Up until recently, the Flash's main nemeses – Reverse-Flash, Zoom and Savitar – have all given the fastest man alive a run for his money. However, season four hit the brakes on villainous speedsters and introduced the Flash's slowest and most intelligent big bad to date, Clifford DeVoe, aka the Thinker.
Confined to a mechanical hovering chair and hooked up to technology with wires, the calculating DeVoe enjoys manipulating Central City's residents as if they were pieces on a chessboard. He masterminded the Flash's return from the speed force so that dark matter would spill out and transform a busload of riders into meta-humans. In addition, DeVoe hired Ralph Dibny to investigate the mayor's infidelity, a case that sent Dibny on a collision course with Barry Allen.
Although DeVoe's true motives are shrouded in mystery, his scheming may come to a screeching halt. Last week's episode, "When Harry Met Harry," culminated with Barry and Joe West showing up on DeVoe's doorstep, where he appeared in civilian clothes and sitting in an electric wheelchair. Could Team Flash have already outsmarted DeVoe – or, is everything simply going as scheduled?
"Barry starts to get an inkling early on that this is going to be somebody serious and we're going to want to nip it in the bud right away," Grant Gustin told press gathered in a Vancouver hotel room during a set visit. "When we heard about this guy, thinking back to who we heard about him from — Abra Kadabra mentioned DeVoe to Barry and then Savitar, evil Barry, actually mentioned him to Barry and Iris. So, Barry's taking it pretty seriously right away.
"Before anybody else on the team knows for sure that this is our guy, Barry starts to become a little bit obsessed with getting him, because he doesn't want things to get out of hand again, as they always do," continued Gustin. "We start to see Barry unravel slightly for the first time all season, because he's been pretty put together this year. He starts to become a little obsessed with finding this guy and getting everyone on the same page as him and see that this is our guy for sure. But, everyone else has their doubts for a while."
"So basically, DeVoe has this overarching plan that involves all sorts of circumstantial minutia," Carlos Valdes elaborated in a separate conversation. "Whether the team knows it or not, they're already conducting actions that are part of DeVoe's plan and sort of falling for his trap. So, it's really more a matter of Team Flash discovering their place within his plan. Just when you think that the team is getting close to figuring out what DeVoe's intentions are, it goes beyond that, exponentially. I think viewers can expect to go on the ride of their lives."
"The Thinker is a huge villain this season," confirmed Candice Patton. "I think people will be really pleased with him. There's a lot more than meets the eye with him. It kind of ends up driving Barry crazy, because he thinks he knows more about this guy, that he's not all that he's cracked up to be, or that's he's portraying himself to be. It pushes Barry to do some things that could possibly get him in trouble. DeVoe is extraordinarily smart and he's always three, four, five steps ahead of Barry and everyone on Team Flash. So, they have to work really hard to figure out how to get ahead of him."
Barry's fixation with DeVoe promises to impact Team Flash and his fiancé, Iris.
"Again, Barry is trying his best to mature and I think a lot of it is happening naturally, so we'll see them start to butt heads," Gustin said. "He's still Barry, and he's hot-headed, and when he's sure he's right, he's stubborn. But, the team is in a good place this year, so we're not going to see any massive hiccups with the team at this point in the season. They'll recover."
"It's troubling for Iris," Patton noted. "She thinks Barry's gotta take a step back or you could end up in a lot of trouble. You can't go after people like that. There's laws and things. There's going to be a little tension there. Iris is gonna be a little worked up about how serious he's taking this DeVoe character."
As for relying on time travel to resolve his problems, Barry learned a valuable lesson from the Flashpoint fiasco. In fact, it appears the Thinker is forcing Barry to use his investigative skills more.
"That's pretty on point," Gustin agreed. "Also, with bringing in Ralph Dibny, they have their detective background with each other. That's kind of the selling point with Ralph, why Barry wants to get him to work with Team Flash. Barry is like, 'I want to teach you how to be a good detective again.'
"There's been a lot more of that for Barry and we don't see him too much as a CSI," concluded Gustin. "There's been a little bit less of, 'Guys, what do I do?' and more of the problem solving on his own. We'll still see some of the, 'Guys, what do I do? I'm not fast enough!' But, he's been trying to solve more problems on his own."