Considering the events that have transpired over this past week involving executive producer Andrew Kreisberg, The Flash couldn’t have timed its latest episode, “When Harry Met Harry,” any worse.
The sexual assault allegations against Kreisberg have prompted feedback from a variety of people, including fans, actors, and writers that were victims. Being a white male in power apparently made him feel invincible. Like he could get away with anything. And he did. Until now.
In its first five episodes of season 4, The Flash has embraced its lighter tone, its focus on characters, and the power of redemption. But the one flaw thus far — which was made abundantly clear in this sixth hour — was the character of Ralph Dibney, who represents everything that is wrong with society and media today.
Of all of the weeks for this episode — which had been previously shot for some time — to air, this was the most ill-timed. Or, you could say it was the best time. Consider it karmic justice from the universe towards Kreisberg, whose presence could be felt throughout this episode with the belittling of women and sexist remarks.
While there was a theme of redemption sprinkled through the episode, as well as preaching what it means to be a hero — selfless instead of selfish; brave instead of cowardly; open-minded instead of close-minded, this was easily my least favorite episode of the season. It tried to overcompensate with crude humor that fell flat at the expense of the ladies. Given the past week, this episode was going to be a problem from the start.
Let’s take a look at the problem with Ralph Dibney and how, despite that, redemption is still possible for the hero-in-training.
I wasn’t aware that Ralph Dibney was going to become a central character on The Flash. But once that was made apparent, I decided to give him a chance. It was apparent that he was someone who had fallen into a hole in his life and hadn’t managed to find his way out. Until Barry came along. And suddenly I was getting flashbacks to Supergirl last season when Kara found Mon-El and wanted to help him realize that he could help people. Given I enjoyed how that worked out last season, I was eager to see how things would go with Barry and Ralph given their past and how both were choosing to move forward from it.
But then The Flash let Dibney run wild. Not that a humorous character is “running wild.” It was made apparent from the beginning the type of personality Dibney is. But it was The Flash’s choice to project Ralph Dibney as a man that mentions women by their bust size that really halted the brakes on any desire I had to want to see this character.
Ralph is the representation of everything that’s wrong with certain men, at present. Perverted. Misogynistic. Full of themselves.
This is how some Mon-El haters felt about Supergirl’s Mon-El even though he was never portrayed that way. Sure, he could be full of himself at times of fall victim to some new emotions. But he was never a sexist pig. This, Ralph Dibney, was the character they’ve been hating. And they didn’t even realize it.
There were two especially disturbing moments with Dibney’s character, both involving the belittling of women. Both of them involved Dibney commenting on their bra size. Both of them involved Dibney referring to these women — not by name — but by that bra size. It was disgusting. To make matters worse, even though Caitlin and Iris were physically uncomfortable, everyone else shrugged it off.
This is the kind of humor that men like Andrew Kreisberg think is funny. Crude humor that puts down half of your audience. This episode — and this character of Ralph Dibney and the reactions of everyone around him — had Kriesberg written all over it.
Ralph Dibney is an example of what you shouldn’t do on television. Present this kind of character that doesn’t respect women, that makes jokes at their expense, and comes off as just plain gross.
Introductions are certainly important with characters — especially one like Ralph Dibney that’s sure to cause some controversy — but it’s also the process of character growth that’ll dictate the fate of this character.
But Redemption is Possible
Honestly, one of the first things I thought of once The Flash made it clear that Dibney would seek redemption was the similarities and differences between his situation and what Supergirl has done with Mon-El.
Mon-El is a character that has garnered his share of hate for the terrible person he was in the past — a past that we never saw; a past we shouldn’t hold against him. The difference, at present, between Mon-El and Dibney is that we didn’t see Mon-El at his worst. We’re seeing Dibney at his worst. We’re seeing Dibney act like a sexist pig, which is something that Supergirl never did with Mon-El. Perhaps it’s one of the significant differences between a show with a focus on women and respecting women versus a show with a male lead and building around him.
Ralph Dibney is an asshole. He’s someone that addressed women based on their bra sizes rather than their names. He’s someone that’s crude and celebrates it. And yet, I’m not making up my mind about Dibney just yet. Yes, I dislike his character right now. But I’d be a hypocrite if I weren’t to allow Dibney the chance to become a much better, evolved version of himself, much like we’ve seen Mon-El do over the course of a season on Supergirl.
I wasn’t a fan of Mon-El in the early episodes. But it was once I saw a desire in him to want to be better that I began to come around. The ongoing character evolution was something that made him one of my favorite characters to watch because his journey was always changing and growing in the process. But Supergirl managed to do a great job at allowing Mon-El’s character to evolve over the course of a season, always preaching that he wasn’t perfect; but a work in progress. And that’s a work in progress that’s still continuing.
So while I’m not a fan of Ralph Dibney right now, I’m not going to hold what will eventually be his past against him. I’m going to give The Flash the chance to redeem his character. It’s not an instantaneous process, but if The Flash can pull this off, then I’ll be impressed.
We saw the first inkling of desire for Ralph to want to be better than the man he is. When Barry initially trained him to be a superhero, he was concerned with just catching the bad guy. But when Ralph’s failure to jump into action to save a civilian put a little girl’s life in danger, it was a shock that mae Ralph reevaluate exactly what he was doing. He was feeling guilt and remorse and, yes, heartburn. New emotions. Not much unlike Mon-El
But Ralph certainly has an uphill battle to contend with. The character that we were introduced to is one that’s more problematic than you might’ve thought. Especially with everything going on in the world right now. So it’s going to take time and active strides in growth for Dibney to grow into the hero that Barry believes he can be. Not unlike how Kara saw the hero that Mon-El could be.
The common theme throughout the DCTV universe is that of redemption. Even a murderer, like Oliver Queen, can become a hero. Even a trained assassin, like Sara Lance, can become a hero. There’s no one that’s too far gone to be saved. If they want to be saved.
Ralph has shown that he wants to be better. Now it’s up to him to show us that he can be better.
7 Things About “When Harry Met Harry”
- This was either the worst-timed or best-timed episode that I’ve seen in some time. It was terrible in the subject matter but also sort of like cosmic justice for what Kreisberg has done. #LightEmUp
- My least favorite episode of the season. Easily. So tone deaf.
- Ralph Dibney is a sexist pig that is growing more annoying by the second. And yet, he still has the potential for redemption as an individual and for the audience.
- Can we talk about how when Dibney called Caitlin by her bra size that it offended Caitlin and Iris and everyone else just shrugged it off? What the hell was that?!
- I loved getting to see Tom Cavanagh play up his humorous side with all of the different versions of Wells.
- Despite my feelings towards Dibney as an individual, I have to admit that the dynamic between Barry and Ralph is excellent. As characters and actors they jive off each other so well.
- This Clifford DeVoe storyline just got intriguing as hell. How he’s anticipated every move. How he easily has them out-thought. How Barry knows he’s an adversary. How this guy is easily the most terrifying of our past couple of villains. How we know some shit is about to go down.
The Flash airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on The CW.