The following is the penultimate installment in my weekly reviews of The Flash for Culture Fly
Immediately picking up after last week’s tragic cliffhanger, ‘Finish Line’ starts with all the characters grieving. They’ve lost a friend, one of them has lost a lover, but as Barry (Grant Gustin) says, the time for mourning is later, as they must defeat his evil doppelgänger Savitar before he scatters himself throughout all of time and becomes immortal.
The business-as-usual approach stifles any chance of this finale saying or doing something new. It’s too familiar and we’ve seen it all before in the final episodes of series one and two. The Flash sticking to its formula is ultimately frustrating, as it doesn’t leave any room for the writers to grow some of their fresh ideas. Like most of the latter half of this series, it often feels like the show is setting up a soft reboot for series four and suddenly remembers it’s got to finish all this Savitar business.
One of the more revolutionary ideas (for a superhero property) the show starts and abandons is having Barry and Savitar try ending their conflict by talking. Gustin gives a great double performance, using and subverting his puppy-dog charm as a way to show how the two foes are connected. Even though the writers have sometimes fumbled Barry’s arc since ‘Flashpoint’, Gustin has always been connected to Barry, and three series in he’s become irreplaceable.
Paradoxically, in a classic case of giving the audience what we want instead of what we need, the show sacrifices subversion for convention, and convention states there must be a brawl. It’s a shame the writers felt like they needed to do this, especially when the final fight is rushed and visually ugly. It also concludes in a way that makes no sense with the rest of the narrative as if it was a last minute addition.
Fortunately, the writers’ thread some interesting and cathartic character beats into this showdown. The conclusion of the Caitlin/Killer Frost (Danielle Panabaker) storyline feels right and opens up interesting avenues for series four to explore. ‘Finish Line’ has no problem orchestrating compelling character beats throughout the entire episode but they barely have an impact as it rushes from one to another like an unruly drummer. It needs to slow down and find the right rhythm.
Then, the final cliffhanger comes. You know it’s coming because, as stated, The Flash is adhering to its formula and as per the first series, it must end on an OMG moment. Opting more for an emotional resonance instead of action flair, the ending witnesses Barry finally make the right decision and discover who he is as a hero. The episode’s title, ‘Finish Line’ references how Barry’s three-series journey has ended, how he’s passed on the baton and crossed the line. From this point on, things have changed.
So, at the end of the day, there is something strange going on. ‘Finish Line’ is a fitting conclusion to Barry’s series-long storyline, but as an hour of TV, it is lacking.