The Flash seems to be getting ready to say goodbye to another major character after Joe West turns in his badge and leaves the police force behind.
Perhaps one of the strongest and most surprising moments in The Flash’s “Family Matters, Part 1” indicated that yet another Team Flash member may be leaving. This season has already seen or has announced the departure of at least four cast members, including two original members in Carlos Valdes and Tom Cavanaugh. Joe West’s decision to turn in his badge and walk away from the force could be sending a strong signal that Jesse L. Martin plans to join his fellow original cast members who are leaving.
This would not be the first time Martin has stepped away from the show and his role as Barry Allen’s father figure, mentor, and father-in-law, and Iris West’s father. A back injury he suffered during the hiatus of season 5 left writers scrambling to write Joe West out of The Flash for most of that season. At the end of season 6, they hid Joe West in witness protection for the final three episodes and since his return in season 7, Joe hasn’t been as deeply involved in major The Flash storylines.
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Most of Joe West’s purpose in season 7 has involved the new internal threat, the governor’s SCPD task force appointee Kristen Kramer. Since her arrival, she and Joe have butted heads over her agenda regarding metahumans. Despite knowing a metahuman had betrayed her, his hopes that she would change were dashed and came to a head in “Family Matters, Part 1” when she brought in an arms shipment to inject metas with the cure against their will. He’d watched her grow angrier and more reckless since failing to have Killer Frost stripped of her powers. Finally fed up, he turned in his badge and walked away from the department to which he had devoted most of his life. With that, Joe West’s time on the show appears to be coming to an end.
The fact is the cast of The Flash is dwindling, and the story is evaporating into repetitiveness. By weakening Joe’s ties to Iris and Barry, the show clearly has exhibited a marked disinterest in the character so his exit would not be that surprising. Some might even consider it the next logical step. The Flash appears to be cleaning house, trimming down the cast so it can either afford to do a soft reboot with mostly new characters or bring the show to an end with the focus on Barry and Iris and their many timeline children with the impending return of Nora and introduction of Bart.
Joe West is essentially being pushed aside for Bart and Nora. Since Iris is apparently taking over all police investigations as she did in “Family Matters, Part 1,” there is nothing left for him. There’s not a position available at Star Labs, so unless his departure from SCPD is a prelude to a surprise career change, Joe’s days on The Flash will, unfortunately, continue to dwindle. Of all the Arrowverse fathers, Joe West has gotten the best new lease on life. Despite The Flash never keeping most of his kids around long enough to have a meaningful bond with him, he has evolved tremendously as a character in ways that The Flash has failed to let Barry. As a character, Barry Allen has fallen into the trope of not appreciating the wisdom of his many mentors and always thinking he knows better, no matter how often it blows up in his face.
Although there’s been no official announcement of departure, all the signs point to The Flash slowly setting up for Joe West and actor Jesse L. Martin to depart. Last fall, the showrunner promised an exciting story for Joe having been planned. However, whether due to Covid complications or something else, nothing has materialized. Even if Jesse L. Martin is not leaving, the show has essentially written Joe West into a corner and such an important, vital character as Joe, one of the last original cast members remaining, deserves to be cut loose if he’s not going to be utilized properly.
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