The Flash is going in a brand new direction with the big bad of Season 4, as the Thinker is Barry's first non-speedster supervillain. Instead, he's a bad guy who relies on brainpower to outthink his opponents, and he so far has dominated Team Flash. The Thinker is also the first supervillain on The Flash to be introduced early in the season. Executive producer Andrew Kreisberg revealed at a press screening attended by CinemaBlend that the Thinker made an early debut for a big reason, saying this:
It's not just Flash but it's a sort of like a constant problem for these kinds of shows about how much you reveal and how much do you hide the bad guy. One thing I think we might have done last season, we might have done a disservice to ourselves last season was we knew who Savitar was from the beginning and I think we waited too long to reveal it to the audience and we lost what I think could have been some valuable real estate exploring that, and so this season we wanted to just be cards up and reveal, 'Here's the bad guy at the end of Episode 1.' And they're gonna get on him fast, and this season we really worked on having a plan where trying to figure out who the villain is wasn't what the issue was. The issue was we know who it is but how do we stop him. So that's become more of this season, and again, I think it's very easy to sort of fall back on our own writing tropes of sort of like hiding the ball for as long as can. We just thought this year, let's do something different and play it more cards up. Now that they know it's DeVoe, now it's about figuring out which DeVoe it is and there'll be a confrontation sooner rather than later.
In Season 3, the reveal that the man beneath the Savitar armor was none other than a future version of Barry didn't come until Episode 20, at which point many fans had already speculated that Savitar was future Barry, and there were only a few episodes left for Team Flash to deal with the bombshell. While the Savitar twist still worked well in some big ways, not everybody was happy, and Andrew Kreisberg apparently believed that the time had come to try something new with the Flash big bad.
We've actually known since back in Season 3 that Clifford DeVoe would probably be the supervillain of Season 4 thanks to some hints dropped by folks with knowledge of the future, and he made his creepy debut on screen in the season premiere when it was revealed that he sent the samuroid after Barry. We now know that he had a hand in creating brand new metahumans out of the energy released by Barry's escape from the Speed Force, and the latest episode even saw newbie Elongated Man name-drop him as a client. Thanks to Elongated Man, Team Flash now knows that somebody by the name of DeVoe is actively pulling strings in Central City. The Flash isn't drawing the conflict out in Season 4.
Of course, the latest episode revealing DeVoe as an active antagonist so early was a bold move, and folks behind the scenes weren't entirely confident in the decision. Andrew Kreisberg went on to explain the reaction to the decision to name drop Devoe in only the fourth episode:
It's funny because the network and the studio keep sort of asking, 'Why does the Thinker allow them to know this at this point?' And we're like 'Because he doesn't care.' That's the one thing that been sort of interesting about him. He's playing chess. I know that's sort of a cliche to say but in this case it's really true. As far as he's concerned, he's already checkmated Team Flash. So he doesn't really give a shit what they know or when they figure shit out because he's gonna say in an upcoming episode 'You've already lost.' It's really about us trying to figure out how to get ahead of somebody who is playing so far ahead of you. That's really the trajectory of the season as opposed to sort of like just trying to figure out who the hell they were like it was with Zoom or like how it was with Savitar or even to a certain extent as it was in Season 1 with Reverse Flash. It was 'Who are you?' Those questions weren't answered until like [Episode] 16, 17, 18, 19 in all three of those first seasons. This season we're like, 'Oh, we know who it is.'
All things considered, it sounds like we have a lot to look forward to on the Thinker front in the coming weeks. The action with the supervillain will likely take a backseat in a few weeks once the massive four-show crossover gets into gear with a different batch of villains, but the quick pace may mean that we'll see a confrontation between Team Flash and the Thinker even before the crossover kicks off. We'll have to wait and see.