Flash Season 3 ended with Barry Allen being trapped in the speed force and so season 4 opened up with the remaining band of heroes, now comprising of Iris as the leader of the team, deciding to bust him out. And so they did and poor Barry is a bit disorientated when he returns, sprouting random gibberish and making no sense at all.
Eventually when Barry does restores his sanity, I was delighted to see a cheerful, happy go lucky character, which is a nice relief from the miserable, glowering Allen that we’ve had to put up with for the last 3 seasons. Things were looking up.
Various members of the team Flash have since gone off to do their own thing. Wally is off somewhere doing things as Kid Flash, Jesse Quick is on Earth 2 doing whatever it is she wants to do. HR is dead and so we now have Harrison Wells from Earth 2 back again. Julian has now disappeared (almost forgot about Draco Malfoy there for a moment). The team has a bit of a fresh look.
It wasn’t long before a new villain took to the scene and within a short time frame, we got the miserable, moody, Allen back. And so, I thought, ‘here we go again, again’.
Over the course of Flash season 4, I found myself lacking the enthusiasm to continue watching this series, even though I crawled on. Having now seen the whole of season 4, I decided that I was going to break down the ultimate flaws in Flash season 4.
Selective power limits
So my major issue with this season (as well as the past three seasons) is the obvious selective power limits. Barry’s power is speed. He can have most (if not all) villains shackled in handcuffs, go and have a cup of tea, visit every comic shop in Central City and be back before a villain even blinks. So then why does it appear that in some episodes, Barry Allen, the Flash, seems to be as slow as a snail?
There was one gripping episode this season (episode 15), in which Barry Allen had to stay in the speedstream in order to slow down time (in fact he was going so fast that it seemed time was slowing down) to defuse a detonating super nuclear bomb. This episode was speedtastic, because it really exerted the limits of Flash’s ability with speed. It was wonderfully executed and written and had lots of dangers, thrills and intense moments. They really drew on the Flash’s ability. Also, it brought out why the Flash is special and unique. Accelerating episode.
But there are far too many episodes where a villain, such as the Black Bison (from episode 6) stealing some ancient artefacts, was able to propel Flash backwards and get away, by running down a flight of stairs. Flash got up and declared she got away. She got AWAY?! She would still be in the building! Now the Flash, in theory, could have zoomed up and down the stairs, checked every room by the time the fleeing villain was even down one flight of stairs, let alone, down various flights of stairs, escaped to the street, called for a taxi and got far away, enough that the Flash couldn’t find her.
Some of the villains’ attacks were not subtle and despite this, our daring hero would be caught unawares and rendered useless. Yet we’ve seen in the earlier seasons where the Flash would react speedily to attacks whilst things moved in slow motion.
Writers, please make your minds up. What are Barry’s limits?
The cheesy villains and cringy acting
The villains are becoming awful. Season one to three has seen the Reverse Flash, Zoom and Savitar as the main villains, with a multitude of filler villains along the way. Now we have DeVoe, the Thinker. The Thinker is brilliant minded, providing a supreme mental battle against the Flash, rather than the previous incarnations of villains who only focused on speed. The Thinker is equal to Brainiac archetype villain who is obsessed with claiming and obtaining powers of metahumans. The Thinker has been played by multiple actors during this season as the character claims different bodies and powers of his victims.
Neil Sandilands plays the part of DeVoe/Thinker and sets the stage with a smooth talking, intelligent approach. However, when the character DeVoe takes over the various different bodies in the show, and despite the fact that he is still DeVoe, the characteristics change drastically from actor to actor. Some of the actors favoured a very cheesy approach, others, a sarcastic approach, and eventually ending back up with Neil Sandilands intelligent, but now devoid of human emotion approach. It feels like a fragmented character. Rather than this being a deliberate thing, I think it is probably more along the lines of mediocre acting.
The biggest concern, is the over the top, cheesy acting in this season. Two characters stood out for me, mostly because they are played by well-known actors.
