The Flash: Does the Black Fire Mystery Involve a Familiar Face?

The Flash hints that the mysterious Black Fire is someone we’ve seen before.

Photo: The CW

The following contains The Flash spoilers

The Flash Season 8 Episode 10

As an individual episode, The Flash’s “Reckless” is a fairly uneventful hour. The team is embarrassingly unsuccessful at stopping the mysterious black fire that’s cold fusion burning people to death all over town. Deon’s freaking out about Iris’s time sickness, which still doesn’t make any sense at all. Sue Dearbon continues to display her impressive array of personal outerwear. And Iris maybe sort of accidentally completely erases someone from existence, but somehow that’s not the A plot this week. Cool deal, show!

As a person who loves both Caitlin and Frost, I’m always excited when The Flash attempts to give the pair of them something like a “family” story, but as Snow bonding hours go, “Reckless” is pretty weak. Frost’s sudden desire to risk herself at all costs simply to help faceless strangers is admirable on paper, but doesn’t necessarily gel with the character we’ve seen her become in recent weeks. (Unless this is the superhero version of the base jumping trips she and Chillblaine have been on.) 

And while it’s always nice whenever Susan Walters pops up, as she and Danielle Panabaker have such truly great mother-daughter chemistry, The Flash hasn’t done much (read: any) work to build an actual relationship between Carla and Frost. The elder Snow has never been the words of affirmation love language type, and I have a hard time believing that merely getting kidnapped by her awful ex would be enough to make her not only just fine with the sudden appearance of a second daughter who essentially sprung fully formed out of her first’s brain, but down with giving her gloppy, overly saccharine pep talks. 

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The Flash has long struggled with the question of what to do with Frost, and her characterization has suffered as a result. It’s hard not to watch this episode and not see another in a long line of examples of the show choosing to write her in a way that fits the plot, rather than asking themselves if her behavior fits the character they’ve created. Frost’s line about having come into the world to protect Caitlin, so, of course, she wants to protect others is a great one—but does it really line up with the woman we’ve been watching the past few seasons? All I ask for is some consistency here. Plus, haven’t we sort of covered the “Frost is pointlessly sacrificial and Caitlin is upset” subplot before? Possibly even a couple of times?

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Anyway, thanks to a generally nonsensical plan from Frost and an assist from Mama Snow, Team Flash makes yet another attempt to capture the seemingly sentient black fire that tried to kill Chester next week. They fail rather spectacularly—though at least Carla gets to somehow self-actualize into activating her latent ice powers—but that’s not the important bit: it’s what happens afterward. When the Black Flame suddenly appears to Caitlin, sporting a vaguely human-shaped face, and starts quoting back the words of her dead husband Ronnie to her. 

Apparently, the Black Fire is Caitlin’s dead husband Ronnie (or is somehow connected to or channeling Ronnie) and suddenly this story is 100% more interesting than it’s been all season thus far. 

The news that Robbie Amell would be putting in a guest appearance for a couple of episodes this season broke last fall, but I expect many of us (read: me) simply expected a few heartfelt flashbacks as Caitlin finally decided to try dating again for real. Maybe a cameo from whatever the new post-Crisis on Infinite Earths version of Deathstorm looks like if showrunner Eric Wallace was feeling particularly cruel to the Ronnie and Caitlin shippers out there. But the concept of Ronnie as a meta-like being capable of murdering innocents, well, that’s a gut punch. 

It’s possible that we should have all guessed this twist as soon as the mysterious black fire chose to target Frost. After all, Frost didn’t exactly exist when Ronnie was alive, so there’s no reason this thing—ghost, memory, imprint, whatever—would have any idea that this woman who looked exactly like Caitlin wasn’t still the wife he left behind. (Just maybe with a newfound love for Manic Panic.)  

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But, to be honest, the idea that Ronnie’s spirit or essence or whatever is suddenly a murderous death ghost is more than a little upsetting. After all, he sacrificed so much (and literally himself, twice!) for both Team Flash and Central City, that the thought he’s not resting in peace in whatever The Flash’s version of a superhero afterlife is…well, it honestly kind of sucks.

I don’t think any of us want him to be suffering in some sort of post-death purgatory or to have been twisted into an unrecognizable creature of evil. So here’s hoping that if this is somehow Caitlin’s dead husband come back to a sort-of life (again!) that the Black Fire story will pivot to finding a way to help him rather than defeat him. 

After all, for all of Caitlin’s speeches about taking risks and readying herself to find love again, we all know that The Flash has been utterly incapable of giving her romance that hasn’t turned out horribly for whatever reason (i.e. her boyfriend is straight-up evil, a total drip, or immediately dies). If this is a roundabout way of us all just admitting that it’s Caitlin and Ronnie or bust I’m okay with it. Even that brief flashback reminded me how much I loved that pairing and how little chance we had to actually see them happy with one another.

Plus, there’s always the possibility that this all has something to do with Iris’ time sickness. I mean, why not? Maybe I’m just stupidly hoping that The Flash will figure out a way to bring together these different major plot threads in a way that makes sense before the end of the season. But supposed time god Deon clearly has no idea what’s happening, and anything is possible. I’d certainly rather Iris accidentally use her powers to somehow create or resurrect a lost loved one than erase people from the timeline entirely.

The Flash has been so deliberately slow in its parceling out of any information about what’s wrong with Iris, so perhaps the fact that time is somehow shifting around her has something to do with how the Black Flame was created—or why it’s so different from anything team Flash has faced before. A girl can dream, anyway.


3 out of 5