Being a superhero is something that’s appealing, whether it’s from an audience standpoint or characters in a world where heroes are viewed as gods. The costume, the powers, the accolades, the heroism, the hope. But being a superhero isn’t as glamorous as it appears. There’s pain, heartbreak, and even a sense of helplessness that can sometimes take over. Being a hero isn’t about being all powerful. It’s about doing what’s in your own power to do some good in the world.
But heroes don’t do what they do for the notoriety. Usually that’s the villains, like the Trickster. They want to show off. They want people to know their name. They’re in for their own selfish purposes. Heroes rise to to occasion even in the most dire of circumstances. That’s what makes them heroes. They’re able to overcome their fear — something we all live with — and put their lives on the line even with the deadly risks. And they don’t even think twice.
Ralph Dibney isn’t a hero. That much is certain. Not yet. That’s the context that The Flash wants you to believe. Is that true? I guess only time will tell. But for now, Ralph — officially dubbed The Elongated Man — will continue to operate as a wannabe superhero. Until he proves — on a consistent basis — otherwise.
I’m not stupid. I can see where The Flash is headed with Ralph’s storyline. Barry is still wrongfully imprisoned — and likely will be for the foreseeable future — so a new hero needs to rise. Nevermind that you had Kid Flash or Jesse Quick, in terms of speedsters. Nevermind that you a capable team that each brings a unique ability to the table. Nevermind that you need a cocky, arrogant man that ran at the first sign of danger. That’s the man you think can replace The Flash?
This season will likely be about Ralph becoming a hero (a path that, honestly, I’m not confident in the payoff because how he was introduced), and hopefully he’ll ride off into the sunset — or just fade into oblivion. Not a big fan of Ralph. Though he has his moments. But not nearly enough of them to make me genuinely care.
And that right there is the problem. I don’t care. This show has given me no reason to care for Ralph. There’s no emotional response to his character or a need to embrace him despite his faults. He’s been written as the cocky, arrogant asshole that’s turning out to be a cocky, arrogant asshole.
Ralph thought he was invincible. It was why he put his life on the line the few times he has. It’s why he’s shown cockiness instead of fear. Ralph believed, like he surely believed, all superheroes are invincible. But when he learned that it wasn’t the case, his first instinct was to run; to turn his back on innocent people that needed help — his help. He was more concerned about a new suit and superhero name than the well-being of the people that needed his protection.
Meanwhile, a real hero sat wrongfully imprisoned in Iron Heights waiting for his friends and family to find him a way out of this mess — to prove that Clifford DeVoe framed him. Barry Allen is no saint. He might be one of the more innocent superheroes in the DCTV universe, but that doesn’t make him immune from mistakes or selfishness. It was something that he struggled with in recent years. But those experiences helped him realize that if he’s to be this hero that he is, he needs to lead by example. Whether that’s taking responsibility for your actions — or even actions that aren’t your own, in this case.
Villains run. Heroes stay. And Barry stayed. He stayed to face this situation head-on.
Not only that, but Barry is choosing to continue to exercise his heroism in prison, as he refused to be baited into a fight by baddies and even saved the life of his father’s old prison friend. Barry proved that a true hero isn’t someone that wears the costume and gets the accolades. It’s the person that stands up for others with nothing wanted in return. Because it’s the right thing to do.
Barry Allen, despite his struggles that have helped mold him into the hero he is today, continues to be a pillar of strength and heroism. He’s sitting in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. He’s not running way. Even at Iron Heights, he wants to help. In whatever way he can.
Ralph, who this show had the audacity to compare to a young Barry, got some pretty sound advice and wisdom from someone that’s earned his hero title. Being a superhero has a way of making you feel invincible. Like you can do anything. Like there are no consequences. Like you’re on a constant upward trend. Like you can’t lose anything.
But heroes aren’t invincible. Even The Flash. There’s a reason Superman has his Kryptonite. Even the most invincible of heroes isn’t invincible. They all have their weaknesses. They all go out in the world standing up for the weak or delivering swift justice with the understanding that tomorrow isn’t guaranteed. The universe doesn’t stop for heroes.
But what makes heroes heroes — whether that’s on television or in reality — is that they’re able to rise above the fear that can feel suffocating. We’ve all been there. We have our moments of terror, whether exaggerated or justified. Fear has a way of messing with your mind like nothing else.
No hero is fearless. And if they say they are, they’re lying. Heroes risk their lives on a daily basis to stand up for what they believe in; to protect the people they believe in; to take on people that choose to use fear against others.
You can have a supersuit. You can have a superhero name. You can have superpowers. But that doesn’t make you a hero. That’s something you have to earn.
The Flash airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on The CW.