The Flash – Season 9 Episode 13
“A New World, Part 4 – Finale”
The Flash and the Arrowverse ends with a final battle against the Negative Speed Force, a birth and the dawn of a better world.
So here we are; the end of The Flash and the Arrowverse. The CW’s connected multiverse of DC adaptations has existed for over a decade across many seasons of TV. That is undeniably an accomplishment and deserves recognition. It’s unfortunate that the shared continuity that many -including myself- were heavily invested in for so long would end with such a whimper on a bad season of The Flash. A strong argument could be made for disrespect on the part of the CW and an equally strong argument could be made for disrespect on the part of the writers and producers of this show for letting the quality fall to such a consistently low level that fans would be eager for it to end. It’s bittersweet to see the Arrowverse end, disappointing that it end so poorly and a relief that The Flash has finally been put out of its misery as a show.
Going into the finale there wasn’t a great deal to latch onto. Eddie Thawne was resurrected and became the avatar of the Negative Speed Force. He now goes by Cobalt Blue for some reason and decides the best way to kill Barry once and for all is to bring back previous Speedster villains for an all-out assault. Eobard Thawne, Zoom, Savitar and Godspeed are all plucked from the past and agree to work together to bring down their common enemy.
The best thing the episode has to offer is the brief scene where the villains bicker over who is the Fastest Man Alive. Naturally, Eobard Thawne gets the last word before Eddie declares himself to be the fastest. It ends the argument quite definitively as he is the one to supply them with the additional power required to take on Team Flash. The bickering villains scene was the tiniest morsel of the potential associated with bringing these characters together. All were defined by their desire for more power so the melting pot of egos at play could have made for a compellingly turbulent dynamic.
Unfortunately, the dynamic isn’t exploited in any way outside of that one scene. Once it ends they become action figures to be bashed against other action figures rather than the return of some of the most terrifying threats Barry has ever faced. Eobard Thawne is the most consistent threat he has dealt with and their antagonistic relationship has defined so much of the show since the first season but they don’t share any meaningful screentime in this episode. Thawne taunts Barry before the fighting begins and then Allegra is the one to defeat him.
Similar applies to the other villains. They aren’t included to provide anything meaningful to the final episode of The Flash. They are fodder for an extended action sequence that has no stakes because none of Team Flash is in any measurable danger. Each of them is easily defeated by people who aren’t Barry which diminishes their inclusion because they no longer represent a threat. It could be that the idea was to illustrate how much stronger Team Flash are since facing them which would have been a reasonable observation to make as the show comes to an end but the battle wasn’t about that or anything else. It was empty spectacle to fill time in the episode with no sense of cohesion to how the powers were deployed. A clear example of how little care is taken when constructing these sequences is Cecile’s sudden ability to fly and her subsequent defeat of Godspeed with no effort. Her powers have been inconsistently growing for a while now and she is often used as a catch-all solution to problems but this escalation was beyond ridiculous.
Allegra taking out Thawne was likewise fumbled. He goes to S.T.A.R. Labs and attacks Chester rather than going after Barry and is defeated by a single hit from Allegra who fails to make sure that Thawne is actually defeated before spending a very long time kissing Chester after he miraculously returns to life. It’s later revealed that it has something to do with him being a living Black Hole in his first appearance along with the suggestion that he will someday manifest superpowers just like every other member of the team. Godspeed is easily defeated by Cecile who can now fly and has vaguely defined mental powers, Zoom is taken out by Khione and technically Mark who is present when she defeats him without contributing and Savitar is taken out by Nora stabbing him with a broken-off piece of his own suit. to say the returning villains are laughable would very much be an understatement.
Eddie takes slightly longer to defeat but it’s similarly easy though there is at least an attempt to make the resolution a character-driven one. Barry comes to the nihilistic realisation that there is no possible permanent victory because the Forces must always remain in perfect balance. One side growing stronger is followed by the other side growing stronger to match it and both are caught in an endless cycle of violence and death from which there is no escape. Barry has a very fatalistic view of the situation as he sees himself as part of an inescapable cycle that will only result in more losses for him but Khione helps him look at the relationship between the positive and negative forces in a different way. Her connection to the natural world has allowed her to understand how the balance of nature works. Instead of being a battle between conflicting forces, she sees the natural world as coexistence with many different elements working together to maintain a complex system. She encourages Barry to look at the two sets of forces as being part of the same system which means they can work together to make that system better.
