Published on February 9th, 2017 | by Nancy Basile1
13 Ways ‘The Flash’ is Wasting Iris West
In just three seasons of The Flash, the characters have been through a lot of changes. I’m always impressed when a TV show doesn’t drag out a story. That means the writers’ imaginations are primed and they have a lot more stories to tell. Barry matured and tapped into the Speed Force; Cisco became Vibe; Caitlin is on her way to being (Not) Killer Frost; and we’ve had no less than four versions of Harrison Wells. Heck, even Joe reconciled with his ex-wife, gained a son and started dating again.
But one character hasn’t had much going on and it’s really working my last nerve. Iris West. Iris has had little to do since the first season for no good reason. She’s become set dressing, a prop, an exposition-spouter and an earpiece for other characters. Sure, she’s Barry’s love interest and general damsel in distress but… ugh! In the first season, Iris West was a firebrand, a go-getter blogger who was out to change the world. Somewhere in Season 2 she devolved into a superficial character who lost her unique voice. Her lines are nearly interchangeable with anyone else’s on Team Flash.
The Flash is missing out by putting Iris in the corner. Here are 13 ways The Flash is wasting Iris West.
#13 And the award goes to…
Candice Patton is a talented actress who isn’t chewing enough scenery on The Flash. During the few times Iris has bared her soul, Patton was up for the challenge. She portrays Iris deftly, hitting all the right notes of a character in a superhero TV series that’s almost a soap opera. She’s gutsy, but vulnerable; supportive, but protective; discerning, but blinded by love. When Team Flash visited Earth 2, Patton played a tougher, sexier version of Iris who was a lot of fun to watch. She’s also funny when she needs to be, surprising us with her subtle comedy.
However, Patton can only play so many shades of “concerned.” Iris is concerned about every one all the time… and that’s about it. Patton should be given more to do, more to say, so that she can flex her well-honed acting skills. She previously guest-starred on Entourage, Grey’s Anatomy and Heroes, so she’s got TV drama down pat. She should be speechifying all over that set.
#12 Is this thing on?
Iris West doesn’t say a lot that has much value. What she says is usually just an echo of what someone else has said. Or, the writers use Iris like a Greek chorus, giving her lines that repeat what the audience is thinking or feeling. Mostly she’s there to be a sounding board; her lines are just prompts for Barry or Joe or Wally to say what’s on his mind.
Iris should be a three-dimensional, fully fleshed-out character, who can start conversations that have nothing to do with being concerned about someone’s rash actions or “how they’re doing.” (I think there should be a drinking game, actually, that has you take a drink every time Iris asks someone how they’re doing. Drunk in 20 minutes, flat!) If you don’t believe me, take this test: The next time Team Flash is gathered in the control room at S.T.A.R. Labs, pretend Iris isn’t there. Imagine what would happen if she didn’t speak at all. If you don’t think the outcome of the scene would be changed if she had remained silent, then we’re on the same page.
#11 Where my girls at?
You can tell The Flash is written almost exclusively by men because when it comes to bromance (Barry and Cisco; Joe and Barry; H.R. and Cisco) they know how to bring the feels. When was the last time, however, we witnessed a heartfelt expression between Iris and… there are no female BFFs on The Flash! C’mon!
Greg Berlanti — co-creator and executive producer — is doing a better job over on Supergirl, with great conversations between Kara and Alex, who are sisters. But the ladies of Central City have no one to hang with. I want to see some GNOs (girls night out, for the uninitiated) with Iris and Caitlin. Maybe even that cutie D.A. Cecile could toss one back with our girls. I’d love to see even a little female bonding that reveals more about these women. On The Flash, women are by and large villainous guest-stars. If they are do-gooders, they don’t stick around long. (See ya, Jesse!) Iris and Caitlin have a lot to talk about and I, for one, want to see that happen.
#10 We. Are. Fam-i-ly.
