‘The Flash’: Best of the Doppelgängers

As we get further into the back half of the season of The Flash, questions increasingly arise as to what is in store for our favorite heroes. What is Mirror Iris up to? (Other than breaking poor Barry’s heart.) Can Eva really be trusted? (There’s no way she can really be trusted.) What is Sue’s connection to Black Hole? (And how did I come to like Ralph as much as I do now?)

As we ponder these – and other – questions (What is going on with Nash? Harry embossed his diary with gold lettering? Could he have be any more extra?), it seems a good time to highlight the best of each character’s doppelgängers.

Barry Allen: Savitar

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It seems strange to say for a key villain of the season, but Savitar was ultimately underutilized during the third season of The Flash. An evil time-remnant of Barry Allen with a back story and motivations that are a little too wibbly-wobbly-timey-wimey to think about for long, his character had a lot of potential. Just think about the damage a villain with the face and memories of a hero could do. Imagine the psychological mind games he could play with the people closest to him. Actually, you may not have to imagine, because there’s a good chance that we’re seeing threads of that very thing with the Mirror Iris plot.

Unfortunately, the awesome potential of this character was stymied by a plot that tried to drag out the reveal for far too long and then failed to give satisfactory motivations for all involved. The fans knew for weeks that Savitar was going to be an evil version of Barry Allen, but the writers tried to hide the ball a shade too long.

Putting all that aside, however, Grant Gustin did a tremendous job playing the bad guy. (It is even more remarkably that Savitar was distinctly different from Flash possessed by Bloodwork – and that smile he gave as the latter was creepy as hell.) He may have been the villain, and we certainly didn’t want him to succeed in his plan, but a part of us wished he could be turned from the dark side and stick around for a little longer. As we came to see once again when Barry was pretending to be The Chemist…there’s just something about a Barry Allen Gone Bad.

Honorable Mention: Earth-2 Barry Allen

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I promised myself I wouldn’t do this, but I can’t help myself. And, honestly, I almost gave Earth-2 Barry the top spot, until my husband asked me why I didn’t just rename this article “Why Earth-2 Was the Best Earth” and be done with it

As impressive as it is when an actor can play several, wildly-different characters, it’s even more impressive to me when they can play different versions of the same character well. To play the same fundamental character but with enough slight differences to make them a fully-realized character in their own right takes talent. And that is exactly what Grant Gustin did with Earth-2 Barry Allen. He was enough like the titular hero we love to see the same core of the character beneath, but he was indisputably a different character than the one we see every week.

People say Earth-2 Barry Allen is gone (which is a damn, dirty lie; he and Earth-2 Iris escaped somehow and I absolutely refuse to believe otherwise). But, whether or not we ever see him again, he will never be forgotten. For many fans, he’ll always hold a special place in their hearts.

Iris West: Mirror Iris

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Okay, deep breath and fingers crossed on this one. I’m going out on a limb that this arc will have a satisfactory conclusion, and the writers won’t pull a “she’s evil because…she has her reasons” nonsense like they have done at least twice before. If they drop the ball on this one, I may throw my television out the window.

With the hope that my TV is going to stay firmly where it is, I’m going to take the plunge and say Mirror Iris is the best of the Iris doppelgängers we’ve gotten so far on the show. As stated above, it’s impressive when an actor can play subtly different versions of a character and keep them distinct. Candice Patton has therefore done an admirable job with Mirror Iris thus far – a character who is a different version of the Iris we know and love but also pretending to be the Iris we know and love. Patton therefore must play an Iris who’s enough like the usual Iris to accept that others don’t realize she’s an imposter while being just dissimilar enough to Iris that the audience recognizes her as a different character and understands why Barry has the growing suspicion something is wrong.

The plot with Mirror Iris has me more excited than any villain plot we’ve gotten in years because, more than anything else, I feel like the writers have an actual plan for where it’s all going. All of the pieces in this week’s episode are tying together to link to the main plot with Mirror Iris and Black Hole – even Ralph and his future lady love (perhaps after a good, long talk and perhaps, you know, therapy), Sue Dearbon. I don’t know what the plot is building to, which is exciting on it’s own. However, I do feel like the show runner has a clear vision of what he’s building to, and that’s incredibly exciting. I can’t wait to see where it goes…and how Barry finally comes to accept that his suspicions are correct. There really is something wrong with Iris. I’m both excited to see what he does next, and heart broken for the pain I know the revelation will cause him.

