Welcome to Supervillain 101, a chance to look at the bad guys and their techniques. Expect a bit of critique and helpful advice on building your evil empire! Let’s dive in!
This season’s villain on The Flash is supposed to be literally the smartest person on the planet. And yet I am compelled to examine just how incredibly stupid this supposed genius has proven himself to be. Spoilers ahead.
So Professor Clifford DeVoe was a mild-mannered professor where he spent his days teaching ignorant, unappreciative students. He and his wife Marlize filled their nights inventing fantastic things: he would dream up the gadget, and she would engineer a way to make it actually work. He was zapped the same night that every other Meta in Central City got their powers, and his manifested as limitless genius.
To the writers’ credit, DeVoe has been given some depth, some feeling. He wants things. He truly cares about his devoted wife as much as she cares for him. He is still able to pass for human and is smart enough to use the legal system to hamper Barry Allen’s attempts to learn more about him.
That’s about where his supposed intelligence stops actually being useful and becomes an Informed Ability. Calling him a genius does not mean the character isn’t making some seriously boneheaded mistakes. Below are the mistakes Devoe has made so far, and what he should’ve done instead.
With few actual clues, Team Flash was able to suss out that they were being manipulated by an outside force. DeVoe’s metaphorical fingerprints have been all over Season Four, and Team Flash quickly landed on DeVoe being behind it all. Our criminal mastermind has been patting himself on the back for being an invisible puppet master when Team Flash discovered what he was up to almost as soon as they started digging.
If your enemy can see what you’re doing, you’re doing it wrong.
DeVoe’s supposedly so smart that he’s half-assed feigning ignorance when the Flash or his allies have come calling. To his house. They know where he lives. He’s operating on the notion that lack of evidence is going to stop them from causing him trouble, when it clearly hasn’t been the case.
If your enemy knows where you live, move.
DeVoe has succeeded in one thing: making Barry’s life more difficult. Allen was suspended from work for two weeks— just enough time for a crossover event and a honeymoon— then he was back on the job. Meanwhile, the Flash has zero problems with chasing down DeVoe while he’s wearing his mask, seeing how The Flash doesn’t answer to the police.
Using the Law to hamper an enemy who doesn’t observe it is a waste of your time.
DeVoe’s arrogance pre-supposes that he can weasel out of any conceivable mistakes. This hasn’t stopped him from having damning conversations with the Flash in costume— a suit that broadcasts everything the Flash hears to Star Labs. (I have a feeling this is going to bite him in the back half of the season.)
If you’re going to talk about your crimes, make sure your enemy isn’t bugged.
Bodysnatching has given DeVoe exactly two advantages: He can walk on his own again, and the Flash doesn’t know who he is. Cut to the last five minutes of Don’t Run, in which DeVoe calls Barry on the phone to tell him this exact information. Why on earth he thought this was a good idea is beyond me.
If you’re going to change identities, don’t tell anybody.
While he did succeed in convincing the police that Barry had it in for him, DeVoe went so far as to frame him for his (original body’s) murder. It certainly makes for a titillating cliffhanger... until you remember that Barry’s wife, father, and friends can all give him an airtight alibi for the time of the murder.
Barry’s security system on the apartment will also show that someone tried to get in— something that wouldn’t be recorded if he’d simply come home himself.
If you’re going to frame your enemy for murder, make sure they don’t have five airtight alibis.
The Flash has done a lot to try and paint DeVoe as a worthy opponent and criminal mastermind. But in sharing his ‘victories’ with his enemy, he’s showing a lot more of his hand than he needs to.
What makes it so curious is that this isn’t a problem The Flash’s other enemies have shared. The Reverse Flash was happy talking to himself. Professor Zoom had his prisoner to gloat over, and Savitar could confab with Killer Frost. DeVoe’s decision to repeatedly share his plans with the Flash just comes off as incredibly stupid.