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The Ending Of The CW's The Flash Explained

In 2012, the CW began airing "Arrow," based on the comics superhero Green Arrow. Over the next few years, the network added both "The Flash" and "Supergirl" to its roster, creating what came to be known as the Arrowverse — arguably the most successful shared universe venture DC Comics has had in TV or film to date. By adhering to the formula the MCU originated and allowing their separate characters' worlds to build organically before merging them into crossover episodes, the Arrowverse offers an experience that tends to feel truer to the original comics than DCEU films.

Within this universe, "The Flash" became the most watched and most loved of the DC shows. Stars like Grant Gustin (as Barry Allen, aka The Flash) and Tom Cavanagh (playing a never-ending sea of Harrison Wellses) ooze charm and affability, while former "Law & Order" veteran Jesse L. Martin brings his gravitas to Central City as detective Joe West. "Sky High" alum Danielle Panabaker works overtime as Caitlin Snow, Killer Frost, and her newest identity, Khione. The remaining cast, cameos, and quasi-scientific storylines all come together as an utterly entertaining show fans have loved for nine seasons now.

On May 24, 2023, the CW aired "The Flash" series finale, "A New World, Part Four." While many are sad to see the series end, "The Flash" finished spectacularly, closing the book on narratives it's been building since its premiere. To understand how it all fits together, though, it's important to look at the big picture.

What do you need to remember about the plot of The Flash

"The Flash" is insanely plotted, which is one of its best qualities. Villains and storylines move in and out at a rapid pace (no pun intended). Even before the four-part finale event starts in Episode 10 of Season 9, Barry straight up dies in Episode 9 at the super-vibrating hand of Wally West (Keiynan Lonsdale), who is under the influence of Ramsey Rosso's (Sendhil Ramamurthy) toxic zombie cells.

Luckily, Barry ends up in a woodsy Green Arrow afterlife where Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) hangs out numbering multiverses. As part of his posthumous Spectre duties, Oliver is able to bring Barry back to life. He's even able to return to the land of the living himself, but only as long as the multiverse is in peril or there's an after-party to attend.

While all that is going on, Khione (whose real-life counterpart Danielle Panabaker directed the episode), still discovering her powers, seemingly effortlessly freezes all the water in the toxic zombie bodies of Team Flash, incapacitating them, then reanimates John Diggle (David Ramsey) so he can help Flash and Arrow as Spartan. She's not sure how she knows how to do this, but she'll get there soon enough. In fact, after Rosso is reverted back to an average human criminal without a blood-filled Super Soaker for an arm, Oliver tells Khione that she's connected to the natural world. And from what we learn later, that is a massive understatement.

A New World, Part One: Reunions

Episode 10 of "The Flash" begins with a mystery man. More on that later, though, as the show cuts to Iris (Candice Patton) who's still battling early-term morning sickness in Episode 9 and is days from labor in Episode 10. Iris gets a text about winning the Pulitzer, but Barry, who is baby proofing the apartment, vanishes in a bolt of blue lightning.

He's transported back to the date his mother is killed by the Reverse-Flash Eobard Thawne (Matt Letscher). Adult Barry has been here before, but now he is able to spend some time with his parents and express his love. Sadly, this is also the moment he has to be the one to tell his former self not to intervene in his mother's death. Eobard kills her and is trapped in the past, closing the loop Barry has revisited throughout his life.

However, a sinister force bigger than Reverse-Flash is at work, and it possesses Joe through a large blue crystal. It's the Negative Speed Force essence, forcing Joe to fight Barry. Barry uses his lightning rod connection to Iris to center himself and separate Joe's consciousness from the crystal, saving both their lives. The crystal disappears.

Meanwhile back in Central City, a large cloud of red lightning flashes in the sky and strikes the mystery man in the chest. When he wakes, he finds the confidential police file of Eddie Thawne (Rick Cosnett), who looks exactly like him.

