DeVoe is ready to blow some minds.
Warning: Full spoilers for the episode below.
You know how the Star Trek franchise seems to always alternate between great movies and lousy ones? The same holds true for The Flash. Seasons 1 and 3 both ended well as they explored Barry’s final confrontations with Reverse-Flash and Savitar, respectively. But Season 2 offered a poor conclusion to the otherwise exciting Zoom conflict. And now we have the Season 4 finale, easily the weakest end-cap to a season yet. In other words, a fitting end to a generally disappointing season.
A lot can (and will) be said about why “We Are the Flash” didn’t work, but what it really boils down to is that this episode held so few surprises. It ended the season exactly as predicted, with Barry racing against time to stop an all-powerful villain while Cecile dealt with her poorly timed labor. And just before the end, the obligatory reveal of Mystery Girl’s identity and the setup for Season 5. Very little happened in this episode that couldn’t be seen coming a mile away. That probably explains the lack of emotional investment.
It’s not that the stakes weren’t well-established for this final conflict. DeVoe’s satellites ensured that Barry and friends had mere minutes to stop the entire world’s population from being mind-wiped. But despite that civilization-ending threat, there just wasn’t a strong sense of danger or impetus driving this story forward. Part of that is simply the decision to set so much of the first half literally inside DeVoe’s head. If you refuse to show the wider world reacting to this existential crisis, it becomes just another showdown between good guy and bad guy.
Even with that, there’s no reason the intimate focus on Barry and DeVoe couldn’t have worked. But after an entire season of build-up, there just wasn’t much to this final battle. Rather than pitting Barry’s speed and courage against DeVoe’s relentless intellect, we got a few scenes of Barry and Ralph beating up on DeVoe clones. At one point this battle devolved into a riff on the Burly Brawl from The Matrix Reloaded, with about the same level of visual effects quality (no, that’s not a compliment).
What frustrates most is the thoroughly underwhelming manner of DeVoe’s defeat. This is a guy who’s smart enough to plan for every possible outcome, yet he didn’t count on the Fastest Man Alive being able to pull Ralph through a magic portal? DeVoe really needed a memorable and definitive defeat. We needed to see that moment where the world’s smartest man found himself outwitted and forced to accept that intelligence alone can’t beat dedication, teamwork and compassion. That moment never came. Nor did the assertion that the whole of Team Flash was responsible for DeVoe’s defeat hold much water. DeVoe lost because Barry took advantage of some bizarre plot contrivances. That’s it.
The best that can be said is that things picked up somewhat once Barry and Ralph emerged from DeVoe’s mind. It even appeared as though DeVoe himself might get a do-over in digitized form, but that lasted all of 30 seconds before Marlize broke his chair. I wish that final farewell had been played a little bigger and more dramatic, but at least we got to see Marlize finally atone for her part in DeVoe’s crazy schemes.
And at least the fallout of DeVoe’s plan allowed the episode to regain its lost scope and focus on the actual threat to Central City for a few minutes. Falling space debris made for a more compelling threat that DeVoe clones, especially as this threat actually required the full Team Flash lineup to handle. But even this proved to be a case of too little, too late. Never did this episode summon the sense of danger or emotional weight of episodes like “Fast Enough” or “Finish Line.” When the dust settled, there was surprisingly little fallout from the yearlong DeVoe conflict. Barry even has his old job back, apparently.
The only portion of this episode that really connected on an emotional level was Harry’s subplot. Both farewell scenes worked incredibly well. The first offered a somber farewell, with Harry using what he assumed were his last moments of lucidity to giove Cisco a proper goodbye. And later, the happier, more wholesome Harry got to show his appreciation for his entire Earth-1 family. It remains to be seen if the series will be gaining a new incarnation of Harrison Wells in Season 5, but either way, this was a good send-off for the character.
But apart from Harry’s abrupt departure, very little seems to have changed in Central City post-DeVoe. Every season has ended on a dramatic cliffhanger of some sort, whether it was Barry creating Flashpoint or entering the Speed Force prison. The most we got this time was the last-minute reveal of Mystery Girl’s identity. Maybe that quieter, more low-key approach will be a good thing in the end. After all, The Flash has a bad habit of squandering the potential established by its big cliffhangers. Still, the reveal of Dawn Allen doesn’t do much to ease the sense of disappointment and indifference surrounding the finale. This series has a lot of work to do in the fall if it’s going to bounce back from Season 4.