The Flash Still Hasn’t Solved Its Wally West Problem

WARNING: The following contains spoilers for current seasons of The Flash and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. 

The Arrowverse has a lot of characters in its large roster, but they manage to handle them all fairly well. Everyone has their moments where they stumble, such as Arrow‘s Laurel Lance for…okay, most of the time she was on that show. But all in all, the cast and writers know what they’re doing and make sure to do justice with these decades old characters. (Or, at the very least, find something new and inventive to be done with them.) However, one such character who stumbles, and quite often, is The Flash‘s Wally West.

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Introduced in the middle of Season 2, Wally was the secret son of Joe West and his then-wife Francine brought into the fold of the West family. Despite initial misgivings between him, Joe and his sister Iris, he almost instantly became a true member of the West inner circle. When the reveal of Wally was first announced, many fans went wild over the possibilities of him on the show, since this came just a few years after the New 52 had revealed the new DC Comics version of Wally was also black.

Unfortunately, Wally soon found himself in the role Iris held for most of Season 1: Forever drawn into the crazy loop that is Central City’s metahuman problem, though not enough to really be a part of Team Flash, even though he really should be. If you go back and watch Season 2, it’s actually kind of astounding of how often Wally straddles the line between being part of Team Flash but also not, even while he’s dating the daughter of a guy from another universe and has a speedster threaten to kill him. For the first third of Season 3, that status continued, even though he’d gotten speed powers of his own thanks to Barry’s Flashpoint meddling.

Keiynan Lonsdale plays him real well, but Wally is just saddled with being unfairly regarded by the show as a second stringer at best, and has been knocked down another peg this year thanks to the recent arrival of the Elongated Man.

Even when Barry was stuck in Speed Force jail and Wally took over as top speedster at the start of Season 4, the situation barely lasted long enough for it to feel like a real change before Barry returned to don the red and yellow again. The bottom line is, you could cut Wally out of the series entirely and, sadly, not a lot would really change. In battles, he’s always conveniently knocked out or conveniently beat down so he’s out of commission. As a result, when Wally decides to leave the show for a few episodes in the first half of Season 4, his departure is nowhere nearly as interesting or earned as the writers seem to believe.. Then, when he does come back, he’s immediately sidelined in both the Crisis crossover and the previous week’s episode.

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In some ways, it’s understandable that the series didn’t just jump into giving Wally superpowers — part of the show’s deal (and the Arrowverse in general, to an extent) is that the characters gradually grow into themselves. Then, when they take on their superhero identities, they aren’t wrestling with old baggage. That worked with Oliver Queen when he went from “the Hood” to “the Arrow” to “Green Arrow,” Sara Lance’s Black Canary shift to White Canary, and so on. The problem with Wally is that he doesn’t get those moments where he really wrestles with his baggage, at least not on screen. When you look at how much time Team Flash has spent working on evolving its characters, from Cisco and Caitlin’s slow burns into Vibe and Killer Frost, the ratio is really off in comparison. Even the show itself doesn’t seem to care much about him, with his lack of appearance in the midseason finale explained by a simple line: “He’s in Cambodia.”

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On the bright side, there is a way to solve the Wally problem: DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. The Flash/Arrow spinoff has become, whether the writers would admit it or not, a home for characters that the other shows don’t really have a good idea of what to do with. It’s a home for the Arrowverse’s outcasts and misfits, something that Wally has to feel like at this point. The Legends can help him matter in a way that being the “other speedster” really doesn’t. Luckily, the seeds for this have been set; Legends‘ season opener gave us a very brief scene where he was fighting crime with Steel (Nick Zano), and it’s implied that the two of them had been doing it for months, since the Legends were forced to disband. If nothing else, Steel would vouch for him and welcome him with open arms.

Not hurting matters is the fact that the Legends are down two people as of the latest episode. With Martin Stein dead and Jefferson Jackson left to discover who he is without being Firestorm, the team could use another weirdo or two to fill the vacancies. Sure, Constantine and Citizen Cold will be hanging around the Waverider, but both of them are very clearly not permanent residents on the team. The Legends will eventually need someone to work on the ship to keep it running, so Wally’s background in mechanics would be helpful on that front. They could do worse than adding a young speedster to their ranks, that’s for sure, and he would provide some youthful energy that the Legends cast definitely lack. Seeing him with Rory or Zari would definitely lead to some good banter.

Wally is a big part of Flash history, which is what makes it so frustrating that the show has treated him as an afterthought. Painful as it is to say, he’s dead weight on The Flash, so the Arrowverse may as well throw him in the world of another cast of characters to see how things shake up. Even if Legends doesn’t fix him and he ends up being even worse off there, trying to improve him would be better than doing nothing at all. Lonsdale is very clearly game to do more with this character, so the show needs to find a solution, and fast.