“Ain’t nobody feeling Team Kid Flash.”
When Season 3 ended on The Flash, Barry Allen/The Flash (Gustin) is trapped inside the Speed Force where he sacrificed himself to free his friends. Months later we find Wally West/Kid Flash (Lonsdale) acting as the team’s speedster. Iris (Patton) is now in charge of the team, while Caitlin (Panabaker) has left to tend bar, mostly running from her Killer Frost persona. Joe West (Martin) is lending police support where he can, and Cisco (Valdes) has honed his teleportation skills and gets the players where they need to be. But they are barely holding their heads above water, and the stress is finally getting to them. And that was before a robotic Samurai arrives threatening to destroy Central City if the team doesn’t bring him The Flash. Of course Cisco comes up with a plan to free Barry, and it’s no spoiler here to reveal that he does just that. After all, the show isn’t called Kid Flash. It’s called The Flash, and Barry is always going to be a key ingredient to that name. If all of this sounds a bit confusing to you, you’re starting in the wrong place. Check out our reviews of the previous three years here.
Actions have consequences, and the same ends up true for the rescue of Barry Allen. Cisco’s rescue ends up bringing a cloud of dark matter back to Central City, where a city bus is exposed. That creates 10 new metas to deal with and gets our season off to a running start. But Barry isn’t quite himself at first. He’s obsessed with writing strange symbols and repeating gibberish. He’ll have to get back in shape soon so that Team Flash can stop the new powered villains. Caitlin rejoins the team, and before you know it the plot thickens.
“There’ll be no beating the Big Bad this year, Mr. Allen.”
We soon meet this season’s big bad. He’s Clifford DeVoe (Sandilands). He’s another big pull from the comics as The Thinker. He’s a professor who decides that technology has become bad for humans and this planet. His plot is to wipe all humanity’s memories clean of technology so that we’ll be forced to live without it. It turns out he has manipulated the team the entire time. He wanted Cisco to free Barry so that the new metas would be created, and he’s out to absorb all of the powers to turn himself into a terrible force and bring an end to technology. He is assisted by his wife Marlize (Engelbrecht). It’s the first husband-and-wife team in the DCTV Universe, and the first time in four seasons that the show’s villain isn’t a speedster. He’s actually one of the more compelling villains in the TV Universe, and the story has enough elements going for it to keep the pace going without the feeling that it has to be padded.
There’s a B villain this season, played by the recent Battlestar Galactica’s gender-bent Starbuck, Kattee Sackhoff. She’s Amunet and a has a direct link to Caitlin and what she had been up to when she wasn’t with the team. Amunent can manipulate a certain kind of metal that she forms into a gauntlet and flings sharp shards at her enemies. Unfortunately, she’s played with this distorted British accent that Sackhoff says is from Clearwater, Florida. Well, I live just across the Bay from Clearwater, and nobody there talks that way. It’s actually a nice B villain, but the accent keeps me from totally embracing her story. She’s kind of an underworld kingpin, but quick to run away and fight another day.
The “Bus Metas” include Kilgore, a guy who can control technology. In the comics Kilgore was a sentient code that infected machines and built ever-increasing copies of itself, very much like Marvel’s Ultron. You get a woman who can spread bad luck, like Marvel’s Black Cat. There’s a meta who builds up nuclear fallout and can explode. We get a Native American Meta who can animate objects. Another meta can counter gravity and send an object or person propelled into orbit. Melting Pot can steal powers and transfer them. This episode leads to an interesting moment when Iris gets Barry’s powers for a day and he has lost them.
The best new meta of the season actually brings a new member to the team. In the comics Ralph Dibney is a detective who doesn’t quite have the skills he thinks he does. He takes a substance called Gingold that turns him into The Elongated Man. His powers pretty much match Mr. Fantastic in Marvel’s Fantastic Four. In this version, Ralph is a former cop who was busted by Barry and Joe and has a grudge against them. But he’s welcomed into the team and begins to enjoy feeling like a hero. Hartley Sawyer is actually a great match to play the character. He actually looks something like the comic character. They’ve kept many attributes including his trademark phrase, “I smell a mystery”, where he wiggles his nose. To be honest his abilities get too silly sometimes. It’s unavoidable with that kind of a power. At one point he blows up into a huge airbag to break Barry’s freefall from orbit. Still, he develops into a rather endearing character throughout the season, and it appears as though he’ll be returning this next season.
Outside of the season story arc there are plenty of interesting things going on this season. Joe and Cecile are having a baby. Iris and Barry finally get married, but they are off to a rocky start in their first attempt that drives us into this season’s crossover event with all four shows. Danny Trejo is one of the best guest stars of the season. He plays Breacher, a hero from another Earth who also happens to be Gypsy’s (Camacho) father, and he isn’t all that happy about Cisco dating his daughter.
