Review by Brian Lowry, CNN
(CNN) — “The Flash” raced into the sunset on Wednesday night, ending its nine-season run just in time for a big-screen version by the same name starring Ezra Miller to take up that mantle. Yet the DC series’ finish also represents a sort-of requiem for the CW network, at least as the superhero-loving showcase that it represented for years.
CW is operating under new management after the Nextstar station group acquired a controlling stake in the network from partners Warner Bros. (like CNN, a unit of Warner Bros. Discovery) and CBS, which is taking the network in a different direction – more TV discount store than fifth English-language broadcast network. That includes a heavier emphasis on unscripted programming (such as picking up the HBO Max series “FBoy Island” and a spinoff) and more international acquisitions, including shows already produced for the Canadian market.
Remaining in limbo for now are two holdover Warner Bros.-produced superhero shows, “Superman & Lois” and the Batman-inspired “Gotham Knights,” which, based on the programming the CW announced during the recent upfront presentations, don’t readily fit with its current profile and strategy.
All of that makes “The Flash’s” demise more bittersweet, despite the fact that its best days were clearly behind it, and the huge cast of characters in its Scooby gang had grown almost absurdly unwieldy.
As a remnant of what came to be known as the Arrowverse, “The Flash” trafficked in a dizzying number of characters and subplots, moving back and forth among alternate Earths and different timelines.
In one small manifestation of that, when Barry Allen/the Flash (Grant Gustin) and his wife Iris (Candice Patton) finally had their baby in the finale, the grownup version of the baby from the future, Nora (Jessica Parker Kennedy), actually had the mind-bending opportunity to hold and coo at herself.
Subtitled “A New World, Part Four,” the last episode conducted a great deal of business, as the resurrected character of Eddie Thawne (Rick Cosnett) assembled old villains to battle the Flash and his gang, including the alternate-Earth Flash Jay Garrick, played by John Wesley Shipp, the star of the 1989 series. “The Flash” was nicely sentimental in that way, never more so than in its recurring use of Shipp and nods to comics history.
Once that was over, the producers found time to let Iris’ dad Joe (Jesse L. Martin) not only briefly show off his Broadway singing chops but to propose to Cecile (Danielle Nicolet). “A New World” also brought back Caitlin (Danielle Panabaker), an original character who never really left if you count all the alter egos that Panabaker has played over the course of the show’s life.
Anyone without an advanced degree in the Negative Speed Force is to be forgiven for potentially losing track of some of “The Flash’s” many moving parts. But especially in its early days the show exemplified a genre that thrived on the CW and took big creative swings, including multi-part crossover episodes connecting various series.
Barry closed the episode on a hopeful note, not only sharing his powers but speaking to his baby daughter about a future world “where nothing has to be impossible as long as we believe in it.”
Even in light of the changes sweeping over the TV business, and uncertainty exacerbated by the writers strike, the CW’s future appears particularly hazy. And as “The Flash” zooms away, the kind of grand vision that Barry articulated already looks smaller in the rear-view mirror.
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