Tuesday is one of my favorite days of the week. For starters, it’s not Monday. That alone is a win. Tuesdays though, Tuesdays are The Flash night. My sister, the very same who just started reading comic books, comes over and we watch the show together and make commentary or theories while we enjoy ourselves some superhero type hijinks. Wednesday morning is usually followed by talking to my mother about how she liked the episode and the two of us share theories. Usually, my mom drops a couple of swears because that’s what she does when she gets excited about a show. It’s charming. Although my mother watches live but because of work Jen and I have to use the DVR. No commercials for me though so who really wins here?
This season though… it feels like something is different. Nothing has really changed on my end. I still work and watch with Jennifer. I still talk to my mother on Wednesday. The routine is there but the product has changed, and not for the better. Season four, thus far, of The Flash has been a bit of a letdown, and that’s tough for me to say as The Flash has consistently been one of my favorite watches. Yet, this season feels flat. It doesn’t feel like The Flash I fell in love with and that concerns me for the future of the show.
I’m aware that the showrunners believed that season three was a bit too dark, and I understand their thinking. We had an entire season that was centered on preventing the death of one of their main characters. That’s definitely some doom and gloom but I felt that the show was able to balance it well with their humor and strong character interactions and development. I didn’t feel like The Flash was any darker than what was happening on Arrow which is essentially the CW’s version of Batman. I don’t say that in a negative at all but come on, Arrow is a dark and gritty show on the levels of Batman. Last season may have been one of it’s darkest too and by comparison, I felt that The Flash was just telling a story that had dark elements but was balanced out by the brightness of the characters on screen. Cause say what you will about The Flash, no matter what is happening within the story structure, there is always that feeling of hope. That things can be changed or prevented. If one character is down then the others pick him/her up and round and round we go. The Flash brings a family element to its superhero team.
Apparently, the show writers thought differently and for season four they wanted to do the opposite of dark. They wanted to tell a story that involved superhero stuff without the doom and gloom bearing down on our heroes every episode and that has resulted in a product that is not living up to previous season standards. Don’t get me wrong, I understand and appreciate the idea of lighting things up. Not every superhero story ever told has to be dark, although someone tell that to the DC cinematic universe. The showrunners of The Flash have now taken a problem that hasn’t really existed and repaired it with a solution that’s ruining the show.
I would argue that this season of The Flash is too light. There’s almost too much humor now, and it’s coming across as forced. On top of that this newly injected humor is now interfering with the characters. Part of the charm of The Flash has been how naturally these characters behave. Cisco one-liners or pop culture nuggets have seemed genuine in the past because they’ve popped up organically within the story structure. Wells, whatever one you fancy, has played like a straight man because he helps to highlight the humor in other characters. The slapstick accidents are funny because, again, they seem to happen at a natural rate. Everything has been so well placed and so well timed that it helps relieve tension. Season four has taken all those things and kind of cranked the volume up to eleven and it’s messing up with the rhythm of the show. Humor isn’t there to break up tense moments, like Cisco dropping a Harry Potter line before a life or death experiment. Humor is there to just be humor which makes it cheap.
It seems that every episode of season four thus far is sacrificing character for humor or a lighter tone. I like to laugh as much as the next guy but when a show feels like it’s forcing in the gags to “lighten the tone” it no longer seems organic and suddenly becomes glaring. It doesn’t help that newly introduced character, Ralph Dibny’s is more or less one poor Jim Carrey impression. It doesn’t help that instead of being super geniuses who help solve problems, Wells and Cisco are being regulated to comic relief. It doesn’t help that the show takes established characters, like Wally West, and pushes them away in order to make room for more hijinks. Hell, Barry’s return from the speed force was glossed over like it wasn’t that big of a deal. Season four of The Flash is so far off from it’s previous seasons that one could almost suspect Barry of creating another Flashpoint.
The main problem with season four thus far, besides Ralph Dibny, is the lack of balance. Because of this focused light tone, the stories have suffered. Each episode this season has kind of been the same thing recycled, outside of the ending of last night’s which showed a glimmer of promise. The characters have suffered as well as all the gags and jokes water them down and make them a bit one dimensional. The Flash thrives on its depth of character and there has to be a way to make the show lighter without sacrificing its core.
Is it time to start freaking out yet? No, I don’t think so but it’s okay to kind of raise your eyebrow a bit. The Flash is one of those shows that still puts out twenty-something episodes a year so there’s hope that the writer’s room can find a rhythm and get things back on track because what we have now… it’s not going to cut it. The Flash is about heart and everything else spirals out of that. It’s time we focus on that again… and maybe get rid of Ralph Dibny.