It’s an interesting enough idea as Barry has been in constant conflict with various enemies ever since he got his powers so it makes sense that his mindset would be firmly entrenched in the notion of good vs. evil. It never occurs to him to think differently because he has never been provided with examples of an alternative. Before Khione’s pep talk the best he can hope for is convincing Eddie to reject the Negative Speed Force in order to give Barry a reprieve until it selects a new avatar. This is actually a good inclusion in a final episode as it signifies a shift in Barry’s mindset towards how to meaningfully make a difference rather than being a reactive superhero who deals with constant threats. He is playing a part in the natural order and looking to build a better world by practically deploying what he has learned. It’s growth in a show that has consistently failed to allow its protagonist to meaningfully develop.
The application of that lesson doesn’t work due to the weaknesses in establishing this conflict in the first place. The forces and negative forces have been poorly defined at best so there has never been a decent foundation for the role they play in the universe. As far as the show was concerned they were just more powerful antagonists with a source of power that differed from the other antagonists. There was an opportunity to personify this seemingly endless conflict by drawing a personal connection between Barry and Eddie as avatars of their forces. It doesn’t make sense that Barry is the avatar of the positive Speed Force as Speed Force Nora fills that role -even though she isn’t an avatar- but for the purposes of illustrating the binary nature of this conflict, Barry represents the positive while Eddie represents the negative.
It doesn’t work as a conflict because Eddie only accepted his role as the avatar in the previous episode so there hasn’t been any time to properly cultivate an antagonistic relationship with any depth to it. The battle for Eddie’s soul was swift and unsophisticated and there has been no work done to define his relationship with the Negative Speed Force after bonding with it. Perhaps if the entire season had been built around Barry and Eddie’s relationships with their forces with Eddie’s innate goodness constantly trying to overpower the hold the force has on him then there would have been some grounding for the conclusion that plays out. What actually happens is that Barry confronts him, tells him that he has become the very thing he sacrificed himself to stop, Eddie has some flashbacks to support this and then he agrees to end the fighting while making it clear that they won’t see eye to eye on everything. Following this, Eddie leaves the episode and all conflict is resolved.
The rest of the episode attempts to wrap things up as best it can. Nora is born as expected which marks the first day of the rest of Barry and Iris’ lives, Joe and Cecile finally get engaged and there’s a big party where adult Nora holds herself as a baby. None of this is bad as it allows a cast that has excellent chemistry to interact in no-stakes circumstances to celebrate milestones in their lives. One thing that made the Arrowverse work so well is that the actors were always endlessly engaging together and it’s something that this show didn’t exploit enough. Doing so in the final episode is welcome and arguably necessary given that this is a farewell to the characters.
One character that gets a definitive farewell is Khione. Timeless Wells arrives to tell her that it’s time for her to take her place as some sort of ethereal being protecting the natural order. She takes the time to say goodbye to Team Flash or her “family” as she puts it. This is a connection that hasn’t been earned as she debuted in this season and the development of her relationships with the other characters has been shallow. She says goodbye, tells the team she’ll always be with them and then leaves. There’s limited reason to invest in Khione so it doesn’t actually mean much but it does qualify as something that happens.
Ascending to the ethereal plane comes with the unexpected development of Caitlin being resurrected. It doesn’t really mean anything because the team didn’t actually mourn her so the euphoria and disbelief that accompanies her return is completely unearned. If more of an effort had been made to mourn her passing over the course of the season then her return would have had more impact. Instead, it’s just another thing that happens. Even the disagreement she had with Barry before subjecting herself to the experiment that created Khione is dismissed with a short conversation where Caitlin tells Barry he was right all along and she was too consumed by grief to see it. If she returned still resenting Barry for her handling of that situation then that would have at least been something but their conflict is wrapped up and Barry is absolved of any wrongdoing as usual.
Considering the Barry and Iris relationship has been a pillar of the show for such a long time, the finale is strangely uninterested in giving it the attention it deserves. They now have Nora so have transitioned to being parents and Barry has a renewed outlook on the world that has encouraged him to be proactive in making it a better place for his daughter but there’s so little time spent on them as a couple. Iris barely appears in the episode and most of her scenes are more about Nora than they are about her. She does have a charming interaction with Joe where she tells him that she will always be his little girl. It’s a nice scene that acknowledges how far they’ve come but it’s one moment that stands out particularly because there are so few moments like it in the episode.
