This week saw the emotional finale to The Flash Season 3. The STAR Labs gang’s celebration following their defeat of Savitar was short-lived, and Barry Allen and Iris West had to put their pending nuptials on hold due to the Speed Force demanding that Barry leave behind the Earthly realm in order to stabilize its semi-sentient, wild energies. Now that Barry Allen isn’t around to protect Central City anymore, The Flash's fourth season is looking even more interesting. In fact, the show may well feature a different yet familiar hero in the classic cowl of the scarlet speedster, taking up the mantle of The Flash in Barry’s absence.
As Barry made up his mind about surrendering himself to the Speed Force, Iris tried to reason with him that Central City needed a Flash. Not to be dissuaded, Barry quickly singled Wally out and said, “And they’ll have one, right?” before giving his crimefighting partner a goodbye hug. As we all know by now, The Flash TV show loves to pull stories from the comics and reformat them for, and what’s a more classic Flash story that Wally West graduating from Kid Flash to The Flash proper and living with the shadow of the hero who came before him?
Famously, Barry Allen first died during Crisis on Infinite Earths. Following the seminal DC Comics event, Wally West took over The Flash mantle. The original run, written by Mike Baron and then Bill Messner-Loebs, examined what it was like to graduate from sidekick to hero in a way that hadn’t really been done yet in a solo title (Nightwing’s graduation from Robin took place in New Teen Titans). The resulting stories opened up Wally’s world, giving him a brand new status quo as a public hero and somewhat of a reckless womanizer, until he was brought down to reality by his friends and family.
Keiynan Lonsdale has proven to be a breakout star on The Flash and has the likability, charm and charisma to easily hold his own as the lead of the show. The weight of the world as he attempts to follow in Barry Allen’s footsteps would be easy to portray for the man following in Grant Gustin’s. After finally becoming Kid Flash in the past season the show needs to find something meaty for him to sink his teeth into, and a role in the new season that’s worthy of his talents. It would also mean that the star of one of the most popular superhero television shows in the world would be a Black bisexual man, which is the kind of representation that you still just don’t see much in prime-time media.
While Wally West taking over as The Flash would present an interesting shift of direction for a number of reasons, no-one expects Grant Gustin to go anywhere. However, the show could easily do without him for a couple of episodes and focus on what life is like for Wally as The Flash. It would mean switching up the opening narration, supporting cast and structure of the show, but what better kick in the arm for a series now entering its fourth season than to shake things up and properly introduce the concept of legacy heroes to the expanding DC TV Universe?
The Wally-as-Flash scenario would also present an opportunity for the television show to tackle one of the all-time classic Flash stories, on it could never do with Barry still around: Mark Waid and Greg LaRocque’s “The Return of Barry Allen.” The storyline features, as it says in the title, the return of Barry Allen, but it ultimately builds up to the reveal that the Barry in question is Eobard Thawne in disguise, looking to ruin his rival’s reputation for once and for all.
In the comics, the story cemented Wally’s place as THE Flash, while on TV, it would provide an excellent opportunity to bring back Matt Letscher as Eobard Thawne following his jaunt through time and space in The Legion of Doom on Legends of Tomorrow. It would also give Gustin something to do all season, while the show primarily focused on Wally's solo adventures. And while Season 3 did feature an evil Barry Allen, the slow build to the reveal of Barry as Thawne would be a much different story and much more interesting than the emo time remnant version of Barry we got this year.
The move would also give the show a chance to fully flesh out exactly who Wally is when he’s not working with the team at STAR Labs. Further, it would be interesting to see if it could lead to the return of Malese Jow as Linda Park -- after all, while she was a brief love interest for Barry in the show, in the comics she’s Wally West’s soulmate. The characters may have a slight age difference that they don’t have in the comics, but the actors themselves are the same age and considering The Flash doesn’t have a problem with Barry Allen getting engaged to his adopted sister, a Wally West/Linda Park romance shouldn’t be too much trouble.
The show could also bring in more villains that are intrinsically Wally West's rogues, such as Cicada, Fallout or Spin. It could expand on what Wally gets up to when he’s not being a superhero, bringing in supporting characters like Chester “Chunk” Runk and exploring a new relationship between Wally and the Speed Force's elder statesman Jay Garrick. Frankly, there’s no end of opportunities for the show to shake off the rut many superhero adaptations hit at a certain point -- a shake-up of the series' main star is exactly the sort of bold move Flash fans would be really receptive to.
Ultimately, Keiynan Lonsdale can’t be Kid Flash forever, and while his character is several years younger than Barry, Lonsdale is only a year younger than Gustin. In the comics right now, Barry and Wally are both The Flash, and it’s not a problem (although there is a separate Wally that is Kid Flash, which is slightly more confusing). This is an approach the show could mimic with relative ease, simply through giving Wally his comic counterpart’s Rebirth suit. This move would allow him to serve as co-Flash with Barry, after proving himself every bit his mentor’s equal, and expand the series' potential for fresh stories for literally seasons to come.