In a television season in which I find myself thinking that I might be too critical of everything that I’m watching (as if I were a true critic: Egads!), I find that I have truly enjoyed Season 4 of The Flash.
The whole Savitar thing was a misstep for me, I’ll admit. So, it was great to get back to the real Scarlet Speedster and his support team. This season marked a return of a more positive Flash and, over all, a lighter tone to the stories, even if this season’s Big Bad—The Thinker—wasn’t about a lighter tone at all. The Thinker wants to rule the world, to put it in its most basic terms. He wants to do this by making everyone dumb.
He’s already the smartest man in the world. Making everyone an idiot doesn’t seem like such a stretch to him. And, part of his motivation makes perfect sense to me, although I’ve already admitted to having Sith leanings. People are the main cause of everything that is wrong with the world; there is no new technology that can’t be perverted in order to hurt or deprive other people. The past is the only predictor of the future. Dumbing everyone down won’t prevent violence and bloodshed, but it may prevent it on a global scale.
In the beginning of the season, we had Barry return from his temporary exile in the Speed Force. We knew he wouldn’t be gone long, since The Flash is the name of the series. He is aided in his escape, of course, by Team Flash, although none of them realize, at the time, that this is all according to Clifford DeVoe’s—the Thinker’s—grand scheme for a new Enlightenment. Barry’s exit from the Speed Force leads to an infusion of dark matter into the world, creating a busload of what will come to be known as Bus Metas.
This seems a lot like Kryptonite creating powered individuals in Smallville to me. I’m okay with that: I liked Smallville, even if Allison Mack did go on to head up an evil sex cult (blame Red Kryptonite, Chloe!). You see, DeVoe planned to use all of the bus metas to add their powers to his own great mental ones. Ralph Dibny was one of these, and he emerged in this season as The Elongated Man, a character I never suspected I would see on any screen, big or small.
More importantly, Barry’s reemergence from the Speed Force gives us back the more positive, optimistic Barry of seasons one and two, who was mostly absent from the last season. It was that Emo Barry who became Savitar in the future. Yeah, I get it. But, enough with the doom-and-gloom already. We already have Arrow for that. The minds behind this show listened to the fans and brought back the Barry we loved and needed to return.
Things that happened this season in addition to our meta-of-the-week stories:
Barry loses his job at the CCPD, at least temporarily, because he’s accused of murdering Clifford DeVoe (who left his body behind when he took over one of the bus metas). In the finale episode, we get a scene of Captain Singh calling Barry to let him know he’s being reinstated, so we should expect status quo at the beginning of Season 5.
Barry and Iris get married at the end of this season’s big crossover event, along with Oliver and Felicity, who just had to try to steal their thunder.
Caitlin Snow gains control over her Killer Frost persona, partially through the help of Starbuck from the Ronald D. Moore Battlestar Galactica reboot pretending to be Mary Poppins (or, the actress Katee Sackhoff playing villain Amunet Black AKA Blacksmith). Later in the season, she loses her Killer Frost powers and finds herself missing her alter ego and tries to get her back. That may happen next season, I think.
Harrison Wells—Harry, in this iteration—creates a device called the Thinking Cap, based on DeVoe’s design, that ends up burning out his brain and robbing him of his intelligence, his defining quality in his opinion. At season’s end, with Cisco’s help, he regains the ability to think, but his knowledge is lost. Instead, he seems to be all about emotional intelligence. In the finale, he’s going back to his own Earth to spend time with Jesse Quick, his daughter. I’m sure we’ll see him, or Tom Cavanaugh as another Wells, in our next season.
Cisco Ramon doesn’t get a real story arc this season. He has some long-distance relationship troubles with Gypsy, and he ultimately turns down the offer to replace Breacher (the always menacing Danny Trejo) on Gypsy’s Earth dimension. He fills certain story roles and is always there to add his unique ingredient to the mix, but nothing major really happens for Cisco in this season. Like with Caitlin’s Killer Frost storyline, I think we should expect more development here next season.
Joe West and Cecile have a baby together. Cecile develops mind-reading powers while she is pregnant. Gestational telepathy, I guess. I love both of these characters, and I like hitting the “family” note a little harder by having a birth. However, I’ve never been a huge fan of television childbirth scenes leveraged for false drama. And this one, predictably, was, even though we knew Cecile and the baby were never truly in real danger.
I found myself missing Wally West, even though I understand that the Kid Flash character is a bit redundant on this show. He belongs on a CW version of the Teen Titans. I don’t know if that’s in the works, but it should be. I understand from references in the finale show that Kid Flash has been working with the team on DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. I stopped watching that show this season, but I suspect Wally was brought in to replace Firestorm. I honestly don’t know.
In essence, the Kid Flash role was replaced on this show by Ralph Dibny, so it was surprising when Dibny was killed by The Thinker. Only, we find out in the finale, he wasn’t really dead. DeVoe took over his body, his powers and his mind, but Dibny was still inside DeVoe’s mind, which DeVoe’s wife Marlize helped Barry enter. Barry can’t find any good left in The Thinker, but he manages to help Ralph escape and regain control of his elastic body. So, the Elongated Man should be back next season as well.
After Ralph regains control of his body, Clifford DeVoe creates a digital hologram version of himself in the big chair that his estranged wife Marlize puts the kibosh on by removing the chair’s batteries or somesuch technogarbage. This triggers a deadman’s switch that has the S.T.A.R. Labs satellite crashing into Central City in an extinction level event. Barry manages to use his speedster abilities to stop this from happening.
But, not alone.
All season long we’ve been getting cameos from this young lady who seems to know a whole lot about our cast. In the finale episode, she is revealed to be another speedster from the future. She’s Nora Allen, the daughter of Barry and Iris. She is the one who helped The Flash prevent Central City from being wiped out in The Thinker’s final gambit after his Enlightenment failed miserably. Only, it looks like she’s done something to mess up the timeline.
Her final scene in the finale is a real Back to the Future moment. It’s your kids, Marty! Something’s gotta be done about your kids! More on this next season, too.
I didn’t bury the lead on this one. I liked this season a lot and look forward to the next. The showrunners have redeemed themselves, in my opinion. I just hope they don’t lose sight of who their audience for this series is.