Some things were lost in The Flash this week, and some things were…well, no. Things were mostly just lost. Frankly, it’s a good reminder that not all losses are bad. In this case, it got things moving again as we head into the finale and the fourth season of The Flash finally brings us some answers.
Eulogy for An (Occasional) Hero
We gather together today to pay tribute to a once and could-be hero, Ralph Dibny. Or to wish him a hasty farewell. It’s almost hard to believe now that Ralph has only been part of our lives for six long months. Did I say long? Maybe I meant short. At any rate, there can be no denying that he has been part of our lives as fans of The Flash. Quite simply, the show wouldn’t let us forget.
In that time, he made us queasy when he sneezed off his face. He made us angry when he belittled Caitlin and reduced all women to their measurements. He made us laugh when he…when he…well, he made us queasy and angry.
But beneath all that, we were told he was a hero. Repeatedly. More told than shown, really. And in fact, in the end, he strove to demonstrate the hero he wanted to be. Had that been the character we had seen him becoming all along, perhaps the fandom would look back at this episode with more fondness for the character than for the fact that – for now – we are free of his repetitive story.
Still, let us not forget that he was a hero this week. Sure, a few short weeks ago, he was determined to hide in his little hole with his vegan dogs and condescension, more than happy to let his friends step into the path of danger if it meant he would be saved. But this week, he swore his biggest concern had been his friends’ lives all along. He was willing to put his life on the line to keep them safe. Who knows what would have happened if he’d lived another week! Maybe he’d have pushed them into DeVoe’s path himself! Or he’d have hidden in a hole somewhere again. Not knowing is part of the fun, right?
What I think I will always appreciate the most about Ralph is the utter lack of consistency in is character. Unpredictability is wild and fun and always keeps you on the edge of your seat, wondering which character you’ll get this week! And that is one thing we could never predict with him. Would he be the man who wanted to be a hero, or the man who’d forgotten he wanted to be a hero? Would he be the man who embraced the team as friends as Barry reassured him once again of his innate heroism and value? Or would he ride in on his high horse and disparage everyone around him, everyone who was trying their best to save him? WHO KNOWS?
Ha ha! Wacky fun!
But this week, he put his friends first. He was willing to be foolish with the self-assurance he knew best. He was willing to sacrifice to keep them safe. Well, he was willing to commit murder, against Barry’s advice. (“Murder is a choice” Barry told him, and The Flash has made that choice more than once. I love him, but it’s true.)
In the end, he didn’t commit murder. He fell, as did all the other bus metas. DeVoe has finally achieved his goals. (What were those, again? And why? I’m pretty sure we’re 18 episodes in and we still don’t know.)
But all is not lost, dear friends. He left us with one last juvenile joke. His last gift, a reminder of why we shouldn’t mourn to see him go. I’m sure we’ll see his face again, before the end, but the personality that was so off-putting and the character who took over the show for what felt like far more than six months? He is, at least for now, blessedly gone.
All that said, I would like to give a sincere and genuine nod towards the actor who portrayed him, Hartley Sawyer. The minute and a half of Evil Ralph – and occasional glimpses of the hero he could have been – made me wish the show had done better by his character. I do genuinely think he could have been a great contribution to the show and to the team. Sadly, the show failed him.
And so, it is with only a tiny twinge of “what might have been” that we wish Ralph a not-so-fond farewell. For many – if not most – of us, we’ll hardly miss him.
Farewell…for Now, Killer Frost
Ralph wasn’t the only one to leave us this episode. Killer Frost got a little too close to DeVoe and he paid the price. She and Caitlin had been forming an odd post-it note friendship, but now she’s gone.
It is odd that Killer Frost wasn’t given one moment to shine before being taken off the board for a while. All season, she’s been left on the sidelines. Or knocked out within three seconds of joining the fight. And once again, she was nullified before she could show us what she was capable of.
But I don’t think this is goodbye so much as a temporary farewell. Though Caitlin spent all last season trying to get rid of her frosty alter-ego, they have formed a connection this season. That connection was formed mostly off-screen, which basically sums up the biggest problem with her story this year.
