Wow, just wow. Show of hands of those found themselves holding their breath multiple times during The Flash season two’s final episode. Episode 23 was a total game-changer that will make the wait for season three incredibly difficult to endure. Season two episode 23 titled ‘The Race of His Life’ revealed the true identity of the man in the iron mask, a twist that no one saw coming. It also found Zoom and Barry locked in a race with the future of the multiverse hanging in the balance. The season two finale airing on May 24, 2016 was a real white knuckle ride that featured Grant Gustin’s best performance in the series to date.
The episode picks up exactly where episode 22 left off, with Zoom (Teddy Sears) killing Barry’s dad, Henry Allen. Barry sinks to his knees, screaming and crying while Zoom says, “Now the two of us are the same.” The Flash responds by slamming Zoom into a wall in a rage which is exactly the reaction Zoom was hoping for. Zoom pushes past The Flash and the two take off on a race around the city, with The Flash getting the upper hand throughout the race. Then suddenly someone else enters the fray, taking down Zoom. It’s the real Zoom; the one who was defeated was just another time remnant. Zoom teases Barry by telling him there might be two Barrys at some point and he’ll just have to be ready to kill himself. “You’re almost ready,” says Zoom, speeding away.
The stormy weather is completely in keeping with the mood at Henry’s funeral. It’s all too much for Barry to handle and he can’t say the words he wants to at his father’s grave. Joe (Jesse L Martin) speaks, saying Henry suffered two great losses: his wife and Barry. But, Henry was also proof that love can get you through the darkest of days. “That love will keep him alive in all of our hearts,” says Joe. Barry kneels down, telling his father he will find Zoom and take from him what he took from his father.
Back at the West house, now that Wally’s (Keiynan Lonsdale) in on the secret he thanks Barry again for everything he’s done for him and for the whole city as The Flash. He also tells Barry if he ever needs anything, just say the word. Barry tells the gang they have to come up with a plan to take down Zoom, and Cisco (Carlos Valdes) points out Zoom has hidden talents they still don’t know about. Cisco can’t figure out why he keeps vibing Earth-2 being ripped apart. “It’s like I’m watching Transformers in 4D but like 10 times more realistic and with much better acting,” says Cisco, delivering what will undoubtedly be one of the best lines of the episode.
Barry and Iris (Candice Patton) step outside, and Barry says he thought he’d almost come to grips with his mom’s death when Zoom took his father. He doesn’t know how he’ll find peace with it, and Iris says he has to try or else it’ll tear him apart. As they’re sitting there, Zoom races by. Barry chases after him, even though Iris begs him not to. Zoom taunts Barry, saying there’s always more to take and Barry responds by telling Zoom he has to stay away from his friends and family. Zoom needs to be the best and challenges Barry to a race. If Barry wins, it’s all over and Barry can be the hero. If he doesn’t race, them Zoom will kill more of his friends. Zoom claims all he’s ever wanted was to know who is the fastest man alive. With that, Zoom speeds off.
Back at S.T.A.R. Labs, Barry delivers the race challenge news to the gang, and Cisco thinks in a crazy way it actually makes sense. Joe and Wells (Tom Cavanagh) don’t believe it, and Wells thinks a power amplifier (also called a magnetar) can be weaponized and that’s what has destroyed Earth-2 in Cisco’s vision. Zoom wants to siphon the energy off of the two speedsters to activate the amplifier, and that makes sense to Caitlin since Zoom told her he’s now measuring his success in the number of Earths he conquers. Wells thinks Zoom actually wants to take out not just Earth-2 but every other Earth (and there are an infinite number of those). One pulse will destroy them all, and Barry now knows he has to race Zoom and, most importantly, he has to win.
Joe pleads with Barry to change his mind and not accept Zoom’s challenge, suggesting the team will find another way to take down Zoom. Barry doesn’t want to take that chance. He won’t let anyone else die if he can prevent it, and Joe figures out Barry’s real motivation is that he wants to kill Zoom. Barry admits it and also admits he wants him to suffer first for everything he’s done. Joe tries to calm Barry down, but Barry will not back off the idea of racing Zoom. Joe apologizes as Wells tranquilizes Barry.
