The Flash (2014): Season 4
In the seemingly eternal rivalry between the two most successful comic book publishers, DC and Marvel, what had begun as dominating a market consisting of most items with a retail price of a dime, has grown into media empires that tally their profits in the hundreds of billions of dollars. Marvel has taken an almost insurmountable advantage in the cinematic arena, but DC has taken a distinctive lead in television. The Warner Brothers CW network utilized the team building format that crafted the Marvel Cinematic Universe. To construct its only versatile team of superheroes affectionately referred to as the Arrowverse, after its founding member, ‘The Green Arrow.’ There are currently four main series under the umbrella of this extended franchise, ‘Arrow,’ ‘The Flash,’ Legends of Tomorrow’ with a canceled before its time contender, ‘Constantine,’ most recently joining the ranks. The specific section of the franchise under consideration here is the fourth season of ‘The Flash.’ The emotional spectrum is well represented in the Arrowverse with the darkest part of the human experience displayed in ‘Arrow’ while the more optimistically inclined threads explored in ‘The Flash.’ Each of the individual series consists of a primary hero and a tightly knit group of friends serving for support, tactical and emotional. In this season of the Flash, this conceit demonstrated made evident by the finale’s title, ‘We are the Flash.’ The entire season built up to a climactic moment that not only witnessed the requisite vanquishing of the ‘Big Bad’ but also the culmination of several colliding emotional threads into a satisfying conclusion. So-called Easter Eggs, little references to other aspects of the franchise of the extended source material, has become de rigueur in all television programs and films extending beyond DC and Marvel. The appearance of a character seemingly as ancillary support quickly noticed, and the internet was ablaze with conjecture, theories, and conspiracies. Utilizing one of the standard plot devices of the mystery genre, answering a question by raising even more intriguing ones. When the identity of the mysterious character ultimately revealed, the anticipation of the upcoming season five instantly reached a fevered pitch.
There is a marvelous aspect of the internet that can help a series fulfill its potential and increase its favor among the fans. Message boards, Twitter, Reddit, and other social media outlets provide a wealth of feedback and other data that no conversational marketing firm could gather. The showrunners listed to the objections and constructive criticism incorporating it into the foundation of this season. Fans objected to Barry Allen (Grant Gustin), aka, The Flash, was constantly facing adversaries that were also speedsters, able to tap into the mystical source of super speed, the speed force. In the Comics the Flash had one of the most diverse rouge’s galleries of villains. For this season, the fan’s requests were implemented. A non-speedster Big Bad was brought in, The Thinker, Professor Clifford DeVoe (Neil Sandilands), in similar fashion to the goals of a myriad of evil masterminds, DeVoe, his twisted objective was to improve humanity by rebooting their brains, resetting them to a Tabla Rosa that only his ultra-genius can reshape to his concept of an idyllic world.
A time-tested story device is the venerable plot coupon. The basis of this narrative technique is to establish a series of objects or circumstances that must be systematically obtained or resolved to be exchanged for a dénouement; this thread was nicely implemented by seamlessly integrating it into the resolution of the cliff-hanger generated by the conclusion of the previous season. The third season ended on a rather depressing yet heroic moment when Barry sacrifices himself to defeat the evil speedster, Savitar and save the woman he loves, Iris West (Candice Patton). The Flash defeats the heinous villain, but the result is aPyrrhic victory; Barry is trapped within the enigmatic Speed force, unable to return unless dooming another speedster to take his place for eternity. For six months, an agonizingly long time Barry was gone and team Flash spiraled into a deepening depression. Iris steps up an ad hoc leader giving purpose to the team. Her brother, the Wally (Keiynan Lonsdale), does his best to fill in as Kid Flash while their tech and engineering genius, Cisco Ramon (Carlos Valdes), uses his metahuman powers as Vibe to pitch in keeping the city safe. He also devised a plan to retrieve Barry. When the plan is implemented Barry returns, but a flood of Dark Matter engulfs a city bus with a dozen passengers. Unfortunately, Barry has been changed by the ordeal. Rambling in indecipherable phrases and filling the walls with ‘speed force symbols.
Superficially, it appears that this series degraded into one of the more formulaic ways to run a television series. This pedantic progression of plots challenges the protagonist with a different monster each week in a loosely related association. At least that is the usual modus operandi. Under the expertise behind the Arrowverse, there is a definite method behind the apparent mundane progression. Each weekly episode introduces another metahuman with very distinctive abilities. One Ramsey Deacon (Dominic Burgess) gained the power to control any electric, one device completely, another, Mina Chayton (Chelsea Kurtz), could animate any statue turning it into a monstrous juggernaut. Many of the powers revealed are unusual such as the ability to manipulate luck as manifested by Becky Sharp (Becky Sharp). Among the group known as ‘The Bus Metas.’ Became instrumental to the development of Team lash, Ralph Dibny (Hartley Sawyer), who can stretch his body into any desired shape as the Elongated Man. Barry, reluctantly at first, mentors the lackadaisical Ralph as a superhero. All the people on the bus were predicted or manipulated by De Vol as part of his master plan. A villain whose special abilities is intellect rather than a conventional superpower changes the adversarial dynamic on an intrinsic level. Team Flash is comprised of highly resourceful and intelligent, people. Besides Cisco’s genius in engineering and the natural leadership provided by Iris, Caitlin Snow, M.D., Ph.D. (Danielle Panabaker), serves as the medic and biological researcher. She is also a metahuman, the reformed criminal Killer Frost. When that persona emerges, she gains mastery over extreme cold. Catlin/Frost is a form of multiple personalities sharing the same physical body. Lastly, hailing from Earth-2, Dr. Harrison "Harry" Wells (oma a Cavanagh), a genius polymath whose IQ is matched by his ego. The Multiverse is well represented in the Arrowvese permitting a significant degree of diversity including rebooting characters in alternate capacities. Initially, Wells was a season’s Big Bad.
The plot coupon device is expertly infused in the storyteller through the heinous Thinker, De Voe’s nom de guerre. Generally, De Voe is depicted in a levitating throne, wires connecting his brain directly to his floating control center. Aided by his faithful wife, Dr. Marlize DeVoe Kim Engelbrecht, a genius on her merit. The advantage of an adversary with an intellectual mode of attack is the way it redirects the narrative away from the standard showdown of force. This approach is particularly crucial considering the feedback provided by the fans cited the over-reliance of speedster villains; this approach was an excellent choice. The Thinker set upon a carefully orchestrated plan to destroy the Flash, thereby removing hid potential obstruction to De Voe’s ultimate object to reboot humanity. To this end, he draws Barry into a contrived conflict with the Professor who used a wheelchair De Voe. With the precision of a chess Grandmaster, De Voe frames Barry for his murder. The result is the trail of Barry on the charge of First-Degree Murder. Found guilty, Barry is remitted to prison. There he runs afoul of a criminal enterprise that abducts metahumans to auction them to the highest bidder. While distracted, Team Flash continue to fight the growing threat of the other Bus Meats. Ralph’s power to alter his body as the Elongated Man when he discovers that he can reshape himself into a perfect double for the murder victim, allowing Barry to regain his freedom. De Voe can subsume the powers of the metal replacing his dying body with theirs. Overall, this season is radically different from the previous three but ends as one of the best.