Season 4 of The Flash has definitely been the season of bus metas! Since we returned from the brief break in the season, I have found it deeply satisfying to finish counting down and meeting these staple Flash and DC Comics characters. Edwin Gauss, also known as the Folded Man, was alluded to in last week’s episode, “Null and Annoyed.” But we didn’t get the opportunity to meet him in all of his Big Lebowski-inspired glory until this week’s episode, “Lose Yourself.” The gag of having him appear and then fall back through his own fold was one of the funniest things I think I’ve ever seen on The Flash and a fresh way to introduce this final and integral member of the cast.
In contrast to some of The Flash rogues we’ve seen adapted to the #DCTV screen over the years, the Folding Man is a pretty new character. October 1999’s THE FLASH #153 introduced Edwin Gauss as a villain for Wally West, who had taken up the mantle of the Flash at the time. If you are new to this column, this is the part of the article where I absolutely must mention my deep abiding love for Wally West and how I think he is the best Flash of all time.
… and now we can move on!
The Flash presents a very different version of Edwin Gauss than the character who originally bore this name in the comic book. The comic version of Edwin Gauss was a high-level intellect. He was a super smart genius. There is even a line that he’s one of the smartest minds that has come along since Mister Terrific! I know Mister Terrific is a fixture of Arrow, but I, personally, would have died for a reference like that (especially since Curtis has been a little bit absent during recent Arrow episodes). In the comics, Gauss has an obsession with Albert Einstein and Unified Field Theory.
I’m definitely not in a position to delve into any of the real science that inspired this character, but hopefully a reader more knowledgeable than I will hop into the comments section and can speak a little bit to this.
It is this specific fixation that leads to Edwin Gauss becoming the Folding Man. Like so many great superheroes and villains across the decades, it all starts with the suit and goes a little mad from there on out. Gauss’ suit not only allowed him to teleport from location to location, similar to what we saw during the episode, it also allowed him access to other dimensions (or Earths, if you like) within the DC Multiverse—specifically, the second and fourth dimensions. One of the coolest things about dimension-hoppers throughout the history of DC Comics is that if they can access one Earth outside of their own, usually they can reach out and touch all the rest of them eventually if they pushed hard enough. I don’t think the Folding Man has ever gone terribly far afield on-panel, particularly after characters like Breacher and Vibe (here’s looking at you, Cisco!), started coming into greater prominence.
Access to the second and fourth dimensions, specifically, means that the Folding Man can physically transform himself into either 2D or 4D figures. Now this is a very fun gag for the print medium, which is itself a 2D medium, but I understand why this didn’t carry over into “Lose Yourself,” and I think it speaks to The Flash’s writing team that we didn’t merely see a direct translation of this character. (If you do want some fun pictures to populate your Google search history with, I highly recommend peeping out the Folding Man’s 2D adventures.)
The Folding Man’s ability also forces Wally West’s Flash to come up with some creative solutions to ending his villainous spree in the absence of having the Thinker come along and do the job for him.
I have to put it out there. I’m sad we’re not going to get any more out of this Edwin Gauss. He was a good time and an interesting foe for both Barry Allen and Ralph Dibny. Wouldn’t you want to see him and Cisco have a chase through their respective teleportation abilities? In the past—here’s looking at you, Season 3—we have seen characters chasing each other through breaches or rips in the fabric of space and time, and that’s the kind of comic book-y nonsense that I tune into The Flash for every week.
Since Ralph went the same way as the Folding Man at the end of “Lose Yourself,” I’m ready to bet that we’ll be writing more about the Elongated Man following next week’s episode. If that’s something you’re into, please hop down into the comments section and let me know!
Ashley V. Robinson covers The Flash as a part of the #DCTV Couch Club. You can find her on Twitter at @AshleyVRobinson and on the Jawiin YouTube channel. The Flash airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. (7 p.m. CST) on The CW.