‘The Flash’ (Season 3): The Promise of a Passed Mantle

Wally and Jesse - The Flash

The Flash has finally ended its overly-complex, painfully mopey third season. And yet, despite the many flaws, cheats, and ridiculous developments of the finale, I find myself weirdly optimistic about where the show is headed in its fourth season. Perhaps such hopes should be long dead and buried at this point, but like a stubborn speedster, the thoughts of better days ahead still race back to life.

And however cold it may be to say, a big part of that is the thought that, at least for a few episodes, Barry Allen might actually stay dead. His sacrifice to the Speed Force at the end of the finale may have been bizarrely easy – super willing to become an isolated prisoner after struggling so long to be with Iris – but its surprisingly liberating to be free, even momentarily, of the show’s biggest problem element.

Because the show has turned Barry Allen into a rather lame figure this season. Despite constantly learning his lesson about how to use his powers – after Flashpoint, during the “Invasion!” crossover, by trapping Jay in the Speed Force – Barry has remained a terrible team leader, constantly lashing out at his friends, keeping secrets, and not consulting anyone else on Team Flash.

None of this is Grant Gustin’s fault mind you; he’s a charismatic young actor who still brings life to the character when the show lets him. But more and more, the writers have seemed content with letting the character be even more angst-ridden than Oliver Queen at his worst. It’s a willful dismissal of the Silver Age goofiness that made the first season such a joy, and it’s the sort of free-spirited energy the show would be better served by getting back to.

Enter Wally West, a character who’s proven more than capable of carrying the show when necessary. Keiynan Lonsdale has proven his chops time and again, and watching him grow into the lead hero role would make for a fourth season that can move the story forward while also paying homage to decades of stories focused on Wally’s time as the one-and-only Flash. Let’s see some of his specific Rogues, his developing relationship with Jesse, and how he handles the legacy Barry left behind.

Heck, the show doesn’t even need to lose Grant Gustin; as many different Wellses that have walked the halls of STAR Labs, why not bring in an alternate universe Barry to complicate matters? Or maybe a time-flung Barry can spend a season aboard the Waverider on Legends of Tomorrow. It’s a wide, wild Arrowverse, and other shows could use a Flash.

Of course, a change in character doesn’t guarantee a change in writing; the chance exists that the writers will fall back into the same tropes and problems that plagued this season. But with Barry MIA and Wally ready to step up, the future is look bright; hopefully, Wally is smart enough not to run to that future to make sure.