Fast Cash: 15 Gimmicks The Flash Used To Boost Ratings

the flash cw

As much as we love The Flash, it’s probably time to admit that sometimes it isn’t entirely honest with us. True, it is a common practice in the entertainment industry to create trailers that are designed to draw as much interest as possible through whatever means necessary, but the nature of television creates an interesting dynamic wherein the trailers may outright lie about the state of a show’s status quo or the nature of what actually happens. The weekly need to tell a story and reset creates a conflict within the nature of television that leads to storytelling conceits you wouldn’t necessarily see in other media.

RELATED: Too Fast, Too Furious: 15 Times The CW’s Flash Divided Fans

The Flash has fallen victim to this plenty of times throughout its now four season long run, and it shows no sign of stopping. Scenes used in trailers and promotional material have a habit of being intentionally misleading in the hopes of garnering more views for the show, already one of the highest rated on The CW, or appearances on other shows are teased in an effort to garner higher ratings elsewhere but fall flat or never happened. Here are 15 times The Flash lied to its own viewers in order to boost its ratings.

Continue scrolling to keep reading

Click the button below to start this article in quick view

The Flash & Captain Cold
Start Now


The Flash & Captain Cold

One of the biggest surprises for The Flash was the season 1 debut of Prison Break alum Wentworth Miller as the calculating Leonard Snart, a.k.a. Captain Cold. Miller chewed up the scenery in his handful of sporadic appearances on the show before joining the cast of Legends of Tomorrow. A series regular for the first season, Snart’s redemption and death was a key plot point.

Thanks to time travel hijinks, though, Miller’s Snart returned as a villain in Legends of Tomorrow’s second season. The Flash decided to play off this as well, with Barry plucking Snart just before his death out of the timeline to help him with a heist. The story ended with Barry accepting Snart’s transformation into a good guy, but considering Snart never returned (and likely never will again, now that Miller has left the Arrowverse), this cheap storyline rating pop meant next to nothing.


One of the more successful marketing gimmicks for The Flash was the ongoing reference to the ‘90s television series. Recurring appearances by John Wesley Shipp and Amanda Pays were welcome nods to the original series that so many of the current fans grew up watching, but none was more surprising than Mark Hamill’s appearance.

With allusions to his previous role on the ‘90s series, Hamill’s Trickster is introduced as a serial killer who uses lethal gags to carry out his crimes. Years later, during Season 3, Hamill was spotted filming again, this time in decidedly Joker-like costuming. Was Hamill appearing as Joker, his most famous voice role? Alas, no, it turned out to be an Earth-3 iteration of Trickster, who only appeared for just a few moments of screen time.


After three long years, The Flash finally opened up season 4 with a new suit for Barry. Designed to be much more comics accurate, the suit's simpler design and brighter colors made news rounds shortly before the season premiere and helped to create a new tone for the series. But that didn’t free the show from misrepresenting it to boost ratings.

Following the season premiere, teasers for the episode “Mixed Signals” hyped up new technology built into Barry’s suit. However, these tech upgrades ultimately amounted to little more than a few sight gags as Barry contended with that week’s meta, Kilg%re. Ironically, the suit has always been implied to contain a bevy of tech, including tracking devices, vital sign monitors and a heating element for when Barry is frozen in ice, but it wasn’t a plot point until this episode.


flash john welsey shipp

For a brief moment, let’s take a look back at a different Flash. Premiering on CBS in 1990, The Flash starred John Wesley Shipp as forensic scientist Barry Allen, who gained super-speed powers in a freak accident and became a superhero after the murder of his brother. With superheroes popular again thanks to Tim Burton’s Batman the year before, the show picked up a cult following but fell prey to some poor marketing decisions.

The show faced stiff competition thanks to other primetime heavy hitters like The Simpsons and A Different World in its Thursday time slot. CBS tried to compensate by moving the show to the 8:30 PM slot, but the strange start time for an hour-long series did it no favors. The show would eventually move off Thursdays before ending after just one season, brought down by an inconsistent time slot and high production costs.


The Flash Barry Allen Savitar

A major problem with The Flash so far has been the choice of big bad each season. Reverse-Flash, Zoom and Savitar all turned the show into a series of endless races, but none dropped the ball quite as hard as Savitar did in season 3 with a major reveal that ultimately left fans wanting more.

After being antagonized for the better part of the season, Barry discovered that Savitar was, in fact, an evil doppelganger -- the result of Barry creating speed duplicates of himself to defeat Zoom. The reveal got a ton of hype in trailers after it happened but ultimately fell flat with viewers, who didn’t even know they were expecting Savitar to have a surprise identity.


The Flash Nora Allen's Death

Over recent years, thanks to its critical role in the creation of DC’s much-maligned New 52, the concept of the Flashpoint event has become fairly well known to fans. Featuring Barry going back in time to save his mother from dying at the hands of Reverse-Flash, it was only a matter of time before the concept made its way to television. And so, when The Flash ended its second season with Barry going back in time and saving his mother, fans obviously came out for the third season premiere in droves.

Naturally, the show dropped the ball here fairly hard. "Flashpoint" culminated in approximately one episode, an alternate timeline where everything was relatively okay but not perfect. Barry made the decision to allow history to return as it was by episode’s end, and "Flashpoint" became merely an excuse for Barry to be sad all season.


When Supergirl made the jump to The CW for its second season, naturally it took a ratings hit. Without the mainstream acceptance of a channel like CBS and up against stiffer competition in its Monday night time slot, it would rely on the support of its fellow shows in the Arrowverse to succeed as it jumped over to the smaller network.

