What happens when The Flash gets outthought by the Thinker? Team Flash thinks they have the goods on the master criminal but he succeeds in turning the tables on our heroes by using the law against them. Proof is a valuable weapon, see it thwart the Flash at every turn, after the super speed jump to conclusions with my review of “Therefore I Am.”
A Tale of Two Barrys
Before I get to the episode in question, I want to say a few words about the other big deal regarding the Flash this week, the Justice League movie. While neither the CW television series nor the DC Extended Universe is getting the source material right, or close, I think the show has the spirit, and the movie is just building their own Flash for their own purposes. Neither one is really Barry Allen, but I think our Grant Gustin is closer to the mark.
Despite all his Barry-isms and sometimes just bad decisions, Grant’s Barry is the hero, the nerd, and good guy. You can always trust Barry, police scientist, comic book nerd, faithful loving husband. Our Barry here and in the comics is the guy we can trust to babysit or petsit. I’m not sure we could say the same of Ezra Miller, too young, too clutzy, and more of an outcast, geek, and possibly autistic, than just a nerd. See Justice League, enjoy, but know that the real, ahem, realer Flash is here.
Origins of the Thinker
After several episodes this season and couple teases last, perhaps it’s finally time to deliver the low down on season four’s big bad, the Thinker. As mentioned previously, attorney Clifford DeVoe had failed to defend mob boss Hunk Norvock and was later employed as his legal consultant and brains of the operation, nicknamed the Thinker. After years of servitude DeVoe turned the tables on Norvock and took over, becoming a crime lord himself.
After running afoul of Jay Garrick, the Golden Age Flash, DeVoe sought to gain leverage over his foe through technology, chiefly through a device he called his ‘thinking cap.’ Looking like a colander with coils of wire wound through it, this cap accelerated DeVoe’s brain power and intelligence, and even allowed him to projecting mental blasts of energy. During this time, his super-villain look was that of an older man in a green leisure suit and his silver thinking cap, no frills.
The Super-Villain Thinker
The Thinker’s simple look didn’t keep him from being taken seriously as a major threat. A frequent enemy of the Jay Garrick Flash, he was recruited as a member of the Injustice Society of the World to face the Justice Society alongside other Golden Age super-villains like Vandal Savage, the Shade, and the Gambler, just to name a few. Later he joined with the Shade and the Fiddler to battle Jay and Barry Allen in their first cross-dimensional team-up “Flash of Two Worlds.” The Thinker even sported a flashy costume when he took on a teaming of the Golden Age and Silver Age Atoms.
Later, after extended and physically taxing use of his thinking cap and its later scarier versions, including one that plugged directly into his skull, the villain died of brain cancer. Other villains took on the Thinker name but never quite lived up to the rep, one of which was surprisingly a former friend of Ronnie Raymond AKA Firestorm. When Mister Terrific redesigned a Justice Society security system using components of the thinking cap, it awakened a new artificial intelligence version of the original Clifford DeVoe version of the Thinker. This Thinker has been a major threat in the comics to the Justice Society, the Teen Titans, and all three Flashes (Jay, Barry, and Wally), and is probably most like the one here on TV.
Played by South African actor Neil Sandilands, TV’s Thinker has an odd appearance, similar to the Turtle of the comics or the New Gods’ Metron, moving about in a levitating chair with off hardware stuck to his face. However, when we first meet Clifford DeVoe and his wife in last week’s cliffhanger, he is merely an unextraordinary man in a wheelchair. Of course wheelchairs tend to hide the most dangerous villains on The Flash, like Eobard Thawne’s Harrison Wells as the Reverse-Flash in the first season. His wife, according to the promotional materials, is his assistant as the Thinker, a woman known only as the Mechanic. There seems to be no comics analog to her, so the jury is out on her.
Through an opening flashback we find TV’s Thinker was a Central City University professor, and along with his wife Marlize, they seem to have been affected by the particle accelerator explosion, but after he already made plans for a devious device called the thinking cap. They need a power source, and Harrison Wells’ particle accelerator looks tasty. Also he likes samurais and mac and cheese, and hates the internet. All the team’s research however indicates that DeVoe and Marlize are nothing out of the ordinary. Of course, the Thinker does have the speed lab bugged, or perhaps he has a way to block Vibe’s powers or create illusions.
The flashbacks get very specific. As S.T.A.R. Labs preps for the big night of turning on the particle accelerator, we see Iris get mugged and Barry chasing the perp. Sound familiar? It happens while Harrison Wells makes his speech the night of the explosion in the show’s pilot. Once Barry and Iris have left, Clifford and Marlize start asking Wells – who we know at that time is actually Eobard Thawne from the future – about the experiment. They are smart enough to know it will fail, but it gets worse.
Thawne knows them. Of course he does, he’s from the future. Thawne knows this is the future Thinker who will become one of the Flash’s greatest enemies. It is chilling when Wells wishes DeVoe good luck, because it works on so many levels. They are in the street when the explosion happens, and DeVoe is wearing his cap. Afterward DeVoe finds he is super intelligent but his muscles are decaying, some sort of super ALS, as his mind is feeding on his body.
After being always one step behind villains like Thawne, Zoom, and Savitar, Barry has finally snapped. Knowing from both Savitar and Abra Kadabra that DeVoe is possibly one of his most dangerous opponents, Barry is on edge and perhaps too overzealous against a foe that is not just one step ahead of him, but two, or maybe even three. Unfortunately he gets himself a restraining order.
First there was the awkward questioning of the DeVoes by Barry and Joe, then Barry audited DeVoe’s class and stole a coffee cup, and finally our hero, who has perhaps forgotten he has super speed and how to use it, broke into their house and was photographed doing so. He’s lucky that Singh only suspended him – as he said, he should have arrested him, and let’s not even mention how he’s endangered his secret identity again. Not that DeVoe doesn’t already know that one.
In a move that is both a Barry-ism and smart, Barry confronts DeVoe once more at the university before class. Both men are fairly up front. They know the bottom line on each other, fastest man alive versus smartest man alive. While it’s nice to have all the cards on the table, it sucks that we really don’t yet know what the Thinker is actually up to. And oh yeah, when Barry relays this info to Team Flash, Cisco at last gets to name the baddie, and in a cool twist, the villain sees it happen and likes it.
In another weird twist however, the mood at S.T.A.R. goes from grim to glad as Wally comes back, and all of sudden talk is happy and cheery and weddingy and welcome backy. It’s a disturbing turn, almost as if it was a mid-1980s Saturday Night Live they just don’t know how to end. One interesting not on Kid Flash’s time in Blue Valley is that he fought a giant alien starfish. Wait, what? Could this mean a future appearance of Starro… and possibly the formation of the Justice League? Damn, tricked again, I forgot all about the bad ending of this episode, like an apple disguised as a banana.
Next: The wedding of Barry and Iris, and Crisis on Earth-X!