Julien Neaves – Editor
That’s all folks. With The Flash having aired its series finale on May 24 CW’s Arrowverse of DC shows officially came to an end. While the Scarlet Speedster’s show did not start the Arrowverse (one guess which show did) it quickly became the flagship series. It was therefore fitting that it would be the one to have the last curtain call.
Over nine seasons and 184 episodes (whoa!) Barry and Team Flash have faced quite the rogues’ gallery of villains, with each season featuring one or more big bads. And I believe it is fittingly appropriate and appropriately fitting to celebrate this fun superhero show by reduxing my Flash Big Bad Ranking from back in June 2020. And a quick caveat, I am counting Big Bads as major villains with extended multi-episode arcs. So, while bad guys like Gorilla Grodd, King Shark, Pied Piper and Weather Wizard are all impressive, they will not make this list. I will also not be including Arrowverse event-centric big bads like Vandal Savage or the Anti-Monitor. With those caveats and a Speed Force-sized SPOILER ALERT let’s get to it:
#13 The Red Death aka Alternate Universe Ryan Wilder
As mentioned above, The Flash Season 9 was also the swan song of the Arrowverse. To that end, the Powers That Be decided to throw in guest appearances from other series. Some of these were awesome, like seeing Oliver Queen return. Others were just okay, like having Dreamer from Supergirl show up for an episode. But we also had an alternate version of Batwoman Ryan Wilder as the early season big bad The Red Death, and it was kinda terrible.
Now I thought the costume looked very cool and the mystery of The Red Death’s identity was an intriguing one. But from the time the mask came off things started to go downhill. Actress Javicia Leslie must have been really hungry for this role because she left no morsel of scenery unchewed. Her performance was so shouty and over-the-top and the dialogue so very cringe-inducing that it was impossible to take her seriously. Her suit gave her super speed, which had become an overused villain ability years before she showed up and was just tired at this point. And The Red Death’s plan to return to her own timeline was also quite derivative of the Reverse Flash’s original plan. Sweet-looking suit aside, absolutely nothing worked here, and The Red Death just left a red stain on the entire final season.
#12 The Speed Force
The manifestation of the Speed Force aka Nora was very briefly a big bad in Season 7 when she clashed with Team Flash over the fate of the other three “forces,” (Alexa aka Fuerza, Deon aka Time God, and Bashir aka Psych) with Nora wanting to kill them and Team Flash wanting to save them. I loved the twist of her betraying the team and killing Fuerza (thought temporarily) and Michelle Harrison made for a surprisingly intimidating antagonist.
She pretty quickly returned to the side of good, though, and therefore does not rank any higher on this list. She definitely made quite the impression though.
#11 Godspeed aka August Heart
We continue with Season 7 for our next entry, Godspeed. Some may be surprised by the placement on this list, so let me explain. I really liked the sleek look of the Godspeed costume and the super creepy modem-speaking clones. They were quite menacing, and the twist of the clone civil war aka the “Godspeed War” was a welcome touch.
Unfortunately, when we finally got the real Godspeed things got really formulaic. August Heart was such a generic, cartoonish villain, and his rivalry with Bart just lacked any real punch. I was, however, pleased to see Barry and Reverse Flash team up to take him down though. Who doesn’t love a good old unholy alliance? Still a milquetoast villain though.
#10 Savitar aka Alternate Timeline Barry Allen
How much do I dislike Savitar, let me count the ways? Firstly, his costume looked like a cross between a Decepticon and a Power Rangers henchman. Secondly, he was a one note generic bad guy. Thirdly he was another speedster after TWO seasons of speedster big bads. Fourthly, the threat of him killing Iris was lessened by the fact that Season 3 was the nadir of the writing quality for her character. And finally, the reveal that he was actually evil alternate timeline Barry could have been seen A MILE AWAY. And it also didn’t help that he featured in one of the weakest seasons of the show as well. Transform and get out Savitar.
#9 Mirror Monarch aka Mother aka Eva McCulloch
Our third female big bad lands near the bottom of the list but it is more the fault of the writing than anything to do with actress Efrat Dor’s performance (which I thought was decent enough). On the positive side she had some cool mirror abilities and when she was in full bad girl mode, she had a certain menace about her.
But for some inexplicable reason she spent most of the time pretending to be a damsel in distress with Iris, though this seemed to provide zero tactical advantage. And then her whole motivation was just revenge on her husband that abandoned her. I mean it was a new motivation in terms of Flash main villains, but it was not the most interesting one. She still gets some points for overall uniqueness though.
#8 Cobalt Blue aka Eddie Thawne
I am somewhat torn on this next entry. On the one hand, I was glad to see Rick Cosnett back as a resurrected Eddie Thawne and his motivation to transform into a supervillain (believing that he killed himself for nothing and Barry stole Iris and his life) actually made quite a lot of sense. Cosnett’s performance was also quite strong, delivering on both the emotional beats and the darker moments, especially in his interactions with Alice.
But on the other hand, he turned into a speedster villain with red lightning. Seriously? For the final season they HAD to make the big bad another speedster? The most interesting thing he did as Cobalt Blue was assembling a team of dead speedsters (namely Savitar, Godspeed, Zoom and Reverse Flash). So, while we had a major villain with strong emotional stakes, Eddie/CB got let down by his powerset, and therefore cannot speed any further up this list.
