Tuesday, November 21, 2017

"Therefore I Am" Finally Brings A Compelling Villain To The Flash!

The Good: Awesome character progression, Great acting, Good effects, Wonderful direction
The Bad: Disbelief of the Flash team reads as a bit false
The Basics: The Flash creates its best episode of the series with the revelation of the backstory for DeVoe in "Therefore I Am!"

After years of The Flash following a very familiar format in its seasons and villains, there is something very satisfying about the progression of the fourth season of The Flash. Instead of having a Speedster adversary who the protagonist is clueless about, the fourth season of The Flash began with a pretty strong idea of who The Flash would be encountering. Namedropped several times late in the third season was DeVoe and since the fourth season began, The Thinker has been seen building an elaborate trap for The Flash. By the seventh episode, "Therefore I Am," Barry Allen is coming face to face with the DeVoe he has sought since Ralph Dibny mentioned him.

"Therefore I Am" picks up where "When Harry Met Harry. . ." (reviewed here!) left off and it is impossible to discuss the new episode without some references as to what happened in the prior episode. After all, "When Harry Met Harry . . ." was preoccupied (occasionally) with trying to narrow down the thousands of options of people named "DeVoe" to the one most likely to be the adversary of The Flash. The prior episode climaxed with Barry Allen and Joe West arriving at the door of Clifford DeVoe.

Four years ago in Central City, Clifford DeVoe is teaching at Central City University, where his students are uninterested. DeVoe shows his wife the prototype for his thinking cap and asks her to build it for him so he might better be able to think and interface with his students. In the present, Allen and West interrogate DeVoe and his wife. Despite DeVoe giving many of the right answers, Barry suspects that he is the right suspect for their emerging villain. After ruling Clifford out as a metahuman, Iris suggests to Barry that he is just having pre-wedding jitters.

On the night of the S.T.A.R. Labs accident, Clifford DeVoe attempts to take advantage of the dark matter explosion by harnessing the power of the event to fuel the thinking cap his wife built for him. DeVoe visits the Central City Police Department where he files a complaint against Barry for harassing him. When the camera in the samauroid head goes active, Barry sneaks into the DeVoe home. That gets Barry a restraining order and his friends turn against him.

Almost immediately, "Therefore I Am" sends up a red flag for the continuity police. Clifford DeVoe and his wife are super-geniuses who were working in Central City at the time of the dark matter accident. People like Stein, Raymond, and Dibny were all on the S.T.A.R. Labs radar when the accident occurred. So, how Clifford DeVoe and his wife were not approached by S.T.A.R. Labs to work for them seems suspect. Fortunately, in the course of "Therefore I Am" S.T.A.R. Labs and the accident are addressed, including the rather sensible moment when the time traveling Eobard Thawne subtly acknowledges that he knows who DeVoe will become.

The real joy of "Therefore I Am" is that it unfolds in an incredibly compelling and engaging way. Barry Allen has his guy from minute one and the investigation into DeVoe and his wife follows a methodical and interesting journey for revealing what the audience pretty much already knows. The episode follows Barry Allen doing actual policework to investigate and prove his hypothesis, while flashbacks provide explicit backstory information.

The unfolding of the mystery in "Therefore I Am" well-executed and the episode's direction is quite good. David McWhirter seems to give viewers the answers early on in the form of Cisco's vibe, but the progression of the episode is engaging.

It is only in the episode's final third that the pacing starts to lag and the episode starts to feel like it is headed off the rails. Clifford DeVoe's motivations are not clear - how he developed from the professor who wanted to save the world into the bald man confined to the futuristic chair (until the end when it becomes clear that is simply a lifesaving measure) - outside his frustration. It is as the episode progresses that it suddenly seems ridiculous that at no point did anyone on Team Flash actually ask what it was that DeVoe did that was so bad.

DeVoe is characterized well by "Therefore I Am" and it is instantly refreshing to see a "villain" who has his own support network and love in his life. That sets him apart and the result is that outside the utter disbelief of Barry Allen's friends, "Therefore I Am" builds to a truly compelling and engaging episode that is almost perfect!


For other television reviews, please visit my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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