The Flash: Inside the Debut of Central City’s Newest Speedster
The Flash newcomer Kauser Mohammed tells us all about her debut as new speedster Fast Track, Meena Dhawan’s surprising love story, and whether there’s a super-suit in her future.
This article contains The Flash spoilers.
The Flash Season 8 Episode 18
The Flash’s Barry Allen has certainly helped shape the journeys of many of Central City’s superpowered heroes, from his teammates (Killer Frost, Allegra, Cecile), to his boss (Captain Kramer) and even his own grown children (whenever Nora and Bart happen to pop in from the future). But “The Man in the Yellow Tie” sees him attempt to guide the journey of a new speedster whose abilities he doesn’t entirely understand.
Technically, we saw the debut of Dr. Meena Dhawan—a brilliant scientist who will eventually become the speedster known as Fast Track—in the closing moments of last week’s The Flash episode, “Keep It Dark.” But “The Man in the Yellow Tie” serves as a more proper origin story for her character, filling in the gaps of her history, sketching out the details of the machine that has granted her her power, and introducing her surprising love interest, one Eobard Thawne (the Matt Letscher version).
“It is truly such an honor,” Kausar Mohammed, who plays Dr. Meena Dhawan, tells Den of Geek when asked about what it’s been like to join the long-running series. “To think that there is a South Asian female superhero on this show and that other folks get to see that, it’s just such a dream. And then the fact that I get to play her! If you’d asked me even two years ago if this was possible I’d have said it’s not happening.”
Women of color are still often woefully underrepresented in the genre space on television and that is especially true for South Asian female characters, who can often feel nonexistent onscreen. While the gap is slowly narrowing—in a lovely bit of kismet, the Disney+ series Ms. Marvel, led by Pakistani-Canadian star Iman Vellani, premiered on the same day that Mohammed made her debut on The Flash—the actress is well aware of what a necessary step forward her role is.
“Eric [Wallace, The Flash showrunner] sort of took his character and decided to bring her to life. And that was something I had a conversation with him [about] right off the bat, how special it was to be a South Asian superhero on the show and how we really wanted to embrace that,” she says. “I even spoke to Jonathan Butler, one of The Flash writers about that, and how important [it felt]. I mean…if little Brown me as a kid [had known] that I was going to be a superhero, I don’t think I could’ve believed that. I think there is such power in proper representation. We need mirrors of ourselves.”
Mohammed admits she was a newcomer to the world of The Flash prior to being cast as Meena, and wasn’t even initially aware that she was up for the role of a comic book heroine.
“It was actually a process. I auditioned for it not knowing it was Meena Dhawan,” she explains, noting that many casting sides use codenames to disguise the arrival of characters that might be familiar to a broader audience. “The script was just about her being a scientist and helping Barry Allen. What I connected to was her desire to sort of democratize [being a speedster] and allow it to be a sort of tool for establishing justice for people. And then when I discover who it was, I was just like, ‘Holy smokes this is gonna be awesome’.”
And once Mohammed landed the role, she says she turned immediately to the source material.
“Shout out to the fact that Dr. Meena Dhawan even exists in The Flash comics in the first place!” she laughs. “But when I read the comic books I really connected to her desire to—when she reaches out to Barry Allen to try to create a bond, I connected to the fact of her trying to regain control over her life. Because she’s got these powers now out of nowhere—so how does she deal with them?”
Building on the agreement we saw the two reach in “Keep It Dark,” in this episode we see Barry and Meena training together and pushing the limit of her abilities (at least until she accidentally loses control and zaps Barry with lightning). Given how advanced Barry’s own powers have become in recent years, it’s honestly nice to see him focusing on simpler speedster tricks, and working toward helping a more junior hero find her feet. Maybe because it’s something we really haven’t seen much since the days of Jesse Quick and Wally West, but there’s a pleasantly old-school nostalgia feel about it all.
And, according to Mohammed, there’s plenty more of Barry and Meena’s relationship to come.
“I think we certainly get to see that bond grow and change,” Mohammed says. “As things move forward and she gets better and better at her powers, their connection continues [to get stronger] and they help each other out. It’s a hero’s journey and you really get to see the scope of Meena [as a character]. And I’ll just say that she goes through it. She really goes through it.”
Part of that journey is her unexpected romance with Eobard Thawne. This version of the Reverse Flash is the one we last saw on Legends of Tomorrow, resurrected by Time Wraiths to serve as the protector of a fixed point in time, but stripped of his memories and powers. Now, he seems genuinely in love with Meena. (Though apparently nothing in the multiverse can stop any version of Thawne from being at least mildly obsessed with becoming a speedster.)
“I think what’s so beautiful about The Flash is that love is such a driving force for so many of the characters. You see it between Barry and Iris in the same way—I think there’s something so powerful about love being the most defining thing that moves people to do what they do.”
Admittedly, it’s a bit strange to see Eobard Thawne begging for the life of someone he loves, but Letscher sells the heck out of it, and The Flash unabashedly draws distinct parallels between their relationship and Barry and Iris’s romance. Heck, Barry even refers to Eobard as Meena’s “lightning rod”!
“I think the relationship [with Eobard] really grounds Meena. In the episode, we hear about her backstory and how this is also her second chance at love,” she says. “So how much more does this mean to her? How much more can she not be willing to lose it? And at the end of the day, we see how that love is really what guides her back.”
Though Meena and Eobard’s romance seems to be on pretty solid ground by the end of the hour, there are still plenty of questions left for our heroes to answer, including how her powers tie into the Negative Speed Force and whether it’s possible to use the Block without her essentially turning into a supervillain.
Plus, thanks to The Flash showrunner Eric Wallace, we already know that Meena will get to officially suit up as Fast Track in an upcoming episode of Season 8, something that Mohammed says has been “so much fun” despite the lengthy process involved in actually getting the costume on.
“It was one of the most rewarding things,” she says. “And there were literally so many people required to make it happen from Kate who designed the costume to the team that put it together to hair and makeup and the small intricate thing that just brought the costume to life. But being in it…such a dream.”
Mohammed is coy about whether fans can expect to see Meena return in the next season of The Flash, following this introductory arc, but says that while we’ll have to “see what happens” the character remains close to her heart.
“I’m just excited [for fans] to see Meena’s journey. Bringing it back to representation—we just don’t see South Asian female representation as much as we should,” she says. “And I think, with Meena’s emotional arc, you really get to see something great. And I hope people can find something to connect to with Meena and maybe also find some comfort in maybe seeing a character that looks like them.”