It seems like we’ve heard “Run, Barry, run” a lot over the past few years on The Flash. The first Arrow spin-off officially created the shared universe, and has brought laughter, tears, time travel, and murderous apes (and sharks!) to our screens. How have Barry Allen and company fared? Spoiler alert: anything up until 2017’s winter finales is fair game. Let’s explore!
THE FLASH – Current Season: 4
What I’ve always loved about The Flash is its humor. While Arrow was always dark and brooding with some comedy sprinkled in, The Flash was far lighter and more fun in tone and content. Rightfully so: the Flash of the books and cartoons was typically used for comic relief. The first and second seasons of The Flash artfully combined comic book elements with humor, while not only crafting one world, but a whole multi-verse to boot.
Season 1’s reveal that the Harrison Wells who had been Barry’s biggest champion, was in fact Eobard Thawne/Reverse Flash, was just brilliant. It was one of those twists that made you want to go back and re-watch every episode to see if there were clues you may have missed. The introduction of iconic characters like Captain Cold, Trickster, Firestorm, and Gorilla Grodd to name a few, was so much fun – only made better by the terrific core cast of Grant Gustin, Danielle Panabaker, Carlos Valdes, Jesse L. Martin and Candice Patton.
*Special shout-outs to John Wesley Shipp, Amanda Pays, and the Mark Hamill (Pays and Hamill reprising their roles from 1990’s underrated The Flash show on CBS).
I also enjoyed season 2, constantly guessing at the identities of Zoom, and “the man in the iron mask.” Those reveals were good, though not on the same level as Wells-Is-Thawne; Zoom was a decent villain, and it was this season that introduced us to the multi-verse, allowing for evil versions of Caitlin, Cisco, and even Arrow’s Laurel Lance. But there were a few missteps, here: Barry and Patty never had real chemistry, that backdoor Legends of Tomorrow pilot, and the season kinda ending with a thud, since Zoom just wanted to… race? But the standout developments were the introductions of Jay Garrick, Wally West, Jesse Quick and Wells 2.0. The season was capped off with a jaw dropping tag in which Barry saved his mother from being killed by Thawne, thereby creating Flashpoint. You’d expect the next season to be the ‘Flashpoint fallout season’, right? Well…
Season 3 spends exactly 1 episode fixing Flashpoint, and while there were certainly lasting effects, (CSI coworker, Julian! John Diggle’s son! Killer Frost/Vibe! Pied Piper [remember him?] being a friend!) I wish they would have lived in Flashpoint a bit longer. The rest of the season got dark and broody, since Alchemy was running around transforming people into metas, trapping Wally in a… cocoon (?) and being all scary voiced, thanks to Saw villain extraordinaire, Tobin Bell. The reveal that Alchemy was Julian was pretty anti-climactic, since he was pretty much the only new character/only one it could have been; also dividing up the season into Alchemy-Is-The-Villain then No-Really-Savitar-Is-The-Villain ultimately just slowed down the story.
The story continued to be a bummer, since it revolved around Savitar killing Iris. By the time Savitar’s identity was revealed, I was pretty bored with the story, and having it be a ‘time remnant’ of Barry’s was also pretty weak. Here I’ll note that Savitar was a character from the comics, but the show didn’t use the source material at all – only the name. So, what’s left to say but ultimately they defeat him by sacrificing one of the Wells (Wellses?) pretending to be Iris. Then Barry just abandons everyone by going into the speed force. Yay?
There were a few great things in this season: meeting Caitlin’s mom and Caitlin finally becoming Killer Frost, the introduction of Gypsy, and Anne Dudek as Tracy Brand. I also enjoyed the cutesy “Duet” episode/Supergirl crossover/mini Glee reunion of Gustin with Darrin Criss and Melissa Benoist. In that episode, there were are a lot of people who have some serious singing talent: John Barrowman, Jesse L. Martin, Victor Garber, and Jeremy Jordan.
Currently in season 4, The Flash has seemed to err on the side of comedy and bring the series back to its roots. Barry’s malfunctioning new suit and the unwitting metas created by Barry’s return from speed force jail have been great to watch. The villain is, thankfully, not a speedster, but a genius named Clifford DeVoe/The Thinker (nicely foreshadowed in season 3) who seems to always be a step ahead. Though the show retconned DeVoe back to include him in season 1, he is an interesting and compelling villain, along with his wife, Marlize DeVoe/The Mechanic.
Though I think too much time has been given to Ralph Dibny, (destined to be Elongated Man) at the expense of Kid Flash. Wally just disappears for a while and honestly, who noticed? Move that guy over to Legends of Tomorrow! Ralph’s sleaziness also doesn’t fit the show; dragging Barry, Joe and Cisco to a strip club, and Joe seeing Cecille’s daughter on stage… what was that about?! If they toned Ralph down by 20% and gave him a purpose, I think he’d be fun to see once in a while.
Someone who I love seeing on my TV screen is Katee Sackhoff, who looks like she’s having a blast playing Amunet Black (though why is the American Sackhoff playing British Amunet?) and I hear she’ll be back later in the season.
The Flash has become my favorite of the Arrowverse shows, and after a depressing third season, it’s rebounding in season 4. Despite the hijacking of Barry and Iris’ wedding by a certain other couple, this season has been enjoyable because of the humor that’s been injected back into the show, and the willingness to explore another type of villain. The latest twist, in which The Thinker has framed Barry for his murder, was jaw dropping, and for the first time, Barry hasn’t run out on a terrible situation.