#7 Zoom aka Hunter Zolomon
Is it just me or does nobody talk about Zoom aka Hunter Zolomon? It’s not just me? Thanks, I thought it was just me. And maybe no one talks about him because he was something of a poor man’s Reverse Flash. He repeated the whole “pretend-to be-an-ally-but-really-a-villain-and-get-close-to-a-character-and-then-betray-them shtick.” And just as Reverse Flash killed Barry’s mother, Zoom killed Barry’s father. What are you? Copy Man?
I actually liked his pretend version of Jay Garrick more than the dull actual Zoom. And the whole Time Remnant explanation for him being in two places at once was beyond my ability to suspend disbelief. At least he had a superb costume.
#6 Bloodwork aka Dr Ramsey Rosso
Actor Sendhil Ramamurthy certainly likes playing scientists-turned-monsters. You all remember in Sci Fi series Heroes when his scientist character did an impression of Jeff Goldblum in The Fly? No? You all stopped watching by then? Can’t really blame you.
Anywho, I thought Bloodwork was a refreshing change as a villain. I liked his people-controlling ability and the visual effects of his powers were pretty sweet. And Ramamurthy was just chilling in the role, almost approaching a horror villain sphere. I do have to take off points for that ridiculous monster form though. That was just ugly, and not in the way that was intended.
#5 Cicada I&II aka Orlin Dwyer and Grace Gibbons
Orlin Dwyer, aka Cicada I, was a simple man with a simple plan—kill all metas. And in this case his simple plan worked. His costuming looked cool, that cicada-like sound effect was wonderfully unnerving, and his power-suppressing dagger was a unique ability. Sure, Chris Klein chewed the scenery every now and then, but he never went full camp (looking at you The Red Death). And his redemption arc actually worked.
And then, surprise surprise, we got Cicada II with Dwyer’s niece Grace Gibbons. They grow up so fast, and how evil they get. She was less interesting than her old uncle, but still did the Cicada name justice.
#4 The Thinker aka Clifford DeVoe
After three seasons of speedster big bads Clifford DeVoe aka The Thinker just sat back in his fancy chair and gave Barry and company hell. If you can’t outrun The Flash, why not outthink him? This guy looked like RoboCop’s evil big brother, talked like a university English professor, and commanded every room without even altering the inflection of his voice. Now that is power.
When he wasn’t framing Barry for murder, or making Team Flash look like super noobs, he was body swapping and power stealing like nobody’s business. Not since the (very obvious) number one on this list has a big bad felt like this much of a threat. And it didn’t hurt that his wife, Marlize, was pretty easy on the eyes. What? She was. I’m just saying what we were all thinking.
I’m just going to come out and say it, I freakin’ love Deathstorm! I love everything about him. I love that he is an evil entity that took over the body of Caitlin’s late fiancé Ronnie Raymond. The scene when he reveals himself to her was like something out of a horror movie. I also love the look of the character, with his skull face and blazing blue flames. And I loved that his plan was not to destroy the world, take it over or kill the Flash, but to mess with people’s heads, suck up their grief and make Caitilin his bride. And he was pretty dang powerful too with Frost having to power-up to take him down, a process that would result in her tragic death. He’s a bad mother…SHUT YOUR MOUTH! I’m just talking ’bout Deathstorm.
Season 8’s Despero is a next level big bad. An elevated major villain, if you will. Tony Curran is simply excellent in the role, delivering a muted but powerful performance unlike anything we had seen in the franchise. As a psychic alien he was extremely powerful, and his full-on alien look featured some extremely well-done CGI in a series that has had some very questionable VFX (looking at you, Fuerza). And his motivation is not to conquer the world but to save it by killing Barry and later Eobard Thawne aka Reverse Flash.
Despero was both the villain we needed, and we deserved, and he only takes second place on this list because there is one big bad who is impossible to top.
#1 Reverse Flash aka Eobard Thawne
So even before you started this list you probably guessed that Reverse Flash aka Eobard Thawne would have been number one. But can we take a moment to gush over how brilliant a big bad he is? As the man who killed Barry’s mom and created The Flash, he is integral to the show’s canon. Then add to the fact that he is super intelligent, cunning and in full mastery of his speedster powers, death by hand vibration being his signature killing move. Right Cisco? Cisco knows what I’m talking about.
Then you have the mind-blowing performance by Tom Cavanagh who is easily the most versatile actor on the show and the Arrowverse in general (pour one out for the ‘verse). There is a reason he kept returning as different parallel Wells(es) and there is a reason his version of the Reverse Flash kept returning to terrorise Barry and friends in new and interesting ways. Even when the Negative Speed Force turned him into a ridiculous-looking, oversized version in Season 8 it could not dim his impressive legacy. Heck, when Cobalt Blue resurrected him for the Season 9 finale, he threw shade on the other speedsters for being diluted versions of him. And what was he speaking Sinbad?
Matt Letscher’s version was cool and all, but Tom IS Reverse Flash, whether he is fake Harrison Wells or all out evil Eobard. Every line, every movement, every flash of those red eyes and you know the Speed Force is about to hit the fan. Reverse Flash easily zooms past the competition to take the dark crown of being the ultimate Flash big bad.
So that’s my list. Who are your Top Five Flash big bads? And you can check out more great DC content below:
Julien “Editor Jules” Neaves is a TARDIS-flying, Force-using Trekkie whose bedroom stories were by Freddy Krueger, learned to be a superhero from Marvel, but dreams of being Batman. I love promoting Caribbean film (Cariwood), creating board games and I am an aspiring author. I say things like “12 flavours of awesome sauce”. Read more.