They say it’s not how you start but how you finish, but with an ongoing television series that isn’t always true. After a strong start that descended quickly into a very mediocre middle before limping towards the finish line, The Flash season four has finally come to an end. All season long the threat of Clifford DaVoe The Thinker was hyped up and at times his threat seemed real but again and again, the series delivered more of a whimper than a bang with this big bad villain. Nowhere is that more on display than the finale.
That’s not saying the finale is bad, not even close. It is actually a pretty well done episode that whether intentionally or not pulls a ton of inspiration from the Matrix trilogy (especially The Matrix: Revolution) as Barry Allen must descend into the mindscape of DaVoe to try and find the good within him to save the world from being dumbed down and sent back into the stone age. As predicted weeks ago, within DaVoe’s mind he finds Ralph Dibny still intact since DaVoe is in his body, and it is Ralph that proves to be the good within DaVoe that is needed to stop the villain so that Ralph can take back his body.
As Barry and Ralph fight an army of mental DaVoes, it is Marlize that helps keep the team one step ahead of her husband because as probably most people figured way back when she turned on him episodes ago and came to help Team Flash. The Thinker supposedly was a ton of steps ahead of them all & predicted so many things, but he apparently isn’t smart enough to predict cliche story tropes. There isn’t a whole ton to the episode as the mindscape and the running from DaVoe in reality/impending birth of Joe & Cecile’s child takes up the majority of the runtime. That’s what leads to the sort of whimper that is this season.
After all these months of hyping up the villain, while also downplaying him time and time again in order to stretch the threat out well past its expiration date, it, of course, is super easy to beat DaVoe. In fact, this probably wasn’t even the hardest battle that Team Flash has fought at any given point. There were stakes but not really, as of course the cliche that emotions are powerful, more powerful than pure intellect, was the key to things. For whatever reason DaVoe left Dibny’s mind intact (even though he murdered his own good part in his head) which led to him losing the body and being expelled so unceremoniously. Then it seems like maybe the day isn’t quite as won as it turns out he transferred his mind into his chair to go digital (like the character in the comics). Except, nope.
Turns out that digital Thinker is just as easy to beat as the flesh one as Marlize just basically unplugs the chair and that’s it. Clifford DaVoe is dead. After all that buildup it was Ralph taking back his body and a battery being destroyed that takes down this villain that was supposed to be a new challenge for Team Flash. Honestly, this is why the show and others need to ditch the big bad villain formula because it’s very underwhelming these days after the threat is stretched out for almost a year and then so easily swatted away. Team Flash has had their emotions guiding them alongside intelligence this whole time, but now suddenly it is the key to winning? That’s pretty lame.
Overall, as said before, the episode is a fine one and if the rest of the season had been paced better and Thinker had not been a 22 episode threat before this one it would have worked better. Had they introduced him as the threat maybe after the winter finale break, at the mid-season return, it might have worked better. There would not have been as much downtime and stretched out storylines that began to make the viewer potentially really tired of the whole storyline. This is no offense to the writers, but what tends to happen when writing a villain that is meant to be smarter than the hero for prolonged periods of time is that the villain begins to have to be slightly dumbed down or make stupid mistakes to keep the hero in the fight. If that had not happened, Thinker would have beat Team Flash a few episodes in.
Supposedly Thinker knew how this would all shake out though it took him just as long as Team Flash (3/4 of the season) to find the 12 metahumans even though he should have not only possibly already know who they were (since it was seemingly stated that he even somehow made it so that the Weeper with his magic tears was one that was created just to drug his wife down the line) but should have found them very quickly. Especially since Team Flash was later distracted for weeks with the Barry in jail thing. Which was another wasted potential storyline as it felt like the writers thought it was a good avenue but then abandoned it rather quickly and sort of ridiculously (seriously the court didn’t question why there was a corpse if the guy was seemingly alive?) just to get Barry back out.
One good outcome of the sort of lackluster end of the season was for Harry. Honestly, the descent back into being a pompous asshole earlier in the season got tiresome yet it was still sad to see him slipping more and more as his brain was destroyed by DaVoe’s process. So it was really heartwarming that they were able to save him in the end but not just in the way they expected. Harry’s vast intelligence is seemingly gone, his 7 p.h.D’s now useless, but he has found a balance between his mind and his heart now which is far more valuable. He takes off to be with his daughter now that he’s refound his heart and emotions, with no indication if we’ll see Harry or a new version of the character (since the show enjoys having Cavenaugh around in some capacity) next season.
Even though most people probably long ago called it on the identity of the mysterious girl who has been appearing in quick spots here and there since the crossover episodes, it didn’t diminish things. Nora Allen-West, the daughter of Barry and Iris from the future, came back and in the end actually helped her father stop Thinker’s satellite from falling on the city after the villain was defeated. Turns out she thinks she made some sort of mistake and reveals herself to her family likely to deal with whatever mistake it is that she made. Looks like season five is taking things to the future in some capacity.
As a singular episode, this one delivers on various levels with the fights (though some CGI in the mindscape has that wonky uncanny valley aspect going on) and emotion and development. But as a capper to a wonky season, it fails on multiple levels as things are seemingly way too easy when it comes to finishing off the final boss. At least the writers remembered to bring in Wally at the last moment to have him there after the birth of his new little sister. It was refreshing that compared to many other finales of shows this season, The Flash didn’t feel the need to off a bunch of characters for impact sake. One can only hope now that season five will be like Harry Wells, more balanced.
Score: 8 out of 10
Final Season Score: 6 out of 10