We’ve already seen Kid Flash step up and become a hero, and now The Flash is offering us up a new hero’s origin story — and the saga of the Elongated Man began in earnest with this one. As one hero falls (or at least goes to prison for a while), another rises.
Spoilers ahead for “Elongated Knight Rises,” the latest episode of The CW’s Flash, which aired Tuesday, January 23, 2018!
“Rise up.” - Barry Allen
When word broke that Flash would be adding the Elongated Man this season, it seemed like a stretch (pun intended) for the Arrowverse to actually pull off. He’s not the best-known character, and his power set presents some unique challenges, especially on a TV budget. But likely no one could’ve predicted just how much Hartley Sawyer’s Ralph Dibny would provide a creative jolt to this series in its fourth season, expanding the core cast and introducing a fresh hero who has the potential to be just as big as the Flash or Green Arrow if given a chance (though admittedly without the built-in name recognition).
Putting Barry on the sidelines in prison — and effectively shelving the DeVoe saga for a Baddie of the Week story — “Elongated Knight Rises” put the series’ rising star front and center. Dibny is forced to step into the void left behind by the Flash and forge his own identity as a hero, with all the bumps and stumbles that come with it. After being doused with acid by the Trickster 2.0, Dibny realizes he’s not actually invincible — a realization that strikes to the core of what it means to be a hero in the first place. We saw Barry go through this type of crucible in the past, and Dibny has to reset his value set and motivations once it actually sinks in that he could die on the job. Cool stretchy powers or not.
He turns to Barry for guidance, who provides some jailhouse wisdom about the true meaning of being a hero, facing your fears, and suiting up anyway because it’s the right thing to do. After seeing Arrow’s Oliver Queen serve as Barry’s mentor in the early goings of Flash, it’s a refreshing story to see Barry mentor a protege. Yes, we’ve seen him help put Kid Flash on his path (with the character set to officially join the Legends of Tomorrow soon), but this is the first time he’s helped someone who is both his peer and (once upon a time) his superior. Barry really is becoming wise beyond his years, and is finding the confidence to pass on that wisdom accordingly.
Dibny’s moment comes in the final face-off with the Trickster and his mother Prank (and yeah, Dibny nailed the creepiness with that Oedipus complex joke, right?), when he jumps in front of potentially fatal acid in an effort to save Cisco and Caitlin. Dibny was faced with an impossible situation and chose to put the lives of others above himself. It’s the ultimate test of what it takes to be a hero, and thanks to Harry’s quick thinking to neutralize the acid, it wasn’t his final moment as a hero. It’s important to note Dibny had no idea the acid had been neutralized in that moment. He might be a bit rough around the edges, but there’s no doubt Dibny earned the respect of Team Flash in that moment. It was a big step, and it’ll be interesting to see where his story goes next as Barry remains behind bars, and especially what happens once he returns.
*This episode also provided some narrative transition into “prison stories” for Barry, by introducing a gang that doesn’t like Barry, and a burgeoning friendship with Big Sir. That connection provides a direct line to Barry’s father’s time spent at Iron Heights, and gives Barry an interesting foil to interact with behind bars. The only head-scratcher was when the gang jumped Big Sir. Seriously, even in prison, who is going to mess with Goldberg?
*The Mystery Woman from "Crisis on Earth-X" has shown up again, this time stepping up to be weird and rambling while paying for Cisco and Dibny’s coffee. Bets are still out on her real identity, with most fans expected her to be relieved as Barry and Iris’ future daughter (or some relative) down the line. We see her writing in the same bizarre script Barry was using when he came out of the Speed Force, which means she’s definitely connected in some form to either the Speed Force, the future, or both. Perhaps some type of “watcher” from the future, if not directly connected to Barry and the gang?
*Dibny finally got his new suit, and it's admittedly a bit bland. It has a few flourishes to the comic look, but mostly it's a generic leather get-up. Oh well, at least Dibny is fun, right?
*Bringing the young Trickster, Axel, back into the fold and introducing his mother was a fun distraction for a one-off villain. Interestingly enough, it also set the stage for a potential Mark Hamill return down the line to bail his supervillain family out of prison, if the Arrowverse can land the Star Wars star for another cameo appearance.
*Nice xenomorph blood reference. Gotta love the way this show just revels in its geekiness.
*It seems to be a running gag with Harry and Cisco to use some triggering event or phrase to bring Killer Frost to the surface as needed. This week? Caitlin’s childhood bully. It brings the rage quite quickly.
*The plot dictated Killer Frost and Cisco would have to be sidelined for Dibny to save the day, but having them stumble into a trap and get hit with power-neutralizing handcuffs seemed a bit silly. Even for this show. Where did the Trickster get the cuffs in the first place?
Next week: The incredible shrinking Team Flash! Hamster cage sold separately!