Nobody emerges from the Speed Force unscathed is perhaps the harshest lessons Team Flash has learned over the years, though Barry Allen's return from his six-month trip will result in a brighter future -- eventually.
In the aftermath of Barry’s showdown with Savitar, the self-proclaimed God os Speedsters, he sacrificed himself to the Speed force, a move made in order to maintain the other dimension's balance and prevent it from ripping reality to shreds. In The Flash's Season 4 premiere, "The Flash Reborn," we'll learn how Barry's return is possible, while he discovers how his friends and family -- including his fiancée, Iris West -- have moved on in his absence.
Ahead of the show's return tonight at 8 p.m. on The CW, showrunner Todd Helbing spoke with CBR about what, exactly, Barry’s rebirth will entail. We also dug into Caitlin Snow's continuing identity crisis, the series' take on classic DC cOmics hero the Elongated Man, and the unique threat the Thinker brings to Central City.
CBR: The Season 4 premiere is called "The Flash Reborn." In what ways has Barry’s time in the speed force affected him?
Todd Helbing: As we see, whenever any of the speedsters go into the speed force, they have their own experience. Our number one goal this year was to return back to the fun and funny, and the joy of being a speedster. We orchestrated Barry’s experience when he came out of that, to allow us to do it. He’s let the past go. It allows us to have the Barry more akin to the Season 1 finale.
What about his powers? Have they been altered by the Speed Force?
All I will say is you’ll see a new power at some point this season. It’s pretty cool.
How has Team Flash stepped up in Barry’s absence?
Once Barry left, everything about [Team FLash's] dynamic shifted. In addition to Caitlin not being part of the team, Iris stepped up and became team leader. Cisco went out into the field a lot more as Vibe. Kid Flash stepped up, and they were working with Joe in CCPD. We get to see this fun, new dynamic with Iris at the helm and telling these guys what to do and taking charge.
As Killer Frost, Caitlin turned against Savitar. How much is she struggling with where she fits in when she returns?
It’s a struggle for her, having those powers. We saw at the end of Season 3 when she left, Caitlin had to go deal with that on her own. When we meet Caitlin, she’s at a bar. She’s a bartender. It’s not the nicest bar. It’s full of seedy characters. You start to see this isn’t exactly the Caitlin Snow that we saw for the first three seasons. I think Danielle Panabaker is having a blast with that.
Iris and Barry end up seeing a therapist this year. What kind of issues are they dealing with?
You have to remember that Barry made this decision to go into the speed force. He was gone for six months, so, I would imagine any relationship where one of the people in it disappears for six months, when that person returns, you can’t just pick up where you left off. There are some hurdles along the way that the two of them have to get through. Communication is one of those big challenges. Before Barry left, the team was completely different. He was the leader and the one taking charge. When Barry comes back, all of that has changed. It takes a while for him to get up to speed.
Cisco and Wally certainly came into their own. What's in store for them?
You get to see Vibe a lot this year. Simultaneously, his relationship with Gypsy is blossoming. One of the fun things we get to do is introduce audiences to Breacher, played by Danny Trejo, who I will say is not the most welcoming person towards Cisco. I don’t think he likes anyone dating his daughter.
Wally has an interesting journey. When Barry was gone, he stepped up. He became the resident Flash in Central City. When Barry returns, it’s like, “Wait a second, man. I was driving the ship for six months. I was doing a great job,” and now the Flash is back. There’s a lot of figuring out that new dynamic between the two.
What does season's main villain, the Thinker, want, and how will he test the Flash’s mettle?
This guy is completely different than the villains from the previous three seasons when the big bads were speedsters. His whole approach is completely different. He’s the guy that is manipulating all the pieces on his chess board, so he’s not only creating the problems, he’s simultaneously solving them, the ones that he wants, and then creating new challenges for Barry and the team. It’s a much more psychological struggle for Barry.
Weddings never end well on television, as we've seen for years, perhaps most recently and famously on Game of Thrones. What can you tease about Barry and Iris' nuptials?
I’ll say we don’t do the Red Wedding -- but I don’t think the wedding necessarily plays out the way Iris West, nor Barry Allen, dreamt it would go.
Are there any new villains from The Flash's comic book canon viewers can expect to see?
You get to see Kilg%re show up, which is a lot of fun, as well as Amunet Black, played by Katee Sackhoff. You get to see Hazard, which is one of the lightest episodes, in some regards, that we’ve done – and the most fun power that a villain has had.
What is the show’s take on the Elongated Man, Ralph Dibny?
Like in the comic books, he’s a private investigator. Ralph has detective skills that rival Batman’s. We tackle his abilities, which are going to be fun to do in live-action. We’re altering his backstory a little bit. He and Barry have this shared, checkered past. The two of them don’t get along from the onset.
What else has you pumped about the new season?
I’m really excited about the tonal shift that we’re doing. The episodes are just fun. The Thinker as a villain is so nice and refreshing. There’s his endgame, his motive and how he gets into the lives of Team Flash, and what he starts to do with all of them. To see Iris in S.T.A.R. Labs, running the team, is really a great way to see her on the show.
Returning Tuesday, Oct. 10, at 8 p.m. ET/PT to the CW, The Flash stars Grant Gustin, Candice Patton, Jesse L. Martin, Tom Cavanagh, Carlos Valdes, Danielle Panabaker and Keiynan Lonsdale. “Mixed Signals,” the second episode of the season, airs Oct. 17.