The latest episode of The Flash season 4 has revealed how Neil Sandilands’ Clifford DeVoe become the big bad of the year, The Thinker. The series’ star Grant Gustin has already explained that Barry Allen is “obsessed with finding this guy” because he doesn't want “things to get out of hand again as they always do.” Fans with good memories will recall that DeVoe’s arrival on the villainous scene was teased twice last season, with both Kadabra and Savitar forewarning Barry about his next nemesis.
Sandilands was cast at The Thinker over the show’s summer break, and he made his big on-screen debut in The Flash season 4 episode 1, “The Flash Reborn”. It quickly became apparent that DeVoe is always one step ahead of Barry, not least because he knew about the dark matter leakage from the Speed Force and was tracking the bus passengers that turned into Metahumans before Barry was even aware of their existence.
In The Flash season 4 episode 7, “Therefore I Am”, flashbacks were used to clue viewers in about some important backstory details regarding DeVoe (hat tip CBR). Fans now know that DeVoe was born in South Africa. He studied in Johannesburg and Oxford before moving to Central City to teach history. His particular specialism is military strategy. A few years ago, working with his wife Marlize DeVoe (aka The Mechanic, played by Kim Engelbrecht), Clifford DeVoe developed a device called ‘The Thinking Cap’, which can broaden the range of human intellect. But they needed a huge power source to get it working.
Before the events of The Flash season 1, Clifford met with Eobard Thawne (aka The Reverse-Flash, who is played in this era by Tom Cavanagh) to talk about the STAR Labs particle accelerator. Being a genius, DeVoe worked out that Thawne’s plans involved the blowing up of the accelerator. DeVoe knew that this would send a powerful wave of dark matter spreading across Central City, so he made preparations accordingly.
DeVoe and his wife brought The Thinking Cap to STAR Labs on the day of Eobard’s big launch. They stood outside the lab and waited for the dark matter explosion. When the dark matter came, it succeeded in powering up The Thinking Cap. The device endowed DeVoe with an even greater intellect, making him a true force to be reckoned with.
However, The Thinking Cap’s gifts came at a price. Shortly after starting to use the device, DeVoe was hospitalized by a spasm. He developed the debilitating disease ALS and lost the use of his legs. DeVoe’s unnatural intellect is draining his physical body, and Marlize has built some complicated machinery to try and slow that process down. Exactly what the DeVoes are planning with the new busload of Metahumans remains to be seen.
The Flash airs Tuesdays on The CW.