The Flash – Season 6 Episode 3
“Dead Man Running”
The Flash deals with the acceptance of certain death and the importance of honesty when Barry starts to prepare the team for the coming Crisis.
There was a time where this show was immensely frustrating in how repetitive it was when it comes to Team Flash being honest with one other. Week after week we’d see a member of the team keeping secrets until they learn that keeping secrets is bad and the process would endlessly repeat to the point that I wondered if there was a Metahuman selectively erasing short term memories so that important lessons never stick. Thankfully this doesn’t really apply here as Crisis isn’t something that can be kept a secret considering what is actually coming and what it means for everyone involved so no time is wasted in making sure the team knows as much about what to expect as possible.
One important detail is left out; the fact that Barry has to die which on the surface seems frustrating but there is actually a good reason for it. The previous episode was about Barry coming to the realisation that the only way the universe will survive is if he dies saving it. Barry is comfortable with the fact that he has to make that sacrifice and is willing to do so in order to protect the people he loves as well as everyone else in the universe. The reasoning behind leaving that detail out is that the team might expend time and energy on finding a way to avert the Crisis while keeping him alive which Barry doesn’t believe to be possible. If they don’t know about his death then they’ll focus on the Crisis itself and stand a greater chance of figuring out how to stop it. Even though it’s another secret being kept it’s one that makes logical sense.
A large part of the episode is about how keeping that secret makes Barry and Iris feel. Barry spends most of the episode working with Killer Frost in an effort to prepare the team for life without him. He notices that Frost takes the news the hardest so resolves to start with her and he has his work cut out for him as she’s consumed by anger. We seem to be in a pattern of “Frost learns another lesson about being a well rounded person” type weekly stories which makes sense given her arc around learning to live a life but runs the risk of becoming redundant very quickly. It’s not a criticism of this episode as it hasn’t happened yet but it will be easy to fall into that pattern and have her life lessons come across as mechanical rather than a natural development of the life she’s building for herself.
This is a really good example of Frost learning life lessons. Working with Barry on the case of the week allows plenty of opportunity to show off how impatient she is with slow moving investigations. She leaps to conclusions at the initial crime scene and wastes no time in accusing Ramsey Rosso of stealing the Dark Matter. Once Barry probes further into her behaviour she opens up about not wanting to die just as she’s starting to figure out how to live and lists fairly mundane things we might take for granted such as figuring out what her favourite song is, her favourite flavour of ice cream or experiencing a birthday party. These are all things that make up who we are and Killer Frost has perhaps the worst case of arrested development since she has been trapped inside Caitlin for so long. It’s interesting to note that Caitlin lets her make mistakes and learn to deal with them on her own without intervening so she was completely serious about letting Frost have this chance.
She’s also smart enough to see through Barry’s obvious deflections of talking about the future. He may not tell her he’s not going to be around but he’s not exactly subtle when it comes to implying it. Anyone would be able to pick up on what he actually means and Frost is really casual about telling him that she knows what’s happening to him. It could be seen as Barry being subconsciously uncomfortable with the deception and constantly slipping up as a result.
As for Ramsey; his arc runs parallel to Barry’s. Both are facing certain death but have different perspectives on how to face that inevitability. Barry wants to spend every moment he has left with his loved ones and saving as many people he can where Ramsey is alone, desperate and obsessed with finding a way to cheat death. Sendhil Ramamurthy makes Ramsey the closest he has ever been to sympathetic when he tells Barry about watching his mother deteriorate quickly before dying with a smile on his face and how he’s determined not to let that happen to him. Barry points out that his mother probably lived for who she loved which made her better able to face the inevitable but Ramsey just can’t see it that way. His motivation is simple and self serving which works really well for him as it’s easy to see why he takes certain actions. He also doesn’t have a complicated master plan so his actions are much smaller scale and the biggest threat he represents at the moment is his anonymity as well as his lack of familiarity with his own powers.
It’s really refreshing to see Barry act intelligently in dealing with Ramsey. He senses the desperation in him and engineers a scenario where he’s alone with the Dark Matter in order to test him. Naturally he does what you would expect someone obsessed with obtaining Dark Matter to do and Barry wastes no time in confronting him. He isn’t entirely behind this week’s problem -even if he did cause it- but he is one for the future and this episode takes the chance to build up to it by putting Barry in a position to be wary of him in the future. There’s also the suggestion that he can be redeemed when he accepts Barry’s offer to help do some good and save lives.
