Flash Season 4 Kicks in the Afterburners
Main Cast: Grant Gustin, Candice Patton, Tom Cavanagh
Created by: Greg Berlanti, Andrew Kreisberg, Geoff Johns
Barry Allen: [Opening Narration season 4] …I became lost in time. It took everything in my friends’ power to bring me back, and in doing so, our world was opened up to new threats. And I’m the only one fast enough to stop them. I am the Flash. – “Mixed Signals” (Season 4, episode 2)
The Flash’s first two seasons were good, but season three had major problems. It was bleak, hopeless, and completely at odds with the more lighthearted seasons. Can The Flash pick up the pace in season 4 or is it time to get him a wheelchair after a good run? Let’s find out.
Discard and Draw
Joe: “What’s wrong, Wally?”
Wally: “You guys tell me. I mean, the city was about to blow up, no one realized I wasn’t here…”
Iris: “Where did you go, Wally?”
Wally: “I went to Earth-2. I had to talk to Jesse, hear it from her. She told me she needs to focus on herself, and I get it, and I think I have to do the same, right? So… I’m leaving Central City.” – “Luck Be A Lady” (Season 4, Episode 3)
The Flash sheds several cast members as replacements arrive. Kid Flash runs off to join Legends of Tomorrow while detective Julian disappears without a trace. The first replacement is Ralph Dibny (Hartley Sawyer), an ex-cop who Barry had exposed for planting evidence. Circumstances lead to Ralph gaining stretching powers and becoming a reluctant superhero.
Gypsy (Jessica Camacho) becomes a recurring character and helps Vibe (Carlos Valdes) learn how to use his powers. Unfortunately for Vibe, he also draws the ire of Gypsy’s overprotective dad, Breacher (Machete’s Danny Trejo)
Tom Cavanagh’s portrayal of Harrison Wells finally gets too over-the-top. In addition to a recurring role as Harry Wells, Cavagunah plays two teams of alternate versions of Wells. The first, The Council of Wells, includes a flamboyant German version, a post-apocalyptic cyborg, and a Hugh Hefner version. The second, The Council of Harrisons, includes a French poet version, a chill dude, and the Hefner version as well.
So that’s six versions of the same guy in one season. Wow. Wells hit critical mass.
Rubberband Man and Friends
[Ralph sneezes his head off]
Ralph: [holding his head] “Oooh… Is that my face?”
Detective West: [staggering on camera] “Four years seeing this stuff, I finally puked.” – “Elongated Journey Into Night” (Season 4, Episode 4)
The Flash develops an interdimensional Justice League in Season 4. The first new hero is Ralph Dibny, the Elongated Man, who can stretch and alter his body like a rubber band. His personality is a mix of the comics version of Elongated Man and the zanier Plastic Man. Ironically, Elongated Man and Plastic Man hate each other.
Flash leads a full blown army of superheroes during the crossover “Crisis on Earth-X!” In addition to Team Flash, Team Arrow, Supergirl, and the Legends of Tomorrow, Flash also recruits the Freedom Fighters of Earth-X. These include a light-powered hero called The Ray (Being Human’s Russell Tovey) and a heroic version of Captain Cold (Wentworth Miller).
So what threat could unite these teams? Nazis. Specifically, an army of Nazis lead by an evil version of Green Arrow (Stephen Amell). There is also an evil version of Supergirl (Melissa Benoist) and the Reverse Flash in his Harrison Wells disguise. So yeah, a seventh Cavanagh role in the same season. That doesn’t get confusing at all.
Finally, Flash’s speed is accidentally transferred to his lover Iris West (Candice Patton) in the episode “Run, Iris, Run”. This creates a decent role reversal episode as Iris figures out how to be a superhero while Barry learns how to run the team’s headquarters. It also provides a big hint to the season finale’s twist ending.
Barry: “Plenty of metas have come after me, the people that I love. You know the one thing they have in common? They failed.”
DeVoe: “You’ve done wonders all these years punching gorillas with rudimentary powers. Chasing madmen shooting icicles. Those were children with play-guns. Savitar, Zoom, Thawne. Their powers are nothing compared to the power of limitless thought.”
