Typically, no superhero casting is received without healthy doses of excitement, shock, skepticism, or confusion. But in the case of The Flash, the showrunners haven't been shy about laying their cards on the table for all to see. Having previously confirmed that their version of Iris West and her all-new father Detective Joe West was conceived alongside the new version of Wally West in DC Comics' New 52, they went so far as admitting that the former 'Kid Flash' was a likely addition for Season 2 months before stating that was their plan.
Now, the plot twist has been made official, with actor Keiynan Lonsdale (Insurgent) cast as the youngest West in what will be a series regular role. With decades of comic book history - and a lengthy run as the holder of 'The Flash' moniker - fans may have high hopes for what lies in Wally's future on the show.
But knowing just how much this version will be pulling from the most recent (and likely least well-known) take on Wallace R. West, the writers could have something else in mind...
The Wally Every Fan Knows
Most comic book fans, and just about every fan of DC's animated universe is familiar with Wally West, since he's the man most associated with 'The Flash' title for an entire generation (if not multiple). Defined by his quick wit and mischievous nature, he was a perfect fit for all animated takes on the Justice League, targeting a young audience with short attention spans. Those same characteristics defined him in his early comic days, as Wally began his superhero career as "Kid Flash," the sidekick to the Silver Age Flash, police scientist Barry Allen.
After hassling his Aunt Iris West for a chance to spend time with Barry (who wouldn't want to?), a tour of his forensics lab turns disastrous, as yet another lightning bolt strikes the same rack of chemicals and douses Wally - an exact recreation of the events which gave Barry his superspeed (comic writers back then weren't held to the same standards of originality). Barry became an instant mentor, offering Wally academic advice, just as Jay Garrick (the first Flash) had been a father figure to Barry. However, Wally was destined for much, much more than a supporting role in the Flash mythos...
Superhero death may be viewed with an eyeroll these days, as everyone knows that "death means nothing in comics." But back in 1986, things were different: when Barry sacrificed himself to the speed force which supplied his powers, in order to save the DC universe, the comic publisher closed his book. Knowing the next decades would be lacking a scarlet speedster, Wally switched to Barry's suit, and took the name of 'The Flash' for himself.
In the following years, Wally would struggle with both his family and powers, with both fights ultimately ending in his favor. Wally eventually married Linda Park and raised a super-powered family, coming to understand, unlock, and truly master the Speed Force in ways Barry could have never dreamed of. Once he mastered the speed forced, Wally would eventually follow in Barry's footsteps, being pulled into different dimensions, eventually returning with Barry Allen, who was still trapped in the Speed Force.
When Allen returned to the company's spotlight after "The Flash: Rebirth" in 2009, Wally was pushed to the fringes. But when Barry re-wrote the timeline altogether in the "Flashpoint" event, DC Comics' New 52 Universe was born - and Wally dropped out of the picture entirely.
The New 52
Once the New 52 Universe kicked off - essentially starting Barry's story over from the beginning - fans were eager to see whether Wally had truly been erased, or was set to be introduced. They got their answer when Barry crossed paths with a delinquent youth - who turned out to be Wally. Barry didn't know that when he caught him spraying anti-Flash graffiti, only discovering that the troublemaker was Iris West's nephew when agreeing to act as something of a role model for him.
In the new origin story, Iris' brother abandoned both Wally and his mother, and his mother ended up dying in a massive conflict in Central City. Wally blames The Flash for not saving her, as well as for putting his uncle in prison. Winning Wally over turns out to be easier for Barry than his superhero alter-ego, but the similarities between the stories end there.
Although fans got to see what Wally would look like as a superhero, the visions of him in his own suit, with his own superspeed were the result of time travel, and possible futures that were to be avoided or corrected. In other words: not a typical origin story, and even less likely to be adapted into another medium.
The CW Version
To fans of The Flash TV series who know little more about Wally West than what we've stated above, the problems in adapting either take on the character should be clear. Greg Berlanti outright stated that he and his producers worked with DC while Wally's new origin was being developed, and made the decision to cast their own West family with African-American actors (Jesse L. Martin and Candice Patton) as a direct result (the New 52 Wally is the child of Caucasian and African-American parents).
In Berlanti's words, the casting was preparation to "eventually head in the direction" that DC Comics had for Wally West going forward. Now the time has come, but aside from Barry, Iris West has no siblings - either natural, or adopted. Or does she? It's worth pointing out that although Joe West has become a major player in the series, Iris' mother remains a mystery.
Comments made by Harrison Wells hinted that the absence of Iris's mother in her childhood was due to her death (just as his own wife had been killed). The tension shared between Wells (Tom Cavanagh) and Joe was chalked up to the latter's suspicion, but could something more be at work?
All things considered, it's strange that Iris and Barry have both lost their mothers at a young age, and have never once spoken about it as a common ground or bond they share. Assuming the writers don't start to make up for that shortage as soon as the second season begins, it's possible that Iris' feelings for her mother are a bit more complicated. Meaning her mother may have left the family, but not in the way that's been implied.
Joe's wife may very well have passed away, but at this point, the idea of Iris sharing a sibling, or half-sibling is entirely plausible. Surname aside, that doesn't necessarily mean Joe isn't the boy's father. In the pages of DC Comics, Iris' mother has been just as enigmatic a character.
In one story, Iris is a child of the 30th Century sent back to be watched over by the Wests, while another story has her as the adopted daughter of the Wests, and her biological parents out of the picture.
Neither of those explanations should be expected, since the more obvious explanation seems to be the simplest: Iris has a brother she wasn't aware of. The secrecy surrounding Joe's late wife, and his unwillingness to provide details, backs up that theory - and while it's a change to the character's origins, much of the New 52 mythology can be adhered to. The ages may have been changed, but it's hard to argue that Barry Allen could still be turned to as a role model for any member of the show's cast (in and out of the suit).
With season 1 of The Flash ending on a cliffhanger (a massive swirling singularity in the sky above Central City), Wally's emergence in the next season could be telling. If the writers are sticking to the comics for more than just Wally's ethnicity, then it's possible that Wally's (Iris'?) parent will be a casualty of the disaster, forcing him to make himself known to Joe and Iris. Not to mention the adopted sibling who... well, caused the disaster in the first place. And that's just the kind of angst, secrecy and family drama that The CW thrives upon.
What that means for a potential superheroic turn in Wally's future is a matter up for discussion. The writers have confirmed that more speedsters will be joining the show, with original Flash Jay Garrick (Teddy Sears) on board, new powers coming for Barry, and even Cisco set to uncover more of his own abilities gifted by the S.T.A.R. Labs disaster. One show may not be big enough for two - make that three - speedsters, but knowing just how ambitious the writers have been in the past, it's not outside the realm of possibility.
Could Wally appear on the scene to simply give Iris West a new form of drama, now that her boyfriend has been killed (and pulled into a singularity) and the drama with Barry is hopefully set aside? Could Barry's new powers be based around saving/granting his own gifts to others, with Wally the first to enjoy the perk? It's all speculation at this point, but remember: with time travel and parallel universes now in play, who's to say Wally isn't another timeline's version of the Wests' only child?
Be sure to discuss your hopes, theories, and concerns in the comments below, and stay tuned as more information is released!
The Flash returns for season 2 Tuesday, October 6th, at 8PM on The CW.