The Flash Showrunner: This is the Season Barry Has to Start Growing Into His Legend

The Flash finally returns tonight, kicking off its seventh season and picking up on the numerous plot threads left dangling at the end of the show's COVID-shortened sixth season. Now the longest-running Arrowverse series and the longest-running show on The CW following the end of Supernatural, The Flash has to fix the broken speed force, bring Iris back from the Mirrorverse, and grapple with fan expectations in a year where people know we're going to see fan-favorite villain Eobard Thawne (Tom Cavanagh) again. And a show that has gotten bigger, more ambitious, and more crowded every season now has to figure out how to do its thing in a socially-distant world.

Showrunner Eric Wallace says that this is the season Barry Allen will start really growing into his role as one of the elder statesmen of the superhero set. It will begin a journey that will set Barry on a course for being the kind of hero they build museums for.

Wallace spoke with ComicBook ahead of the premiere, giving us a little insight into what to expect in the weeks and months to come.

What's the balancing act you have to strike, in terms of completing the story you set out to tell before the pandemic, but also getting Iris back into the show in a big way after more than a year separated from the team at this point?

We got lucky in the sense that we have to finish telling the story [of season six] in the first part of season seven, and that story always involved Iris getting out of the Mirrorverse. It's going to happen. I know it seems like a long time, but it's going to happen. We start with her in the Mirrorverse, because we got to wrap up Eva's story. So it really didn't affect us at all, from that point of view.

There were a couple of things we wanted to do that we had to put aside because of COVID. So much more of our budget goes out to keeping people safe, to our COVID compliance officer, and the team cleaning and all that stuff.

Unfortunately it means we can't have scenes with a hundred extras, or we can't have quite the spectacle that we usually would do in the same way that we would do it. To end Eva's story, we had to maintain the spectacle, to maintain the crazy awesomeness, but to do it in a COVID friendly way. And I think we came up with a really good solution that the ending of Eva's story that is still wild and crazy that doesn't have a hundred extras, a thousand extras downtown Vancouver in the middle of the night, but it's still equally as exciting, and it wraps up the Mirrorverse and gets Iris back with us and reunites Barry and Iris once and for all. It satisfied all those things, but it definitely was a balancing act.

The death of the Speed Force was a big part of last season's last few episodes. How quickly is that going to be dealt with? Will it be a season-long thing?

It is one of the themes and kind of issues that Barry has to deal with all of the season seven. "I've got my speed back, but at what cost?" That's kind of the question, right? And we'll see him struggle with that. We'll also see that a real positive side to that, as he learns what it means to see speed in a different way, from a different point of view.

So it is pretty exciting. It is directly tied into one of the season's big bads for the next two graphic novels. So I can say that without being a spoiler -- it's right there in the premiere. We have to deal with it.

We have seen the Flash Museum, and we have seen that Barry becomes the most revered of his generation of heroes in a lot of ways. As you get into seasons seven, eight, nine, do you start to shift gears a little bit -- like, Barry needs a little bit less being mentored and a little bit more growing into his reputation?

That's literally one of the themes of this season and going into season eight. So I can give you a preview -- at some point the hero, in order to graduate, needs to be more of a leader and less of a mentee. And you're going to see him doing a little bit more leading, I would say, and that's on purpose.

That's just the natural growth of any superhero. And you'll even see him do some new things with his powers, discover a few of these things. And of course the good part of that is as Barry Allen grows more comfortable and stronger in his abilities as The Flash, his villains then become all the more bigger and more deadly, because now he can take on a different level of foe.

As Barry grows into the role he foisted on Cisco last year, does that change Cisco's role a bit?

It does a little bit. Cisco will have the greatest effect to his character as Barry starts to become even more of the character who we know from later versions of the comics, but also, we had a storyline last year that was set into motion that Cisco starts to become more of a leader himself.

I always say and have two leaders. At some point, Cisco, really has to come into his own. And one of the most important lessons Barry Allen can learn is to delegate that's what a real team. You'll see some of that this season and that makes it very exciting for the rest of the Team Flash.

The other answer to your question, coming up in season seven and we're really excited about, is you're going to see more episodes that really just focus on a particular character, only, where The Flash is doing Flash-y stuff, but maybe this week it's a Cisco episode, or a Caitlin episode -- or Caitlin and Frost, obviously they're in the same body -- or an Iris episode or whatever. It's important for us to honor this great cast of people that we have. So you'll see more of them stepping into the spotlight the same way Cisco stepped into the spotlight last season with "Kiss Kiss, Breach Breach," which we thought was a great episode. You'll see a little bit of that. And you might even see some of that with our new characters too. Those being Brandon and Kayla playing Chester and Allegra.

Besides the crowd scenes, what changes have come about, post-pandemic?

COVID restrictions have forced us to tell stories in an even more streamlined way. Mostly, we cannot have a scene with a whole bunch of people in them. You just can't have eight people -- are there eight or nine series regulars, right? Nine, ten? -- in a scene in the Cortex anymore, because it's not COVID safe.

That leads us to stories where there's four people in the Cortex on one story, like Barry, Iris and maybe Caitlin and Allegra. Then here downtown or in the lounge or at the left house, maybe it's Joe, Cecile, Chester and someone else. It just lent itself that way, because we just have to keep people safe first, and that's not going to change for quite a while.

Obviously, this show asks a lot of Tom Cavanagh already, and now we're getting back to the Reverse-Flash.

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With Tom, you can really write almost anything for him and know he's going to knock it out of the park. That's the most interesting thing about working with such a great cast. I can say the same thing about the whole cast.
Don't mean to minimize anybody, but we were talking about Tom.

That guy, no matter what we ask him to do, is not only up for it, but takes it to this level that is so organic and fresh. That it almost makes us and the fans think there's nothing this guy can't do, so it's like, "Let's continue to give him new wilder things." Wait 'til you see this year.