If Iris had more to do, we would get to know her family a little bit better. The Flash’s extended family has many a meal in Joe’s dining room, but rarely have we seen just Joe, Iris and Wally hanging out. Family is an important theme on The Flash, but the only blood relatives — the West family — are almost never alone in a room together. The characters are falling into a rut, where they serve only one or two purposes. Iris could be the catalyst to show us new sides of Joe and Wally, as well as herself. Plus, more West family get-togethers means that theme of family is emphasized all the more.
#9 You don’t bring me flowers anymore.
I know Barry is the fastest man alive, but can he please manage to spend more than a blink of an eye with his live-in love? The only time Barry and Iris see each other is at S.T.A.R. Labs, holidays or in bed. Perhaps the writers are just juggling too many characters to let us see more of Iris and Barry doing couple-y things, like cooking dinner or walking home from work or grabbing a coffee at CC Jitters (remember that place?). I almost don’t believe they’re really a couple because they went from “unrequited love” to “shacked up” in lightning speed.
I know I’m repeating myself (it is my blog, after all) but here, again, is another opportunity for the characters to do something other than stand around S.T.A.R. Labs talking about how concerned they are. Even an affectionate line or two is enough to make their romantic relationship more believable, while showing us more facets of their personalities.
#8 Princes need not apply.
The damsel-in-distress story trope gets old quick, especially when Iris is supposed to be a smart woman who can take care of herself. Recently I pitched this very story, the one you’re reading, to an editor. He said the point is moot because now Iris has her own storyline. Oh, dear editor, I beg to differ. [SPOILERS] Just because Savatar is out to kill Iris, and everyone’s trying to save her, does not mean she has her own storyline. It’s really still Barry’s storyline. HE has to save HER. Savatar is HIS enemy. She’s just the trophy Barry will win or lose.
Now, some of you are saying that Iris has been more active since Barry saw the future because she knows she has to live every minute to the fullest. True, she has been more active. But she still hasn’t created her own story. She is not the engine driving this story. Here’s another test: Imagine Cisco or Caitlin or Joe or anyone getting killed by Savatar in the future. Would the story be any different? Well, there might be less kissing, but that’s about it. [/SPOILERS]
#7 Tomorrow’s news today.
Iris is an investigative reporter who, until the last couple of episodes, hasn’t done much investigating. In the first season of The Flash, Iris was fighting for good stories and space on the front page. We saw her at work much more often than the last couple of seasons. We’re starting to see a little more of Iris at work, thankfully, but she’s still a character on the sidelines.
Iris could be helping Team Flash so much more than she does. As a reporter, she could be asking questions and digging up information that her cohorts can’t. No one’s going to wonder why a nosy reporter is asking a bunch of questions. If Barry started grilling someone, however, they would wonder why the forensic scientist is all up in their business. Instead of relying on Iris, Team Flash generally just uses the city’s security cameras or censors or some kind of Cisco-science to find metas and criminals. That gets old too! Put Iris to work!
#6 Always the bridesmaid…
A TV series is a short-lived thing for a reason. Writers can only come up with so many scenarios before the audience tunes out. In the case of a superhero show, like Arrow, eventually everyone is in on the identity of the superhero and/or everyone has a power or a persona. The Flash is definitely heading in that direction. First, there was just Barry as The Flash. Then Cisco became Vibe. Now Caitlin is turning into Killer Frost, and Wally is Kid Flash. (I’m not counting Joe and H.R. because they’re a generation older and not part of the core team.) What about Iris?
Iris is the only main member of Team Flash who is powerless. She hasn’t picked up any cool mutations, no matter how many times something has exploded at S.T.A.R. Labs. It’s even been a topic of discussion among the characters, with Barry assuring her she is still an integral part of the team. Bah! Since various superhero TV shows have co-opted powers and personas for a variety of characters, to mix things up, let’s give Iris the powers and persona of DC’s Raquel Ervin, a.k.a. Rocket, who was a sidekick and wore a belt that gave her all kinds of powers. That could easily fit into The Flash’s continuity. Then Iris could be going toe to toe with some of these bad metas and aliens, and helping Team Flash in the field.