I was delighted to see Katee Sackhoff making an appearance in The Flash. The hard-hitting gal from Battlestar Galactica had long been one of my favourite characters and actresses, but when she opened her mouth for the first time, as villain Amunet Black, I was like “what the ferk?” Adapting a British accent and providing a very sleazy villain act, I felt the acting was dreadful. It was the kind of rubbish you’d expect from an outdated 70’s and 60’s kids’ villain.
Then there is Captain Cold, who made an appearance in one of the later episodes. Some of you may remember (spoiler alert!!) Captain Cold from the Legends of Tomorrow, was killed by sacrificing himself heroically for his team. So when the mid-season crossover between Supergirl, Arrow, Legends and Flash took place on Earth X, the writers saw a way to bring Captain Cold back, as the doppelgänger from Earth X. Captain Cold, aka Snark on Earth X was in love with the superhero, Ray. So great, two gay characters, no problemo, equality for the win! But do they really need to make Snark even camper than he was? For the entire episode Snark, minced his way across the screen, executing every gay stereotype possible. I know there are camp people in the world, but Wentworth Miller’s acting felt cringey and false.
Everyone has superpowers
Four seasons in and there is nothing special about the Flash at all. Cisco is Vibe, Caitlin is Killer Frost, Harrison Wells has been the Reverse Flash and is a super genius. Wally West and Jesse Quick are both speedsters. A multitude of speedster villains, all diminishes Flash’s uniqueness. Even Barry Allen’s dad’s doppelgänger is Earth 2’s Flash. Only Iris and Joe have yet to exert any powers (although Iris possessed speed powers for a short period). Newcomer, Ralph is Elongated Man. We’ve seen an invasion from Supergirl, Arrow and Legends to boot.
All these characters demonstrating their talents have now overshadowed Flash. Flash compared to the many speedsters don’t even compete at their sonic speed. They should really change the opening intro from ‘My name is Barry Allen, and I am the fastest man alive’ to ‘I am definitely NOT the fastest man alive’.
A Flash video parody, as not the fastest man alive.
What exactly does Flash bring to the table?
With my earlier comments about the selective powers, Flash has proven to be incredibly useless this season. At one point, he was stuck in a jail for long periods and refusing to leave as a result of his moral standing (but he is perfectly fine with lying about DeVoe being alive and using Ralph to impersonate DeVoe in court).
This overbearing use of metahumans has rendered the Flash quite ordinary. It would be a good idea to start removing heavily powered characters from the scene, otherwise Flash will continue to remain obsolete.
Although the supporting cast is an advantage and provides relief, it seems almost all episodes the supporting cast are more intelligent at solving the crime and making Flash weak and meaningless.
Too many episodes
I always believe that 23 episodes are far too many episodes to tell a decent story. You can see that the writers are stretching themselves thin, to try and drag out a story with multiple filler episodes in which Flash’s powers are diminished in order to fit the narrative. They need to limit the episodes to about 10, at the most.
Conclusion and what I think needs to happen
I am rapidly losing interest in the show. Throughout this season, I felt I had to force myself to watch each episode, it feels like a chore. If I had the speed force, I would fast forward the episode without having to watch it all in real time. The enjoyment seems to have run dry this season.
The writers need to figure out Barry’s limits and boundaries. Right now they are breaking the guidelines to fit a narrative for an episode. Barry is a speedster and is lightning quick. That is his core powers. He’s supposed to be a witty, fun, light-hearted guy. The stories need to be built around that premise. He’s not supposed to be the influential Superman type or detective Batman with the mood swings. The show should focus on bringing out his own set of unique possibilities.
Don’t deviate. Base the story around Barry’s speed. Find a justified way to negate Flash’s powers, as you would do with kryptonite with Superman. Don’t make Flash amazingly fast one episode and then the next he can’t dodge an obvious attack from Siren X.
Also, cheer Barry up. I know over the past few seasons he’s had every reason to be miserable, but that’s not characteristic of Barry Allen. Flash is the quick kid on the block, act fast, think second.