Barry wakes up to find he’s locked up and his friends are gathered outside the cell. Joe tells him he’s too angry and doesn’t have a plan, and they won’t let him out. Wells says if Barry races Zoom on Zoom’s terms, he’ll lose. Joe adds that they all made this decision together, but Cisco clarifies that he went back and forth and was a good “60/40” at first. Barry’s devastated and begs them not to keep him locked up. They walk away as Barry pounds on the door to be let out.
Wells says locking up Barry was the easy part – their plan to take down Zoom will be the hard part. Cisco tracks down Zoom via the computer and Caitlin (Danielle Panabaker) assures the team she’s ready to do her part. Caitlin will distract Zoom, Wells and Joe will hit him, Cisco will open the breach, and then they’ll push Zoom through it. (Nothing about this plan could possibly go wrong, could it?) All of this will take place without Barry’s assistance.
As Wells is loading up, Jesse (Violett Beane) asks her dad what’s next. She’s been thinking about it because of how Wells is when he’s around Team Flash, and Jesse knows he cares about the Earth-1 gang. But, she wants to return to Earth-2 to be with her friends. Jesse tells her dad it’s okay if he stays on Earth-1 as long as he’s happy.
Team Flash minus the actual Flash get into position. The bait (aka Caitlin) is in place and she calls out for Jay. He appears and the gang prepares to do their parts. Caitlin tries to convince him she’s there alone and begins to move toward Jay as she speaks. Caitlin gets closer to Jay, telling him she has darkness in her just like Killer Frost. Caitlin says she’s ready to accept who she really is and apologizes for hurting him. He seems like he’s falling for it but then suddenly says it’s too late. Fortunately, as he’s ready to attack we discover Caitlin is just a hologram. Team Flash starts attempting to take Jay down, but Joe’s weapon jams and he has to plunge the tranquilizers into Jay up close. The breach opens and not only is Zoom sent through but Joe is also now on his way to Earth-2!
Cisco vibes to check on Joe but can’t see him. Cisco’s going to keep trying but it’s like his brain is channel surfing. The team also failed to turn off the magnetar as they had planned. If they attempt to move it now, Earth-1 will be history. Wally walks in and Iris has to break the news that their dad is with Zoom on Earth-2. Wally didn’t know about the plan or that they attempted to pull it off without Barry’s help. Wally, obviously, wants to retrieve his father but Iris explains they all agreed that if they got Zoom off this Earth they would close the breaches and never open them again – no matter what. Wally didn’t agree to it and will not let this stand. He leaves the room, angry and confused.
On Earth-2, Jay has Joe locked up which Jay believes means he’ll now get Barry to agree to the race to save his only surviving dad. Joe says no way and that he made sure that wouldn’t happen. Joe wants to know who the man in the iron mask is and Jay finally reveals the man’s secret identity. He explains how he got his powers and became the fastest man alive, but that he wanted more. He created Velocity-9 which made him fast enough to run to other Earths. On one of those Earths he discovered the man who is now in the iron mask. After figuring out the V-9 was killing him, he tried everything including manipulating the speed force. The man in the iron mask was brought to Earth-2 so Zoom could steal his speed and then Zoom found Barry, took his speed, and now the man in the iron mask is really just a trophy. Zoom got so tired of being the villain that he borrowed the man in the mask’s name – Jay Garrick. Zoom threatens that after he proves he’s the fastest man alive, Barry will be forced to rot in a cage like the one Jay is in now, gloating that then he’ll have two Flashs to keep him company.
Back on Earth-1, Wally frees Barry from the cell because he needs his help. Wally and Barry join the team in the lab, and Iris is pissed at her brother for breaking Barry out. Barry’s mad at everyone for letting Zoom take Joe, still believing it would have been better if he just raced Zoom in the first place. Cisco tells Barry he’s not in control of himself right now and they’re worried he’s too emotional and angry to handle Zoom at this moment. Caitlin reminds Barry that he kept her in check and told her to stop and take a breath. Wells says if he’s doing this for revenge, then he will lose. But Barry says no matter what he has to beat Zoom, even without their help.
The team reluctantly agrees and Cisco vibes The Flash to Earth-2. The Flash tells Zoom the race is on, but only if Joe is returned completely unharmed. Zoom agrees, but adds that he won’t release Joe until after they’ve raced. A deal is struck.