The biggest problem with her story this year is that there hasn’t really been one. It was clear last year that they moved ahead with the Killer Frost story without thinking through the details. Why was she automatically evil, when for everyone else it was a choice? Why did she join Savitar and try to kill her friends? Was Killer Frost the dark side of herself, or a different persona entirely?
This year, they tried to answer at least one of those questions. They decided that Caitlin and Killer Frost were two different personas. This explanation contradicted much that had happened last year, but at least it was an attempt at an explanation. And yet, they still didn’t really give her a story.
Over time, we learned – through dialogue with other characters – that the team had forgiven Killer Frost. At least, they’d forgiven her enough to hang out with her and find her “the life of the party.” (I still call foul on any implication that Cisco, undeniably Caitlin’s best friend since the very beginning, would ever choose Killer Frost over her. But that is an argument for another article.) We learned – mostly through dialogue – that she was no longer evil, though we never learned why she had been to begin with. We learned – mostly through implication and memories of her previous appearances – that she could be a formidable ally. Or fearsome foe.
We learned all of these things through dialogue and implication because we never really saw them. Killer Frost was treated half as a joke (like when they had to remind Caitlin of dead puppies to make her turn). The other half of the time, she was treated as little more than an afterthought. She’d sit out fights for no reason some of the time. The rest of the time, she’d be quickly and easily knocked unconscious before she could accomplish anything. Hardly the formidable character she should be.
And so, while we have said farewell to Killer Frost for now, I do not think this is the last goodbye. Rather, I think – or hope – that they are using this opportunity to fix some of the mistakes of the past. If there’s any character who could use a soft reboot to sweep away the errors of the past and set them on a clearly thought out and well-developed plot, it’s her.
Caitlin will, I’m sure, go all out to get her frosty persona back. My only question is what will be the consequences of her doing so. Will Killer Frost come back as the villain her name suggests? Will the syringe Caitlin made this episode somehow backfire – locking Caitlin inside Killer Frost’s mind instead of the other way around? At the very least, will we finally get a story about her that makes sense?
I can only hope.
At Long Last, Hello DeVoe
What is DeVoe’s plan this season? I mean, what is he after? Can anyone explain this to me? Why did he want the bus metas’ powers? Why did he want Barry in jail? What exactly is his beef with Barry, anyway? I get that he has a supposed plan, but four chapters from the end of the story is hardly the right time to explain it. Shouldn’t the audience have been along for the ride a little sooner?
That complaint aside, we do at least finally have some forward momentum on that story. DeVoe has what he has been working towards all season. He has powers, he has his wife at his side, and I’m reasonably (though not entirely, thanks to Killer Frost last season) sure he’s not doing all this “just because.” Hopefully, in the very near future, we’ll find out why.
However, when we find out, I sincerely hope Marlize remembers what her husband did to her and gets her own in. I have no doubt that their love was genuine, in the beginning. But his love for her has become manipulative and cruel.
They may have started as a parallel to Barry and Iris, but they have ended as a stark contrast. Barry and Iris are an example of what two people who are truly equals can be when they stand together. Marloe (is that their ship name?) started that way, perhaps. But they have become an example of what happens when one tries to selfishly puts themselves before the other. Clifford has become consumed by…whatever his plan is. He’s willing to sacrifice whatever it takes to get it. Even his wife and the love she once had for him.
I had hoped that she would remember DeVoe’s actions when facing off against Iris this week. (And, incidentally, shout out to Iris and Joe for being badasses who Get. Shit. Done. Not everyone would stab themselves with a katana to win a fight and take care of business, but Iris has always been That Girl. Even without powers, she’s every bit the hero that her friends and teammates are. And, in some cases (because she doesn’t need to be reminded she is one every week), even more.
Sadly, Marlize didn’t remember this week. She finally seems to have her husband back, wearing the face of the man she loves. The one tear falling down her cheek when she embraced him broke my heart, because I remembered how little he deserves her devotion.
She better get one good punch in at least.
The Flash airs Tuesdays at 9/8c on the CW.