This article contains The Flash spoilers.
The Flash Season 6 Episode 3
Remember how last week I said that I was worried that The Flash went straight from zero to mustache twirling villain too quickly with Dr. Ramsey Rosso? I might have been wrong. “Dead Man Running” puts in a lot of work to make Rosso’s journey more engaging and believable, and it does it in the course of an episode that covers a lot of ground in other areas, too. Not to spoil the rest of my review ahead of time, but The Flash season 6 is three-for-three right now, and I’m starting to feel pretty confident about where things are headed.
For the third week in a row, I’m compelled to talk about the overall tonal balance of this season so far. “Dead Man Running” kicks off with a horror movie style opening scene with goons paying the ultimate price, and then promptly switches gears for a somber sequence with Barry telling the rest of Team Flash about the impending Crisis (even though he waits until the end of the episode to tell them the truth about his own fate in it). And then it changes things up yet again by bringing in Ralph’s mom for some amusing, non-powered Central City lowlife action. And then it gives us some almost fish-out-of-water moments with Frost helping Barry investigate a crime scene. Oh yeah, and did I mention we also get a new Harrison Wells this episode, too?
That’s a lot, folks. And were this season four, it would probably be a mess. But this is season six, a world where all things are possible, it would seem, and an episode as packed to the rafters with characters and plot as “Dead Man Running” almost never stumbles. The jokes land, the story (not just for the episode, but the season so far) never stops moving forward, and Grant Gustin continues to turn in perhaps the best work of his career.
New showrunner Eric Wallace made it clear at SDCC what his big picture efforts to fix the shortcomings of the previous two seasons were, namely by dividing the season in half with two different big bads. But what has far more quietly happened has been how the writers this year have managed to (so far) make every single disparate element of this show work in harmony. Longtime readers of my reviews (I’m sorry) know that I haven’t been much of a fan of Cecile’s meta powers or the ongoing and increasingly visual Caitlin/Frost dichotomy. But both of those characters have been bright spots in these first few episodes, particularly Cecile, who is no longer being played strictly for laughs, even in lighter moments (which she’s great at), and has a real sense of purpose.
This “new” Frost is particularly fun. Her moments as a “metahuman consultant” with Barry were great, as was her confrontation with Dr. Rosso. I still could do without the “Frost learns something new about living” stuff each week, but when we’re getting the best moments between her and Barry that we’ve seen in years, it’s a worthwhile tradeoff. Also, that new costume is terrific. Between that new design and that brilliant new Flash costume, when both Barry and Frost are suited up, it makes for some striking visuals.
Incidentally, is it me, or does it feel like these first three, or at least the last two, episodes have been cutting down on the amount of time Barry spends in costume? This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as we know we’ll get plenty of costumed action once Crisis on Infinite Earths gets moving. It also allows plenty of time for Gustin to shine in quieter moments, whether it’s with various members of the team (this week it was Frost) or with other characters outside the usual circle (his confrontation with Dr. Rosso was terrific work).
And, of course, we finally got Tom Cavanagh back as Harrison “Nash” Wells. This Wells appears to be a multiversal explorer and skeptic, on the hunt for an element known as Eternium. More importantly, “Nash” is an Indiana Jones type, packed with quips and gadgets and his very own Blake Neely theme. This might be the most promising introduction for a Wells since Harry in season two. Something tells me we’re going to like this Harry a lot. Unless this is the Wells who turns out to be Pariah, which would really suck. For him.
Having this entire episode ultimately come back to the theme of impending doom, whether in big ways like Barry and Rosso finding common ground, or in little ways like Ralph hugging his mother with a real sense of finality, was what elevated it. The Mitch Romero stuff was secondary, and there was no attempt to make it feel like this was anything other than a case to be solved. In fact, “Dead Man Running” might be the best, closest approximation of network police procedural elements we’ve seen this show attempt. Considering that our title character is an actual CSI and that Central City is completely overrun by villains, I’m amazed it has taken six seasons to get there. Even though it took an impending Crisis on Infinite Earths to get us here, the fact that so far The Flash season 6 just continues to turn weaknesses into strengths might be the most encouraging sign about what’s to come.
– Mitch Romero isn’t a DC Comics character, but given the horror movie nature of his character and powers, and the general zombie-ness of it all, this is absolutely a nod to the king of all zombie movies, George Romero.
– Marv Perez is a name “honoring” the two architects of Crisis on Infinite Earths. All time great comic book writer Marv Wolfman and legendary artist/writer George Perez.
– The Arrowverse just gave us our approximately 10,000th Blue Beetle reference when Dr. Rosso refers to his good buddy, Ted Kord. For the love of Grodd, can we PLEASE get Ted Kord in live action already? I volunteer.
– Wells waves a red gem in Cisco’s face that apparently gives “nightmarish hallucinations” to its victims. Dream, from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comics, had a powerful red amulet, too. Hmmm…
– Wells is hunting for “Eternium.” What the hell is Eternium, you say? I’m glad you asked. No, really, I’m thrilled, because I wrote more about it here. Eternium is made from fragments of the Rock of Eternity. As in, Shazam’s Rock of Eternity. It’s basically Kryptonite for Shazam-powered magic folks. Holy moley…the Arrowverse essentially just confirmed the existence of (or possibility of) Shazam. But if it’s fragments of the Rock of Eternity then…uh-oh…