A New World, Part Two: The Blues

Khione avoids the pesky chore of opening doors by turning herself into mist and wafting in underneath. She speaks to her plants and journals, but the person she really wishes she could talk to is Mark (Jon Cor).

Coincidentally, Mark is back, except he's actually the Negative Speed Force's current vessel. He berates Khione, causing her to flee, then attacks the rest of Team Flash in her and Barry's absence, as the latter is still trapped in time.

Speed Force Nora (Michelle Harrison) counsels Khione on her powers. She doesn't understand them yet but can feel the whole world at once. Speed Force Nora responds that it sounds like Khione understands her powers very well.

Khione confronts the possessed Mark and with a snap of her fingers reduces his entire body — save the crystal — to dust. The crystal vanishes before she can grab it, so with another snap, she reassembles him.

Cecile (Danielle Nicolet) senses intense panic and joy, which can only mean that Iris is in labor. Barry manages to return at exactly the right time, and everyone heads to the hospital. Seriously — they probably take at least two cars.

Across Central City, the Eddie doppelgänger goes to CCPD for answers but his looks stun everyone speechless. As he starts recalling Eddie's memories, he realizes he is Eddie resurrected. He digs up Eddie's empty coffin to prove it and pulls the fatal bullet out of his own chest. A singularity cloud opens above.

A New World, Part Three: Changes

Barry is pulled to 2049, when adult Nora has traveled from before. Previously, Barry didn't exist in 2049, having vanished in the Crisis of Infinite Earths. In this episode, however, 2049-Barry exists and is simply away in space, probably fighting cool space villains with Supergirl.

The blue crystal is also there and has possessed Nora. When Eddie, transported by the Negative Speed Force, wanders into the museum looking for Barry, the possessed Nora tells him Barry stole the life Eddie should have had, but Barry zips in and takes Eddie out of there.

Cecile projects her 2023 consciousness into her 2049 body to save Nora from possession. With little trouble, she forces the temporal body of the Negative Speed Force out of Nora's physical form. She accepts her superhero name, Virtue, but the crystal disappears once again.

Back at Eddie's place, Barry notices everything is covered in those sketchy tachyons, which means they're inside the Negative Speed Force. Eddie is persuaded by all that negativity and won't listen to Barry's reasoning. He feels his sacrifice was wasted and goes to see Iris.

Graying Iris is an imposing woman. She tells Eddie that Barry was always between them, that her love for Barry was there even when she wouldn't recognize it, and that the family they built is the life she was meant for. Infuriated, Eddie goes back into the Negative Speed Force and accepts the crystal, becoming its new avatar.

Meanwhile, Khione realizes she's a goddess. A lot happens in this episode. 

What major questions need to be addressed by The Flash finale?

This is not the first time "The Flash" has featured the Negative Speed Force, so while it's a fitting antagonist for the end of the series, it portends an unending cycle that hardly indicates closure. The first three parts of "A New World" follow that formula, as each episode features a new member of Team Flash being possessed and saved by another member.

In "Part Four," it's essential that Barry finds a way to break that pattern. "Reunions" closes the loop on Barry's past, fulfilling the destiny revealed all the way back in Season 1 — he's fighting Reverse-Flash when his mother is killed, and he dissuades his other Flash-self from intervening. In order for the show to end, it needs to close this loop of conflict between the positive and negative forces surrounding Central City as well.

The other major character development over the first three parts of "A New World" involves Khione. She has rapidly accessed powers above and beyond anything she ever thought was possible, and certainly beyond anything her alter-egos have done before. Her recognizing these changes and admitting to being a goddess implies huge changes ahead. Khione herself warily accepts that she will have to leave Central City for good. She can't just help these few people in this one place — she must be everywhere, for everyone and everything. That transition is going to be vital.

