Over the past few seasons, The Flash has seen many villains; but the ones that always get the most attention are the big Season Bads – with good reason. Though whether it’s Reverse Flash, Zoom or Savitar, there is one thing these villains always seem to have in common. And no, I’m not talking about being Speedsters – though that is important. I’m actually talking about the story arcs they follow throughout the season.
Regardless of which prior speedster you choose, their season follows a very predictable pattern: (1) introduce evil character who wants to destroy the Flash, (2) build up mystery surrounding their identity, (3) reveal that identity much later in the season, (4) give the villain a flashback in the final few episodes to make the viewer “understand” them a little better. Season 4 on the other hand completely throws this formula out the window, and in doing so – as we learned in this week’s episode “Therefore I Am” – gives us a villain that rises above the rest.
We didn’t have to wait long to meet this season’s villain on The Flash. In fact, we didn’t have to wait at all. Each episode has gone back and forth to showing the Thinker’s reactions to Team Flash’s actions, painting this picture of a season long game of Chess. Though last week things got interesting when we learned that our heroes were going to come face to face with his alter ego, and what follows is unlike anything we’ve seen before. After all, we’re used to a tug of war with “who is the villain”. Even when we the audience knows the answer, it’s sometimes a few episodes before Team Flash does. And the brilliant thing about this week’s “Therefore I Am” is that we do get that slight back and forth as the DeVoes (Clifford and Marlize) play with Barry’s head; but rather than drag it out, we get that big confrontation.
By episode’s end, we have Barry and DeVoe face to face, fully open with who they are. This is a confrontation that is usually saved for the 3rd to last episode or so, but here we are two months in with that key moment. Though even more than that, we have DeVoe’s backstory. We saw how he became The Thinker and the relationship between him and his wife. This isn’t a villain and his minion, but rather a true power couple. We see their love for each other and the pain they’ve endured, and this gives us an emotional connection to them, which again is so opposite to what we’ve seen in the past.
When we learned the truth about Reverse Flash, Zoom and Savitar, they’d already done so much evil we didn’t care who their alter ego was and why they did what they did. Our foreknowledge of the villain completely rewrote what we thought about the characters behind the masks. DeVoe takes the opposite approach. We’ve just seen him brilliantly plot out a few plans, but thus far he hasn’t done anything truly “evil”. So when we meet DeVoe and his wife, we are meeting them fresh and get that emotional base connection to them.
The best part about all these reversals is that since we know who DeVoe is, we can concentrate fully on “what is his plan”. The usual season mystery is solved, but we don’t really know what DeVoe wants. He doesn’t want to simply beat the Flash because the season started with the Flash already out of the picture. All we can tell right now is that he has a plan and he aims for Team Flash to be the first to “experience the enlightenment”. Is he trying to open the minds of all those around him? That doesn’t seem too bad. Is he trying to transfer his mind into a new body – possibly the Flash’s – since his is rapidly degenerating? That does seem quite bad…
By showing us Clifford’s and Marlize’s origins this episode, our theories can run the spectrum from the selfless (still wanting to help promote mankind’s intelligence) to the selfish (striking from the helplessness he feels that his body is deteriorating). Is Devoe someone in full control of/ detachment from his emotions as he deals purely in thought OR are his emotions actually driving his thoughts ever since he learned of his fate? In the final flashback, we see how he snaps at Marlize at the height of his helplessness. Additionally, while Barry is in the house, we actually see Marlize pause to look at their wedding photo. Though this isn’t a pause to notice something off – because the photo fell and was put back – but rather a longing look as if remembering how things “used to be”.
Clifford and Marlize mentioned a few times that they are nothing without each other. Could this be the weakness of the Thinker? Could Marlize at some point realize how mad her husband has gone and help Team Flash? Whatever happens, the writers have already given us a villain more complex than any before him. Here there is anger, but there is also love, because as the Thinker says at the end, ”what is knowledge without love”. And what is a good villain without complexities?
All I can say right now is: “Thinker, ‘I’ll be thinking of you….’” (seriously though, how well delivered/ ominous was that line!)
- Flash Recap – “Therefore I Am”
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Joe primarily covers video games news (i.e.: Pokemon, Spyro & Destiny) as well as the occasional ‘Theory Thursday’ pieces. Before writing for FanFest, Joe was the Creator & Editor of TheInsightfulPanda.com. He is also an illustrator and is currently working on Season 3 of his not-for-profit, fan-art crossover series PokéRangers on Instagram.