Honorable Mention: Earth-2 Iris West

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I did it again, and I’m not even sorry. These two are what convinced me to continue watching the show when the writing faltered as attention shifted to launching DC’s Legends of Tomorrow series, and they will always be some of my favorite iterations of these two adorable idiots. Also, Earth-2 Iris deserves a shoutout, because, while The Flash had been criminally underutilizing Candice Patton’s considerable acting chops in the early part of the show, this two-parter hinted at what she could do with even the smallest amount of material. Candice – and Iris – fans had always had faith in her potential, but this two-parter is where the rest of the world sat up and took notice. After these episodes air, fans and critics alike couldn’t stop praising her performance. Is it any coincidence that she started getting increasing air time and meatier material to work with after this? I doubt it.

Caitlin Snow: Earth-2 Killer Frost

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This one’s a no-brainer, and, honestly, there isn’t even an honorable mention. Killer Frost is another character that has suffered over the years from a lot of wasted potential. Although she was something of a villain at times on Earth-1, the show didn’t want to commit to her being fully bad (or even commit to her having to atone for the bad things she has actually done). They didn’t want to lose Caitlin, and so we got a bit of a hodgepodge mess, with repeatedly retconned backstories and explanations and “I’m bad because…reasons” justification. If anything, season six’s Frostlin has been even more of a mess, with the writers more interested in the powers than the person to the point that neither is that distinct of a character anymore. And, to add insult to injury, Caitlin isn’t in scenes she should be in, and Frost is in scenes she definitely shouldn’t be in. (Seriously, Frost is acting like the doctor? They couldn’t even give Caitlin that much?)

But Earth-2’s Killer Frost was at least a hint of the villainess we could have had. Her dynamic with that Earth’s Firestorm was also a promise of a love story between those two that was simply never meant to be, since the actor decided so early on that he wanted to leave the show. We won’t talk about what it was he left to do.

Earth-2 Killer Frost makes the muddled Killer Frost we got all the more frustrating, because it was a glimpse of what could have been. A villain with a heart full of ice, who did what she wanted to do because she wanted to do it. With hints that she could be redeemed, sure, particularly in the moment that Cisco got through to her, but a villain who unapologetically and wholeheartedly embraced her own villainy. Honestly, it’s all I really want from a villain, in the end.

Cisco Ramon: Reverb

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This is the point where it became clear I really should have written an article about Earth-2 and called it a day. But I can’t help it if Earth-2 was just that damn good.

For a man who has demonstrated impressive acting range from the moment Harribard put a vibrating hand through his chest, Carlos Valdez has not always been given his due in the show’s writing. Although he’s often treated as the comic relief, Reverb is really where the audience got a glimpse of the dynamic, compelling, dangerous villain he could play In different circumstances. Of course, they’d no sooner shove Cisco into the villain pile than they would shove Caitlin. They like having their team in S.T.A.R. Labs drawing science circles, after all.

To heck with Ronnie Raymond. I say Killer Frost and Reverb (because nobody from Earth-2 is dead ALL RIGHT???) go on a road trip, wreaking havoc everywhere they go. Just because they can, and because it’s fun. Instead of hearing pithy lines about taking down a gang in a knife fight, the audience would actually get to see it. Sounds like fun to me!

Harrison Wells: Eobard Thawne

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While I was discussing this article with my husband, he asked me a reasonable question: when it comes to Harrison Wells, which one is the “main” one and which the “doppelgängers”? I decided the “main” Harrison was the one we got a glimpse of before he’d been taken over by Eobard Thawne, and all the characters we’ve seen through the season are doppelgängers.

Among fandom circles, Harribard may actually not be the preferred Wells on the show – that honor seems to go to Harry. I refuse to name Harry as the best Wells for two reasons: 1) Because if I do, I really should just rename this article “Why Did You Take Earth-2 From Me You Heartless Bastards” and I’ve already picked a title and everything, and 2) the interplay between Harribard and Barry in the first season really did help set the tone for the series. In the first season, Barry was so (comparatively) carefree, but his mother’s death was the shadow lurking over his shoulder. That shadow took the form in Harrison Wells. For a time, fandom wondered if Harrison wasn’t a red herring, thinking Eddie might be the villain. But even once it was confirmed that Harrison was the villain, the audience remained on the edge of their seat, wanting to see what would happen next. When would Barry realize his friend and mentor wasn’t what he seemed? Harrison wouldn’t really kill Cisco, the man he thought of almost as a son, would he? How far would the Flash go to bring down the man who murdered his mother?

Zoom’s entrance – breaking Barry’s back and dragging him throughout the city – was one of the most gripping introductions to a villain I’ve ever seen on television. Savitar had the potential to be diabolical, conniving his way into the confidence of his friends and loved ones. The Thinker could theoretically outthink our hero. Cicada could…okay, he, then she, could be present. But no villain has been able to resonate emotionally with the audience as Harrison Wells in the first season of the show.

Until now, with Mirror Iris? Only time will tell. I, for one, can’t wait to find out.

The Flash airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on The CW.

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