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Barry falls back into bad old habits in a dull set-up episode of The Flash

Kim Engelbrecht, Neil Sandilands (Photo: Dan Power/The CW)
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At roughly one-third of the way through the season, the time is right to put some meat on the bones of the overarching Thinker arc. Execution matters more than timing, however, and it gives me no pleasure to report that “Therefore I Am” is a plodding, expository, and often irritating hour of The Flash. It calls into question the wisdom of giving The Thinker such a major role going forward, at least with the version of the character we’re given here.


The hour also presents us with a dilemma concerning our central character, as Barry is back in his stubborn lone-wolf mode, ignoring the team and getting in trouble because of it. The problem is... we know he’s right. But there’s a right way to be right, if you follow me, and falling for DeVoe’s cheap gas-lighting tricks designed to pit him against the rest of Team Flash isn’t a good look for Barry. Lucky for him, by the end it all turns out to be a pointless exercise: DeVoe goes ahead and spills all the beans anyway. What a genius! The problem with writing the smartest person in the world is that your writing has to be particularly smart, and that wasn’t the case this week.

We do get plenty of information about Clifford DeVoe’s history courtesy of flashbacks revealing his civilian identity as a Central City University history professor married to another brilliant academic, the engineering genius we know as The Mechanic. DeVoe devises a “thinking cap” that will allow him to tap into his brain’s unlimited potential, but he needs his wife to actually build it. She does so, but it requires a power source beyond any yet known. By a fortuitous stroke of timing, she arrives at this conclusion just as Harrison Wells announces the imminent debut of the particle accelerator.

This brings us into the most enjoyable part of the episode: a mild retcon of the pilot in which Mrs. DeVoe attends the launch and questions Wells (or rather Thawne-as-Wells), determining that he plans to unleash the dark matter potential of the accelerator. DeVoe gets into place with the thinking cap on his head just as it blows, and presto, he’s the Fastest Mind Alive. Keeping that mind going, however, drains the life force from the rest of his body, which is why he’s (mostly) confined to the chair.

Candice Patton, Grant Gustin (Photo: Dan Power/The CW)

As played by Neil Sandilands, The Thinker is a humorless dud, which makes him an odd choice indeed for the Big Bad of a season designed to put the zip back in The Flash’s step. Wouldn’t this have been a good year to finally do a full-on Rogues team-up, especially given that Wentworth Miller is apparently hanging up Captain Cold’s parka? Instead we get this brooding blowhard bragging about how he’s the baddest baddie of them all thanks to his big ol’ brain. This is boring stuff, and it feels especially pointless by the end when Barry is back in STAR Labs explaining that he was right all along because... The Thinker said so.

It’s a troubling development, because by all indications, there’s going to be a whole lot more Thinker to come this season. I would hope that the writers can figure out a way to better integrate his cheerless persona into what has generally been a fun season, but there’s ample reason to be skeptical about that happening.


Stray observations

  • Wally returns from his sabbatical in Blue Valley, and... what exactly was the point of that? Just getting him out of the way so Ralph Dibny could be introduced in a less cluttered landscape? Wally alludes to battling a giant starfish, and I honestly don’t know if that was just a throwaway line or something that happened on one of the other DC shows. I leave that to the comments section.
  • Speaking of Ralph, he was MIA this week except for his appearance in the Surface “stretched scene” segment, which... I’m just going to pretend those things don’t exist.
  • Barry Allen: “He has a camera in STAR Labs, he’s been watching us the whole time!” Also Barry Allen: “How did you know I was the Flash?” Come on, buddy. I know you can figure this one out.
  • Awkward “human resources” joke there, given recent behind-the-scenes events on the show.
  • My favorite moment of the episode may have been Harry’s little gesture toward himself when Barry announces that they’re up against an intelligence beyond anything they’ve encountered.
  • Next week is the big “Crisis On Earth-X” crossover with all four shows in the CW-verse.

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About the author

Scott Von Doviak

My debut novel Charlesgate Confidential is now available from Hard Case Crime.