[Warning: The following contains spoilers from Wednesday's Season 8 finale of The Flash. Read at your own risk!]
The second part of The Flash Season 8 finale wasted very little time revealing Iris' (Candice Patton) fate. After Iris appeared to die in Barry's (Grant Gustin) arms — and heralded the resurrection of Tom Cavanagh's Reverse Flash — at the end of last week's "Negative, Part 1," Wednesday's episode revealed she was very much alive and well inside of Damien Darhk's (Neal McDonough) time stone from "Armageddon." There, she encounters a version of the reformed Arrow/Legends of Tomorrow baddie. Short story shorter: Damien pep talks Iris toward realizing that she's always been powerful and she could free herself from the time stone on her own – which she does.
Meanwhile in the real world, the Negative Forces bestow all of their powers on Thawne, transforming him into the demonically black-suited Negative Reverse Flash. Not to be outmatched, the Positive Forces — who were freed by Cecile (Danielle Nicolet) —do something similar to Barry, which leads to a destructive battle between the longtime foes that threatens to destroy the city. Thankfully, Iris arrives in time and convinces Barry there's another to save the day. So, Barry simply pops a squat and meditates as Thawne supercharges himself to the point of self-destruction.
Thus, Barry and Iris were reunited and the city was saved…Well, [extreme Avenue Q voice] for now. In its final moments, the finale jumps to the year 2049 and reveals a glowing blue crystal in a lab as Barry and Iris ponder who the Negative Speed Force will pick as its new avatar. Whoever it is, you can rest assured that Barry and Iris, who have been separated for extended periods of time over the past three seasons, will face this new foe together.
"Going into Season 9, we can really start fresh and take Barry and Iris's romantic relationship to the next level," The Flash showrunner Eric Wallace tells TVGuide.com. "Now that Barry and Iris are finally back together and her time sickness is finally solved, I want to see them together in this new phase, just as much as everybody else does. And I think it's going to be wonderfully romantic and quite, quite fun."
Below, TV Guide chats with Wallace about Iris leveling up in the finale, Season 9's potential foes, and whether this is truly the end of Cavanagh's run on the show.
Candice's Iris was absent for several episodes leading up to the two-part finale. How did you approach writing the show without the co-lead and one-half of the central couple?
Eric Wallace: I've had experience doing this before, so it wasn't all that difficult. On Teen Wolf, we had to write over half of Season 6 without Dylan O'Brien, and we had the same challenge because Dylan O'Brien and Tyler Posey were the bromance of the show, and they were the heart and soul amongst obviously a lot of the other characters too. That really informed how I knew I could pull it off with Barry and Iris. The key is to keep the character that's missing on-screen alive somehow in a way in the character's mind. So, as you saw, in [Episode] 815 "Into the Still Force," it was all about searching for Iris.. Then, Barry comments on it again in "The Curious Case of Bartholomew Allen." It's always kept alive, sometimes in the background, sometimes in the foreground, but it helps the audience understand "Okay, the character's inner lives are going on, but they do still miss this person and it is still at the forefront of their mind." And that's how you really approach things.
You approach things from a character's point of view, so when the villain of the week or the problem of the week arises, which in the last four episodes has been Meena Dhawan [Kausar Mohammed] and this original Eobard Thawne [Matt Letscher]. When their threat came up, it was understood that Barry's not just fighting these people and then learning that they're allies and learning that there's a larger threat. He's also doing it with the weight of not having his lightning rod with him. And it adds extra stakes to the story, which is really, really exciting to write.
We saw all of the members of Team Flash level up in Season 8. Was having Iris break out of the time stone on her own your way of having her level up too?
Wallace: We knew the theme of Season 8 was leveling up, and we knew everybody with powers would have to level up. So the non-power people, that left Joe [Jesse L. Martin], Chester [Brandon McKnight], and Iris. Well, Joe levels up emotionally when he learns that his stubbornness is what's holding him back, not his retirement. Chester learns that his pacifism isn't holding him back at all; it's actually a strength. But what Iris had to learn was she is the toughest one of the bunch, and she can overcome and be not just a rock for Team Flash, but she's as equally important as a lightning rod to Barry, as she is vice versa to him. They really are co-captains of Team Flash, if I can say that.
So we just had to find a way to visualize that when we realized [we were] going to use the time stone — which was planted very early on way back in "Armageddon" — to rescue Iris. It's very deliberate. Well, we're like, "Okay, let's not have someone use the time stone to get her out. Let's have Iris go into the time stone and get herself out. Let's see her level up in that moment and realize just how truly powerful she is." Then you just come up with the visual around that, which is the lightning that has always been within her, that spark, she now blossoms it.
