When Arrow started way back in 2012, no one could have predicted that it would become the origin of DC’s most successful shared universe since the DC animated universe of the 1990s and 2000s.
One of the first shows to spin off from it, The Flash, has proven to have staying power even after the conclusion of Oliver Queen’s story. With its lighter tone and willingness to lean into the weirder side of comics, The Flash turned out to be the best DC show in a generation.
With the eighth season of The Flash underway, we’ve had countless adventures of Barry and his crew of nerdy superheroes as they come up against both heroes and villains from across the multiverse.
Who are the best characters in The Flash to have zipped across our screens over the series? Here are our top picks and why.
4. Jesse Wells (aka Jesse Quick)
Rebellious daughters are a well-established trope, but it keeps popping up in fiction because it can be a joy to watch when it’s done well.
Jesse Wells, the daughter of Earth 2’s Harrison Wells, fills in the role of Jesse Quick, one of the more obscure but very fun characters in The Flash comic book history.
Unlike her comic book counterpart—who’s the daughter of a pair of superheroes—this version of Jesse is the daughter of Earth-2’s Harrison Wells who eventually gains the power of the Speed Force.
Jesse Wells functions well as a foil to Barry’s more experienced Flash as well as a love interest to the young Wally West early in the show’s run, but she eventually gets the room to grow into her own character—one who has her own goals and ambitions.
While she doesn’t get the same kind of development as some of the other speedsters in The Flash, she manages to make her mark quickly before moving on to new horizons.
3. Leonard Snart (aka Captain Cold)
Most of the time, a TV villain is only as good as the person portraying them, which is certainly true of Captain Cold in The Flash.
Wentworth Miller, best known for his leading role as Michael Scofield in Prison Break, gave us a cheesy villain performance so cheesy that it would have made even Jim Carrey blush.
Captain Cold is theatrical, over-the-top, and just short of hammy whenever he’s on screen—and yet it manages to work within the world of The Flash, which includes telepathic gorillas and alternate universes.
Snart also manages to develop and grow, thanks to his occasional turn as a hero in the time-traveling Legends of Tomorrow spin-off series.
While he’s always a thief at heart, we get to see a side of him that even sacrifices himself for the good of the multiverse—something we couldn’t have imagined when he was introduced way back in season one.
He’s a villain who gets a perfect balance of screen time: enough to build a genuine relationship with The Flash, but never overstaying his welcome.
2. Harrison Wells
This list really could have been nothing more than our favorite versions of Harrison Wells from the show. Every season is just another excuse for Tom Cavanagh to play a different version of the season one villain.
The multiverse of Harrison Wells is an opportunity for the show to delve into the sillier side of comic books, something that The Flash has benefited from throughout its run.
No individual version of Wells is good enough to rank so highly on this list, but taken as a collective? They all become part of the glue that binds all the adventures together.
Each time he pops up, the question of “Will they will be an ally or an enemy?” is there to make him one of the most interesting and dynamic characters we’ve gotten in The Flash over the years.
1. Joe West
They say that being a parent is the toughest job in the world. But being a parent to a superhero? Well, that seems to be even tougher. Joe West might not be Barry Allen’s biological father, but he did the work to raise him into the heroic speedster he became.
Jesse L. Martin brings a superb mix of dramatic weight and honest joy to the role of Joe, who’s constantly out of his depth in a world of costumed superheroes and multiverse hijinks.
He’s one of the most experienced actors at the start of the show, and he manages to carry most of the dramatic heavy lifting for much of the first several seasons.
Maritn’s portrayal of Joe West is a big reason why he comes in at the top of our list here. There’s a fine balancing act needed for any mentor-type character, who has to be keen at supporting the hero while also giving them guidance when they need it.
The most important aspect, though, is that they have to be someone the hero should aspire to become one day. Joe West is the emotional heart of The Flash for many years, and we love him for it.