#5 Love means never having to say you’re sorry…
…which is so boring. I hate to get all needy here, but everything is about Barry Barry Barry. Iris supports him unconditionally. She’s always rooting for him, watching him race off to save the world. He’s traveled to other Earths and even lived in a completely different timeline. Meanwhile, Iris is just hanging out in Central City.
I’m not a jealous person, but I know a lot of women who resent their husbands for having jobs that require a lot of travel or long hours at the office. Generally, these women are resentful because they have their own needs that aren’t being met. They didn’t get married just to hang out at home alone, y’know? I would love to see Iris demand more of Barry’s time. I would love to see Iris put her foot down, or at least try, when Barry leaves her at dinner to stop a bank robbery, or something. Wouldn’t their relationship be more plausible, and less nauseating, if there was some conflict? For the first time, in “Untouchable,” Iris told Barry that sometimes she feels like he’s saving everyone but her. Preach, sister! Of course, Barry agreed with her and they kissed and everything was peachy, because those two never have any conflict. I want more!
#4 Reap what you sow.
I mentioned earlier that TV writers have a heck of a challenge. They have to keep a lot of storylines on deck in order to keep the audience interested and the ratings up. TV writers have to fill 23 episodes per season, with a very fast turnaround time and a tight budget. The Flash is The CW’s top show, in terms of ratings, so the pressure is on them to keep producing great stories.
If Iris had a fuller character, and more to do, the writers would have more stories to tell. Sure, the show is about The Flash, but there are plenty of B storylines floating around for the other characters. Why not give Iris something more? She could stumble onto some kind of criminal conspiracy through the course of her work. She could face challenges at the newspaper because she tries to balance her career and her time on Team Flash. The writers could even introduce (ugh, I hate this idea, but it’s a possibility) another love interest. Arrow has mined quite a few scenes out of various love triangles over the years. Giving Iris more to do would help the writers fill up their storyboards with great ideas.
#3 Crisscross applesauce.
Crossover episodes are a fan’s dream come true, because you get to see your favorite superheroes team up, banter, fight, kiss, whatever. Recently The CW had a massive crossover week that had the casts from Supergirl, The Flash, Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow visiting each other. “Invasion!” was fantastic fun, even if it wasn’t perfect.
I would love to see Iris visit National City, where Kara Danvers, a.k.a. Supergirl, is a cub reporter. There’s no reason the two of them couldn’t team up to investigate a story. Sure, Kara kind of has a female partner in her sister, Alex, but the duo of Kara and Iris would be a completely different dynamic. That would be a blast to watch!
#2 I’m not bad. I’m just drawn that way.
Maybe you don’t know this, but The CW has several original animated series on their website and their app called CW Seed. An animated series about Vixen is very popular right now, and one about Constantine is on its way. These web-only cartoons are a great way for fans to get to know their favorite superheroes a little better, and to see them do things that live-action TV budgets don’t allow, like flying and breathing underwater.
Iris is the kind of character that would be perfect to star in her own animated series. She’s a reporter, so episodes could focus on all kinds of crime, maybe even with a revolving door of DC Comics villains. Her character could be the keystone in a great cartoon, giving DC a cheaper way to serve up lots of their comic book characters.
#1 Here me roar.
The Arrowverse has taken a lot of heat for treating their female characters badly. Supergirl has gone a long way toward promoting strong, smart role models for girls, while depicting realistic characters. Even Legends of Tomorrow is getting better at letting female characters thrive in key roles, like having Sara Lance as the captain of the Waverider. But The Flash isn’t doing such a hot job. When female characters are introduced, they’re generally bad guys or appendages of a male character. Caitlin Snow has a rich story happening right now, and Jesse Quick found her own path, but Iris is left to stand around looking beautiful.
Iris is a front-and-center character, so there’s no reason she can’t be a feminist role model. Instead of parading around in the latest fashions and the highest heels (seriously, how does she walk in those spikes?) she could be leading the charge on a mission, or winning a Pulitzer, or like I said above, getting some powers and kicking some butt. If the writers don’t give Iris more of a purpose and something better to do than just supporting Barry all the time, there’s really very little reason for her to exist.
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