To the casual viewer of the CW’s quirky superhero series “The Flash,” supervillains have the tendency to materialize out of thin air. And yet, throughout the seasons, justice persists. The hero saves the day, the villain is reprimanded to a small cell, and the guy gets the girl. This is not news to “The Flash,” which is notorious for the Iris West (Candice Patton, “The Game”) and Barry Allen (Grant Gustin, “Glee”) story arc, which cumulated in their finally tying the knot in the “Crisis on Earth-X” crossover episodes last week. So, for a series all about following the classic superhero tropes, it seems counterproductive that the writers would send the series’ hero to prison.
Thus far, season four has proven to be one of the more upbeat seasons of the series as the “gold standard” West-Allen couple explores the ups and downs of marriage. This is a sharp contrast to the dark, often overly-dramatic themes of previous seasons, as past villains have struck as fast as lightning (pun intended and regretted) when it comes to taking down Team Flash. However, DeVoe (Neil Sandilands, “Hap and Leonard”) is no average villain, and as his namesake, “The Thinker,” suggests, this guy is very much into mind games. Unlike the Reverse Flash or Zoom, DeVoe is not messing around when it comes to his endgame, which is supposedly the arrival of some form of “Enlightenment.” As of now, we’re unsure of what this means for the series arc, but one can only guess that it’s backed by evil intentions.
At the episode’s start, we catch a glimpse into Barry and Iris’s post-marital bliss, unwrapping wedding gifts and throwing some very noticeable shade at “Arrow” in the meantime. For once, Barry isn’t even using superspeed to accomplish his daily tasks, which is such a sharp contrast to his overuse of powers for the mundane tasks of daily life. So, not only does Barry’s sudden shift in personality serve as an initial red flag, but the mysterious knife set with a missing blade from an unnamed gifter does as well. This specific detail comes into play later, when DeVoe — very successfully, I might add — frames Barry for murder.
In hindsight, this could have been seen from a mile away and, given that Barry possesses superspeed — an ability only further enhanced after exiting the speed force — one cannot help but ask: what the hell happened here? After years of villains pulling nasty — and often unpredictable — moves (see: Henry Allen’s death at the hands of Zoom), shouldn’t the team know better? Couldn’t Barry have super-speeded his way out of the situation in less than a second? Though it is obvious that the plot necessitates Barry’s arrest for the murder of Clifford DeVoe, cleverly planned via the same suspicious knife set and a transfer of consciousness into the body of another metahuman, we can’t help but think of why. Perhaps all of this is just a way to stall Team Flash as DeVoe and his partner-slash-wife bring about that Enlightenment they’ve been referencing all season.
Framing aside, I think the only thing we can all agree on at this point in time is that the levitating chair battle above Central City was not only wholly unnecessary, but also unimportant to the plot, if only to prove that the flotation device Cisco (Carlos Valdes, “Vixen: The Movie”) installed was more than a quick joke. Until then, we’ll just have to play the waiting game and see how the hell Barry pulls himself out of this one. After all, how do you outsmart a villain who can not only predict your every move, but also know which one you’ll make before you even decide for yourself?