What happened in the final episode of The Flash

Episode 4 has a lot of ground to cover, so the show wastes no time in bringing back some dearly departed foes. Zoom (Teddy Sears) and Godspeed (Karan Oberoi) appear and nearly start their own speed-measuring contest when Eobard Thawne (as Reverse-Flash, sporting his "Harrison Wells" identity) comes downstairs to snarkily put them in their place. Savitar (voiced by Tobin Bell) arrives too, and Eddie — calling himself Cobalt Blue — introduces himself, saying he brought them all there to defeat Team Flash together. Hilariously, Cobalt calls his team a Legion, and Mark later refers to it as the Legion of Zoom.

The battle goes quickly (pun intended) with Nora tricking Savitar, Virtue mind zapping Godspeed, Allegra (Kayla Compton) unleashing major ultraviolet energy onto Wells-Thawne, and Khione basically knocking out Zoom with his own lightning by pushing it back in his face. (Mark is also there.) Eddie, meanwhile, gets redeemed just in time for Barry to return to the hospital as Iris is ready to push.

The second half of the episode is all celebration and goodbyes, with people across several different timelines and multiverses there to see the new baby. Even Harrison — a real time-traveling Wells this time — arrives to tell the goddess Khione that she must prepare to ascend (to the heavens, one supposes), which she does shortly afterward, leaving the gift of Caitlin in her place.

Barry closes things out by sending lightning to three future speedsters.

What the ending of The Flash means

Titled "A New World, Part Four: Finale," the last episode embraces several themes. One is allowing positive and negative forces to exist in concert — yin and yang — reinforcing one another instead of clashing. This idea carries into society at large, where opposing viewpoints seem to find no common ground and frequently lead to violence. The show asserts that disagreements are inevitable, but ultimately, we are all trying to improve things for ourselves and our loved ones. That, in and of itself, is a goal everyone can recognize.

"The Flash" also focuses on family, as Nora's birth is a throughline of all four episodes of "A New World." As Barry battles across time, it's his love and relationships that center him and give him strength. Even the redemption of Eddie comes from his recognition of his past; his enduring love and belief in doing the right thing allows him to die honorably.

Farewells also come into play, for the show and for Khione, who is taking her place in the ether as protector of the natural world. She tells the team that not only is she leaving, but she is abandoning her mortal body as well, which she does in a fabulous tornado of all four natural elements — earth, air, fire, water. In her place stands Caitlin, who died unnaturally and therefore, according to Khione, deserves her own second chance. And second chances have always been a mainstay philosophy of "The Flash."

Believe in the impossible

"Reunions" opens with a voiceover request to believe in the impossible. In the denouement of "Finale," Eddie is drained of power by Jay Garrick's Flash (John Wesley Shipp) in the middle of Jitters, where the coffee must cost a fortune to cover the overhead of constantly smashed windows. Eddie recharges himself with his fallen Legion and enters the Negative Speed Force to amplify his speed even more. As this was how Eobard himself once died, it seems Eddie is doomed too. Barry rages at the endlessness and unfairness of it all.

Khione offers that she can get Barry in to confront Eddie, but to what end? If Barry wants to save Eddie — who once sacrificed himself for Barry — then Khione tells him he must change his perceptions.

Barry has always known balance to come with strife, but Khione opines that it's "about coexistence, not in conflict, but in mutual trust." Barry finds this impossible, because even if he refuses to fight, his enemies continue to in perpetuity. She tells him to "... believe in the impossible, because it's the only way to create a better world."

Barry repeats that message to infant Nora, saying the lightning chose him, but now he is choosing to share that gift with others. He sends his lightning to Avery Ho, Max Mercury, and Jess Chambers — future speedsters all — hoping to grow a better world and break the cycles.

What is the fate of Eddie Thawne?

In the Negative Speed Force with Barry for the final time, Eddie lashes against him with blow after blow, letting his fury overtake him. He even starts repeating the very words of Eobard, continuing the cycle that has played out time and time again. Barry picks up on this and, even though he is wounded and refusing to fight, he tells Eddie what a good man he is, and how he is becoming the very person he sacrificed himself to defeat. He tells Eddie that he is the Negative Speed Force's avatar now, but he doesn't have to give in to the hate it builds around him. He can fight it. Eobard Thawne lived and died in hate, as any kid growing up with a name like Eobard is likely to do, but Eddie has known love.

