WARNING: This article contains SPOILERS for The Flash Season 4, Episode 2
The Flash‘s new suit has plenty of gadgets and tricks – including an Easter Egg referencing one of the most infamous Justice League stories in comics: Tower of Babel. Fans of The CW’s speedster series had to spend the summer wondering if Barry Allen would return from the Speed Force, and didn’t wait long to get their answers. In the Season 4 premiere, The Flash was reborn better than ever, including a brand new costume… boasting ‘improvements’ constructed during Barry’s brief hiatus.
Of course, a new season awarding a CW superhero a new costume is expected by now. Yet in this case, points should be given to the writers of The Flash for showing that ‘new’ doesn’t always mean ‘better.’ In the second episode of the season, “Mixed Signals,” Cisco Ramon is forced to watch as his upgrades and tech enhancement to The Flash suit are turned against him.
For those who note that theme of good intentions gone awry, and the name of one perk of the new costume, the result is one of the best nods to Batman and the Justice League comics in the show so far.
“The Babel Protocol”
In his personal life, “Mixed Signals” finds Barry and Iris in couples counseling, unsure of just how healthy their outlook really is. But in his professional world at S.T.A.R. Labs, things are looking up. That’s thanks to the exuberance of Cisco, who spent Barry’s six-month absence taking the Flash costume Barry witnessed in his trip to the future into a new generation of tech.
Temperature Control. Fire Suppression. Even Pulse Cannons capable of putting a speedster out of a fight with one blast. And, for those who pay close attention to the details: the Babel Protocol. When the glimpse of Cisco’s tablet was teased in marketing, some fans took note of the word, and deduced a possible explanation for its name and purpose (hat tip to friend of the site Andy Behbakht). To those unfamiliar with the Judeo-Christian Bible, the word “Babel” is directly tied to the story of the Tower of Babel: a building erected by mankind when they were still united as one people.
For reaching too high and showing determination to enter Heaven, God divided them through language, making it impossible for them to communicate and thereby dispersing them across the globe. The actual word “babble” is tied up in this tale, since the city or tower are not named in the original text. But given Cisco’s use of the term here, the most likely answer suggested a translation protocol allowing Barry to process foreign languages on the fly.
But when the Babel Protocol is finally activated in the episode, fans realize the reference isn’t to the Bible… it’s to Batman.
Justice League: Tower of Babel
Even without comic book knowledge, the casual viewer can appreciate the introduction of a “Babel Protocol” in an episode focused on Barry and Iris struggling to communicate. But the name isn’t a reference to the Biblical story of the Tower of Babel, it’s pointing directly towards a story written by Mark Waid: 2000’s JLA: Tower of Babel. Even if DC fans never got around to reading the story at the time, they may know it from its animated adaptation in the Justice League: DOOM movie. It may have Batman at its heart as an unintentional antagonist to his Justice League colleagues, but the spirit of the story makes the Flash reference sing.
Instead of the language aspect, Tower of Babel focused on the idea of man reaching too far, seeking to ‘play God’ as only a superhero like Batman ever can. The villain may be Ra’s al Ghul, but it’s Batman who has already done his legwork by the time the story begins, concocting an extensive series of attacks and weapons designed for one purpose: to kill the Justice League.
In the comics, it’s a vibrating bullet that puts Barry into light-speed-seizures. The show goes for simplicity by sticking with a simple ‘self-destruct’ mechanism, but Cisco’s reasoning for rigging one in the first place is the exact same as Batman’s. Simply put: ‘What if Barry turned evil?’ His intentions are just as good as Bruce’s, but… you know what those are famous for.
Both stories conclude with the heroes winning the day, but we’ll see if this decision by Cisco carries as much emotional weight as it did in the comics, and if Barry or the rest of Team Flash feel similarly betrayed. For our part, we’re just glad somebody has come up with a plan after seeing so many CW heroes turn to villainy.
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