The Flash has been a mainstay of The CW for over three years now. Receiving critical acclaim for its debut season, the show would go on to become the network's biggest hit ever, bringing in record ratings.
However, somewhere along the way, the beloved series seemed to lose itself. Instead of giving us the fun, life-loving characters we had fallen in love with, we ended up with depressed #superheroes who couldn't overcome the impossible odds.
But since it returned for its fourth season, The Flash hasn't just reignited a fire within Barry Allen, it's reignited itself. Thus, with that in mind, let's take a look at how Season 4 of The Flash has given the show its heart back.
Family Is Once Again At The Heart Of It
Without a doubt, The Flash's strongest attribute has always been its familial appeal. When it first debuted back in 2014, it was refreshing to see a young naive Barry Allen guided by his loved ones as he took on the evils of Central City. While parent show #Arrow thrived in darkness, it was The Flash who brought the light to the #Arrowverse. And there was one thing that was always at the heart of that light — family.
Whether he was visiting his dad, Henry, in prison or reminiscing about his deceased mother, Nora, Barry Allen never failed to move us to tears. Furthermore, his relationship with father-figure, Joe West, has always been one of the tentpoles of the series. And it's simply impossible to overlook the pre-relationship bond he shared with Iris West — which always provided us with some of the show's sweetest moments.
But with the death of Henry Allen, the fallout from Flashpoint and the fear of losing Iris, The Flash lost its way during Season 3, rendering some of the show's most cheerful characters moody shells of what they once were. Family was no longer strong enough to stop the threat of Savitar. In fact, it was a weakness. And this distanced the show from what it used to pride itself on.
However, flash forward to Season 4, and a beaming Barry Allen has returned from the Speed Force with more joy in his heart than ever before. Moreover, Iris will now be there for him every step of the way as the loving pair have finally tied the knot. And to top that off, the two of them are surrounded by their extended Team Flash family Joe, Wally, Cisco, Caitlin and Earth-2's Harry.
Additionally, Joe's relationship with Cecile adds another layer to the character which we haven't seen before. And her sudden pregnancy will once again allow him to highlight his strongest characteristic — being a father. Moreover, just like Barry, he too has much more to fight for now. And this will drive him to protect his family at all costs.
The Flash's emphasis on the strength of family has made it appeal to families all over the world. The show highlights the fundamentals of a loving family and uses that to propel our hero in overcoming even the bleakest of odds. And it's great to see this familial aspect back at the heart of the show in Season 4.
The Villains-Of-The-Week Are Fun Again
No other superhero show does fun quite as well as The Flash does. As the Scarlet Speedster's debut heralded the introduction of super-powered metahumans into the Arrowverse, it was only a matter of time before we got our fair share of colorful cold-hearted villains — all of whom had their own eccentric personalities and unfathomable abilities.
In today's day and age, viewers tend to respond better to longer, over-arching narratives rather than the repetitive adventure-of-the-week format. However, The Flash has always been an exception to this rule, as these episodes are never truly fillers. In fact, they usually helped our hero discover something new about the overall narrative. Moreover, as each season's respective Big Bad can usually be terrifying, these fun-filled episodes provided a nice break, allowing the show to remind us how much fun it truly is.
But being on the air for three years does make it hard for anything to stay fresh. As the original Particle Accelerator explosion was no longer recent, we eventually saw a steady decline of villains-of-the-week. And, to be quite honest, the grim Season 3 could have really benefited from a few of those episodes.
However, while it's been well-documented that Season 3 strayed from the fun escapades of Central City's evildoers, the fourth season has allowed us to experience the fun of new metas all over again. Barry's return from the Speed Force unleashed a wave of dark matter on unsuspecting bus passengers, in turn creating even more colorful metahumans.
As we saw with Hazard and Elongated Man, the novelty of these new powers allows the affected individuals to have some fun with them. And it's always enjoyable to see how potential #superheroes and supervillains deal with their newfound gifts.
As we have only come across a few of the bus metas, we can rest assured that there are more out there, just waiting to unleash their powers on Central City.
Speaking of evildoers...
A Great Original Threat
When The Flash first hit our screens, it had all of us on the edges of our seats, wondering about the identity of the mysterious man in the yellow suit. While comic book fans knew that it was the almighty Reverse-Flash (Eobard Thawne), we had no idea what he wanted or who he truly was. And this made for a thrilling and compelling arc.
However, the showrunners tried to replicate this with the terrifying Zoom (an evil speedster from Earth-2) in Season 2, and once again recycled this format when Savitar (another evil speedster from the future) turned up in Season 3. And while it had its moments, this was undoubtedly the weakest of all the attempts.
They may have all been speedsters, but the one thing that made the Reverse-Flash stand out was his craftiness. Unlike Zoom and Savitar, Thawne's knowledge extended past his metahuman abilties and the time/place he came from. As he was actually a scientist, he had a vast well of scientific knowledge that he could use against Barry and his team.
Moreover, masquerading as Harrison Wells allowed him to bond with each member of Team Flash exceptionally well and get to know them even better than they knew themselves. Thus, in many ways, it wasn't his speed that was his greatest weapon — it was his knowledge.
That's effectively where Season 2 and 3 went wrong, as they recycled the same format — but these speedsters had a vast knowledge on different earths and the future. These were aspects that our team didn't even know much about, so these later seasons just didn't come across as personal or grounded until much later in the year.
However, the showrunners finally broke the habit with the introduction of The Thinker in Season 4. Not only is Clifford DeVoe the show's first non-speedster Big Bad, his ability to anticipate every single possible outcome of any situation makes him the most threatening villain yet.
DeVoe's condition means that he can't out-power The Flash. We also know that he can't outrun The Flash. But he can out-think The Flash. And this could put him right up there with Eobard Thawne himself as the one of the Scarlet Speedster's greatest rivals.
This year, there is no mystery surrounding an unknown speedster — just a battle of wits between two opposing forces. And DeVoe's knowledge makes him a serious threat to all of Barry's loved ones. And as some of the previous villains have shown us, that could have horrifying consequences.
After Season 3 of The Flash made the show seem somewhat unrecognisable, we were hoping that the fourth season would be a return to form. And thankfully, that's exactly what it has been. Barry Allen's return from the Speed Force has been the rebirth that both he and the show needed. With the character more like his old self, he is more determined than ever to overcome any threats that come his way — no matter how formidable (or hilarious) they are.
Moreover, the threat of a new but powerful villain has turned the show on its head, leaving all of Team Flash unaware of what to expect. This time, Barry can't strive to become the fastest man alive, because no amount of outrunning will stop Clifford DeVoe.
But with a smile back on his face, Iris West by his side and the strongest iteration of Team Flash surrounding him, you can rest assured that the Scarlet Speedster may just be in for his greatest year yet. And because of this, The Flash is once again starting to feel like that heart-warming show we all fell in love with back in 2014.
Welcome back Flash, welcome back!
Are you enjoying Season 4 of The Flash? Let us know in the comments below!