The Scarlet Speedster reaches his finish line in tonight's episode, and we can all stop running with him.
[Warning: The following contains spoilers for the finale of The Flash’s third season.]
The Flash’s third season has been a joyless slog for large swaths with small bursts of interesting choices. It sets up a real disappointment to explain a large chunk of story at the beginning of the series. There's not much in the way of a twist you can pull, and even a departure from the outline betrays the viewer, so here we have seen — I guess — exactly what we were promised, and nothing more.
After last week's brutal murder of Iris, we opened with the big reveal that we've been calling for weeks — H.R. used faceswap technology to trade places just before the big death. So the H.R. up on the roof with Joe turns out to be his own daughter, and our third Welles to die on the show takes a few moments to say his fond farewells, and shove it in everyone's face that he wasn't a coward after all.
So there it is. Iris is safe. Neat.
But guess what that means? That means we messed up that there time thing again and everything is going to fall apart. Luckily, after a lot of questions about why those weirdo Time Ghosts aren't busy tearing him apart, it turns out that exactly what's going to happen. Savitar Barry has a few hours left, and he intends to use it to destroy everything about Barry Allen. So ... yeah, maybe that would still work out in the end? If all you had to do is make Barry super bummed then Savitar still eventually happens, maybe even without all the face scratches.
And then Savitar goes for the kill by having Cisco adapt the Speed Force Bazooka into a device that will send a copy of him into every moment in the universe at the exact same time. Which seems like, sure it it would work to take over the world, but, like, Barries aren't known for existing well with each other? I would love to see a Flash War of infinite evil Flashes fighting every second of time for all eternity since the Big Bang. Certainly this changes the timeline in some way that stops Savitar, too? Who knows.
Barry, who is listening to King Cold now for some reason, decides to reason with himself using the Power of Love and we spend half of a season finale deciding how to save Savitar after he murdered H.R. and kidnapped Team Flash's two best scientists. Most of Team Flash has the exact same reaction to this as I did which is to ask "What are we even trying to prove here?" And finally, so does Savitar.
The final battle plays out with Killer Frost destroying the Speed Force's best attempts to stop Savitar, and then Barry resonates at the frequency required to kick his Future Self out of the Savitar suit and take it over -- a wildly cool move that maybe he could done in the very first Savitar episode?
Cisco's crazy gun fixes don't help Savitar either, and Killer Frost turns on him, so with seconds left before the Speed Force would reclaim him, something unimaginably stupid happens. Iris shoots him in the back and he dies instantly. Also, congrats to the show The Flash for its only instant death ever. Still shocked by the lack of a final speech from our big bad.
So it's time to wrap everything up with a bow. We briefly mourn H.R. and have a wedding for Barry and Iris, because why shouldn't you get married on the same day that a couple people die? Killer Frost doesn't take the cure she's offered and leaves the team to go find herself.
That's when everyone has to get back together at STAR Labs for one big disaster that is tearing the city apart. Turns out that the Speed Force really needed someone to come take a place in Speedster Forever Prison. That person is going to be Barry. Obviously. Because Barry wants to take responsibility for his actions. But this wasn't his action. Sure, the entire thing is set in motion by Barry repeatedly being too dumb to live, but this time it was Iris who shot SaviBarry in the back a few seconds before this problems solves itself.
Barry's dead mother appears to let him know that this won't be hell, it's just his finish line. And maybe it should be. Maybe this is as good a place as any to just let Barry go. He's happy, the people around him seem happy, and the world isn't going to blow itself up because there's another speedster and a full team in place to protect it.
The world doesn't need Barry anymore, and Barry doesn't need to keep ruining things for everyone else. If this is how it ended, we'd be good. But this isn't how it ends, so I'll see you all next fall, when the producers promise that at least we won't have another speedster as the big bad.