I’m not sure what would have qualified as weighty coverage of their relationship, especially considering the season has done so little to focus on it but it’s fitting that they end the show as parents. Their lack of shared screen time and Barry’s overall passivity in most of the episode makes for an underwhelming conclusion. It would be easy to accept this as a season finale with more seasons to come because there’s a distinct lack of finality to any of it.
A suggestion of finality comes from the constant assertions that the world has changed in some sort of nebulously fundamental way. Primordial forces are now working in harmony rather than discord, Barry has a renewed outlook on life that informs his desire to build a better world based on that outlook. The show ends with him pledging to share his power and that he has chosen three people to become Speedsters. He selects Avery Ho (Piper Curda), Max Mercury (Trevor Carroll) and Jess Chambers (Hana Destiny Huggins) to be struck by lightning and become Speedsters. How he arrives at them being the best candidates to receive powers is never explained as he has never interacted with any of them on screen and -with the exception of Avery Ho very briefly– have never appeared on the show before now. It’s a moment framed as a profound declaration of positive change and the completion of Barry’s journey into his full potential as a hero. He has learned all he can learn and now has to pass that onto a new generation of Speedsters.
From the point of view of a conclusion that makes a lot of sense because it ends the show with Barry living up to his potential but it isn’t something this show has earned as Barry constantly learns and forgets the same lessons while failing to actually grow. It isn’t believable that he’s in any position to choose who is worthy of receiving those powers. There’s also an issue of consent that the show doesn’t even glance at. Barry forcing powers on people who haven’t asked for them and aren’t prepared for the responsibility that comes with them is massively problematic. Perhaps The Flash ends in a way true to itself, with Barry doing something stupid where he hasn’t considered the implications.
An awful finale that fails to provide meaningful closure on the show, the characters and the Arrowverse while doubling down on the absurdities that unfortunately came to define the show.
- Barry being encouraged to look at the world differently and paying that lesson forward
- the villain’s bickering
- the endearing Iris/Joe scene
- outside of one scene, stripping away the identity of the returning villains
- having them be defeated laughably easily by everyone except Barry
- Eddie’s decision not being earned due to the lack of a strong antagonistic relationship
- Khione’s farewell having no impact
- Caitlin’s return similarly having no impact because she was never properly mourned
- absolving Barry of the part he played in his conflict with Caitlin
- very little attention given to the Barry/Iris relationship
- an overall lack of closure to the show
- Barry choosing three people to become Speedsters for reasons that are never explained
- the lack of explanation raising issues of consent when it comes to forcing powers on people
- Barry choosing three Speedsters suggesting the completion of a journey that is completely unearned
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User Review( votes)
My relationship with this show is something that many readers might find confusing. I’ve said on several podcasts that The Flash is a show that has been on for nine seasons and hasn’t been good for eight of them. It’s an oversimplification for the purposes of a hyperbolic statement but there is a lot of truth to it. Season one was excellent and ended in a way that legitimately moved me to tears. On the whiteboard, in the writer’s room the words “heart, humour, spectacle” were supposedly right in the middle as an indication of what the pillars of the show were to be. The first season achieved this brilliantly and set expectations that this success would be built on.
The reality was that the show would become defined by repetitive storytelling and characterisation, a constant lack of regard for consistency in the rules of the world it inhabited and a lack of effort being put into delivering something worth the viewer’s time. What kept me engaged was that the show was part of the Arrowverse and Barry was often at his best when featuring in the sadly missed crossovers that were an event worth looking forward to each year for a while. It was an important part of that shared continuity as it was the first spinoff so acted as the proof of concept that such an undertaking could work. It being the last one standing is unfortunate as it ends such an engaging and well-developed universe on a whimper. After this, there will be no more Arrowverse and having it end with a bad season of this show is an insult to that undertaking.
Other things kept me watching beyond its connection to the other shows. The cast was always endearing, engaging and had excellent chemistry that made them watchable even in the worst episodes. It also accomplished some incredible visuals such as the fully CGI Gorilla Grodd and King Shark. The realisation of Barry’s powers as well as the other powers depicted were often creative and visually arresting so there was a lot to recommend about this show as an adaptation of the comics. In many ways, it was among the purest translations of comics to live action but the quality of the show overall meant that it wasn’t as impressive an accolade as it should be.
This final season wasn’t even close to good enough to wrap up this show let alone the universe it inhabited. There was a general lack of purpose or cohesion to it, the characters were poorly utilised and the introduction of Khione was an insult to Danielle Panabaker’s work on the show. It doubled down on what the show was at its worst and failed to prompt any reminder of what it was at its best. Arrowverse you will be missed, The Flash not so much.
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