Seven episodes in, ‘The Flash’ finally explains what the deal is with the season’s new supervillain. Should this information have been revealed earlier? Gee, ya think?
Episode ‘Therefore I Am’ is all about Clifford DeVoe, the weirdo in a Borg costume who’s been orchestrating the latest meta-human attacks against Team Flash. Based on his appearance and his flying wheelchair, I naturally assumed that he must be from the future. Apparently not.
We start with a flashback to four years ago. DeVoe is a disillusioned college history professor whose lectures bore his students senseless. He laments to his wife, Marlize (the woman we’ve seen as his villainous sidekick), about how his intellect is useless if he can’t find a way to engage anyone into listening to him. Rather than take some lessons in public speaking, he believes that the only answer is to find a way to become even smarter. Fortunately, Marlize is a brilliant mechanical engineer. She designs a fancy helmet she calls a “thinking cap” that can expand his mental capacity infinitely. The only problem is that it needs a massive power source beyond anything currently available. Just then, however, Harrison Wells (the imitator who’s really Eobard Thawne) holds a press conference on TV announcing the launch of the S.T.A.R. Labs reactor. That should do it.
The episode jumps back and forth in time, punctuated by more of these flashbacks. Clifford and Marlize easily deduce that Wells is lying about the reactor and plans to cause a meltdown. They arrange to be present outside the building when this happens in order to power the helmet. During the explosion, Clifford gets zapped in the head by a bunch of lightning bolts. When he wakes up, he’s super-smart and believes himself to contain all the knowledge in the universe. To demonstrate, he deduces Jack the Ripper’s true identity without any evidence at all.
Unfortunately, his newly powerful brain sucks up all of his bodily resources, causing the rest of the body to fail. He contracts a form of hyper-ALS and is left paralyzed from the waist down. He calculates that he has less than a year to live. Marlize builds the deluxe flying wheelchair to prolong his life long enough to see through some sort of vaguely defined world domination master plan. And here we are in…
The Present Day
DeVoe and Marlize play friendly and innocent college professors for the benefit of Barry and Joe interviewing them. They convince everyone on Team Flash except Barry, who’s left unsettled and believes they’re lying. Even though his wedding is only a week away and Iris urges him to let it go, Barry becomes obsessed trying to expose DeVoe as a master villain. First he swipes a coffee mug to get a DNA sample, but Caitlin’s tests conclude that DeVoe isn’t a meta-human. Even Cisco comes up empty vibing the mug.
After finding a hidden camera in the samuroid head, Barry breaks into the DeVoes’ house to go snooping. Of course, they’re a step ahead and capture him on a security camera. Marlize complains about harassment to his captain, getting Barry suspended from the police force. When he still won’t give up, all of his friends assume that Barry is losing it.
Eventually, Barry breaks a restraining order to confront DeVoe directly. The professor gives up the ruse and reveals that he knows Barry is The Flash. He gives a Talking Killer speech bragging that he’s more intelligent and therefore more dangerous than any foe Barry has ever faced, and calls himself “the fastest mind alive.” Stupidly, Barry doesn’t have the presence of mind to record any of this.
Nonetheless, when he returns to the lab and tells everyone what happened, all his friends immediately come around and apologize for ever doubting Barry. Cisco dubs DeVoe “The Thinker.” Just then, with little fanfare, Wally returns to Central City from his sojourn and offers to help.
Off in his high-tech lair somewhere, DeVoe has a seizure due to being out of his chair for too long. Marlize lifts off the top of his skull to expose his brain, and the chair plugs some cables directly into it, making him feel better. When Marlize asks what his next steps will be, DeVoe says that he’s going to wait a bit and let Barry get married to Iris. A ratings sweep stunt must be part of his plan somehow.
Interestingly, stretchy-guy Ralph Dibny is completely absent from this episode, not even mentioned. It seems that with the return of Wally, the show only has enough VFX budget for one super-powered sidekick at a time. I suspect that Wally will only be around long enough to participate in next week’s crossover event with ‘Arrow’, ‘Supergirl’ and ‘Legends of Tomorrow’. I also fully expect this Thinker storyline to sit on the backburner until that crossover is done.
Ralph’s obnoxious shtick has already worn thin, and this episode is a little better without him than the last few have been. I’m grateful to finally learn something about The Thinker, who is only now finally starting to seem like a legitimate threat. I actually like the idea of a supportive and loving married couple being supervillains. That’s a novel twist.
On the other hand, I still have no idea what DeVoe’s purpose or end goals are. If he’s really so smart, and if (as he claims) he believes he’s saving the world, why is he evil? Why doesn’t he work with Team Flash rather than against them? Also, where do a couple of college professors at a second- or third-tier university get the seemingly billions of dollars they’d need to build all the expensive technology they’ve developed?