The Fourth Season doldrums trip up the scarlet speedster in this latest season of The Flash. A rough combination of nonsensical plotting and a season that runs entirely too long means there are a number of stale episodes that distract from the few genuinely great episodes this season had to offer. But there's still hope for Barry Allen to outrun the bad writing hole the series has dug itself into with a hell of a teaser ending. On the whole, The Flash The Complete Fourth Season is still fun and features another terrific Blu-ray presentation with terrific A/V quality and a bunch of solid bonus features. At this point, you're either a fan of The Flash or you're not, this season isn't the place to start watching so this one is For The Fans.
If you've been keeping up with the CW's DC Television Universe (or at least trying your best) you wouldn't be alone in feeling as if this little "Arrowverse" is starting to burst at the seams. Each of these combined programs suffers from too much show and not nearly enough story. This was distressingly apparent with Season Four of The Flash. After two great early seasons, a fun but mediocre third, this latest season is starting to show some serious cracks in the foundation. Even with the presence of a signature villain like The Thinker, this season feels too shortsighted to justify this very bloated episode count.
After sacrificing himself to the Speed Force, Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) is quickly rescued by his STAR Labs pals Caitlin (Danielle Panabaker), Cisco (Carlos Valdes), and Wally (Keiynan Lonsdale) and Joe (Jesse L. Martin). Even half mad, it doesn't take him long to regain his footing and race to glory once again saving Central City as The Flash. As he plans to wed his love Iris (Candice Patton), Barry will have to deal with a host of new issues including Space Nazis from Earth-X, as well as a new villain known as The Thinker (Neil Sandilands) who is always ten steps ahead and ready to unleash a diabolical evil plan upon the world.
I once had a professor who had an interesting theory that most television shows shouldn't last longer than three seasons. In that time you have a great amount of time to establish characters, set up and execute a long-form story arc, and then get the hell out of the way before things become too stale and repetitive. While I think three may be selling some shows short, it might have been decent advice for The Flash. If you look back at my review for The Complete Third Season, I was perhaps a bit overly forgiving and positive in the face of some glaring issues. I didn't mind the darker turn as it was a change of pace and I appreciated that it put Flash and his cohorts on their heels. But bloat was starting to take its toll and it is the principal problem plaguing Season Four.
23 episodes including the diversions for the uniformly solid Crisis on Earth-X crossover is a lot even for the fastest man alive. Entire episodes could have been dropped completely and you wouldn't miss them. The plot of The Flash on trial for murder while intriguing and pulled from a great series of comics ultimately fell kinda flat and proved pointless in the end. Mostly because it was simple logic stuff that any genuine detective looking at evidence would prove Barry's innocence - especially considering who the victim was. And then there's The Thinker's ultimate plan which when you actually look at it when it's finally revealed doesn't seem like he put much thought into it.
In addition to the bloat, the other problem I had with this season was what felt like an over-correction from the darker tone of Season Three. While you don't want to go too dark with a show like The Flash, you don't want to go too silly either - and it feels like they went pretty stupidly silly for a few episodes. A case in point, tiny Ralph (Hartley Sawyer) and Cisco in the season's 12th episode while humorous just felt too silly and led to a limply convenient conclusion of the episode.
However, while there were some truly forgettable episodes, there were several episodes that showcase how The Flash still has some legs to it. Like I mentioned earlier the Crisis on Earth-X Crossover episodes bringing Arrow, Supergirl, Legends of Tomorrow, and The Flash all together was a real highlight (and is thankfully presented here in full in this set on Disc 2). I loved the structuring of the arc as things just kept getting worse in a way that was slightly comical and entertaining while posing a decent threat to the heroes without taking their presence for granted. Plus, it brought back Wentworth Miller's Leonard Snart A.K.A. Captain Cold which was a welcome turn of events. There were several other great episodes throughout but often the convenience of science hokum or doozy lines like Tom Cavanagh's Dr. Wells telling Cisco he needs to "hack harder" to save Barry undermine those genuinely decent efforts.
The Flash is still good fun. I still enjoy it and will continue to give it some leeway, but I'm starting to roll in the rope I'd given it in the past. Grant Guston continues to be a terrific Flash/Barry Allen and it was nice to see Candice Patton's Iris actually have something to do this time around. But I will say Season Five has its work cut out for itself - especially with where this season ends things. Fingers crossed we're getting something better than a new comics-accurate costume -- as cool as that is I want an exciting, more satisfying plot more than a Flash-y new suit to keep my interest in the show going.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
The Flash The Complete Fourth Season arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Warner Brothers in a four-disc Blu-ray + Digital set. Pressed onto four region free BD-50 discs, the discs are housed in a sturdy case with identical slipcover artwork. Each disc enjoys its own tray to rest on without being stacked on top other discs. The discs load to a static image main menu with traditional navigation features. All of the bonus features are spread throughout the four discs.
While story and plot for The Flash have varied from season to season, it's nice to see that the quality of the video for the 1080p 1.78:1 transfers. Details remain excellent with the only softness to report during the heavy CGI sequences - but thankfully those aren't too distracting. Clothing, facial features - including Barry's goofy crazy man beard at the start of the season - look generally great. Colors are robust as ever allowing the Speed Force lightning to brighten any scene - especially the ones at night. Black levels are desirably inky with good shadow separations to give the image a nice sense of depth. Free of any serious or noteworthy artifacts, The Complete Season Four of The Flash maintains this show's uniformly excellent visual presentation.
Like the video, The Flash enjoys a robust English DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio track for each episode. I've always been impressed at how much life and spacing they are able to give each episode and that remains the case here. Action sequences get the most range allowing for effects and scoring to fill the soundscape. Dialogue is clean and clear in any situation whether there be Nazis, a crazy guy in a cyber chair, or if some of the cast is at Jitters for a cup of coffee. Levels are spot on, a couple of times whenever Tom Cavanagh would do his dramatic whisper speak I would have to touch the volume up briefly, but that was really the only issue of note. Free of any major issues, the audio for The Flash remains a highlight of the series on Blu-ray.
Another nice reoccurring aspect of The Flash on Blu-ray is the robust assortment of bonus features. While most of them are simple deleted scenes cut from individual episodes, the material surrounding the Crisis On Earth-X crossover is pretty good and the Comic-Con panel discussions are always lively.
While TV shows can have up and down seasons, The Flash The Complete Season Four was a bit of a roller coaster and not in a good way. One episode you could be hitting a series high point, the next you could be witnessing one of the shows most inane and limply executed. I don't believe The Flash is past the point of redemption, I did still have some fun with this season, but I don't think this show can afford another low round with fans. Let's all hope Season Five is a true return to form. Warner Bros. brings The Flash The Complete Season Four to Blu-ray in tried and true top-shelf form for this series. The A/V quality remains uniformly excellent. Bonus features may be a tad light but overall they're a pretty good behind the scenes look at the show. If you're new to The Flash, this isn't the place to start. Season Four really is For The Fans.