As he says this, Eddie is flooded with memories of his previous life, his happiness, and finally how Iris cried over him as he died. His final words expressed how he had always wanted to be her hero. Present-day Eddie is moved by these memories. He wants to be the honorable man he was before. He pulls the crystal from his chest and throws it to the ground, smashing it to pieces with his foot.

Although Eddie will always be part of the Negative Speed Force, he vows to work with Barry, instead of against him, for the good of the world.

What happens to Barry and Iris?

In Season 3 of "The Flash" Iris says, " ... wherever you go, you'll always be Barry and I'll always be Iris, and we always find each other." Those words are remembered again as the couple celebrate the birth of their first child, Nora. Now a happy trio, they look forward to many more years together, as in 2049 the two are still setting off sparks when Graying Iris gets to talk with 2023 Barry. Their love is palpable and everlasting.

Iris, of course, has won one Pulitzer and will go on to win at least one more, while Barry choses to share some of his Flash powers with some folks who have yet to put on the golden boots. Of course, that doesn't mean he's going to stop fighting crime himself. As we learn in "Part Three," the Flash is sometimes required in space in the future, while on Earth he and Eddie try to work together to coexist peacefully to maintain the natural order. Furthermore, even though Barry says watching their daughter Nora hold her infant self (who she gifted with a lightning bolt onesie) is "trippy even for us," Nora assures them that her little brother Bart's birth will be even more eventful.

The gang's all here

Joe is easily the world's proudest grandpa in the history of ever, barely holding back tears as he marvels at how much Iris has grown. She's a mother herself now, and he feels amazing about how lucky he is to have lived this life. Riding that high, he finally proposes to Cecile, praising her accomplishments and telling her "Wherever our dreams may take us, we will always keep loving each other." This reinforces what Chuck (Brandon McKnight) tells her in "Part Three," when she worries that her long absence from Joe in 2049 must mean something goes wrong.

Chuck, meanwhile, is attacked by Reverse-Flash during the episode's earlier battle. He's saved by Allegra but weirdly came out of the attack unscathed because of black hole energy he absorbs during his experiment in the Season 6 premiere. He's now a Consciousness-Honed Universally Neutralized Kerr anomaly, or C.H.U.N.K., and in 2049, he and Allegra are long married but still hot and heavy for each other.

The time-traveling Harrison Wells has words of advice for Khione, telling her, "It's not the time travel that matters. What matters is carrying a piece of the ones you love wherever and whenever you go." Khione takes this to heart and while Mark is sad to see her go, he's grateful she never gave up on him. He's also surprised and happy to see Caitlin back, but Caitlin, for her part, is eager to get back to work.

What the cast and crew have said about the ending of The Flash

Talking with Entertainment Weekly, Grant Gustin spoke about his own life changes during the latter seasons of "The Flash," and his desire to see Barry go through similar changes of starting a family with Iris and moving on to new experiences. He felt that he and the character of Barry went through similar ups and downs across the years, in similar stages of their lives, so the timing felt natural to him.

"Arrow" star Stephen Amell also spoke with EW about how "The Flash" finale means an end to the Arrowverse as well, and how happy he is that "The Flash" is the show to see it out. Furthermore, he talked about his favorite scenes with Grant as Oliver and Barry, and immediately honed in on his first appearance on the show, in the pilot, when Oliver gives Barry his moniker. One of his other favorite scenes, however, "... was when Barry and Oliver had a drink at the bar. And [Season 9 showrunner Eric Wallace] wrote this beautiful scene of the two of us sitting there having a beer [in Episode 9 of the final season]. If you go back and you really pay close attention to the dialogue, it's pretty much verbatim what I said to him in the pilot of 'The Flash.' That was a really neat full-circle moment."

With that, "The Flash" closes yet another loop.