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How The Flash Can Pay Off Its Original Ending Tease (& Retcon Crisis)

Season 9 being the end for The Flash makes it possible that the show will pay off its original ending tease and retcon “Crisis on Infinite Earths” at the same time. It’s been confirmed that the sole surviving Arrowverse show will come to a close in 2023. The Flash is now slated to wrap up with a 13-episode ninth season.

News of The Flash’s impending conclusion suggests that the end of an era is on the horizon. Not long ago, The CW had a strong and steady lineup of Arrowverse content. However, recent cancellations have caused it to take some huge hits. In a short span, the Arrowverse lost Supergirl, Black Lightning, Legends of Tomorrow, and Batwoman. To make matters worse, Superman & Lois – its biggest show – just retconned itself out of the Arrowverse when it confirmed that it occupies its own Earth in DC’s live-action multiverse. Since that’s the case, The Flash is the only active Arrowverse show left, which in turn makes its forthcoming series finale an even bigger event.

After eight seasons of saving Central City from metahuman villains and evil speedsters, Grant Gustin’s Barry Allen is finally nearing the end of his long Arrowverse journey. Through all that time, the Flash has made it past some enormous challenges, including one that foretold an early demise for his character. Throughout much of season 5, Barry was fated to give his life in “Crisis on Infinite Earths”, but his Earth-90 counterpart from the 1990s Flash series made the ultimate sacrifice instead, thus allowing the Scarlet Speedster to continue on in his role as Central City’s biggest protector. This arc was considered the culmination of a long-building story that the show had been laying the foundation for since the first episode. However, The Flash has a way of reversing that setup and properly paying off the pilot episode’s big tease in season 9 instead. Here’s how.

The Flash’s Original Crisis Tease Explained (& How The Arrowverse Changed It)
The Flash Vanishes Newspaper 2024 CrisisAC
At the end of The Flash’s pilot episode, The Flash unveiled a newspaper article that teased a bleak future for Barry Allen. A newspaper article published in April 2024 and written by Evan Gibson contained the headline: “The Flash Missing: Vanishes in Crisis”. Later on in season 1, The Flash made some tweaks to the article. When it was seen again, Iris West-Allen replaced Evan Gibson as the byline and new details were added to the text. Apparently, Barry’s sudden disappearance happened in a fight with Reverse-Flash. Also on hand were Green Arrow, Atom, Hawkgirl, who joined Barry as allies in the fight against Thawne.

Barry knew for years that he would eventually have to face this future, but what he didn’t count on was the headline changing just in time for the Arrowverse’s “Crisis on Infinite Earths” event. Ahead of the crossover, The Flash altered the article again in order for it to line up with Barry’s arc in the Crisis. As a result, the character – and audiences – came to the understanding that the 2024 Crisis and “Crisis on Infinite Earths” were one and the same. Of course, the dates were off, but the show accounted for that by changing the article’s publication date. Because of timeline changes, it wasn’t necessarily a problem for the Arrowverse to make such a significant retcon.

How The Flash Can Revive The Pilot Episode’s Ending Tease
Grant Gustin in The Flash Season 8
With The Flash ending at season 9, it would make sense for the show to make an attempt to bring things full circle by the time it airs its series finale. One excellent way to do that would be to tie its final season to a loose end from season 1. After all, the pilot episode’s newspaper reveal felt like setup for the Flash’s last battle anyway, as 2024 was nearly ten years away back then. And while the actual ending of the series in 2023 won’t line up perfectly with the original date, it’s close enough that it could still happen without any major complications. Since The Flash doesn’t have to stay in pace with any other Arrowverse shows anymore, it can easily offer a small time jump and leap to April 2024 at any point in The Flash season 9.

The biggest obstacle toward The Flash providing any sort of payoff for the pilot episode’s ending tease is of course, “Crisis on Infinite Earths”. Presumably, the fight where Barry mysteriously vanished already happened. But, it’s worth noting that the connection between the two incidents was never outright confirmed. There may be another “crisis” that Team Flash currently has knowledge of. Right now, Barry isn’t expected to disappear in 2024 (since he exists in Nora and Bart’s future) but more time travel shenanigans can restore Barry’s original fate. If that were to happen, Team Flash’s goal in the series finale may be to stop their fears from season 1 coming true.

The Flash Season 9 Needs Reverse-Flash To Complete Season 1’s Setup
The Flash battles Reverse-Flash
What separates the 2024 Crisis from “Crisis on Infinite Earths” is Tom Cavanagh’s Reverse-Flash, which is why he should be integral to any plan to revisit the newspaper headline. Since he was mentioned in season 1’s article, it was widely assumed that he’d back a key player in the Crisis. He even hinted at his own involvement when he said in season 5, “see you in our next crisis”. It was considered a missed opportunity for The Flash to follow through with the story without addressing the Reverse-Flash’s role, but The Flash can rectify that in season 9 by explaining that “Crisis on Infinite Earths” was never the promised fight between Barry and Thawne. Rather, that showdown can be something that has yet to happen in the Arrowverse timeline.

Reverse-Flash was seemingly taken off the table in The Flash season 8, but his track record proves that dying – or even being erased from existence altogether – matters very little when it comes to his character’s presence on the show. If The Flash wants him back for one last battle with Barry, it can either find a way to revive him or bring in another version of him from the future. Considering how the Arrowverse has always emphasized the importance of their rivalry to the series, the show moving in this direction feels like a highly plausible scenario for The Flash’s ending. Team Flash having to save Barry after he disappears during his next fight with Reverse-Flash’s return could make for a fitting sendoff for Grant Gustin’s Scarlet Speedster.


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