The Flash season 7 introduced Fuerza, the Strength Force host, whose story shares some striking similarities to Bruce Banner’s Hulk arc in the MCU.
WARNING: The following contains SPOILERS for The Flash, season 7, episode 10, “Family Matters, Part 1.”
Alexa Rivera’s story in The Flash season 7 may seem familiar to viewers — because it’s following the same story as The Hulk did in the MCU. A new addition to Team Flash this season, Alexa, aka Fuerza, is the host to the newly-formed Strength Force, a mysterious inter-dimensional force Barry and Iris inadvertently recreated when they reformed the Speed Force. Unlike the other hosts, Alexa completely transforms when she becomes Fuerza: an alter ego she was not immediately aware of and has no control over. The parallels between Fuerza and Hulk are obvious, but The Flash has found a unique way to tell Alexa’s unique story.
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The Flash season 7 is arguably the most unusual entry for the Arrowverse show so far, in part because COVID-19 delays interrupted production, resulting in season 6 ending without concluding its primary storyline. Because of this, The Flash carried the Mirror Master plot over to the next season, while also setting up Ralph Dibny’s sudden exit (because Hartley Sawyer was fired from the show between seasons) and laying the groundwork for the Speed Force to return.
Dibny’s departure may have been a blessing, as its made room in the cast for the new Force Family characters. The primary plotline in The Flash season 7, episode 10, “Family Matters, Part 1” centers on Barry, Cisco, and Caitlin training Alexa, the host of the Strength Force, while also trying to track down “Psych,” their nickname for the mysterious host of the Sage Force. After The Flash season 7 revealed its true villain to be Nora, the reborn Speed Force, it became imperative for Alexa to learn to control her powers in order to help Team Flash. Alexa’s journey in making peace with her “other half” is compared to Caitlin’s experience with Killer Frost in “Family Matters, Part 1” — but is a much more obvious parallel to the MCU’s Hulk story.
In the MCU, Bruce Banner is a mild-mannered scientist whose research (and exposure to gamma radiation) transforms him into a rage-fuelled, nearly-mindless, massive green version of himself: the Hulk. Although Banner is able to revert to his human form, this other monstrous side of him manifests whenever he gets angry. Hulk’s MCU story mainly involves Banner struggling to cope with these “powers” — although his Hulk form is useful, it’s also the antithesis of his everyday persona. Whereas Banner is a sweet, gentle, and humanitarian intellectual, Hulk is an angry, aggressive, unthinking brute — who proves to be very dangerous. As an allegory, Banner’s story is one of self-love: rather than “curing” himself of the aspects he doesn’t like, his happy ending comes from learning to control his rage and — eventually — merging his two disparate sides into a unified whole.
Fuerza draws obvious comparisons to the Hulk: both are large, angry, mindless and violent versions of otherwise mild-mannered and kind individuals. Both are even triggered by anger (and, to an extent, radiation). In The Flash, however, Alexa is more than just a shallow imitation of Banner and the similarities between their two characters run deep. However, the Arrowverse also gives its own version of the Hulk an inspired twist. Like Banner, Alexa is characterized as a humanitarian and deeply ashamed (and even afraid of) her other form; however, this storyline is enhanced by a tragic backstory of drug addiction and shattered relationships. Alexa already did the hard work of recovery and was pursuing redemption when she became the host for the Strength Force. So while the crux of Banner’s personal struggles in the MCU is being cursed with the Hulk persona, for Alexa, it’s another step in a complicated personal journey.
Banner eventually found peace in the MCU by becoming Smart Hulk — a permanent form that combined the intelligence and personality of his human form with the brute strength and endurance of his transformed state. It’s unlikely The Flash will come to the same ending for Alexa: not only would it cheapen her story to have it follow the Hulk’s story so closely, but from a practical standpoint, it would require more special effects (and therefore budget) than a CW show could reasonably afford. Still, it seems that the Arrowverse show wants to diversify its cast of enhanced individuals — and Alexa’s struggle to control her extraordinary powers is a welcome addition to the team.
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