After a long holiday break, season 3 of The Flash is just about to gear up for its second half. The CW’s flagship DC show found itself in a surprisingly dour, dark place after the events of the season 2 finale. After getting off to a shaky start with its spin on the Flashpoint story arc, the show was beginning to right itself just before it went on hiatus with the arrival of Savitar and the gangbusters crossover that featured the casts of The Flash, Arrow, Supergirl, and Legends of Tomorrow teaming up to take on the Dominators.
We have a pretty good idea of some exciting developments coming in the next handful of episodes, like the return of a certain super intelligent gorilla, and a dearly departed fan-favorite character or two. We’re also throwing in some things we hope the show does to continue its newfound winning streak. Read on for the 15 Things We Need To See In The Flash Season 3.5.
15. The Return Of Captain Cold
Wentworth Miller’s take on Leonard Snart, one of the Flash’s greatest adversaries, has rightly garnered near universal acclaim. Miller hisses and snarls every line of dialogue he’s given; he somehow manages to come off as genuinely menacing even when he emotes like an otherworldly ham. It was no surprise producers spun him off into Legends of Tomorrow, where his bromance with Heat Wave and his slowly thawing relationships (sorry) with the other team members were the clear first season highlights.
We know Snart is being resurrected on Legends of Tomorrow this season. His future on The Flash is a little hazier, and that’s troubling. Barry Allen certainly has shinier, more powerful villains, but Captain Cold is a cornerstone of Flash mythos for a reason. Their unique relationship is one of the most compelling between adversaries in superhero stories, and it’s always been a really strong element of the CW show. If Miller’s admittedly busy schedule can be accommodated, The Flash would be a better show for his continued presence.
14. More Of Jay Garrick’s Earth-3
One of the best things season 2 of The Flash did was a bit of a head fake; after building up “Jay Garrick” as the true identity of Zoom, the season’s big bad, it was eventually revealed that man was really Hunter Zolomon, a deeply troubled man from Earth-2. The actual Jay Garrick (who shares the face of John Wesley Shipp with Barry’s deceased father) was a heroic denizen of Earth-3 (just for fun, ask a comic book savvy friend about the idea of classic heroes coming from Earth-3 and watch their face turn purple).
Shipp’s version of Jay Garrick is really as close to a prototypical superhero as the CW shows have gotten: a wise, altruistic, lantern-jawed crime fighter. Jay also serves as a great (if slightly strange) mentor to Barry, and we’ve already seen Jay set our beleaguered hero straight once this year. And there was no more fun sequence on television in 2016 than Jay and Barry thwarting the Earth-3 Trickster (played, as ever, by the inimitable Mark Hamill). Jay’s presence always gives the show a breath of fresh air; hopefully we see plenty more of him this year.
13. Black Flash
During Barry’s climactic confrontation with Zoom at the end of season 2, fans of the comics were given an eye-raising Easter egg. As the Time Wraiths pulled Zoom away for his crimes against the Speed Force, his body began to gruesomely decay. Not a big deal, right? Wrong! Zoom’s decay momentarily turned him into the spitting image of one of the most ominous and mysterious figures in the Flash’s mythos: Black Flash.
In the comics, Black Flash is an elemental force, an aspect of the Speed Force that only speedsters can see. When they do see it, it usually signifies something horrible is about to happen to them, even their own deaths. He’s something akin to the Grim Reaper for speedsters. The idea of the Speed Force repurposing the maniacal Hunter Zolomon to carry out its darker obligations is an appealing, if unsettling notion that the show would be smart to explore.
12. Grodd And Gorilla City
No live-action superhero television show has had more success adapting their larger-than-life characters to the small screen than The Flash. One character who has always seemed like a well of largely untapped potential has been Gorilla Grodd. Teased in the very first episode of the series, Grodd is one of the most storied villains in all of DC Comics history. It always seemed unlikely that a show with a CW budget would be able to do the character and all his mad mythos justice.
So far, the show has come about halfway on Grodd. The effects work has been shockingly good for a modest television budget, and his episodes are consistently compelling. The show has so far shied away from the idea of him coming from a society of super-intelligent gorillas, choosing to portray him as a STAR Labs experiment. However, reports indicate this season we will indeed see a version of Gorilla City, once again proving that the producers of this show are nothing if not bold. It’s hard to imagine how they could successfully realize such a concept on such a relatively small scale, but they’ve certainly proved us wrong before.
11. Less H.R.
The Flash’s first season was extraordinary, front to back. It took chances and giant swings you just don’t expect from a network show in its first season. One of its most stunningly executed moves was the storyline of Dr. Harrison Wells, who turned out to be Eobard Thawne, aka the Reverse Flash, wearing the face of Earth-1’s deceased Wells. It gave Barry a villain with tangible personal stakes, and Tom Cavanagh gave a career best performance.
