When The Flash premiered on October 7, 2014, I was 32 years old. As the show ends, I’m 41. For nine years, The Flash has been a part of my life for part of each of those years. This is the final episode, meant to give characters and fans alike closure on all the stories told during that time. That’s almost an impossible order after all of this time, so how did the Scarlet Speedster do? Spoilers follow for The Flash Season 9, Episode 13, “A New World, Part Four.”
“A New World, Part Four”
The Flash (Grant Gustin), the fastest man alive, is tasked with his greatest challenge yet, to save the timeline and save existence. Friends old and new gather for an epic battle to save Central City, one last time.
The showrunners did the best they could given the circumstances, and I’m happy with the result when taking that into consideration. It feels like the CW network barely cared–one of their flagship shows is ending, but it doesn’t feel like they gave it any special allowances. When you watch a network long enough, you start to figure out where the commercials go in episodes, and this finale didn’t get any extra time than any other weekly episode. It didn’t really get any extra budget, either. In a lot of ways, it felt like any other season finale or premiere for the series.
Eddie Thawne has returned and established his resentment toward the life Barry and Iris have made together–he sacrificed himself to stop a nigh-unstoppable villain, making his sacrifice meaningless in his own eyes. The Negative Speed Force is promising him a new life that favors him and makes him the hero. To make it happen, Thawne summons the other characters who resent Barry: Zoom, Savitar, Godspeed, and of course the Reverse-Flash.
The meeting scene is actually pretty funny. Zoom and Godspeed appear first, followed by Reverse-Flash, who points out that Zoom’s story was disappointingly similar to his own. But that makes me wonder, didn’t the writers’ room at the time see that? What did they think about it?
This finale moves quickly. Just as soon as the evil Speedsters appear, so do Flash’s allies, including Nora–but not Bart–and all of the active members of Team Flash. Cisco is frustratingly absent, due apparently to a scheduling conflict on the part of Carlos Valdes, not on the part of the writers. Just as conspicuously absent from the finale as Cisco were the other members of the Arrowverse. We already got to see Oliver again, but the finale wasn’t able to bring back Supergirl or the Legends to give them one last time to shine. And it’s likely that was never in the plans, but the thing is that this isn’t just a send-off for The Flash, but rather a send-off for the whole Arrowverse. It feels like either the showrunners chose not to acknowledge that or weren’t given the space to do so.
The fight ends quickly, with Team Flash and the evil Speedsters splitting up into smaller fights; Khione battles Zoom in a nice nod back to the relationship between Caitlin and Hunter Zolomon in Season 2. Allegra and Chuck fight the Reverse-Flash, with the idea being that her mentor Nash had the same face as Eobard (Tom Cavanagh). Cecile faces off against Godspeed all on her own. Savitar fights Nora.
And just…none of this works as well as the show seems to be hoping it will. Dani Nicolet brought great energy to the show as Cecile, but she doesn’t feel like a superhero. The physicality isn’t there, and the camera work doesn’t help her out at all. Allegra has had more time to get into the role than Cecile, but their whole scene is dependent on the Chuck/Allegra pairing working, which it really doesn’t. It also feels weirdly cheap to have Reverse-Flash not only back again after last season, but also to have him fighting one of the team’s second-stringers. Have Allegra and Cecile become so powerful that they can easily defeat these characters, or were they meant to be significantly less powerful versions of the previous villains?
Nora’s battle against Savitar is a big bunch of nothing, just like Savitar’s time on the show was. He was a big dumb Michael Bay’s Transformers reject then and he doesn’t feel any different now. When he goes to impale Nora from behind, she just shrugs it off. Khione’s encounter kind of works because of the callback to the Season 2 relationship, and because the show has established that she’s literally a force of nature. She can handle a guy hopped up on Speedster drugs. Why Chillblane is there with her is anyone’s guess; he doesn’t get to do a damn thing.
Jay and Barry holding it down
And so it comes down to Barry’s fight against Eddie, now Cobalt Blue, to hold things down. Thawne is trying to absorb more speed from the Negative Speed Force, which Barry knows will cause him to self-destruct. Jay Garrick shows up, instead, and drains him with what he calls a trick he learned from the Flash of Earth-90–aka the same actor’s portrayal of Barry Allen. Garrick is one of the few characters that it feels like the show has almost never misused, and that’s partly because John Wesley Shipp has such endless warm dad energy that his every appearance on the show as Henry Allen, Jay Garrick, and Earth-90’s Barry Allen has felt like a big hug.
The final third of the episode is a celebration of the beginning of Barry and Iris’ family, as they have a party to welcome baby Nora, and then we get a monologue from Barry about believing the impossible–the show’s very first lines. He shares his powers with three new people, all Speedsters from elsewhere in the DC universe, such as Max Mercury. Actors whose faces we see once in this one scene, before never seeing again.
Since The Flash premiered, it had to work through a once-in-a-century pandemic, the end of Arrow, and the sale of the CW network. The latter of which effectively puts a formal end to superhero shows on broadcast television. And then it had to come up with a satisfying ending on a CW budget that would work in 42 minutes. A few months later and the writers’ strike would’ve made things even tougher.
That it works as well as it does is kind of a miracle. That it wasn’t given more room to flourish is tragic. It would’ve been awesome to see a show that was part of my life for so long get a strong, effective farewell. Instead, it feels like we got a cheap, rushed product that acted as the last gasp of a dead television network, with everyone involved doing their best despite overwhelming odds, for a something that feels less like a victory lap and more of a limp.