Sometimes a great TV performer can come out of an already fantastic episode, but occasionally an actor can rise above the material, proving that even though the writers have let them down, the actor is going to make the most of what they’ve been given. That’s exactly where we find ourselves with The Flash’s head-scratching finale, which capped off a largely enjoyable but ultimately uneven second season. What has never been in doubt, though, is star Grant Gustin’s ability to convince viewers that this all makes sense in an emotional, earnest, and often light-hearted way.
The last few episodes of The Flash’s second season essentially required Gustin to stay at an emotional maximum. Barry lost his powers and had to redefine his sense of self after making a huge sacrifice; he was taunted by an evil power hell-bent on destroying everyone he loved (and multiple Earths on top of that), and he had to re-live the horror of his mother’s death, as well as the new horror of his father’s death. Joe West, his other father, was also taken at one point, and Barry had to not only confront the Speed Force itself, but ultimately made a time-altering decision to change the past because he was tired of living through all of this pain.
I mean, seriously.
And throughout it all, Gustin has remained exceptional. Even when moments of “The Race of His Life” trended towards the ludicrous, he still sold the material with aplomb. Unlike most superhero series, The Flash infuses a lot of, well, feels in to its proceedings, and Gustin is often required to exude both confidence and fragility, joy and tears, all within the same episode. And he does.
Truly, who doesn’t love Barry Allen? He’s usually the best thing about crossover episodes with Arrow, too, and it was true with his recent jaunt to National City to see Supergirl as well. His character is written as one who is clever and friendly and knowable on one level, but he’s also broken and set apart. “The Race of His Life” set that up nicely, with all of Team Flash allied on one side against Barry (for his own protection), but even with all of their machinations to stop Zoom, it was Barry who ultimately made a decision to kill his time remnant in order to save everyone. That schism also led to his flawed decision to reset the timeline, the implications of which we won’t know about until Season 3.
Barry isn’t just the crux of Team Flash because of his powers, he’s its heart and soul. But I think that would be true wherever this character was, even if he was just that regular ol’ forensic scientist at the police force (something the show didn’t spend enough time exploring when his powers were gone), because Gustin plays him with such affable charisma. He’s a little goofy, but he’s also strong. He laughs easily, but he’s not afraid to shed tears. And while any of this could all be easily written out for a character, it’s a very tough thing to pull off in actuality.
While I think Gustin did go above and beyond in “The Race of His Life,” making lemonade out of some very confused lemons, the truth is he always does great work on the show, week to week, and remains one of the brightest lights on TV. Though I’m not completely sure where Season 3 will take us to paraphrase Harrison Wells 2.0 and Iris, “we believe in you, Barry … go kick some ass.” And that confidence is because of Gustin.
You can read about previous TV Performers of the Week here, and also check out some of our recent Flash articles below:
- ‘The Flash’: Will Black Flash Hunt Speedsters in Season 3?
- ‘The Flash’ Poll: Who Is the Man in the Iron Mask? [Solved!]
- ‘The Flash’ Finale: The 9 Biggest Questions We Have About Season 3
- ‘The Flash’ Season 2 Finale Recap: “The Race of His Life”