For a show about the fastest man alive, The Flash doesn’t have much momentum anymore. The first of the Arrow spin-offs is still very enjoyable but it is also in a rut. Since the incredibly strong season 1, The Flash has essentially followed the same formula each and every year. The Flash has become so predictable that the “shocking” reveal of Savitar’s identity in “I Know Who You Are” verged dangerously close to self-parody. In season 4 The Flash needs to have something of a soft reboot and change things up drastically. Here are four ways the show has grown stale and needs to be fixed in the future.
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Secret Villains Don’t Make Good Villains
The Flash has a severe problem with hiding its villains from the audience. It seems like it’s more important for the show to shock the audience with the villain’s identity than it is to shock them with the villain’s plan, ingenuity or threat. The result is that there is barely enough time to know the main villain of the season before everything wraps up. So The Flash typically goes with a catch-all of they are “evil” or “crazy” to explain all the villain’s horrible actions. It’s not only lazy, it has become incredibly frustrating.
By hiding the villain’s identity, The Flash seems to be trying to chase the high that was the ongoing mystery of the Reverse Flash in season 1. This seems to miss the central point of that season and its villain. It’s true that we didn’t know for a while that Harrison Wells was the Reverse Flash and it took even longer to learn that Harrison Wells was actually Eobard Thawne but the Reverse Flash was front and center all of season 1. Besides hiding his speed and real name, Thawne didn’t keep much from Team Flash and less from the audience.
By the end of season 1 the audience understood Thawne just as much as Barry. The intimate relationship with Thawne is why he is the show’s greatest villain, not because of his speed or secret infiltration of Team Flash. This is something The Flash Season 4 needs to revisit and expand on. We should really know the villain, inside and out, by the time they face off against Barry in the season finale.
Change up Team Flash’s Roles
The Flash has one of the best supporting casts on TV and they are used quite a lot. Sadly they tend to be used in the same way all the time. Cisco and/or Caitlin come up with some last minute solution to defeat the bad guy. Iris and/or Wally does something impulsive or dangerous. Joe is around for moral support and Wells is doing whatever that version of Wells is doing this season. (For H.R. in season 3 it is annoying comic relief.) It’s almost plug-in-and-play, which is comforting but sort of stale. Things need to shift.
There have been some strides to improve this in season 3. With the introduction of Gypsy there have been a few episodes in The Flash season 3 that have felt completely Cisco-centric but there should be more like them. The Flash has enough episodes in the season that the spotlight can be spread around. Wally as Kid Flash is technically Barry’s sidekick but he is more third or fourth string. Iris has a job as an investigative reporter but it usually happens off-screen. While Barry will always be the lead, others can get a focused episode once and awhile. It’s easy to put everyone in their usual roles but it is better and more interesting to subvert expectations.
Longer Stories Aren’t Always the Best Stories
One of the highlights of The Flash season 3 was the very small arc the show did with Grodd and Gorilla City. It was exciting and fresh. Not only were there talking gorillas walking around but The Flash so rarely tells contained stories that last more than one episode if it is not the conflict with the Big Bad. There are either standalone metahuman-of-the-week episodes or something involving the main villain, rarely is there anything in between. The Gorilla City arc was in between and it was wonderful.
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In season 4 The Flash should try to do multiple mini-arcs like the Gorilla City one. They don’t all have to involve talking gorillas, though I wouldn’t complain if they did, but the show should at least go beyond the one meta to one episode formula. It would make the smaller rogues Barry fights feel less like distractions and more like threats. The Flash has an impressive rogues gallery but it is rare for a villain to show up again after their initial appearance. Just because a villain doesn’t have speed doesn’t mean they can’t give Team Flash trouble for more than one episode.
Barry Needs to Learn and Remember a Lesson
Barry makes a lot of mistakes as a superhero. He is a bit naive, a bit foolhardy and can sometimes be his own worst enemy. This isn’t really a problem as The Flash is a show about growing up as much as it is about super heroics. Barry is going to make mistakes, it is what makes him a unique hero. Barry, and everyone else on Team Flash, has to stop making the same type of mistakes though. No matter how often everyone learns that secrets help no one, Team Flash keeps hiding things from one another. Barry, meanwhile, has learned the dangers of time travel repeatedly but yet can’t stop doing it.
Stumbling while you’re growing into a full-fledged adult is unavoidable. Since Barry is dealing with way more than the average twenty-something his mistakes are usually a lot bigger. Still, season 4 should finally have some big growth on Barry’s part. Each season of The Flash Barry’s focus has been about getting faster. For season 4, whether it is to fight the main villain or not, Barry’s goal should be to become smarter.
The Flash season 4 release date is currently unknown but is expected for some time at the end of 2017.
But what do you think? Does The Flash need to change things up in season 4? Which of these changes would you most like to see? Is there anything you’d like to see change not on here? Is there anything wrong with The Flash now or is it just fine?
The Flash season 3 airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on The CW. Want more news? Like our Flash Facebook page!
(Image courtesy of The CW)