The Enlightenment was a plan concocted by Clifford DeVoe, and his wife Marlize to diminish the intelligence of everyone on Earth and revert them back to a period without technology. At first DeVoe wanted to teach them all with his intelligence so humanity wouldn't be driven by greed for technology, but as he kept transferring from each of the bus metas bodies he became cruel and ruthless, desiring to rule them as a teacher.
The plan revolved around DeVoe gaining the powers of the metas created when Barry Allen returned from the Speed Force. It was opposed, and ultimately stopped, by Team Flash. The aftermath led to the creation of Earth-1's version of Cicada.
During a Peace Corps trip to Kenya, West-Africa meant to provide clean drinking water to poor villages, Marlize DeVoe was attacked by a militia in one of said villages, who stole the water purifier she created. Although she survived, Marlize grew to agree with her husband Clifford's ideology regarding technology as a result, both of them viewing it as a hindrance that needed to be done away with.
After the pair drew schematics for a Thinking Cap, a device designed to boost Clifford's intelligence and allow him to upgrade the “delivery system” of knowledge at Central City University, they realized it required more power and believed that the particle accelerator would be the best option. Despite realizing that the accelerator would most likely explode and create a dark matter event, Clifford went along with the plan and was wearing the Thinking Cap during the explosion. He was struck by lightning, but he survived.
While the event made Clifford a meta-human with superhuman intelligence, an unforeseen side effect of his intelligence was that his brain began overwhelming his body, causing it to deteriorate. Although Marlize built a hoverchair designed to slow down the process, it was not a permanent solution.
DeVoe believed himself to be “enlightened” as a result of the super intelligence, believing that he alone knew what humanity needed most to truly be knowledgeable. To that end, he and Marlize began planning The Enlightenment to revert humanity back to a time without technology and begin the quest for knowledge anew.
Return of the Flash
DeVoe's plan began with the attack of the Samuroid. Although Vibe and Kid Flash had been working to keep Central City safe, when the Samuroid attacked and demanded to see the real Flash, the two were unable to defeat it. When Wally West later tried to fight it in the Flash's suit, he was easily defeated and mocked.
The Team realized they couldn't defeat him and that they needed to bring Barry Allen back from the Speed Force. Team Flash's plan to bring him back was successful, but resulted in Central City Bus 405 being hit with dark matter and creating twelve new meta-humans.
Although Barry destroyed the Samuroid, DeVoe believed everything was going according to plan and began the next phase.
Although Ramsey Deacon and Becky Sharpe were incarcerated (faster than DeVoe predicted, according to Marlize) and Team Flash was becoming close to discovering his identity, DeVoe assured his wife that everything was under control and that he had thought through every possible variable.
Fastest Mind Alive vs. Fastest Man Alive
He later hunted down the meta known as The Weeper, saying that he had gone through a lot of trouble to create him and that he couldn't die yet. It is unknown whether he absorbed the Weeper's powers, or if he simply began harvesting the psychoactive tears this meta released to better control his wife.
When Barry and Joe West came to his house to question him, he appeared in simple clothes and an electric wheelchair, saying he had no idea where he was the night of the accelerator explosion and that he didn't know any of the bus metas (except for Mina Chaytan, explaining that he knew her from university).
Despite his cooperation, Barry knew that DeVoe would be a problem, so he confronted DeVoe again at his work. DeVoe later complained to David Singh, falsely claiming that Barry was harassing him and his wife and forcing Barry to apologize. Barry later broke into DeVoe's home to discover that he was spying on Team Flash, but the DeVoes complained again and were given a restraining order against Barry.
Barry defied that order and confronted DeVoe, who revealed that he is not only super humanly intelligent, but that he is aware of his identity as the Flash as well as the identity of all his friends, taunting Barry by claiming that he couldn't defeat the fastest mind alive and that he would be thinking of him.
After allowing Barry and Iris West's wedding out of an understanding of their love, DeVoe captured Barry and imprisoned him in a speedster trap. He lectured Barry, stating that he was first and foremost a teacher and that his imprisonment was a lesson. Barry tricked DeVoe into letting him out by vibrating so fast he could not be seen, tricking him into thinking Barry had escaped and leading to him opening the cell.
DeVoe used his chair to teleport the two into the sky, where DeVoe attempted to contain Barry again. However, Barry managed to send DeVoe crashing into the water. Both combatants survived the encounter.
Marlize later bought one of the bus metas, the telepath Dominic Lanse, from Amunet Black and brought him before DeVoe. DeVoe proceeded to use his Hoverchair to transfer his consciousness into Dominic's body, leaving his original body with multiple stab wounds and a knife that Barry had touched previously in Barry's apartment. Successfully framing Barry for his own murder, DeVoe celebrated with his wife.
