The team at S.T.A.R. Labs returns for the fourth season of The Flash after Barry Allen was imprisoned in the Speed Force to save Central City
The Flash is The CW’s highest-rated DC Comics show and will soon be entering its fourth season. From its inception, the show was designed to push the limits of the superhero storytelling Arrow had by adding more fantastic elements to the shared universe. Meta-humans, time travel, paradoxes, time remnants, and parallel universes were introduced in the first two seasons. Season 3 of The Flash added a new twist on time travel: a divergent, alternate version of the timeline dubbed “Flashpoint.” When that was introduced in the season premiere, we knew we were in for quite a ride.
Barry Allen/The Flash (Grant Gustin) created Flashpoint when he went back in time to prevent his mother’s murder. A byproduct of this was the creation of a time remnant of a future version of Barry who had gone through hell after the death of Iris West (Candice Patton), the love of his life. This version of Barry, who called himself Savitar, the self-proclaimed God of Speed, was determined to kill Iris to make sure he would be created in the future. All of this led to a complicated paradox where every action Barry took allowed Savitar to immediately counter it.
H.R. Wells (Tom Cavanagh) used a facial transmogrification device from Earth-19 to take Iris’s place. This led to Savitar unknowingly killing H.R. disguised as Iris. To prevent his impending erasure from existence, Savitar decided to fragment himself throughout all of time with the help of Cisco Ramon/Vibe (Carlos Valdes). Together with Cisco, Caitlin Snow/Killer Frost (Danielle Panabaker), Wally West/Kid Flash (Keiynan Lonsdale), Jay Garrick/Earth-3 Flash (John Wesley Shipp), and Gypsy (Jessica Camacho), Barry was able to subdue Savitar. Iris then shot Savitar to save Barry’s life.
Without a speedster trapped in the Speed Force prison designed to hold Savitar, an inter-dimensional storm of energy was unleashed on Central City. Barry then made the difficult choice to imprison himself in the Speed Force and left Iris, Cisco, Wally, and Joe West (Jesse L. Martin) behind to protect the city. Season 3 was jam-packed with action, complicated subplots, and left Barry’s role as the Scarlet Speedster up in the air. So let’s jump into what we’re looking forward to in the upcoming season of The Flash.
1. The villain won’t be a speedster
While we love seeing Barry go up against other speedsters as much as the next fan of The Flash, we’ve felt for a while that it’s time to shake up the formula. Thankfully, the showrunners are way ahead of us on that front. So far, every season has featured an increasingly faster speedster for Barry to go up against. In season 1, Barry went up against the man who killed his mother, Eobard Thawne/Reverse-Flash (Tom Cavanagh / Matt Letscher). Season 2 introduced Hunter Zolomon/Zoom (Teddy Sears), a serial killer from Earth-2 that gained Speed Force abilities. More recently, Barry faced off against a future version of himself who had declared himself to be Savitar, the God of Speed.
“Next season we’re not going to have a speedster [as the Big Bad].”
‒ Andrew Kreisberg (showrunner)
The speedsters have always led to Barry learning new things about his own powers, and have often pushed him to his physical and emotional limits. Despite the occasional misstep, this approach to villains has been quite effective. But after three seasons with speedsters as villains, the change of pace will be a welcome one.
So who will Barry be facing off against in season 4? Clifford DeVoe (aka The Thinker) (Neil Sandilands) will be the main villain. There have been several versions of The Thinker in the comics. It’s difficult to say which version we’ll be seeing but as the name suggests The Thinker usually has some form of advanced intellect and/or technology. Others have had technologically derived telekinesis and mind control. We can’t wait to see how the show will approach the story without a speedster as Barry’s foil. He won’t be able to outrun his foe this time around. He’ll have to outthink him.
2. Finding out how and why Barry is able to get out of his Speed Force prison
During the course of season 3, Barry and the rest of Team Flash created a special prison to trap Savitar in the Speed Force for eternity. Savitar managed to escape from this eternal prison, as supervillains are often known to do, and put Wally in his place. Since a speedster always needs to fill the prison and Wally needed saving, Jay Garrick, the Flash of Earth-3, took his place. During the fight against Savitar, Jay was freed from the prison and left it empty. As a result of that, an inter-dimensional storm of energy was unleashed on Central City. To solve this problem, Barry took Jay’s place in the Speed Force prison. All of that leaves us and Team Flash without the Flash.
“Barry isn’t going to hell. But like all runners must eventually, he’s reached his finish line. His race is over.”
‒ Speed Force (as Nora Allen)
The exact reasoning behind why a speedster is required to stay in the Speed Force prison is a bit unclear. The Speed Force itself seemed to be adamant about this particular point, however. So how will Barry get out of the Speed Force prison if a speedster is always required to be in it to prevent the destruction of Earth? Will someone have to take his place? How long will he have been trapped there relative to his friends and family on Earth-1? What will Barry be like when he emerges? What kind of consequences will his return have on the world, the universe, and the Speed Force? We have far more questions than we have answers at this stage but we’re looking forward to how they’re addressed in the upcoming season.
3. There’s a good chance that Iris West will finally become Iris West-Allen
Did someone mention a wedding? That’s right. A wedding. According to the promotional poster for the big crossover event Crisis on Earth-X in November, Barry and Iris will finally be getting married in the upcoming season. This has been foreshadowed and teased since the very first episode of the show with the byline “Iris West-Allen” in a newspaper from the future. This particular event has been repeatedly delayed and shuffled around in the timeline over the course of the show. But with the big proposal last season, having a wedding in the upcoming season is a logical direction to head in.
“All I want to do,
Is come running home to you,
Come running home to you.
