It’s that time of year again, when shows head to San Diego Comic Con, and we start to get our first real glimpses into what our favorite shows will bring us this season. Fans of ‘The Flash’ are particularly interested to see what changes the new show runner, Eric Wallace, will bring.
Here are five questions we have for what’s in store for our favorite Scarlet Speedster and the show in general.
1. What is Barry’s Connection to the Big Bad (and Who Is It)?
I’ll be blunt. Perhaps the biggest stumbles in The Flash season over the past few years have come in the villain plotlines. Zoom was a fantastic villain, but his back story made no sense. Savitar was equally compelling, but the show was too determined to try to “hide the ball.” We didn’t get to see enough of his motivations or as machinations to create the compelling villain he could have been. Both the Thinker and Cicadas had promise, but their stories were dragged on too long. In the end, they went out with a whimper. The story seemed to drag interminably to get there.
It’s therefore with some trepidation that fans tend to await the announcement of the season’s Big Bad. We don’t know much about the villain this season. However, show runner Eric Wallace promised in a recent interview that he would have a more personal tie to Barry than any villain before. This is an intriguing comment, since one season’s villain was a version of Barry himself.
So who is the villain, and what is his connection to Barry? Also, since the season will be broken up with Crisis on Infinite Earths, this leaves open the opportunity to use more than one villain – one leading into the crossover, and a different one wrapping up the season. Since the villain arcs have often suffered from being dragged out too long, this has the potential to keep the villain arcs exciting, without all the filler that tends to bog them down.
2. Will We Finally See Iris West-Allen Step into Her Own as Journalist?
Fans of The Flash have been dying to see Iris’s journalist plot develop since…well, basically the pilot. We’ve gotten intriguing glimpses over the years, with a few steps in the right direction. However, this plot has never been explored to its full extent. At the start of the sixth season, we’ll find Iris in a place where she owns her own newspaper. And that newspaper has foretold her husband’s disappearance and likely death.
So what will season six bring for journalist Iris West? Will we get to see her out in the field, reporting on stories more often? Will we see her grow her newspaper staff? Or will we perhaps even get both? Dare we hope we’ll get to see her out of the lab and interacting with people who live in other areas of the city that aren’t S.T.A.R. Labs? (Perish the thought.)
Also, since the newspaper article from the future is written by Iris West-Allen, will we get to see more of Iris’s attempts to deal with her grief over her apparent imminent loss? While the characters all discovered last season that Barry would disappear and never return following that headline, there was little time spent devoted to seeing them process this news. Instead, they were often distracted by other threats and priorities. But at the end of the season, we saw the date on the newspaper change; Barry’s supposed death is nearer than ever.
In the third season, we saw Iris’s reaction to her own supposed death. Even in the face of her own fear, she was focused on others – on reminding Barry not to lose track of the hero he can be in his grief, and reminding him that Caitlin and others also needed his help. Will she be as selfless when the looming death isn’t her own? And how far is she willing to go to save the man she loves?
Iris’s knowledge of the role she is to play in the looming Crisis storyline should provide some excellent drama – and nobody brings the dramatic acting quite like Grant Gustin and Candice Patton. I hope that Iris’s journalist arc is integrated into the story as it should be, and that it continues beyond the crossover to show us the star reporter (and voice of the city) we know it is her destiny to be.
3. Heroes in Crisis?
Speaking of Crisis…I suppose there are a hundred questions we want answered about that storyline alone. Not only how The Flash characters deal with the knowledge of Barry’s impending disappearance and death, but how everyone will recover once it’s past. This plot has been teased for years, but many fans are concerned that the story will be redirected to focus primarily on Oliver – particularly since the Arrow episode of the crossover will supposedly its last.
I’ll be honest; if the crossover will truly be the last episode of Arrow, it’s hard to believe that Crisis on Infinite Earths will be anything but disappointing to fans of both shows. Fans of Arrow would almost undoubtedly prefer a final episode focused on Oliver Queen and Company. Giving fans a chance to say goodbye to the characters they’ve loved for years, without the frantic spectacle that tends to accompany the crossovers. Fans of The Flash would undoubtedly prefer that Barry remain the center of his own story (which hasn’t always happened in the past). Particularly since that story has been promised to center around Barry for years. But if Crisis is the event where we wish Oliver a fond farewell, is there really any chance that it wouldn’t become more about Oliver and his (presumed) sacrifice?