The villain of the week, Mitch Romero (Shawn Stewart) is very much a force of nature with no character which makes the confrontations with him feel somewhat bland. He doesn’t feature heavily and is dispatched really quickly in a way that allows Frost to apply the lesson she has learned in a practical sense. The major difference here is that no effort is made to suggest that Romero is anything but a mindless destructive force so the villain story is more about Ramsey taking advantage of opportunities and furthering his own plot which works well enough.
Iris has her own reminder about the importance of honesty when Allegra brings her a tip that Harrison Wells is still alive and she takes the information from her so that Allegra doesn’t learn any more about it. It’s understandable that she would do that because the existence of the Multiverse is a lot to tell someone but it doesn’t alter the fact that she’s wilfully hiding information from her new intern. Once Allegra finds out it really upsets her as she thought she was dealing with a person of honesty and integrity. She talks about knowing a liar when she sees one and identifies Iris as one before threatening to quit. It does become the large scale example of Iris understanding the knock on effect being untruthful has even if she realistically should have learned that lesson a number of times by now. In this context it works as it forces her to consider how the rest of the team will feel when the truth inevitably comes out. Allegra talking about how journalists have a responsibility to report the truth rather than reframe it hits Iris hard and makes for a really profound point.
This episode marks the debut of a brand new Harrison Wells. This one goes by Nash and is a swashbuckler akin to Indiana Jones looking for something called Eternium. He starts off confrontational and pretty much ends the episode that way as he escapes to continue on his quest. So far so good on this Wells. It’s a fully formed all season version of the character so Tom Cavanagh puts a lot of effort into his performance and seems to be having a lot of fun with it. Having a Wells around makes the show feel that little bit more complete.
Ralph’s mother, Debbie (Amy Pietz) is introduced as a means to an end for Ralph in his journey towards emotional availability. There’s not much to this beyond she gets arrested and Ralph finds out she’s lied to him for years about the death of her various boyfriends. This was all done to protect him because of how distraught he was when his father left and how much he bonded with the first boyfriend she had after that. It’s a very strange plot that doesn’t really work because this is the first time this has been mentioned. It’s also worth noting that Ralph has already been through this arc which completed when he accepted Team Flash as a family he wanted to stick with. Before that point he was aloof and self serving so adding this on doesn’t really feel as if it has a purpose. It does allow for some great work from Hartley Sawyer conveying Ralph’s feelings of betrayal and ties into the idea of how secrets can impact people but that on its own doesn’t make a confusing plot worthwhile.
A strong episode that does a good job focusing on how Killer Frost reacts to learning about the coming Crisis while doing a compelling exploration of the impact of secrets. Using Killer Frost’s journey towards building a life as a way to show how knowing about the coming Crisis impacts the team works brilliantly because it ties in nicely with how little life experience she has actually had. She lists a bunch of mundane things we all take for granted that she doesn’t know about herself and it provides a source of anger for her throughout the episode until Barry is finally able to get her to open up about it and admit what she wants from life. Ramsey Rosso is pushed further into the forefront when the arms dealer he killed in the previous episode comes back as a zombified force of nature. His involvement isn’t known but Barry catches him trying to steal Dark Matter and Killer Frost is very suspicious of him. This sets up a parallel struggle for Ramsey and Barry as they are both dealing with certain death but react to it differently with Barry wanting to spend the time he has left with those he cares about as a contrast to Ramsey wanting to preserve his own life at any cost. The differences in perspective for them is compelling and this episode is the closest Ramsey becomes to sympathetic so far. It’s also refreshing to see him behaving intelligently around Ramsey and not needing to be led into being suspicious.
Iris gains a reminder of the importance of honesty and the impact of secrets when Allegra brings her information about a Harrison Wells sighting, Iris takes it off her hands and promptly lies about it. She doesn’t back down from the dishonesty but is moved by Allegra’s words about the responsibility that comes with being a journalist. The new Harrison Wells is good so far with an excellent performance from Tom Cavanagh indicating he is taking this version very seriously. The introduction of Ralph’s mother is unnecessary as it repeats an arc that Ralph has already completed around allowing himself to become close to other people. Hartley Sawyer’s acting in this episode is excellent and it does link into the main theme but that doesn’t make it worthwhile.
- a justified reason for keeping important information secret
- Killer Frost’s anger at all the things she might never get the chance to experience
- a poignant statement from Allegra about the responsibility that comes with being a journalist
- the parallel arc for Ramsey and Barry around the acceptance of death
- Ramsey becoming more sympathetic
- the new Harrison Wells
- Ralph going through an arc he has already been through
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