And all my life I promise to,
Keep running home to you,
Keep running home,
‒ Barry (singing)
Now, despite the fact that Barry and Iris’s wedding will be featured in the season 4 crossover episodes, there are no guarantees that they’ll actually get married in those particular episodes or even at all. Arrow has pulled that kind of trick before (much to our annoyance) and it’s possible that The Flash might do that as well. After three seasons of Barry and Iris going through various stages of friendship and romantic involvement, we feel it’s time for the show to move their relationship forward in a meaningful way and end the “Will they?/Won’t they?” of the first three seasons. Having Iris and Barry get engaged last season certainly suggests that the showrunners agree.
Iris, like her father Joe, has played a major role in helping to keep Barry grounded throughout the series. Getting married will make that relationship even more important to the show and characters. Barry Allen is Iris West’s Clark Kent, and we find it impossible not to root for the two of them. If Lois and Clark are meant to be together, so are Iris and Barry. So let’s raise a glass for the (hopefully) soon-to-be newlyweds, Barry Allen and Iris West-Allen.
4. With three secondary meta-human characters who are more in control of their powers, there’s potential for our favorite S.T.A.R. Labs team to grow even more formidable
Last season, both Wally and Caitlin became meta-humans after Barry created and caused the collapse of the Flashpoint timeline. Wally gaining Speed Force abilities was a big enough shakeup on its own, but Caitlin went full Killer Frost after losing control of her abilities and became an ally of Savitar in the latter part of the season. Cisco had already discovered his nature as a meta-human back in season 2 and greatly increased his control of his powers in season 3 when facing off with Gypsy and Killer Frost. All three of these characters are still relatively early in their meta-human journeys of superpower self-discovery.
With Barry in the Speed Force, there’s a large opportunity to really develop Wally’s abilities and his experience as a hero. He was starting to get the hang of things last season and without Barry there to complement his powers, he’ll be forced to take on a more active role in mastering his abilities. Cisco and his vibe abilities have also grown a great deal over the past season. He was able to hold his own against Gypsy, a vastly more experienced viber, without much practice. Now that he’s been tested more in combat, we can see Cisco becoming an even more powerful and vital member of the team.
Cisco: “I’m not a hero like you.”
Barry: “You’ve always been my hero.”
Caitlin/Killer Frost, on the other hand, abandoned Team Flash after gaining control of her powers in order to go rediscover herself. Early promotional pictures show Caitlin working at a new job. We suspect that the control of her powers might not be as straightforward as it seemed last season. Watching her cope with those powers and the multiple personality problems that arise should continue to be interesting well into season 4. Caitlin is currently away from the team, but we’re expecting her to return.
As more members of the team gain increasingly powerful abilities and become more skilled at using those abilities, the greater the threats they’ll be able to take on. Greater threats can result in higher stakes and even more over-the-top comic book goodness. We highly approve.
5. The four-hour crossover event Crisis on Earth-X
It would be impossible to discuss the upcoming season of The Flash without talking a little about the two night, four-hour crossover event Crisis on Earth-X featuring characters from the entire Arrowverse. The CW is understandably keeping many of the details under wraps but we do have some information. For starters, the crossover event will take place on Earth-X. Historically, Earth-X is a version of Earth where Nazi Germany won World War II. The poster also suggests that our heroes will be facing off against evil versions of Supergirl, Green Arrow, and the Flash at the very least.
The concept of Nazi Germany winning World War II in a parallel universe certainly isn’t unique to DC Comics. But it usually presents writers with lots of great storytelling opportunities, and Crisis on Earth-X is no exception to that. With the added likelihood of the characters we know and love fighting against evil versions of themselves, the possibilities become even more enticing. From the poster, we can also speculate that Captain Cold (Wentworth Miller) will be returning in some capacity. The event will also introduce a live-action version of The Ray (Russell Tovey) from the upcoming CW Seed series Freedom Fighters: The Ray.
Even if the premise wasn’t enough to get us excited, the mere existence of a crossover event is exciting all on its own. It’ll be airing in two-hour blocks over the course of two evenings and treated as a multi-part movie. Last season’s crossover was exciting and a lot of fun but it was also somewhat limited in its execution. Supergirl ended up with more of a background role than many of the other characters. With the crossover for this season being treated as two movies, Supergirl and other sidelined characters will hopefully have more to do this time around. Despite not knowing all of the specifics of the story, we know enough to be certain of where we’ll be on November 27th and 28th.
The Flash may have left Team Flash without the Scarlet Speedster himself, but we’re confident that together they’ll find a way to continue protecting Central City
The third season finale of The Flash left its titular character trapped in the Speed Force with no clear way to escape. Barry Allen not only abandoned Iris, the love of his life, after saving her life but he also gave up his role as the Flash in order to save Central City, and ultimately the world from an inter-dimensional energy storm. Luckily for Central City, Wally West/Kid Flash is still around to help protect it with the help of his friends at S.T.A.R. Labs.
In the midst of the fight against Savitar, the God of Speed, Caitlin/Killer Frost regained control of her meta-human abilities, which led to her leaving the team to rediscover herself. Cisco/Vibe also progressed a fair amount with his abilities. The lack of Barry being around to help Wally out for a while should result in growth in Wally’s abilities as well. Together, these meta-humans have enormous potential to greatly increase the effectiveness of the team.
Barry’s inevitable return from the Speed Force and all the problems that may result from that should provide plenty of interesting material for the foreseeable future. We also have a wedding, a major Arrowverse crossover event involving a parallel Earth, Nazis and evil versions of some of the main characters, and a new, non-speedster villain that should really give Team Flash some serious problems. Barry won’t be able to simply outrun the villain this time and that places both him and the team in uncharted territory. We can’t wait to jump on whatever crazy comic book cosmic treadmill ride they want to bring us on in the fourth season!