The long-term problem, of course, was what to do with Cavanagh. The series has made a pretty serious misstep this season: the Earth-19 version of Wells, known as “H.R.,” is a manipulative huckster fraud with a barrel of idiosyncrasies, like carrying a pair of drumsticks wherever he goes. Imagine Steve Jobs if Steve Jobs was talentless. The character is meant to be a certain level of irritating, but probably not this level. It’s a waste of Cavanagh’s considerable talent, which is a genuine shame, largely because the season 2 solution was actually pretty solid.
10. More Harry
One of the things season 2 really nailed was the Earth-2 iteration of Harrison Wells, affectionately known to the STAR Labs crew as Harry. Whereas the season 1 Wells/Thawne was ostensibly a compassionate, motivating father figure (before his eventual heel turn), Earth-2 Harry was a decidedly colder, harsher man. Having such a caustic member of Team Flash proved to be a brilliant move; watching sparks fly between Harry and Cisco was a consistent delight, and in the rare moments when Harry would offer genuine affection or inspiration, it felt like a victory.
At the end of season 2, Harry and his daughter Jesse headed back to Earth-2, having helped thwart Zoom once and for all. This made narrative sense… and yet H.R.’s obnoxious presence has us pining for the halcyon days of Harry’s curmudgeonly charm. The show has dropped a few hints that Harry has grown attached to Team Flash, and it’s easy enough to see a path where he’d be needed again. Let’s hope the show’s writers see it too.
9. Jesse Quick and Kid Flash Team Up
The CW DC shows have had a great knack for putting a new spin on classic characters, while still maintaining the essence of what makes those characters who they are. Jesse Quick was not the daughter of Harrison Wells in the comics, nor was Wally West the long-lost brother of Iris West. And yet both characters still represent their comic counterparts with aplomb, and it’s hard to imagine the show without them.
The show developing Jesse and Wally as teenagers with undeniable romantic chemistry was a savvy decision, knowing they would both eventually serve as Barry’s sidekick in some capacity. While they’re still in the early stages of becoming speedster heroes, it’s hard not to get excited imagining the duo having some adventures of their own. They’re two characters who have largely sidestepped some of the show’s post-season 1 angst (ironic for love-struck teenagers), and seeing their relationship dynamic in the field would likely be a lot of fun.
8. Max Mercury
The Flash has adapted a stunning swath of the Scarlet Speedster’s vast mythos over two and a half seasons. Any show that features King Shark is working hard to please comic book fans. If there’s one major piece of the Flash’s world waiting to be used, it’s Max Mercury. A fairly nondescript Golden Age character, Mercury was made a key figure in the Scarlet Speedster’s lore by Mark Waid during his seminal 1990s comic book run on The Flash.
A mysterious man who has been communicating with the Speed Force for over a hundred years, Max Mercury is something of a speedster sage. He understands the mechanics and consequences of time travel better than anyone (something Barry apparently still needs a few lessons on). Imagine an Obi-Wan Kenobi-type figure who could mentor all of the young team members, not only in the ways of the Speed Force, but in their lives as well. Also, just as importantly, his costume is wicked cool. Speaking of…
7. A New Costume For Barry
The Flash is usually sold as the bright, earnest, fun superhero show, even if it sometimes seems to forget that. That reputation is largely earned; there’s a fundamental optimism at the heart of the show. Barry Allen is an unambiguously altruistic hero; he has none of the checkered history or moral ambiguity that haunts Oliver Queen. His allies are nerdy scientists and upstanding cops. Yet for some reason, Barry wears just about the darkest costume in all of live-action superhero media. It’s a genuine head-scratcher.
A costume overhaul for the Flash is long overdue. Both Jesse Quick and Kid Flash wear more colorful, vibrant costumes, and even the eternally morose Green Arrow is sporting a striking shade of green these days. There’s no way Cisco could be content with that brown firefighter suit after three years right? What do we have to do to get some more red in Barry Allen’s life?
6. The Return Of Eddie Thawne
Eddie Thawne was always a trap. He was introduced as the seemingly decent yet slightly aloof boyfriend of Barry’s secret love Iris West so the general audience immediately had a reason to root against him. Comic book fans couldn’t help but notice the similarity his name bore to the Flash’s greatest villain, Reverse-Flash (Greg Berlanti has gone this fake out route a few times: Tommy Merlyn being a red herring for his father in season 1 of Arrow, suspiciously giving Kara’s adopted sister a name with “Lex” in it on Supergirl). It was a pretty effective strategy… for about half a season.
By the back half of season 1, it was hard not to love Eddie Thawne. In a show brimming with morally righteous characters, Eddie may have been the most benevolent, selfless hero of all. He made the ultimate sacrifice in the season finale, killing himself so that Eobard Thawne would be wiped from existence. Sure, it didn’t exactly work out that way, but he did save the universe in that moment.
On a show that trades in time travel and alternate Earths, it’s surprising that we’ve gone so long without seeing some other iteration of Eddie. Luckily, that’s about to change: actor Rick Cosnett recently announced he is indeed returning to the show. Whatever form he might take, it’ll be great to see a long lost member of the Flash family back for a little while.
