This post contains spoilers for “The Flash” Season 2 finale, Episode 23, titled “The Race of His Life.”
The Season 2 finale of “The Flash” kept the twists coming, as the show finally unveiled the identity of the mysterious man in the iron mask — and Zoom’s silent prisoner was revealed to be none other than the real, Earth-3 version of Jay Garrick, portrayed by John Wesley Shipp — who also played Barry’s father, Henry Allen, up until his tragic death at the end of last week’s episode. Shipp also played the original live-action iteration “The Flash” in CBS’ ’90s version, bringing things full circle.
The tie between the Allen and Garrick families was teased earlier in the season in Episode 20, “Rupture,” when Henry told Barry that Garrick was the maiden name of Barry’s paternal grandmother. At the time, Barry clearly didn’t think anything of it, but in the wake of Henry’s death, seeing that familiar face (in the guise of one of the DC Universe’s most iconic heroes, no less) was a particularly powerful moment, shocking Barry to his core. The name Jay Garrick may have been tainted by Hunter Zolomon’s betrayal, but the real Jay certainly held himself like a hero.
The finale also allowed Barry to defeat Zoom without killing him, after utilizing the time wraiths that had been following Zolomon through the multiverse to do the dirty work for him. Following Zoom’s defeat, the Earth-2 version of Harrison Wells and his daughter, Jesse, also decided to return to their world, taking Jay with them. All seemed well on Earth-Prime, but in the episode’s final minutes, Barry confided in Iris that “I feel more broken than I’ve ever felt in my life,” admitting he wasn’t ready to begin a relationship with her yet.
“Wherever you need to go, whatever you need to do, do it. And when you get back, I’ll be here,” she promised, before declaring her love for him as the two shared a long-overdue kiss. But the biggest shock was yet to come — in the final moments of the episode, Barry ran back in time to the night it all began, stopping the Reverse Flash from killing his mom and leaving Nora Allen alive, thereby inevitably altering the timeline. Dun-dun-dun!
Variety spoke to John Wesley Shipp about working with star Grant Gustin, saying goodbye to Henry Allen and embodying Jay Garrick in the Season 2 finale.
When did you find out that you were the man in the iron mask?
The fun thing is, first of all, everyone was convinced I was Zoom – the magazine polls, the online polls, 60-70% of people thought I was Zoom, which is perfect, because when they first started speculating about the man in the iron mask, there was almost a little bit of timidity: “we were burned once, we’re not gonna make fools of ourselves again,” which sort of served our purposes greatly.
I don’t know when the decision was made … I went up in March to do what I knew would be a four-episode arc, and when I found out it would be a four-episode arc I figured, “okay, we’ll see the death of Henry in this arc, and that’s why they’re bringing me back.” Which made perfect sense to me, because Henry had fulfilled his purpose. I was almost getting to the point where these wonderful scenes — where Henry and Barry come together and it’s a tearful moment and an embrace — we had about played that scene out just about every way it could be played. After a certain point, it was going to get annoying, so I knew it was time for Henry to come to an end.
Then I began to pick up little bits and pieces. I was in a costume fitting for a shredded prison uniform, and then I heard a comment about an iron mask, and then I got in touch with Greg Berlanti, who I’ve known since “Dawson’s Creek.” So he laid out the whole improbable, wonderful, exciting tale, and I was speechless. I was like, “Take me out of the equation, Greg — that is brilliant television.” Not only because it’s good storytelling, but because it also takes into account the fans’ expectations going in. Everybody wanted me to be to be Jay Garrick – that’s what I’ve gotten at conventions all over the world: “we love you as Henry Allen, but we really wish you’d been Jay Garrick.” I was glad that I wasn’t, because to go right from the superhero costume 25 years ago to a superhero costume 25 years later would’ve been a little daunting for me — but I got to have two years of this very grounded, gritty, emotion-based, truth-of-the-moment acting role with Grant in the interim. So now maybe I can put on the suit again and have a little bit of fun. It also helps that Jay Garrick is chronologically 92 years old — however, he was exposed to age-reversing vapors, so he’s physically 50 years old. I thought, “I could do that. I could play that.” [Laughs.]
