The show might be called The Flash – but the real heart of the scarlet speedster, and of this show – is without a doubt Candice Patton’s Iris West.
Look, The Flash is both the most popular of the Arrowverse shows and in many ways, one of its most complicated properties to adapt. Sure, most of us, especially those of us who grew up around comics or comic book properties, know Barry Allen. But that means we all came into it with pre-conceived ideas of who Barry Allen, and the people around him, were or should be. Enter Candice Patton.
Iris West is a beloved comic book character, and the preconceived notions (and the racism, let’s never forget the racism) didn’t help Candice Patton when she came into the role. But Patton very quickly established herself not just as a superior iteration of the famous reporter, but I might even say, as the defining one.
Iris West now looks like Candice Patton. Period.
But the trick, the magic comes from the fact that Candice Patton didn’t make Iris West into the same character we’ve already met. She didn’t just translate what was in the comic book pages, instead, she embodied the character in the way we always ask actors to do. She became Iris West, and through her, Iris became someone much more interesting, and relatable.
More than just someone Barry was meant to fall for.
That’s been the problem with so many of these comic book adaptations. The titular hero, the one with superpowers, is usually allowed a great level of nuance. He can have issues and doubts, he can have fears and he can especially grow. Not just that, he can have friends (male and female ones), and he can do all of that while saving the day!
Not so much the “love interest.”
Iris West, however, has always been much more than the girl who was there for Barry. In fact, in The Flash Iris was Joe’s daughter first, a reporter second, and Barry’s friend third. Love interest has never been the only hat she’s worn, and even now that she fully wears it, she’s never let that define her.
Some of that has been the writing, of course, but as with every Arrowverse show, The Flash is guilty of very high highs and very low lows. This means that, if this character always shines, it’s not because of the writing, but in spite of it.
It’s because of Candice Patton, because of the intangibles she brings to a role that’s, at this point, so entwined with her that it’s hard to imagine someone else playing Iris West.
Not only that – it’s hard – or better yet, try impossible, to imagine the show without her.
This isn’t because of the history. I had a hard time imagining the Green Arrow without the Black Canary, but Arrow made that work. And as I said before, it isn’t because the writing has always been slanted in her favor. No, it’s because of the actual work that has gone into creating Iris West into the character she is right now, most of that work done in silence, by the actress, while having to endure racist abuse and condemnation just for daring to be herself.
So yes, Barry is The Flash – but just as Iris herself said on the show once (though I guess she was referring to the whole team, which meh), they are The Flash. Together. That’s been true for six seasons, and it’s more true now than ever, as we find ourselves in the midst of a storyline that has left us without our Iris, but with Candice still on the show.
Would I have picked this storyline if it were up to me? There aren’t enough ways for me to say no to that. But one thing I appreciate is how the storyline has cemented the notion that, even when the show wants to throw a wrench at WestAllen, the only way to do it and have the show still work is to keep Candice around.
This is what The Flash is about. I know it, they know it, and hopefully, all of you know it. There’s no going back.