Team Flash meets up with Zoom who kept his end of the bargain and has Joe. Wells tells him they know his plan, but Zoom says he doesn’t want to destroy every Earth. He’ll leave Earth-1 because it’s the access point to every other Earth. “I need to have some place to hang my cowl,” says Zoom. Barry promises he’ll save Iris and Wally’s dad, and Wally corrects him and includes Barry as Joe’s son, too. Although Barry wants them all to go back to S.T.A.R. Labs before the race begins, they refuse. Wells says he believes in Barry and Iris tells Barry to kick Zoom’s ass.
Zoom explains how the race will go and that for Barry to win he has to stop Zoom from powering up the magnetar. If Barry calls off the race at any point, Joe and the rest of Team Flash will be killed. And they’re off! Zoom seems to be winning and the magnetar is close to being powered up when a time remnant joins Barry to help him out. The Flash frees Joe and Zoom slams Barry to the ground, enraged, telling him he’s too late. The magnetar looks to be fully charged but Barry’s time remnant is still running around, creating his own pulse. His body won’t be able to handle it and he’ll die, explains Wells, as the remnant continues to run while burning up. Fortunately, what he managed to do was enough to stop the magnetar, which further enrages Zoom. Now it’s time for hand-to-hand combat and this time Barry has the upper hand. Zoom reminds him he’s a hero and therefore he can’t kill someone and Barry agrees, saying, “I won’t have to,” as the speed wraiths arrive to deal with Zoom.
Back at S.T.A.R. Labs Wally tries to figure out how Barry ran back in time to make a remnant while Barry explains his master plan. Wally’s still confused and Barry says the time remnant was willing to sacrifice himself for them. Wally laughs, knowing this is beyond him at this point, and tells Barry he’s just happy he’s safe.
And now it’s time for the huge reveal… Wells and Cisco trade insults as they work to free the man in the iron mask. They remove the mask and he faces Team Flash to reveal the real Jay Garrick is Barry’s father’s doppelgänger. Barry leaves the room in tears, with Joe hot on his heels. Barry can’t believe he looks just like his father, and Barry remembers his father’s mom’s maiden name was Garrick but he never put two and two together. Joe reminds Barry that this man doesn’t know he is Barry’s father’s doppelgänger and Joe says he’ll ask Garrick to leave if this is too upsetting for Barry. Barry just asks for a minute to recover from the shock.
Back in the lab, Cisco explains to Jay that he didn’t have his powers because there was a dampener in the mask. Without the mask, Jay has his powers back and he also has his speedster suit. However, he explains the helmet was all the fake Jay’s creation. When Wells says it stands for hope on Earth-2, Jay decides he might just use it after all. Placing the helmet on his head, the outfit is now complete. Jay thanks them all, and especially The Flash, for saving them from Zoom. He’d like to go home to Earth-3 and Cisco says he can get him to Earth-2. Wells and Jesse volunteer to help him get to Earth-3 from there, which means the Wells family is heading back home to Earth-2. The gang take turns hugging Dr. Wells, and he stops to say good-bye to each of them before taking off. Cisco says, “Don’t be surprised if I project myself over to Earth-2 every once in a while just to throw your stuff across the office,” and Wells and Cisco share a laugh. Jesse and Wally also share a hug before Jay, Dr. Harrison Wells, and Jesse head off through the breach to Earth-2.
At the West house, the team is relaxing except for Barry. He steps outside to sit on the porch and Iris follows. Barry confesses he just can’t stop thinking about his dad’s doppelgänger. Somehow it’s just made him miss his dad even more. They’ve won the Zoom battle but Barry doesn’t feel like a winner right now. Iris says maybe their relationship will help Barry heal, but Barry’s just not in the right mindset to actually try to be with Iris now. “I feel so hollowed out inside right now. I feel more broken than I’ve ever felt in my life,” says Barry, with tears in his eyes. He says he has to find peace before he can be with her, and Iris says she’ll wait for him because he’s always waited for her. She’ll be there whenever he gets back. Iris says she loves him and they share a beautiful, gentle kiss. “I love you, too, and I always will,” says Barry. Iris goes back inside and Barry looks in at his friends and family through the window. He whispers an apology to them and then races back through time to the night of his mother’s murder and this time he saves his mom. He looks up and sees The Flash from season one observing the action from the doorway. That time-traveling Flash briefly smiles and then fades away. Barry’s completely altered the past. He bends down to comfort his mother who has no idea at this point that this young man is her son.