What did the producers tell you about the Earth-3 version of Jay and his role in the show?
I actually went back and did more research and tried to find out who this guy was and where he fit in the lore more than I did when I played Barry the first time … Finding out that he was the original Flash, that he was the founder of the Justice Society of America, that he’s really the Flash daddy of us all, and the importance of him to the whole DC Universe… that was very intriguing and very important to me. Also finding out that in the comics he’s the one who teaches Wally the speed force — there’s just so many possibilities and directions for this character to go.
Having said that, the most important thing for me in this final script was, when the iron mask comes off, although he looks like Henry Allen, it’s got to be clear to everyone, including Barry, that this is not Henry. So the most important thing for me was “how am I gonna differentiate the man that comes out of the iron mask from Henry Allen? In what ways is he different? In what ways is he the same?”
Of course, it’s going to be an incredible conflict for Barry because he just lost his father – that’s an incredible moment, and of course Jay doesn’t know from any of it. He’s like, “what? What’s everybody’s problem here?” It’s this contrast of building this character who looks exactly like Barry’s father but is tonally and attitudinally very different from Henry Allen, who was very available emotionally and much softer; very much a warm blanket for Barry when he was at his most vulnerable. That’s not gonna be Jay. Jay’s a superhero, he’s an original superhero, so he’s not gonna know from all that – my job, at the beginning, anyway, is to differentiate between Henry Allen and Jay Garrick.
Henry had been absent for a lot of this season, which meant a lot of missed time with Barry – did that make his death harder for you?
It was, no doubt, very emotional – both given the way Grant works and the way I work. It was interesting that it was split between two episodes. I really felt for Grant because in the penultimate episode, right at the end, it’s “noooooooo,” and Henry gets killed. Now in the season finale, we pick up at Henry’s death … which meant Grant had to build himself up to the moment his father was killed and then cut it off. And then wait until the next episode to build himself up again.
What do you think the repercussions of the finale will be, going into next season?
The palette is wide open. The thing they love to do at the end of the season is they introduce so many different elements that could go in so many different directions. For me, personally, as an actor, Henry Allen was rather closed-ended, he was there for a purpose, he served his purpose, it was time for him to die. The fact that I’m now getting to morph into an entirely different character that is so important to the Justice Society of America, which also bleeds into “Legends of Tomorrow,” he’s such an important character to this whole world – it just opens up enormous possibilities for me as an actor going forward, and the challenge for me, having played Henry, is that I now get to create an entirely different character going forward. And how that affects Barry – because Barry’s going to want to lean on this guy who looks just like his father but is not his father – that can create a whole bunch of psychological conflict too. I’m as excited as you are to see how all of this will play out.
What can you preview about Jay’s dynamic with Barry next season, given those emotional complications?
Jay does not know the emotional minefield that he’s walking into. Of course, Barry’s gonna look at this guy, and when the iron mask first comes off… it’s really heartbreaking, he shrinks himself. It’s really amazing. If I were to lose my father, and then there was someone there who looks just like my father, my impulse would be to want to go and get the same things from this guy that I got from my father. This guy’s not going to know any of that, he’s not going to understand it, so I hope there are those awkward moments where Barry tries to get from Jay what he got from Henry and it’s not gonna be forthcoming, and they’re going to have to make their own peace and form their own relationship based on the reality of what is. That opens itself up for all kinds of psychological possibilities.
Did you talk to Tom Cavanagh and compare notes on taking on a brand new version of an existing character, given that he’s had to play three different versions of Wells at this point?
I’ve watched him [but] we didn’t talk about it a lot… I’ve got to tell you, I had a lot of insecurities, a quarter of a century later, putting on another superhero suit, but the entire cast – Tom came and talked to me; at one point Grant brought the camera up and turned the monitor around so I could see the way the scene was lit in the suit, and they were all like “look at this!” Jesse [Martin] was saying, “I’m so glad that you’re doing this.” They really wrapped me in a lot of affirmation and made my insecurities about — a quarter of a century later — playing another superhero a lot easier for me.
What did you think of “The Flash” Season 2 finale and the reveal about Earth-3 Jay Garrick? What are you most looking forward to in Season 3? Weigh in below.