‘The Flash’ Post-Show Analysis Season 2 Episode 23: ‘The Race Of His Life’
Welcome back to Up To Speed, in which Flash TV show veteran Dylan Todd and newbie Ziah Grace break down the latest episode of The Flash, dispense some Flash Facts, and talk about what works, what doesn’t, and where the series might be headed.
This week, the battle with Zoom comes to a flashy conclusion with an inevitable foot race and a lot of confusing pseudo-science, and the identity of the man in the iron mask is finally revealed. "The Race of His Life" was directed by Antonio Negret and written by Aaron Helbing & Todd Helbing.
Dylan: Well, that sure happened. The season finale of The Flash whizzed by us, and things will never be the same.
Ziah: It sure did. Barry got to mope, the iron mask was removed, and things happened largely because “the Speedforce” did it, like it’s an overused joke in a Family Circus strip. Overall, what’d you think of the episode?
Dylan: Well, I was all hopped up on DayQuil and store-brand antihistamines, so that might have affected my perception, but I found it satisfying and also inevitable? I’m not sure it did anything I wasn’t expecting, but it was a decent wrap-up to a pretty rocky season. I’d be lying if my overall feeling of underwhelmed-ness didn’t spring from those final five minutes of the episode, but we can get to that later. What did you think?
Ziah: I was really surprised to not be into the premise, actually! When I heard it was going to be a race between Barry and Zoom, I was pumped, because that is the kind of stupid-awesome stuff that superhero and superhero television does well, but the actual execution fell flat to me. I know we don’t really dwell on plot holes because the show normally carries us through with enthusiasm, but there were some weird ones that they made sure to mention throughout the episode.
Dylan: Is this where we talk about how Zoom’s plan is stupid and makes no sense? How he says he wants to conquer all these worlds, but his doohickey powered by run-speed will wind up destroying all of them except for Earth-1? Which isn’t conquering?
Ziah: Or we could talk about how weird it is that Barry is on board to race Zoom --- which everyone knows will power up his world ending device --- and the STARios’ only issue is that Barry is too mad?
Dylan: Or how Joe, who was more than willing to put Twells six feet underground mere weeks ago, is shocked that Barry wants to kill Zoom as revenge for killing his dad right in front of him?
Ziah: Or how Barry making a Time Remnant to summon evil time wraiths actually makes them attack Zoom?
Dylan: Or how they made up rules about Time Remnants that didn’t make a lot of sense, but were there just so they could explain away Barry’s eventual triumph?
Oh Ziah, there was so much in this episode that just plain didn’t make sense. And we could probably keep going here, but let’s switch gears and sort of talk about what works. We start the episode right where last week left off, with Barry still yelling about Zoom killing Henry, and then get a pretty great super-speed fight, with Barry c-c-c-c-combo breaking Zoom. I liked that part.
Ziah: I was very into that! All the speed stuff looked pretty good this episode, and while our affection for actors is usually aimed towards the perfect Trinity of Jesse L. Martin, Tom Cavanagh, and Carlos Valdes, I was really impressed with Grant Gustin’s acting this week. I bought how mad he was, and how much he wanted to kill Zoom, so good job there. Gustin had gusto is what I’m saying, I guess.
Also, positivity, Zoom saying that Barry’s got more dads for him to kill was a great moment.
Dylan: Ah yeah, that was definitely a high point of the episode. So yeah, Barry’s got a mad-on to kill the dude who killed his pappy, so the Team Flash decides to dope Barry up, lock him in a cell in their secret met-prison and sets off to take down Zoom, only there’s like 30 minutes left in the episode, so of course that all goes to heck.
What did you think of their plan? I gotta say, I did not see them using the hologram projector that they set up a few episodes back to trick Zoom into talking to Caitlin while they closed in on him.
Ziah: That was legitimately clever! And at first, I was really irked because Danielle Panabaker’s acting was basically the equivalent of your bud in community college that just “really gets Eugene O’Neil, you know?”, but I think it was just Catlin being a bad actress.
Dylan: Also, it was the most ADR-ed monologue I have ever heard on television.
Ziah: And it led to one of the best moments of the episode! Jumpin’ Joe West throwing away a gun to just stab Zoom with two big ol’ needles. Fun times.
Dylan: Haha. Yeah, that happened so fast that I missed it and was legitimately stumped as to what happened, but I gathered from everybody’s reactions that Joe got sucked into the Breach with Zoom. Which was worrying because if they kill off Joe I will throw a fit, but also, that needed to happen because we still hadn’t been told about the Man In the Iron Mask. (Again, this is why so much of this episode felt inevitable instead of exciting.)
Ziah: I felt pretty good that they wouldn’t kill two dads with one Zoom, but Joe still needs to be protected, it’s true.
So, let’s move into the reveal. What’d you think about this? Were you a SHIPPer, just hoping for more of that classic “We remember the 90s” goodness?
Dylan: I loved the 1990 Flash show. Watched every episode. But I could not muster even the smallest bit of enthusiasm for John Wesley Shipp as the “real” Jay Garrick, although I did like that they finally got that Golden Age Grandpa Flash that Mark Waid had in his Flash run.
Ziah: Grandpa Flash is one of those ideas that always worked for me. Just a grumpy old man that’s still got super speed but is pseduo-retired is a great hook. But was JWS better in the '90s show? Because I really don’t like him on this show at all.