Fortunately, it didn’t necessarily need that, but a few crossovers happened anyway. In its first season on The CW, Supergirl touted participation in two big crossovers: "Invasion!," which saw Dominators arrive on Earth and "Duet," a musical crossover. The Flash was hyped as part of both crossovers, but both amounted to a set-up in the final moments of Supergirl, with no real reason being given to watch anything other than The Flash.



The appeal of the Arrowverse’s birth with The Flash was the idea of a crossover. There was something of a payoff during the first year, with the two-night crossover event "Flash vs. Arrow" taking place and pitting the two against each other, as well as putting them side by side, and also with a few sporadic cameos and references throughout.

But there were plenty of other crossovers teased that never happened, used to generate buzz. One notable instance took place with the first season of Legends of Tomorrow, which had a trailer that clearly featured Barry fighting alongside the Legends against an unseen foe. Despite appearing in several early trailers for the series, this scene (likely from an unused pilot filmed to sell to the network) never took place, and Barry had yet to make an appearance on Legends of Tomorrow despite the show’s strong ties to The Flash.


To be fair, it’s not like there were a ton of Firestorm fans prior to The Flash. And to be even fairer, there still aren't a ton of them now. Firestorm remains something of a niche character, with a small but dedicated fanbase, and the appearances on The Flash have been a real treat for fans of a character they never expected to see on television.

But it doesn’t change the fact that The Flash still abruptly wasted the mythos of Firestorm. Ronnie Raymond is introduced in the first season before dying off-camera in between the season finale and premiere. On top of that, the new Firestorm is an original character despite the introduction of fan-favorite Jason Rusch on the series, and all this before shuttling Firestorm over to Legends of Tomorrow, where the character is typically held back, rather than pay the special effects budget that week.


The Flash Wonder Woman Batman Green Lantern

Be it the Arrowverse or the DC movie universe, fans have made it clear that they want to see Green Lantern in a live-action capacity. Now that DC’s film universe is up and running, it only seems to be a matter of time before it happens, but the Arrowverse has been prepping for the debut for some time now. The problem is that it keeps pulling the rug out.

As far back as season 1 of The Flash, where Barry outright mentioned a pilot who had gone missing in an accident from Ferris Aircraft, it’s been evident that Green Lantern exists somewhere in the Arrowverse. The teases continue on, even going so far as to showcase a pilot’s jacket reading Jordan in an episode of Arrow. Despite all this, though, the teases continue to fail to pay off, with no Lantern in sight.


Pretty much any show is going to fall prey to keeping the status quo intact, but The Flash may be one of the worst offenders. What should amount to major changes are reverted back in mere moments, including events such as Iris finding out Barry was The Flash being almost immediately undone when he accidentally traveled through time.

It’s been a recurring trend. Barry and Iris’ relationship moved at a breakneck pace, constantly resetting no matter what happens. Even when Barry broke the entire timeline with "Flashpoint," characters who hated each other had made amends mere episodes later. There’s no time given for these moments to breath, instead of being used to generate interest and then quickly being undone.


danny trejo breacher

The Flash hasn’t had a whole lot of big-name guest stars, but for season 4 they got a pretty big one: Danny Trejo. The popular and menacing actor started cropping up in trailers for the fourth season, with a grimace on his face and his arms raised to attack. It sure looked like Trejo would be making a big villainous appearance.

Fans were somewhat surprised, though, with the show’s wasted usage of Trejo. Appearing as Gypsy’s father Breacher, Trejo spent the episode menacing Cisco in a B-plot that had practically no effect on that week’s story, something which conflicted with that week’s important focus on the newly-introduced Ralph Dibny. Though Trejo is slated to return again later in season 4, it’s a shame to see such a great character actor reduced to a one-note joke.


gorilla grodd

Gorilla Grodd might have been the strangest introduction to take place during the first season of The Flash, but you cannot deny that it was a fan favorite one. With multiple appearances since then, fans were eagerly awaiting Grodd’s return and the proper introduction of Gorilla City -- one of the most memorable staples of The Flash’s long and storied comic history.

What fans actually got was questionable at best. Taking place during a two-week event, Gorilla City was largely comprised of a massive, barren arena with little detail and dodgy CGI as Barry ran in circles around Solovar, before thwarting an invasion of Central City before it could even begin. Gorilla Warfare was hyped up as a Flash event, but in the end, it just left the fans wanting more.



The mysterious Trajectory made a big splash in teasers for her debut episode, with Cisco’s repeated teasing of a lady speedster and Barry trying his damnedest not to acknowledge that he thought she was cute. It sure seemed like Barry was going to have a recurring nemesis, or perhaps even a future ally.

Alas, it was not meant to be. Trajectory, who had gained her speed using a formula based on the Velocity 9 that gave Zoom his enhanced speed, was dead by episode’s end. Her story was ultimately not used to reflect on Barry’s life as a speedster or anything of the sort, but to progress the ongoing plot. Trajectory’s death was such an afterthought that Barry barely mentioned it, focusing instead on what it told them about Zoom’s powers.



The Arrow! Firestorm! The Flash! Trailers for the penultimate episode of The Flash’s first season ended with what looked to be the promise of an epic fight as Barry’s newfound superhero friends turned up to help him face the sinister Reverse-Flash. With the show already riding high on its success in the first season, getting excited about this one seemed like a no-brainer.

The fight amounted to about a minute and a half of screen time. The heroes squared off, but Reverse-Flash wound up being bested by, of all people, Oliver, with a trick arrow that laid him out. It was an anticlimactic finish to a big bad that been chasing Barry for an entire season, and a shockingly weak cliffhanger to lead into a season finale with.

Which Flash moments let you down the most? Let us know in the comments!

Next Everything We Already Know About Agents of SHIELD's Sixth Season

More in Lists