The Flash episode 23 review: Fast Enough

Barry Allen demonstrates the true meaning of the word superhero in The Flash's brilliantly emotional season one finale...

This review contains spoilers.

1.23 Fast Enough

Sometimes it’s our failures that make us who we are, as much as our successes. The bad things that happen to us, especially early in life, can set us on a path that’s actually more full of love and purpose than the one we might have had otherwise. This can’t always be the case but, for Barry Allen, he ultimately decides that it is.

As part of a seemingly throwaway television show like The Flash – a silly superhero romp celebrated for its lightheartedness – that’s a pretty big thing to be grappling with.

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And as thrilling as the action set pieces in this episode are, and they really, really are, it’s that commitment to some level of emotional depth that sets it apart. And it doesn’t merely try to achieve some poignancy, to delve into a character’s soul – it achieves it, and it’s about as perfect as a season finale can be.

We start with a more muted opening than usual, setting the tone after a penultimate episode that dialled up the comic book fun in favour of plot and character moments, but it’s when we get stuck into the conversation between Barry and Wells that the hour snaps into focus.

After one necessary exposition dump that explains Thawne’s motives and plans in relation to Barry, we realise how much set-up the show has already done, and that allows the episode to be more contemplative than your average season-capper. When Thawne proclaims his fatherly love for both Barry and Cisco at different points in the episode, it feels completely true, and like something we’ve known all along.

Rightfully identifying that Barry’s relationship with Joe, Wells and Henry is far more compelling than any romance that could or has developed, The Flash is smart about establishing that this is where our hero’s inner conflict lies. He’s scared of trading one happy ending for another, one known and the other a simple, long-held dream of what could have been had that night never happened.

Iris is a factor, sure, but another brilliant thing this episode did was to create an actual resolution for that relationship. In this episode, family is established as a choice we make and, for me, it feels like the show has finally acknowledged that Iris is, blood relation or not, Barry’s family. His love for her is just as familial as it is romantic, and sometimes we need to give something up to get something better.

Their scene on the rooftop here was my favourite between the two since the mid-season finale, and I hope it signals a redirection for Iris’ character when we come back.

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But the absolute, curl-into-a-ball-and-cry-your-eyes-out-moment of I’m sure the whole show (they can’t top this, can they?) was Barry’s decision not to save his mother from Thawne, instead simply taking the opportunity to sit with her as she died, assuring her that he and his dad would be okay.

The kicker – the thing the whole episode had been building to – is that it’s not even a lie because, as much as he protested to his father earlier in the episode, Grant Gustin perfectly evoking the scared kid he’d been all those years ago, he knew it was true.

It’s as good a time as any to praise Gustin’s performance for one last time this season. No one else could do what he does with this character, or emotionally devastate the audience to this extent on a weekly basis. The rest of the cast aren’t too shabby, either. It really feels too good to be true whenever they’re on screen.

And Eddie, like Barry, gets to decide his own destiny, brushing aside Thawne’s assurances that he’d never matter in the grand scheme of things. Ultimately, Eddie gets to be the hero here, choosing to be with Iris despite his (apparently unfounded) worries about her relationship with Barry and, finally, removing himself from the equation in order to erase Thawne from existence.

Its typical time-travel stuff, and something a few people were asking about when it was revealed Eobard was a descendent from Eddie, but that doesn’t remove the emotional blow. It’s so well played, with Eddie recognising his power just before he uses it to sacrifice himself, and the kind of death that will have repercussions for the entire group come season two.

For an episode that features her wedding day, Caitlin only gets a sliver of screen time, but it still works beautifully with the larger theme of the episode. Faced with impending doom and deciding to simply seize the day and take their lives back, Caitlin and Ronnie finally get their happy ending.

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Let’s just not dwell on the open-ended timey-wimey final moments threatening to undo a lot of what happens here, or that Killer Frost tease. Actually, it feels quite unsporting to look ahead or discuss the profusion of Easter Eggs offered at all, because the episode itself is so good that it deserves to be taken on its own.

There might be multiple dimensions, an altered present, the end of the world, Cisco as a metahuman etc etc, but that’s a longer discussion for another time.

No, let’s just bask in the glory of having a superhero show that really gets what it’s trying to do. We thought we’d seen Barry’s origin story in the pilot episode, the death of his mother and imprisonment of his father spurring him on to be a certain kind of hero as The Flash, but really it was this entire season that shaped him into who he’d ultimately be.

There’s no needless angst, or contrived reason for him to shed the crowd of friends and family season one has built around him. Barry is just choosing to be a superhero, rather than a normal guy whose life would have likely been free of pain, and that, quite simply, is the most heroic thing there is.

Read Caroline’s review of the previous episode, Rogue Air, here.

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