The problem with the bad guys of The Flash
The Flash is about to return from it’s mid-season hiatus, which is perfect time to take a look at one glaring problem with Season 3.
Full confession - I am a HUGE fan of The Flash. As a nerdy child, I wanted to be a “police scientist” because Barry Allen was one. I loved all the wacky Silver Age comics growing up, loved the bright colours and crazy sci-fi villains, loved Mark Waid and Geoff Johns seminal runs on the comic book and even loved the 1990’s TV series (the one with Dawson Creek’s Dad).
And, by-and-large, I love the new Flash series. Yes, it’s got a bit too much Smallville-esque soap opera (and Christ did Smallville suck) but it is saved by a healthy sense of comedy and a dedication to the joyful, wacky Silver Age D-List characters. It’s a marvellous antidote to the po-faced, murderous, guy-liner obsessed Arrow series.
But here we are in Season 3 and who’s the Big Bad gonna be? YET ANOTHER EVIL SPEEDSTER! For the third season in a row!
Reverse Flash in Season 1 was great. The time-travel, the inverted colour scheme, the hiding-inside-the-team-to-manipulate-the-Flash, it all worked brilliantly and set-up the show perfectly for the future.
Zoom in Season 2 was a mistake. We needed a season off from the Big Bad being an evil Speedster connected to the Flash. In fairness, Zoom felt like a dangerous villain, the Man In The Iron Mask mystery was done well (even if the time-clone misdirect was pure bullshit) but the series needed to take a season off to explore other threats before returning to Flash fighting basically another Reverse Flash.
So you can imagine just how much Season 3 REALLY doesn’t need Savitar, yet another evil godamn speedster. Yes, he looks more monstrous and less human than the other two, but just like Zoom, Savitar is a demonic-looking Speedster from another dimension or world or whatever, who turns up every two episodes to beat Barry up and demonstrate that he’s much, much faster (before vanishing again for some convoluted reason).
The show already has FOUR Speedsters on the side of the angels - far, far too many. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a sucker for grey-haired Earth 2 Flash (I especially love him being played by the 90’s TV Flash) and Kid Flash, but with this many Speedsters you end up suffering from The Green Lantern Problem.
The Green Lantern Problem works like this - if there’s 20,000 Green Lanterns in the universe and four of them on Earth alone, what makes Hal Jordan special? What’s his cool USP
“Oh no, Hal Jordan has been defeated! Oh well, Guy Gardner or Kyle Rayner or John Stewart or Kilowog or G’nort or the one that’s a massive planet can do the exact same job and save the day.”
It’s the same with too many Speedsters. The Flash is a show with 4 superhero Speedsters who can all save the day, and three supervillain Speedsters dominating the entire show. That's seven major characters with the same damn power-set!
Look, the Daleks are great. I love the Daleks. But the Daleks shouldn’t be the final villains in every series of Dr. Who, and (despite four godamn outings) the Death Star should not be the impetus behind every Star Wars movie.
The Flash’s strongest selling points are his villains. The Flash has, hand’s down, the coolest and most powerful villains of any superhero (hmmm maybe Spidey rivals him). The Rogues have been an intrinsic part of The Flash’s appeal, ever since the Silver Age. Every great writer to work on the comic has known how important The Rogues are.
But on the TV show the Rogues have just been used as mid-season distractions on the road to building up the evil Speedster for the final episodes.
The Weather Wizard can create devastating scenes from The Day After Tomorrow, levelling cities with hurricanes or killing enemies by creating a tornado inside their stomach. Mirror Master can teleport via any reflective surface, create mirror duplicates and trap heroes inside his twisted mirror worlds. Yet both are relegated to minor, one episode, throwaway characters.
Or Gorilla Grodd. Gorilla Grodd! One of the Flash’s biggest and most dangerous foes, he’s barely been seen on TV! He’s a physically dangerous monster with amazing psychic powers. He can rip you apart and mind-control your best friends at the same time. In the comic books, he’s a cunning enemy who rules over his own country.
Imagine a season of Flash where Gorilla Grodd is the Big Bad. Picture a Flash Season akin to the Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes. Grodd using his psychic powers to manipulate the good guys whilst creating a deadly army of evolved apes that destroy STAR Labs and wage war on Central City.
But the Rogues are best when they’re working together. For decades in the comic books, the Rogues have acted less like a cliched Legion Of Doom team and more like a worker’s union for supervillains. They plan and pull jobs together, they have a certain code of … well, not honour but something akin to ethics. The Rogues gang up to help each other get revenge on the cruel people who helped turn them into the twisted bad guys they’ve become. They helped Mirror Master kick his drug addiction.
Hell, the Rogues even have their very own secret cemetery, hidden in a tiny pocket universe where they can bury their dead in peace, away from the prying eyes of law enforcement and superheroes.
We could have a season of Captain Cold recruiting Flash villains one-by-one, building trust amongst them as he builds his union. Each Rogue’s unique power set tests the STAR Labs team, but they can’t get the job done on their own. Picture a Season Finale where The Flash has to overcome the odds of facing down Captain Cold, Heatwave, Mirror Master, Weather Wizard, Magenta, Top and the Pied Piper (with Mark Hamill's Trickster advising the team from the shadows). Imagine all those power-sets working in unison to tear Central City apart! Now that’s a threat that would actually REQUIRE multiple Speedsters all working together to overcome the odds.
I’ve got faith that I’ll enjoy the rest of Season 3. But the Rogues need more love on the show, and this has to be the ABSOLUTE LAST TIME we have an evil Speedster as the Big Bad.