Why The Flash Still Needs Sue Dearbon (Even Without Ralph Dibny)
Is there space for Sue in a Central City without Ralph? If her Season 7 return is anything to go by, the answer is definitely yes.
The following The Flash article contains spoilers through Season 7, Episode 14.
The Flash Season 7 Episode 14
The long-anticipated arrival of DC Comics fan favorite Sue Dearbon was a high point of The Flash Season 6, and Natalie Dreyfuss’ instantly charming version of the character did not disappoint. This was a Sue with her own agenda and point of view, a woman who was clearly destined to do more than just fall in love and die violently to serve a man’s story.
A former cat burglar and petty criminal, she was introduced as a smart and sassy heroine who drops quips as easily as she throws a punch. It feels safe to say that almost everyone loved her character pretty much instantly, something that certainly isn’t guaranteed in the world of a show like this.
But when Dreyfuss’ co-star Hartley Sawyer was abruptly fired from the show during the mid-season hiatus, Sue’s onscreen status was immediately thrown into limbo. After all, her character had originally been brought on to The Flash as one-half of an iconic comics romance opposite Sawyer’s Ralph Dibny, a couple that fans had been waiting literal years to see come to life onscreen. And while there’s certainly every chance that the show will recast Ralph at some point, there’s no guarantee that will happen any time soon.
So the question becomes: Is there still a place for Sue Dearbon on a The Flash that no longer has Ralph? If her brief Season 7 return is any indication, the answer is a resounding yes.
Though her sudden return to Central City may initially seem out of the blue, Sue’s arrival nevertheless feels like a breath of fresh air. And once the initial throwaway lines establish that Ralph’s busy somewhere offscreen, we honestly don’t miss him that much. Her bright, bold personality is as charming as ever, and there’s something honestly refreshing about introducing another character to Team Flash who doesn’t have metahuman powers but can still easily hold her own in a fight. (Or slink through laser grids Mission Impossible-style. Whatever.)
Technically, “Rayo de Luz” is an Allegra episode, a story that’s meant to illustrate both her difficult relationship with her assassin cousin Esperanza and her struggle to decide what kind of hero she wants to be. It’s not a particularly groundbreaking hour and it doesn’t really show us anything we haven’t seen done better a dozen times before over the course of the series’ run with other, more interesting characters.
The Flash has struggled to figure out what to do with Allegra ever since it originally introduced her as the object of Nash Wells’ obsession, and this episode doesn’t do much toward solving those problems. Though the part where her heart literally starts glowing Care Bear stare-style to indicate that she’s fully come into her powers at last is…certainly an upgrade, it’s hardly likely to make us care more about her or feel more invested in her journey.
But the hour also allows Sue to step forward as a leader in her own right, giving her several badass fight sequences, and making a pretty strong case that she’s still got plenty of story to tell even in a Central City that doesn’t have Ralph in it. Your mileage may vary, of course, on whether you think we still need some version Elongated Man back on the canvas after everything that went down with Sawyer’s exit, but this episode certainly proves that Sue can exist quite happily on the show’s canvas without him.
From her ongoing hunt for Black Hole operatives to her attempt to reconnect with the parents who were damaged by their time with the dark organization, Sue’s got plenty of problems of her own to solve, and she doesn’t need a love interest to fully dive into those stories. And in just two episodes flying solo she’s more than proven her worth as at least a tangential part of Team Flash, saving the day with both her butt-kicking fighting skills and her obvious talent for breaking and entering.
Props to Danielle Panabaker, who directed “Rayo de Luz”, for the extended fight sequence in which Sue faces off against a dozen faceless goons and holds her own effortlessly. It was tons of fun to watch – not to mention gave me serious Catwoman vibes. (Hey, if we can’t have Selina Kyle in the Arrowverse, I’ll take what I can get.) But what makes Sue such an intriguing addition to Team Flash isn’t her hand-to-hand combat skills, although those are definitely a nice bonus. It’s the fact that she provides a much-needed reality check on some of the group’s more idealistic tendencies.
Season 7 of The Flash has really leaned into the idea that all problems can be solved and all bad guys thwarted with little more than a simple speech about feelings and the power of love. And to be fair, this makes some degree of sense: This has always been the Arrowverse series with the biggest and most obvious heart. But now we’ve somehow reached the point where everyone seems to think that if you can just talk to someone long enough they’ll come around to the side of light, no matter how violent or murderous they’ve been in the past.
Sue’s obvious cynicism and undiluted snark provides a very necessary counterweight to this perspective and her blunt leadership style helps temper some of the show’s saccharine bluster. Even though she ultimately shows up when it matters to help Allegra fight to save her cousin, this is still the first time in a long time that someone actually pushed back against the season’s worst emotional tendencies. It seems safe to assume that providing such contrast would and should be a key part of Sue’s role within the world of the show, even as her own journey toward finding some sort of peace in the wake of her experience with Black Hole unfolds.
The Flash has occasionally struggled to do right by its female characters, from its slow-walking of Iris’ long-promised journalism arc to its struggle to figure out who Caitlin and Frost are in relation to each other and its tendency to leave women like Allegra and Cecile languishing on the backburner until their powers are required to advance a specific plot. The show has a chance to do the right thing for and by Sue, a legacy character who deserves her moment in the small screen spotlight with or without her male love interest. Here’s hoping this season (and maybe beyond) she gets the chance to seize it.