Hunt for the bus metas
DeVoe and Marlize hid from Team Flash while Barry was incarcerated, only resurfacing during Barry's escape with the incarcerated bus metas. Despite Barry's best efforts, DeVoe managed to use his Hoverchair to absorb the powers of Ramsey Deacon, Mina Chaytan, Sylbert Rundine, and Becky Sharpe, also discarding Dominic Lanse's body and taking Sharpe's instead. He also killed Gregory Wolfe, the Warden of Iron Heights, with the chair simply because he was in DeVoe's way, making Marlize doubt her husband's goodness.
Despite Barry's release from prison, DeVoe believed that he had everything he needed to continue his plan.
Team Flash refocused their efforts on locating the other bus metas with the help of Ralph Dibny, locating Izzy Bowin and attempting to create the Cerebral Inhibitor to limit his intelligence. However, Izzy became reckless and, with DeVoe utilizing a combination of Sharpe's luck and Kilg%re's technopathy, both the inhibitor and Izzy were lost, with DeVoe switching bodies once again.
With only three metas remaining, Marlize learned that DeVoe had been using the Weeper's tears to control her and keep her in love with him. Horrified at the loss of self-control, she attempted to record a video to herself for if she lost her memories, only to discover that she had already done this before. DeVoe appeared and taunted her, stating that she had discovered the truth over and over again before drugging her one more time. When she awoke, she was completely loyal to him again.
After sending another Samuroid to attack Caitlin Snow, DeVoe tricked Team Flash into using Edwin Gauss to attack him in the pocket dimension, discovering too late that DeVoe was not actually there. DeVoe, Marlize, and the Samuroid attacked S.T.A.R. Labs while their main field agents were away, with Marlize and the Samuroid attacking Iris and Joe respectively while DeVoe sent a T-Rex structure to attack Ralph. While they were distracted, DeVoe stole the powers of Matthew Kim and Janet Petty, while also briefly taking Gauss's body.
Ralph attacked him using the sonic scepter, stunning him. While Ralph took that as a victory and used power-dampening cuffs on him, DeVoe actually managed to break out of them and take Ralph's body while he was distracted, horrifying Team Flash. The Team then attempted to attack him, but they all were effortlessly defeated, with Caitlin losing her Killer Frost side due to Brainstorm's powers, though at the time Team Flash thought he used Melting Point's powers against her.
DeVoe then disappeared, appearing with Marlize and using Ralph's body to shapeshift back into his original face. DeVoe also stated that since Ralph's body could handle the excess dark matter his brain caused, he was no longer in danger and The Enlightenment could truly begin.
Executing the Enlightenment
With Team Flash on the defensive, they planned to take Neil Borman, A.K.A. Fallout, to a secure A.R.G.U.S. facility so that DeVoe couldn't capture him. To ensure their success, they also recruited Leo Snart of Earth-X, but unknown to them, Siren-X followed them back to Earth-1.
DeVoe planned to hijack Fallout's transfer, but after he and Siren-X arrived, Barry became emotionally distraught due to DeVoe taunting him with Ralph's voice. Against DeVoe's predictions, Siren-X won the fight and captured Fallout for herself. Although Barry managed to stop her plan to irradiate all of Central City, DeVoe was angry that Barry wasn't behaving like he expected, leading to Marlize reminding him that emotions can compromise thinking.
Unfortunately for him, DeVoe's lack of understanding of emotions led to Marlize once again realizing the kind of person DeVoe truly is. Not making the mistakes she made previously, she instead hijacked his Hoverchair and used it to escape the pocket dimension they were hiding in while DeVoe was unable to stop her.
Without his wife and assistant to aid him, DeVoe's plan briefly came to a halt. As Team Flash wondered what would happen next, Iris began an article about DeVoe and his criminal activities. After publishing it, it had a positive reception and many of her readers began their own investigations, destroying any positive reputation DeVoe once had.
DeVoe attacked the A.R.G.U.S. facility holding Fallout, shape-shifting into John Diggle to gain access and using his powers to fight through all the guards when he turned back to his true appearance. He eventually managed to capture Fallout, shrinking him to use him as a battery for the Enlightenment satellites. When Barry destroyed one of the satellites, however, DeVoe hijacked the S.T.A.R. Labs one to use in place of the one Barry took out.
In a desperate bid to prevent the Enlightenment, Team Flash recruited Marlize to help them stop her mad husband. Using Cecile Horton's temporary powers caused by her pregnancy and the cerebral inhibitor, Marlize established a psychic connection between Barry and DeVoe with the intention of bringing out DeVoe's good side. Shortly after entering The Thinker's mind, Barry discovered Ralph, still inside DeVoe's consciousness but unable to actually do anything to escape.
