fooled into thinking the air was cleared before.
Mother & Son
In the end, Grant Gustin's version of Barry Allen made the right choice (even without experiencing the downsides shown in the "Flashpoint" comic event) - with a bit of help. Upon traveling back to his childhood bedroom, and being forced to relive the worst night of his life from a different perspective, it was Barry - future Barry - who made up his mind. With a raised hand and a shake of his head, Barry knew that he must let the night play out as it did.
But just as we had hoped, Barry was able to gain some closure, and offer his mother even a brief glimpse at the life awaiting her son. The exchange between Barry and Nora (Michelle Harrison) didn't disappoint, offering a moment that will be fondly remembered as a particular high note for the show's season to both longtime fans and newcomers alike (and distinguishes the show even further from its Arrow sibling).
The impact of the scene can't be understated, and confirms just how much of the show's story the showrunners had planned out ahead of time. Beginning a new chapter for Barry at this season's close was a foregone conclusion, but ending the current one so well, and reminding viewers what won them over to begin with - unapologetic sentiment, genuinely delivered, effortlessly, by Gustin - makes The Flash's debut season a success on all fronts.
Rewriting (Erasing?) History
It wouldn't be a season finale without some bombshells and cliffhangers, but The Flash delivered an emotional blow as well as a jaw-dropping plot twist when Eddie Thawne (Rick Cosnett) realized he wasn't as useless as Eobard believed. Thanks to a theoretical monologue delivered - once again - with style by Professor Martin Stein (Victor Garber), Eddie was left to wonder if his presence amid such preordained heroes and villains truly was coincidence - arriving at an answer when Barry, Joe, and Iris were all placed in harm's way.
There are some who may feel Eddie was underutilized through the season, but even so, his decision to wipe Eobard Thawne from existence by taking his own life was a noble - and genuinely surprising - one. A hero's death was all Eddie claimed to have hoped for, and Cosnett carried the scene off without fail.
With Eobard Thawne dissolved into nothing, the brief celebration was undercut by a surprise singularity which, left entirely unexplained, may feel like a somewhat unsatisfactory conclusion. Perhaps all involved know they need not convince viewers to tune in to The Flash's next season, and felt Barry's dive into a black hole a fitting enough ending (along with a tease of some Legends of Tomorrow).
And after the finale left so few plot threads without resolution, will any dispute the claim?
Be sure to share your own thoughts on the first season of The Flash, and where you think the cliffhanger leaves Barry, Central City, and The CW's larger universe in the comments.