REVIEW: The Flash: The Complete Fourth Season
After a particularly dour third season, fans were promised that the fourth season of The Flash would lighten things up, which was most welcome. On the other hand, the pacing and plotting of the major character and story arcs was uneven and dissatisfying, with lots of highs but too many lows.
The Flash: The Complete Fourth Season is out on Blu-ray and Digital HD combo pack today and across its four discs offers up not only all 23 episodes but the compete “Crisis on Earth-X” crossover event. No doubt, this was necessary considering that Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) and Iris West (Candace Patton) finally tie in the knot in the crossover’s Legends of the Tomorrow installment.
While he is taking a moment to appreciate his happiness, his season-long antagonist has determined Barry needs to be taught humility and sets about to beat that into him episode after episode.
We start the season six months after Flash sacrificed himself to remain within the Speed Force to maintain its stability. Iris has gone from fledgling reporter to the brains behind Team Flash, more fully integrating her into the stories but defying logic. At best, she is the team’s heart and soul; at worst, it’s a pale imitation of Felicity on Arrow.
Once they free Barry, we learn this and everything that follows has been carefully orchestrated by Clifford DeVoe (Neil Sandilands), a man in search of knowledge (wisdom not so much) who winds up mutated by the same forces that turned Barry into the Fastest Man Alive. Aided by his devoted wife and partner Marlize (Kim Engelbrecht), the Thinker is racing against time, attempting to acquire massive powers before his body fails. These powers are to be derived from the dozen passengers aboard the same bus that also gave Ralph Dibny (Hartley Sawyer) his stretchable powers.
Along the way, the large supporting cast needs to be serviced, so we watch Caitlin Snow (Danielle Panabaker) accept her Killer Frost alter ego, lose it, and work to regain it; Cisco (Carlos Valdes) pine for Gypsy (Jessica Camacho) while helping her father, Breacher (Danny Trejo) cope with losing his powers; Wally (Keiynan Lonsdale) feel like a fifth wheel and head off to be a Legend; and Joe West (Jesse L. Martin) prepare to become a father all over again with his new wife Cecile (Danielle Nicolet). Then there’s the flipside to DeVoe, Harrison Wells of Earth-2 (Tom Cavanaugh), who amps up his brain in an effort to match wits with their foe, only to find the price was his intelligence (but also giving us the godawful Council of Wells).
Thankfully, we also have a new foe in Blacksmith (a scenery-chewing Katee Sackhoff) and other distractions. The most wasteful and illogical thread has to be the trumped up charges against Barry, getting him convicted of killing DeVoe and letting his stew in Iron Heights while the Thinker’s plans progress. The Enlightenment, Thinker’s big scheme to ruin mankind’s intelligence so he can reteach them, is too easily dealt with and the conclusion feels rushed and unsatisfying.
Don’t get me wrong, there are strong episodes and terrific moments throughout the series, but too many times I watched and cringed at bad plotting and overly prolonged threads. Even the addition of Sterling Gates to the writing staff couldn’t stop the badly conceived stories. It was gratifying to watch the Elongated Man become a hero, working to save the other bus metas and become fully integrated into the team.
Sprinkled throughout, we see a pretty, young woman (Jessica Parker Kennedy) working at Jitters and encountering various members of the cast until she arrives for the season ending cliffhanger: her revelation as Barry and Iris’ daughter from the future and in need of their help.
The four discs come in a clean high definition transfer at 16×9 1:78:1 with a good DTS-HD 5.1 Dolby Digital audio track.
In addition to a handful of deleted scenes, there are bonuses scattered throughout beginning with a Gag Reel (8:58) on disc one. Disc two brings us the four show runners responsible for the “Crisis” crossover (41:30) which was too self-congratulatory and not revealing enough. Elongated Man (9:44), on disc three, has the producers gush about the fun of bringing the stretchable sleuth to the screen and what the actor brought the cast. Also on the disc is Flash Time on Amunet Black with Katee, Eric, and Sterling (12:52), the most enjoyable as the star chats with Executive Producer Eric Wallace and writer Sterling Gates, looking at her fourth season appearances. Disc four offers up The Fastest Mind Alive: The Thinker (15:20), a look at the comic book origins and adaptation of the villain. Here, the producers talk a good game making me wish more of this was found in the episodes themselves. Finally, there’s The Best of DC TV’s Comic-Con Panels San Diego 2017.