In the real world, DeVoe confronts Marlize and Team Flash. Despite being blocked by a forcefield, he boasted that his ultimate goal for the Flash was to gain access to the Speed Force and the infinite knowledge he sought. Thus, he once he severs the connection, Barry would be trapped in his mind. Marlize then transports herself and the team to the pocket dimension to hide themselves from DeVoe temporarily.
The pair sped through DeVoe's consciousness to find his good side, only to find him dead in his classroom. Instead, the pair realized that if Ralph gained control of his body again, DeVoe would disappear. DeVoe sent multitudes of copies of himself after the two, but they both managed to come out on top and Ralph regained control of his body again just in time to save Cecile from being choked to death by DeVoe.
However, just before losing control of the body, DeVoe had put his consciousness into his hoverchair, which then created a hologram of himself. When Marlize removed an important part of the chair, the hologram was destroyed, putting an end to Clifford's madness. However, this also triggered a dead man switch, and caused the S.T.A.R. Labs satellite to fall from the sky. However, Barry, Cisco, Ralph, and Nora West-Allen managed to stop the satellite's falling debris from killing any civilians, leaving the Enlightenment a complete failure. The destroyed satellite rained down pieces of shrapnel in 46 different locations in Central City.
As a result of Nora's interference in assisting Barry in destroying the satellite, it altered the trajectory of the debris, which were flooded with dark matter. This event caused the creation of meta-tech; ordinary objects that held meta-human-like abilities. Among these include the dagger and wound of the serial killer Cicada (also giving him meta-human powers) and Spencer Young's phone. This also led to the creation of other meta-humans besides Cicada. Additionally, with the S.T.A.R. Labs satellite destroyed, Team Flash's ability to track meta-humans became severely limited, forcing them to find new ways to fight crime. Ultimately, however, Cisco managed to hack into the other four satellites DeVoe had launched into Earth's orbit to carry out the Enlightenment, allowing Team Flash to use those satellites to help them search for dangerous meta-humans.
Due to DeVoe's actions the night of the Enlightenment, the A.R.G.U.S facility where Grodd was being held lost power. As a result, the meta-dampeners in Grodd's cell were momentarily disabled, until generators came on, restoring power to the building. This gave him a window that he needed to take control of a guard's mind, forcing that guard to cut power to his cell, thereby allowing Grodd to escape. Months later, Grodd resurfaced, stealing a device Dr. Tanya Lamden had built to help King Shark. Grodd then used that device on himself to cause his mind to grow, thereby enhancing his psychic powers in an attempt to take over Central City, but was ultimately thwarted by the combined efforts of Team Flash and King Shark. Grodd was then placed back in A.R.G.U.S. custody, this time in a medically-induced coma, with improved dampeners in his cell, designed to upgrade themselves as Grodd's mind grew, due to the fact that Grodd's powers continued to grow stronger even after having Tanya's device taken away from him.
In an erased timeline, where Nora didn't assist Barry in destroying the satellite, the trajectory of the debris was directed in such a way, that the debris, which became Cicada's dagger, hit David Hersch. He became Cicada, the meta-human serial killer, and the one villain, whom the Flash was never able to defeat.
Known meta-humans created
- Orlin Dwyer/Cicada (powers later neutralized by the meta-human cure; deceased)
- Grace Gibbons/Cicada (powers later neutralized by the meta-human cure)
- David Hersch/Cicada (erased timeline)
- Peter Merkel/Rag Doll
Known meta-tech created
The Chronicles of Cisco
- (indirectly mentioned)
- Historically, Enlightenment refers to an intellectual and philosophical movement that dominated the world of ideas in Europe during the 18th century, the "Century of Philosophy". The ideas exposed by DeVoe in his "Enlightenment" plan could be seen as a radicalized form of an Enlightenment era writer Jean-Jacques Rousseau's philosophy. Rousseau encouraged a return to humanity's origins and natural rights, suggesting that countryside was a more natural and healthy environment than the crowded, polluted, technological city and its chains of society. Essentially, DeVoe was trying to enforce such ideals on everyone, regressing people's minds in a world "corrupted" by technological progress.
- The Enlightenment shares similarities with 's Season 4 plot, Genesis; Damien Darhk's plan.
- Both events intended to reshape and improve the world on a global scale.
- When both plans were foiled, the mastermind behind each scheme decided to submit to destroying the world instead.
- Both were the endgame of the main villain of the fourth season of their respective shows.
- The Enlightenment is also similar to Myriad from .
- Both prevented humans from using their free will.
- Both intended to save the world from humans.
Behind the scenes
- The Enlightenment is identical to the evil plan of Dr. Sivana from a Batman and the Outsiders arc, where he planned to destroy all technology on Earth with a device that would also wipe the memories of every intelligent being on the planet, leaving them as blank slates for him to mold and rebuild in his own image.