This season introduces a new speed element to the show’s mythology. This one is not taken from the comics. It’s the idea of Speed Time. We get a look at what the world looks like in its slowed-down state to Barry. If he touches someone, he can vibrate them into his Speed Time. It allows the characters to interact for a length of time, all within a nanosecond of real time. Of course, others can’t live here for long before they start to burn up because of the friction. It’s a nice little vehicle to play into tense moments.
This year Caitlin has actually embraced Killer Frost and has learned to control her. It’s become very much like a Hulk situation. Killer Frost comes out when she’s angry or frustrated or in pain. It leads to the inevitable line, “You wouldn’t like me when I’m Frosty”. They even start to leave little notes to each other. It’s kinda cute. OK, it’s not that cute.
This season does contain a very iconic Flash comic storyline. The Trial Of The Flash was a major turning point in the Barry Allen years. He is put on trial for killing the Reverse Flash and even kicked out of the Justice League for those actions. It would be the story that kicked off the end of the original Barry Allen run in the comics. In this version The Thinker manipulates events so that it looks like Barry has killed him after months of harassment. The Thinker does a lot of body-jumping as he absorbs powers of the other metas. I’m not sure I like that it was used this way. Not because they changed the story, but because they didn’t really let it play out before resolving it too quickly. That was likely necessary to move on to other elements of the arc, but it was a run that deserved to be more central as a thread.
Tom Cavanagh is still one of the best actors on the show. This season he feels pressure to be able to match the intelligence of The Thinker, who is always a step ahead. He creates his own version of The Thinker’s thinking cap, and it does damage to his brain. As the season progresses, he starts to lose his mental capacity, which is how he has defined himself so much. It’s a very moving performance. Unfortunately, the same actor participates in one of the worst elements of the season with the introduction of the Council Of Wells. It’s a collection of offbeat versions of Harry from other earths, and this is the point of The Flash where a swimming pool is filled with sharks and Fonzie is revving up his motorcycle for the jump.
Once again the absolute best performances come from Jesse L. Martin, who plays Joe. I never quite get over how much heart he brings to both his character and the show. He’s becoming just about my favorite television actor. There are plenty of good performers, and many of them are on this series, but there’s just something about Martin that makes all of this crazy comic book stuff feel real. These kinds of shows don’t grab the notice of Emmy Awards too often, but he deserves one.
Kevin Smith is a renowned comic fan, and he’s been directing episodes for a couple of years. This time he brings his own world to The Flash as we get an appearance of Jay (Mewes) and Silent Bob (Smith) as dock workers in the episode Smith directs.
Of course, there is another traditional crossover even across the four shows. I have to offer HUGE kudos to Warner Brothers this year. Every year I have complained that you only got that show’s episode on each set. The problem with that was they didn’t necessarily release the sets in crossover order, and you had to buy all four titles to have the entire story. This year Warner listened to the fans. You get the ENTIRE crossover event, and in the proper order. I can’t emphasize enough how big of a give this is to the fans who can save money not having to buy the sets they might not want or be able to afford. It’s also the best way to see the event. Whoever made that decision at Warner deserves a big raise and the thanks of the fans of these shows. Good job!
The Flash is presented in its original broadcast ratio of 1.78:1. The 1080p image is arrived at with an AVC MPEG-4. Colors are bright in this high-definition image presentation. You’ll find wonderful sharpness and detail. The lightning effects are brilliant and bold. The streaks are always a treat. Contrast truly stands out with the addition of Zoom and his dark nature. Black levels are as good as the broadcasts ever were.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 is often a force of its own. Surrounds bring the speed images to life. Dialog is the most important element here. It is well served, to be sure. The score is frantic and helps build atmosphere. Subs even find their place from time to time. Pretty solid stuff.
Deleted Scenes on select episodes.
Gag Reel: (8:54)
The Elongated Man: (10:09) We get a nice feature on the new regular and a look at his comic origins.
Flash Time On Amunet Black With Kattee, Eric and Sterling: (13:23) The three sit for what is supposed to be a commentary track for episodes that contain Amunet. There aren’t any commentaries on the disk, and we jump to various episodes and listen to the three talk.
The Fastest Mind Alive – The Thinker: (15:43) A profile on this season’s big bad.
The Best Of DCTV Comic-Con Panels At San Diego 2017: (58:27) Instead of the usual panels on each release, this is a compilation of all four in one feature. Again I suspect it will be included with the other sets.
“People will put down their idiot phones and be curious again.”
We live in a very exciting age, particularly if you are old enough to have been reading these classic comics back in the 60’s and 70’s when the modern hero was coming of age. Now the material dominates our movie screens and our televisions. And still some of us can’t get enough. The Flash is one of the better hero shows out there, and it continues to impress. He might have been in charge of “the other guys”, but Stan Lee often expressed it best: “Excelsior. ‘Nuff said.”