‘The Flash’ (Season 4): Hoping for a Speedy Recovery

Barry and Iris - The Flash

Every year in the Arrowverse is a brand-new ball game. Whatever the ranking of the shows in the previous year, new seasons for these shows typically lead to big changes in creative quality. For example, previously weak shows like Legends of Tomorrow and Arrow managed to jump to the top of the leaderboard last year. As such, there’s every reason to hope The Flash has returned from hiatus creatively recharged and ready to deliver on the promise of a lighter, more fun-filled season.

Of course, most of this hope is coming from the promise of what’s ahead, as our first two episodes dealt more heavily with cleaning up the messes of season three. In the premiere, that came down to an unbelievably fast return of Barry from the Speed Force – denying us even a full hour of Wally and Cisco’s adventures together. The second episode, meanwhile, was built around reintegrating Barry into the team and, hopefully, finally putting to bed the selfish, jerky tendencies that plagued him in the third season.

And there are clear signs of the showrunners doing the work to make for a stronger year for the character. Rushed though the first two episodes have been, it’s been done in an effort to shrug off the baggage the show has accumulated. On top of that, the show is finally giving Barry a Big Bad to fight that’s not a speedster, with the Thinker manipulating events from behind the scenes. Even the metas-of-the-week are of the zanier variety, from the premiere’s samurai robot to tonight’s luck manipulator.

If anything, the biggest worry is that the show is trying too hard to recapture the glory days of the first season without addressing the changes that have come along the way. The show’s freshman year didn’t succeed just because of the lighter tone and sense of fun, but because of the character development for Barry and the rest of Team Flash. The adventures are what make the show fun on a weekly basis, but it’ll all ring hollow if there’s no growth along the way.

Again, it’s too early to judge where the show will be taking the characters this year. At the very least, it’s clear that Caitlin’s struggle to not fully become Killer Frost will give her a strong arc, as will Iris’ increased sense of leadership among the team. On the flip side, it’s unclear what, if anything, the show plans to do with its underutilized second speedster Wally.

Still, the show is at least starting to feel like its old self again, so I’m hopeful. As long as Barry can finally hold onto his optimistic spirit again and continue to grow into the hero Central City needs, this has the chance to be a true return to form for the Scarlet Speedster.