Will Barry be the center of his own story? Will Oliver get the send-off his fans think he deserves? Or will the crossover be a bit of a hot mess, sacrificing the promised payoffs for the glitter and glam of the spectacle?
Also, will Iris actually get to take part in all the episodes in the crossover this year? In the fallout from Crisis, will we be saying goodbye to any other characters we love, outside of the cast of Arrow?
4. Will the Heart Return to The Flash?
The focus on heart, emotion, and family has always set The Flash a bit apart from other superhero shows. True, Barry’s tendency to wear his heart on his sleeve has not always led him to make the best decisions. But it’s also been refreshing to see a hero who recognizes from the start that his strength lies in his heart, in his family, and in his relationships with the people he loves.
That heart was too often missing last year. However, a fairly disappointing fifth season did end with an emotional gut punch, as Nora West-Allen was erased from existence. Fan reaction to her disappearance may have been somewhat divided, but for Barry and Iris, it was nothing less than devastating.
How will this loss impact them, moving forward – compounded as it is by the knowledge that Barry himself soon may die. For the team, there must be a sense of utter helplessness. But for Iris, it must feel like she’s losing her entire world. Theirs has never been a “typical” relationship, marked by time travel and alternate earths and foretold futures as it is. Not to mention villains from another Earth crashing their wedding and their daughter visiting them from the future before erasing herself from existence.
Still, if one thing has remained true in all realities, Barry and Iris have always been IT for each other. Finding each other in every world, every time, and every reality. The gold standard. There is no Flash without Iris West – and, in a sense, given how her future loss seemed to change her, there is no Iris West without Barry Allen. She’s his lightning rod, but he’s hers too, in a way. Together, they are the gold standard.
That relationship has been the heart of the show from the beginning. Given its importance, will we see the returned focus on that heart as we move into the next season – and closer to Crisis?
Of course, there are other emotional questions at stake beyond Crisis. Cisco gave up his powers in the season five finale. What role will he have to play this year? Will he come to regret his actions as Crisis looms closer? Will he finally find his own happiness?
How awkward will it be for Joe to have to treat Barry like an employee, now that he’s the boss? Will his efforts to protect the Flash’s secret identity bring conflict to his role as police captain? Will he make Barry salute him? Just once? For fun?
5. Will There Be Increased Support for Diverse Talent Behind the Scenes?
Last but certainly not least. In the past year, there has been increasing talk in and around Hollywood of the need for increased diversity, both in front of and behind the camera. Several black actresses, including Candice Patton, have spoken out about the need for hair stylists and makeup artists in the industry who know how to work with their skin and hair. Candice Patton has also spoken out about the need for both public and private support for actresses who face racist attacks for the roles they’ve been hired to play.
We’ve started to see a change in response as an increased number of black women are hired to play traditionally white characters. From Anna Diop (Starfire) to Zendaya (MJ) to Halle Bailey (Ariel), more people are realizing that black actresses must be supported publicly from the start. From the network, the producers, the writers, and the fellow actors. The racist hate sent their way must be refuted; it cannot simply be ignored. While this may not entirely discourage racist attacks online, we have seen that it may help mitigate the amount of hate these actresses get.
As soon as Candice Patton was cast, she was told to avoid going online. Everyone was aware of the hate (and type of hate) that would be sent her way. Ever since, the people in charge of the network and the show have consistently failed to take a stand against the hate that is sent to her daily. (And while it may be true that all actors get sent hate, the hate sent to Patton is undeniably different. And often undeniably racist.)
Grant Gustin recently posted a video in support of Candice. This video came in response to calling on him to speak out in her defense. He promised to do better about publicly supporting her, in addition to the private support he offers. But he should not be the only one standing up for her. He shouldn’t be alone in taking a stand against the hate she receives. Others – most particularly those in positions of power, in charge of the network and the show – have a responsibility to ensure that the actress they cast is supported. Particularly since they anticipated the racist hate she would receive.
So, with The Flash’s new show runner, has the show and the network come up with a plan to fully support their diverse talent, both publicly and privately, moving forward? Not just with makeup artists and hair stylists qualified to work with everyone on the cast, but with public opposition to online bullying and racist hate?
Will the network that challenges viewers to “dare to defy” and claims to be open to all practice what it preaches?
The Flash season 6 premieres Tuesday, October 8 on the CW.