What does Iris leveling up mean for Barry and Iris' relationship in Season 9?
Wallace: Well, first of all, more scenes with them together [Laughs]. I say that with a smile on my face, but I do understand fans' concerns. You see a lot more Barry and Iris together in Season 9, and they're going to be happier and closer than ever and getting back to something that we hadn't done in a while — which is seeing them face threats more together.
This finale marks the conclusion of the three season arc you conceived when you were appointed showrunner at the end of Season 5. Was it hard figuring out where to go next in Season 9 after following a plan?
Wallace: No, not at all. Quite the opposite. I'm enjoying a liberating process of, "Okay, we finished that epic three-year journey. Now, let's just have some fun." It's actually freed up the storytelling and given some real freshness, even though we are obviously still keeping the graphic novel format and there'll be at least two new big bags this year.
Speaking of big bads: The season ends with a shot of a glowing blue crystal as Barry says that the Negative Speed Force will find a new avatar eventually. Am I right in assuming that's hinting at Savitar's return?
Wallace: I say tune in to Season 9 and find out. I will tell you that the Negative Speed Force, [is] not going to wait very long to start searching for the new avatar to find them and to have that new avatar challenge The Flash for dominance. So don't worry, we will get the answer there. We will get the answer.
Do you have a bucket list of things you want to do if Season 9 ends up being the final season?
Wallace: Well, first of all, I hope it's not the final season because there are so many more Flash stories to tell. I want to just lead with that. Secondly, as far as a bucket list, I told the writing staff the same thing, "If you have a bucket list, don't wait. We need to be telling those stories every week. Don't wait until the final season or when you think it might [end]. We need to do it now." That's why we got to Bloodwork [Sendhil Ramamurthy] very quickly right out of the gate. That's somebody I wanted to see immediately. I wanted to see a new female version of the Mirror Master called Mirror Monarch [Efrat Dor]. I specifically wanted to answer the question, "Who is Godspeed, the real, true God of speed," which we did. My other bucket list thing — it's not even subtle — is right there in episode 815 "Into the Still Force": I want to see Zoom [Teddy Sears] and Godspeed [Karan Oberoi] team up and create havoc. So if I can find a way to pull that off this year, I'm certainly going to try. I don't know if I can, but I have challenged myself.
Also, discerning viewers, if they were to look back there's one hanging thread from all three seasons since I took over as showrunner that I've literally been teasing and it's not subtle. It's in there every year. I won't reveal who it is, but it's a particular storyline and specifically a [specific] big, bad DC villain. I'm going to try and get to it this year. I almost got to it last year, but then we didn't get 22 episodes. It's hard to fit all these things in when you have fewer episodes. And if I said bucket list wise, there's two things on my bucket list. One of them you've already seen — that's getting Zoom back to team up with Godspeed — and the other one is this unnamed character who I've been hinting at for three years now.
Does the Season 9 plan still involve Bloodwork's return, as teased in the comic Earth Prime #6?
Wallace: I will say that those comics are canon and they aren't lying. Perhaps though, it's not in the way that people think if we were to do something like that. And again, I'm not confirming or denying anything.
After building to this epic battle with the Reverse Flash, are you done with the character or is there still more story to tell?
Wallace: Well, there's two answers to that question, and this is the honest truth, number one: Just like at the end of Seasons 6 and 7, at the end of Season 8, I never know when it's going to be the last season. I thought Season 8 was going to be the end. So I deliberately said, "All right, there needs to be the final battle between Flash and Reverse Flash through the birth of the Negative Reverse Flash." And we got it. And then, of course, the scripts were almost all written when suddenly we learned the news that we'd gotten a ninth season, which we're super excited about. It was designed to be the final battle. I mean, the Negative Reverse Flash is dead. I don't mean that in any subtle way at all. He is dead. Frost [Danielle Panabaker] is dead. Those characters are gone. Now, having said that, just because the Negative Reverse Flash is finally dead, that doesn't mean you've seen the last of Tom's Cavanagh on our show. You never know when Tom will pop up. You never know. And it's always in the most unexpected, surprising place.
Is there anything else you want to add?
Wallace: I could tell you the end of Season 9 right now. I'm not going to, but I will tell you this: This big, almost novel of Seasons 6, 7, and 8 got pretty intense at times and dark and it was sometimes kind of spooky. The next grand master plan is going to be a bit lighter and a bit more fun and that's on purpose, because I think we've earned it, not only as fans and audience — because I'm a fan of the show too — but I think there's some real fun to be had.
The Flash will return in 2023 on The CW.