“So this is me. Rising up.”
As superheroes wrongfully accused of crimes go, last week’s The Flash—save for a cool Barry/Iris super speed moment—was a monumental disappointment. The trial was skimmed over so quickly, that even our suspension of disbelief insofar as the evidence against Barry went, was barely covered. Still, every episode can’t be a hit and that’s why this week’s coming out hour of Ralph Dibny, aka the Elongated Man, is such an important episode, despite being only the second of 2018. We already know that Hartley Sawyer brings it as the sidekick Dibny. The question remains, is he ready for his close-up as Central City’s main event?
So while Barry’s cooling his heels in Iron Heights Penitentiary, meeting an old Goldbergian friend that owes Henry Allen his life, Ralph Dibny is getting used to the superhero spotlight shining on him. For his troubles, he even gets his own villain. Axel Walker, the Trickster Jr. Thanks to Zoey Clark, his mother and former paramour of the original Trickster (who has her own nom de guerre of Prank) Walker busts out of IHP and sets about making a name for himself to make daddy dearest proud. Now, anytime we talk about the Trickster, Mark Hamill’s name comes up and with good reason. Unfortunately, we get stuck with the junior circuit and while Trickster Jr. and Prank are a relatively effective and entertaining duo, this is not their story. But it is Ralph’s and, in that regard, “The Elongated Knight Rises” delivers.
Imagine that you were gifted with superpowers. Powers that, while admittedly insane and lacking the flair of super speed, flying, or super strength, do put a bubble of invulnerability around you. That’s Ralph Dibny. With the elasticity of his cells, Dibs is nigh invincible. That is until he comes across some wickedly pH’d balanced acid courtesy of the Trickster. Like all heroes before him, Ralph is faced with his own mortality and, for a few moments, Ralph reacts like a normal person would. He extricates himself from danger.
But instead of crawling inside a bottle or something else markedly unheroic-like, Dibny finds Barry on the excuse that he’s ready to break the Flash out of jail. It’s such a flimsy excuse though that even Dibny has a hard time keeping the truth of his visit from Barry. Fact is, Ralph was scared, just like Barry has been dozens of times. “I’m not that strong in the face of danger,” he admits to Barry, ashamed of his own fears. Though a few years older than Barry in terms of life, Dibny’s a rookie when it comes to the superhero gig and he’s also out of practice as it pertains to risking his life (he was a decorated detective at one point). His story is a reminder that courage isn’t the absence of fear—it’s that fact that you’re afraid and you go anyway. Barry channels this advice, telling Dibny that “Rising about that fear and saving those lives…that’s a greater life.” There are some whose calling in this world, be it from their minds, skill, or courage, is greater than us normal folks. Barry, who has become sageful at such a young age (though with his time in the Speed Force, could he be ageless?), reminds Ralph there’s a hero in us all. Don’t let the fear hold you back from doing what you know to be right. And even in that moment where he faces death, Ralph does it to save Cisco and Caitlin. Putting himself in the line of fire, consequences be damned, is the mark of a true hero.
Lessons of courage aside, Barry’s time in prison isn’t without its own harrowing experiences. Early on he quells a right in about two seconds and then runs into Dave (the wrestler known as Goldberg) who saves Barry from a shiv smack dab in the middle of the chow hall. Barry gets Dave’s story and promptly ends up saving the big man from his own bloody ending. It turns out that Barry has a friend in prison, one whose story has yet to be revealed.
Speaking of yet to be revealed, Cisco and Ralph run into the mystery girl from last month’s wedding. While they don’t recognize her, she’s a bit overt about the whole “paying it forward” good work she provides them, hinting that, one day, it’ll be their turn to help a sister out. But it’s those final seconds where her beatific smile watches them walk away and she writes in her diary…using the same symbols that Barry did when he first came out of the Speed Force.
It’s only a matter of time before her presence is known to the Barry and the team. Let’s just hope they get to her before DeVoe can.
- One of the more difficult things of keeping a superhero show fresh and interesting is paying the right respect to the characters. As a superhero fanatic, I can be overly critical of the, at times, lack of sensibility regarding how a character is handled. As I was watching this week’s The Flash, I couldn’t help but be reminded just how little they have developed Cisco’s vibe powers. With Caitlin, it’s an understandable thing. Sure, she may have a slight lease on her Killer Frost side but who knows how long that will last. Cisco doesn’t have such impediments and, while they are dealing with Barry’s situation, Vibe’s powers (much like Wally’s) are being left on the backburner. Again, it’s a tricky balance, but it’s one the writers need to get a better handle on.
- Even with Barry behind bars, it’s good to see Iris’s real strength show out. There was a good two years where she was the damsel in distress with no true story of her own. It’s been a pleasant surprise to see her evolve, both from the material the writers have given her to Candice Patton’s increasingly bold and sharp performances. Not only has she become a standout character but she brings to the table the leadership Team Flash has been missing since the original Wells.
The Flash: “The Elongated Knight Rises