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The Flash’s post-credits scene is a silly gag with serious implications

Here’s what that shock ending implies, and what that final moment is teasing

The Flash (Ezra Miller), in costume and crackling with golden electricity, gapes in horror at something above him in The Flash Image: Warner Bros.
Tasha Robinson leads Polygon’s movie coverage. She’s covered film, TV, books, and more for 20 years, including at The A.V. Club, The Dissolve, and The Verge.

Does The Flash have a post-credits scene? It’s a major comic-book movie produced in the 21st-century — of course it does. But after years of buildup, repeated rescheduling, and scandals around star Ezra Miller, The Flash’s after-credits moment (and the movie itself) arrives to theaters as a lame duck — a big event movie set in a cinematic universe that’s already being packed up and put away. One of the last movies in the “Snyderverse” continuity that began with 2013’s Man of Steel, and which is ending to make way for the “DCU” continuity masterminded by The Suicide Squad and Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn, The Flash has been a long time coming, and it feels like it’s arrived too late.

Something else that literally arrives late: that post-credits scene. There’s no mid-credits scene in this case, which feels unusual after such a long run of superhero movies doing both, usually to pay off some gag in the movie with one stinger, and to tease an upcoming movie with the next. The Flash instead packs both ideas into one sequence, trying to both explain previous parts of the movie and tease the future of DC cinema at the same time. It also pokes a bit at the big cliffhanger (or maybe just gag?) at the end of the movie itself. Let’s dig in.

[Ed. note: Ending spoilers ahead for The Flash.]

The Flash’s ending, explained

A whole room full of pretty much identical Batsuits in the Batcave in dim light in The Flash Image: Warner Bros.

After Barry Allen/The Flash (Miller) gets his big explanation of time-travel theory from alternate-universe Bruce Wayne/Batman (Michael Keaton), it becomes pretty clear that the DCEU is using its big Flashpoint-based crossover event the way comics normally use big crossover events: To reboot anything the creators want to reboot, while leaving everything else intact. Bruce tells Barry that a change to the timestream works both ways, creating a new universe with its own rules — which is why Batman is now played by an entirely different guy than the one Barry knew, and there’s no Aquaman, Wonder Woman, Superman, etc. in the timeline born from Barry stopping his mother’s murder.

Barry comes to terms with the fact that his timeline tweak has caused immense suffering, including to past and future versions of himself, and that he has to let his mother die. (Let his mother have died? Make his mother going to have been dead? Douglas Adams’ The Restaurant at the End of the Universe was right; time travel makes verb tenses confusing.) But even after he attempts to undo the change he already made, when he attempts to meet up with Bruce Wayne again in his restored timeline, it isn’t the Bruce he’s used to (played by Ben Affleck), it’s one he’s never met before (played by George Clooney, in a jokey nod to the movies where he took over the Batman role from Michael Keaton).

The moment could easily provoke Inception-level interpretations — Clooney never actually confirms he’s Bruce Wayne or Batman, in spite of Barry’s flustered public exposure that they’re one and the same, and his quizzical look in response to the way Barry greets him might just as well be, “Hey, Bruce is still in the car, he sent me out to meet you, what are you babbling about now?” as anything else. For all we know, this man isn’t actually the new Bruce Wayne/Batman of Barry Allen’s continuity. (Yes, yes, they talked on the phone before Bruce’s car pulls up, that’s just a detail.)

But the real message here is that the timeline has been altered multiple times now, and nothing is necessarily going to be exactly the same in the future as it was in the past. Which gives Gunn and DC infinite license to play around with whatever casting or narrative choices they want to make in future, without making a complete break from any element of the Snyderverse they want to keep. In other words, why isn’t Henry Cavill playing Superman anymore, and why does Superman have a new origin story now? Because Barry Allen changed the timestream. And yet some things are still the same. Which brings us to the post-credits scene.

What happens in The Flash’s post-credits scene?

Flash (Ezra Miller), in a T-shirt and hoodie, sits in his childhood bedroom as blue lightning crackles through his body in The Flash Image: Warner Bros.

The post-credits sequence is meant as a reminder that Aquaman 2, aka Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, is still arriving this December. And that while Flash’s timeline-meddling might have changed Batman’s casting, Jason Momoa is still playing the undersea superhero. In the scene, Barry and Arthur Curry/Aquaman (Momoa) emerge from a bar, with Arthur falling-down drunk and Barry — who says because of his metabolism, he can’t get drunk — trying to explain the timeline adventures he just went through.

Arthur naturally wants to know what he was like in the alternate timestream, and Barry avoids telling him that he was never born there, and that his apparently childless father Tom (played by Temuera Morrison, as he was in 2018’s Aquaman) instead named his dog Arthur. Barry choses to interpret Dog Arthur as that timeline’s version of Tom’s son, and tells his Arthur that he was “pretty much” the same guy in the other timeline — “lovable, furry, loyal, motivated by bacon.”

Then Arthur falls face-down in a puddle, announces that he lives there now, and demands Barry take one of his rings, pawn it, and come back with more beer. Barry decides he’s going to be fine, and walks off with the ring.

Neither of them is really consistent with their previous character in this scene. Arthur’s a fun-loving hedonist and a cheerful meathead, but usually not a complete moron. And Barry isn’t usually a thief or a big bargoer, considering that the whole film is about his trauma-induced difficulties with connecting with people or navigating social situations. But hey, it’s a punchline, I guess.

Now the real question is, if George Clooney is now this universe’s Batman, how exactly is Ben Affleck going to show up as Batman in Aquaman 2?


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