5. The Resolution of Caitlin’s Evolution Into Killer Frost
Poor Caitlin Snow. After some solid character development and storylines in season 1, she was lost in the shuffle of season 2’s sophomore slump, ultimately becoming little more than a damsel in distress at the hands of Zoom. She did get to have some fun as the Earth-2 Killer Snow, though that was fleeting. As a consequence of Barry’s meddling with the timeline at the beginning of season 3, Earth-1 Caitlin is now a metahuman who is fighting to get ahold of her burgeoning powers and the effect they have on her mind.
It’s been a solid storyline so far for Caitlin, reaching its peak in the appropriately titled “Killer Frost” episode, where Caitlin loses control and nearly kills her friends before coming back from the brink. Caitlin currently has the power under control, but it feels like a temporary fix at best. The show needs to stick the landing on this storyline, and find a way to involve Caitlin in the end game against Savitar. After the way the character was treated in season 2, the show owes her a fully executed, well-defined storyline.
4. Smarter Decisions From Barry
Barry Allen is a nice guy. He loves his family and his friends. He didn’t become a superhero for any other reason than to help people. Yet there’s another fact of Barry Allen’s existence that just cannot be ignored: he makes boneheaded, selfish decisions over and over again. And they’re usually the same boneheaded, selfish decisions. He lies to his friends in an effort to protect them from things he feels they can’t handle, fundamentally betraying their trust. He sulks in the face of hardship, needing more encouragement from his compatriots than he really should at this point.
These habits are irritating, but they’re not the deal breaker: for the love of Zod, Barry Allen cannot stop time traveling and screwing with the timeline. He knows he shouldn’t do this; he knows it will cause more harm than good and ending up hurting the people he loves in ways he can’t possibly foresee… and yet he keeps doing it.
Barry seemed genuinely determined to stop the time travel hijinks at the conclusion of the Flashpoint fiasco, but the real test will come the next time something unthinkably terrible happens that he just has to live with. Hopefully he can make that commitment, because living with consequences is what real heroes do.
3. More Of Cisco In Action As Vibe
Derisively considered something of a Felicity substitute in the show’s early days, Cisco Ramon has become the beating heart at the center of The Flash. His delirious enthusiasm for super science and crime fighting is infectious, and he has a fully developed, unique relationship with virtually every member of the cast. Cisco’s evolution as a metahuman has been a slow burn, but it’s largely been well-executed, and seeing him in his Vibe glasses and gloves is always fun.
The show recently created a rift between Barry and Cisco when it was revealed Barry’s time traveling shenanigans resulted in the death of Cisco’s brother. While the two have made initial steps toward repairing their relationship, Cisco is understandably still a bit guarded around Barry. A quick and effective way to get their friendship back on course might be to get Cisco out of STAR Labs more often and have him join Barry and the other speedsters in the field as Vibe. The show always gets a bit of a charge when Cisco is actually fighting the bad guys and not just yelling in Barry’s ear; he’s just a little bit terrified, but always brave. It’s both funny and endearing, and it might be what the character needs to move on from the dark tragedy wrought by Flashpoint.
2. More Of The Rogues
The Flash has one of the absolute best lineups of villains in all of comics. The show did a great job in the first season of introducing a cadre of his most striking adversaries, who conventionally refer to themselves as the Rogues; an uneasy alliance of criminals who come together largely out of self-preservation when faced with the Flash. Captain Cold, Weather Wizard, Heat Wave, Trickster, and Pied Piper have all received impressive turns on the show.
Yet when Captain Cold and Heat Wave departed in season 2 to join Legends of Tomorrow, the concept of the Rogues grew more tenuous, and the show hasn’t done much with the organization since. While Savitar has so far been an ominous, intriguing big bad, the show would be smart to deal with more of the Flash’s street-level adversaries, who lend themselves to more human stories than the godlike Savitar. The show’s swing at Mirror Master this season was a bit underwhelming, but bringing the character into the fold with some of the previously established Rogues might be a way to make him more interesting (or maybe just bring in the Evan McCulloch version from Earth-2, who sounds way cooler).
1. More Season 1-Style Hope And Fun
Look, The Flash is not a show in any sort of sharp decline. It’s still consistently one of the best superhero shows on television. The cast is top notch, and the effects work is never anything less than impressive. But it’s difficult to dispute the fact season 1 was magic in a way that it was not in season 2, and hasn’t been yet in season 3. This isn’t some bottomless hole the show can never get out of; it just needs some minor recalibrating.
Part of the appeal of season 1 was that, even in the face of horrific tragedy and seemingly insurmountable odds, the characters rarely despaired or sulked. It was a largely angst-free environment. That’s not to say there wasn’t darkness, but that darkness never overwhelmed our heroes. They took their lumps, both physically and emotionally, and persevered. Writing characters with that kind of internal strength can be tough, and the show has become too reliant on people making bad choices and wallowing in their pain. That’s just not the show we fell in love with.
The Flash is still very good. Its path back to greatness is paved with hope and joy. Can the show pull that off? We’ll find out soon.
The Flash returns with ‘Borrowing Problems from the Future’ on Tuesday, January 24th at 8pm on The CW.
Let us know your hopes for season 3.5 in the comments!