Dylan: We had much lower expectations in the '90s, Ziah. It was a simpler time. He went from soaps to The Flash and back to soaps, and it shows in his acting, which is passable but very phony. He’s fine. It’s fine. I kind of felt back for him in that Earth-3 Flash costume, because he looked like he was crammed in that thing. But I gotta admit that the idea of an older, wiser Flash who also makes Barry sad when he looks at him is a great idea, to be honest.
Ziah: So many people make Barry sad whenever he looks at him. Remember when Twells showed up? It’s tough being the Flash, Dylan.
Dylan: So okay, we already talked about Zoom’s plan --- which was stupid --- to make Flash race him and power up his doohickey that will rip the Multiverse apart, but spoilers, Barry manages to split himself into two, and while one of him is beating up/getting beat up by Zoom, the other one is sacrificing himself to stop the doohickey by… did you guess running very fast around it? Because if you did, you get a prize. And the prize is nothing.
Ziah: In a pretty direct riff on Barry killing himself to save the world in Crisis on Infinite Earths, because we gotta hit that image eventually. This was weird. Time remnants still don’t make sense to me, but it’s not like they make less sense than lightning tosses, so I’m just being nit-picky, I guess.
Dylan: I also thought the time remnants were deus ex machina BS, but, I mean, 90% of comics endings are fueled by deus ex machina BS, so I guess I’ll stop complaining. It’s true to the source material at least.
So Zoom gets Dementored to death, saving Barry from actually having to kill Zoom himself, and we get the Iron Mask Man reveal --- complete with the silliest fake beard in TV history --- and then we’re off to tearful farewells. Were you a little sad that Twells and Jesse went back to their home planet?
Ziah: I was especially sad that Twells actually had nice things to say to everyone instead of being grimly sarcastic like normal. But I did have an “aww” moment when he called Cisco “Cisco.” I like them being Science Bros. I’ll miss jerk Twells, even though Tom Cavanagh will definitely be back next season. Kind of weird they never did Jesse Quick or Kid Flash this whole time, though, right?
Dylan: Yeah, that was unfortunate. I did like Twells being decent for once in his life, but setting up and not following through with Wally and Jesse is just… weird.
And speaking of weird, there was a moment, when Cisco was putting on his stunner shades to “vibe” a dimensional breach to Earth-2 so that alternate-universe Harrison Wells, who is mostly a Good Guy, and his daughter, Jesse Quick, who is friends with a young Wally West, could go back to their home dimension and help Earth-3 Jay Garrick back to his home reality, where it sunk in just how gloriously bizarre this show got over the last two seasons. It’s bonkers. I thought the most crazy thing we’d see was a Gorilla Grodd episode, but they’ve really gone full-on goofball comic book here.
Ziah: Yes to how great and weird parts of this show got, but one more big plot hole you reminded me of. Why was their plan to throw Zoom back into Earth-2? They know he can move between worlds. It’s literally brought up in the beginning of the episode, but there’s a bit where they talk about how they can’t open up a breach because Joe made them promise not to.
Dylan: Dude I have no idea. This show is a mixed bag if ever there was one. And speaking of mixed bags: Barry and Iris have a heart-to-heart and they smooch. Which would be enough to make me go “Hrm,” had Barry not then decided, in a fit of sads, to run fast enough to time-travel and stop his mom’s murder. You know, to completely undo all of season two, basically.
Ziah, this frustrated me.
Ziah: Yeah, they’re doing the universally-beloved Flashpoint storyline, where a bunch of new concepts and ideas are introduced and then immediately discarded, all stemming from whether or not Barry had a mom. Yay.
Dylan: Barry, this is why your friends throw you in jail and do plans without you. You don’t think stuff through. You are a dumb idiot and have basically taken all this we’ve built and suffered along with and flushed (Flashed?) it down the crapper. Like, what does this even mean for season three?
Ziah: Whatever they want! Cats and dogs living together! Barry not being hung up on his adopted sister who calls the same guy dad that he does! Harrison Wells being boring! (Also, sidenote: how weird is it that Wally has to clarify that Joe is Barry’s dad, too? That feels like something Barry would’ve acknowledged by now. Did acknowledge?)
Dylan: Hrm. And like, what does this mean for the rest of the CW-verse? Did Barry screw up those shows, too? Dang it, Barry.
Ziah: Well, it definitely opens the door for Captain Cold to reappear on The Flash. And I only watch Arrow when I’m paid to, but aren’t there some nukes flying around? This could be a line-wide reboot pretty easily, I guess.
Dylan: And it allows for them to introduce Supergirl into the lineup, I guess, but geez, I feel so frustrated! BARRY ALLENNNNN! (You can't see it but I'm shaking my one fist at the sky as I type this with my other hand. It's very dramatic.)
Ziah: You’re very dramatic. I loved you in The Hairy Ape last summer at the Broad.
But anyway, a somewhat disappointing finale to a very hit-or-miss season, but I had a great time watching this show with you, Dylan. I guess at the end of the day, the real Flash was the memories we made along the way, you know?
Dylan: That’s… that’s beautiful, man. Anyway, until next season, which, thanks to Barry Allen, who even knows what we’ll be recapping. ALLENNNNN! (I'm doing the fist-shaking-while-also-typing thing again.)
Until next time, keep Flashin’!