Last week on The Flash, the Council of Wells uncovered the secret identity of The Thinker, and in light of the “big reveal” that DeVoe was actually an aging wheelchair-bound professor, it looked like their investigation hit a dead end. But as Barry says, his “Spidey-sense is tingling,” and he spends the episode stalking a very cute couple.
Yes, the same Clifford DeVoe that Team Flash found is The Thinker, the new supervillain that’s behind Barry’s return and the wave of new “bus metas.” Surprisingly enough, The Thinker’s origin story goes back further than The Flash itself. Through a series of flashbacks, we get the details, and it’s refreshing to get reminders of the show’s roots.
Four years ago, Clifford DeVoe was a frustrated professor of history and econometrics that called his students “small” because they obsessed over kitten videos — but that’s what you get when you leave Oxford for Central City University. With his wife, Clifford designs a “Thinking Cap” with the potential to “expand a mind to infinite capacity.” However, it “requires an expanding energy source.” Luckily enough, this is around the same time that “Harrison Wells” was about to activate the S.T.A.R. Labs particle accelerator.
The DeVoes linger near the particle accelerator, hoping to draw enough power for the Thinking Cap. Much like Barry, Clifford is struck by lightning from the particle accelerator storm, but it runs through the Thinking Cap constructed by his wife. The end result is that he becomes some kind of super-genius at the expense of his health — which explains why he winds up wheelchair-bound.
His mind actually draws energy from his body, giving him what is oversimplified as super ALS. He needs the creepy hover chair to stall the illness, but for much of the episode, he hides all this from Barry.
Clifford might have the outlandish ideas, but it’s Marlize — The Mechanic — with two advanced degrees in mechanical engineering and advanced robotics to make them happen. She makes the Thinking Cap and the creepy hover chair.
We know all along some sense of what’s going on. We’ve been watching The Thinker and Mechanic all season. Barry’s totally right with his hunch, but this episode proves that DeVoe’s able to outsmart him at every turn. It drives Barry to do literally crazy things, like audit one of Pr. DeVoe’s classes, and sneak into their home in the middle of the night.
It’s possibly the most unnerving and bold thing The Flash has ever done, turning our hero into some kind of twisted villain in this way. (Other than that time last season when they literally made him the villain.)
“He feels more dangerous than all the other ones combined,” Barry says about The Thinker when talking to Iris. After he gets suspended from work and gets a restraining order put out against him, Barry’s idea is to confront DeVoe. They both sort of just say “screw it” and lay all the cards out on the table. Barry says everything he knows. DeVoe says everything he knows. It’s refreshing that The Flash wouldn’t waste more time dangling this plot thread. We’ve got a wedding to go to, don’t we?
Throughout the episode, we see a drastically different relationship dynamic at play between what we now understand as “The DeVoes.” Previously, their interactions were rigid and overly calculated, almost as if The Mechanic were a pupil of The Thinker or even an employee. It’s that much more surprising when we find out that they’re very much in love, which humanizes them in a big way, especially when they get sentimental and promise to not interfere with Barry and Iris’s wedding.
We’ll have to wait and see if Barry can remember that random tip from Savitar about the “neural inhibitor,” but he’s got wedding bells on the mind for the time being.
The Flash airs Tuesdays on The CW at 8 p.m. Eastern, but next week is the epic two-night crossover event: “Crisis on Earth-X.”