Barry: “That’s your ability. Your intellect was amplified by the particle accelerator.”
DeVoe: “You may be the fastest man alive, Allen. I’m the fastest mind.” – “Therefore, I Am” (Season 4, Episode 7)
Wait, The Flash has a Big Bad who isn’t a speedster? What new spore of madness is this?
Clifford DeVoe (Neil Sandilands) was a genius college professor disillusioned with humanity. He and his wife Marlize learned about the planned dark matter explosion that started the series. DeVoe rigged a metal helmet that would let him harness the dark matter to make him borderline omniscient. It worked, but his brain’s new energy requirements damaged his body, leaving him with only a few years to live.
Undeterred, DeVoe had Marlize build a high tech, flying wheelchair with lasers and a teleporter. It also makes him look like the child of Doctor Who’s Davros and a Borg. Adopting the alias The Thinker, DeVoe created another dark matter incident as part of a convoluted plan to get a body that could survive his overclocked brain.
The Thinker is a breath of fresh air who forces Flash to fight smarter, not faster. The only downside is that he rarely loses over the course of season four. There are points where he seems less like a villain and more like an invincible wall. At least the prior villains could be wounded or slowed down.
Where Have All the Villains Gone?
Barry: “Iris, you weren’t at Iron Heights. I saw up close what DeVoe did. To Becky. To all of them. And I couldn’t do anything except… just stand and watch it happen. DeVoe is ruthless. He’s not gonna stop until he’s taken [The Fiddler’s] powers and her life. He’s not gonna go easy on her, so neither can I.” – “Subject 9” (Season 4, Episode 14)
The Flash has always been a Villain of the Week show. A villain shows up, gets beaten within the hour unless they’re a Big Bad, and gets arrested. Rinse and repeat. That’s O.K., but it leaves The Flash with a severe lack of recurring villains. Especially since Captain Cold, Heat Wave, and Grodd have all left to be major characters in Legends of Tomorrow.
Season four really highlights that issue. The Thinker’s plan turns an entire busload of people into superhumans, most of whom become villains. The Thinker then spends the season killing them to absorb their powers. The Bus Metas are C-List villains at best, but they get killed before viewers have a reason to care about them.
These one-and-done villains rob The Flash of potentially interesting antagonists or even redemption storylines.
Time Stand Still
Chorus: “And you say that time goes rushing by
But it seems so slow to me
And you see a blur around you fly
But it takes too long, seem so slow to me.
(Time keeps dragging on)” – “The Ballad of Barry Allen” by Jim’s Big Ego
Flash got a major power boost after being trapped in the Speed Force during the Season 3 finale. He slowly learns to enter a sped-up state nicknamed Flashtime. While in Flashtime, Flash can have lengthy conversations in the span of less than one second.
Fans finally see how powerful this state is in “Enter: Flashtime” when a villain detonates a nuke. Flash instinctively enters Flashtime with several allies to devise a plan. Over a half hour of television, they manage to figure out a way to stop the already exploding nuke. While we see this all play out, it only takes a millisecond in-universe.
How the hell can anything ever be a threat after that?!
I don’t care how smart, strong, or durable you are, nothing can stand against anything that can move that fast. There is no reason, barring plot, that Flash should ever lose again. Sorry, but Flashtime is just broken powerful. And yet it’s still weaker than the comic version of the Speed Force. Speedsters, amirite? Messing with time in this extreme way removes any suspense.
Season four of The Flash is a mixed bag. The new cast and villain are enjoyable, but Flash still has a villain problem. Flashtime kills all the tension when you realize what a Deus ex Machina it is. Despite those issues, Season four beats the hell out of Season 3 and is worth your time.
Flashback to our reviews of previous seasons
Season 1 – The Flash Roars Out of the Starting Gate
Season 2 – Flash Runs Into a Brave New Multiverse
Season 3 – The Flash: The Good, Bad, and Ugly
Jared Bounacos has written for Movie Rewind since 2017.