NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “The Flash” are present in this review
The Flash saw another significant rebound in its latest episode, which finally gives us a better showcase of Season Six’s new arch-villain. “Dead Man Running” delivered a healthy mix of storylines, giving virtually every lead personality on the show something noteworthy to do, while also continuing to build nicely to this Winter’s Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover event with its core plot. Like I said though, the real star of this episode is Ramsey Rosso/Bloodwork, the supposed headlining villain for the season, who has been awkwardly shoved into other, better storylines during the season’s previous two episodes, but finally starts developing a good sense of narrative focus here, while also having his first real interaction with Barry himself.
With Barry and Iris finally delivering the news that the foreshadowed ‘Crisis’ will signal Barry’s disappearance at the end of this year, rather than in 2024 as originally indicated, Team Flash tries to process the news that everything they know and love will soon be destroyed, or so Barry’s future vision would indicate. As everyone goes to take care of their own separate business from here though, Barry decides that the first person he should try to get through to is Frost, who is dealing with anger and frustration at her difficulty assimilating into everyday life, along with Team Flash’s heroic mandates. It seems like Frost is going to be filling Caitlin’s spot on the team for the foreseeable future, but honestly, I’m alright with this. Now that Cisco has given up his Vibe identity especially, Team Flash already has a resident full-time scientist, so this logically frees up Frost to become Barry’s current sidekick, for better or for worse.
It seems to be for better in this case as well. After Central City gun runner, Mitch Romero seemingly kills several of his own goons in search of dark matter, Barry and Frost soon discover that Romero (another powered character that’s actually made up for the show, and doesn’t exist in DC Comics lore), is some sort of dark matter-addicted zombie. This is determined with some help from Ramsey, whom Barry meets for the first time here, like I said. Frost naturally distrusts Ramsey, but Barry gives him the benefit of the doubt, seemingly believing that Frost is too aggressive. This speculation ramps up when Frost seemingly kills Romero by blasting him out a window as well, which is how it’s initially determined that Romero already died, and is being re-animated by dark matter. There would naturally be some growing pains behind the dedicated Barry/Frost team-ups at first, but Barry seeing Frost as his main powered successor after he dies (presumably because Ralph is now a full-time private investigator again), helps add some good emotional weight to these struggles, since Barry is seemingly all too ready to accept his coming fate.
That ideological battle between struggling against the seemingly inevitable, or accepting one’s fate with dignity, also wonderfully comes into focus with Ramsey here, whom Barry eventually catches stealing dark matter capsules. This is when Barry sees Ramsey’s dark side for the first time, and also learns that, not only does Ramsey disagree with his mother’s open acceptance of her death at the hands of HLH, but that Ramsey himself also has the disease, and is desperately trying to save his own life. Barry does at least manage to talk Ramsey into helping him and Frost formulate a plan to round up and stop Romero as well, who naturally can’t be contained by meta cuffs or the Pipeline, and fortunately, Romero eventually overloads and explodes after Barry feeds him all of the dark matter currently available at S.T.A.R. Labs. Naturally though, this dramatic destruction for Romero isn’t quite enough to stop an increasingly desperate and amoral Ramsey, who is starting to get a grip on his blood manipulation abilities, and is slowly being twisted into a promising big bad, one that so far seems like he’s going to be a pretty big step up from The Thinker and Cicada! Hopefully, that turns out to be true.
There’s quite a few other storylines at play in this episode, like I said, though fortunately, most of them are pretty entertaining. One of these plots even manages to finally return Tom Cavanagh to the show’s ensemble as well, after Allegra finds security footage that depicts yet another Wells doppelganger skulking around. Iris and Cisco team up to confront the doppelganger, who is searching for some sort of unknown substance called Eternium on Earth-1 (another cool Shazam Easter egg for the Arrowverse!), but ultimately gets away, seemingly finding what he’s looking for in a sewer during the episode’s brief epilogue. Iris/Cisco team-ups aren’t terribly common, but this one proved to be pretty amusing. Better still is that this storyline was used to effectively put Iris in a mentor role with Allegra, after Allegra starts demonstrating an intrepid desire to report harder news, something that Iris advises against, much to Allegra’s frustration. It’s a nice way to ironically highlight Iris’ own reasons for exiting CCPN in favour of starting her own operation, while also nicely segueing her into future motherhood, which we glimpsed last season with Nora.
The only sour note in this otherwise solid episode was the Ralph/Cecile storyline, another unlikely team-up that didn’t pay quite as many emotional dividends as hoped. After Joe arrests Ralph’s mother, Debbie (this is sadly the only point that Joe appears), on a B&E charge, Ralph and Cecile are determined to get to the bottom of the case. After some shenanigans at a dive bar, it’s handily determined that Debbie is innocent as well, though at the cost of Ralph discovering that his mother lied about her boyfriend being dead. Apparently, Debbie has claimed that all of her boyfriends since the first one she had after Ralph’s father have all died, because she’s afraid to accept love. This is an interesting idea on paper, but it’s executed in a very weird way. Why the hell would Ralph not be suspicious at how many dead boyfriends his mother has apparently had? Moreover, if Debbie wanted to spare Ralph pain, how is it less painful to claim that these guys that Ralph adored are all dead?! I get that this is supposed to be a prelude to Ralph meeting his future wife, Sue Dearbon, but is this seriously the best that The Flash could do when it comes to probing Ralph’s formerly unseen family drama?
Despite that minor hiccup though, The Flash seems like it’s slowly pulling itself back together after a duo of particularly rough seasons. It’s still too early to declare that the series is back on its A-game, but it does seem like The Flash is finally on its way to giving us a better arch-villain, and better character arcs overall in Season Six. “Dead Man Running” presented an interesting villain-of-the-week, some standout early development for Ramsey as an antagonist, a strong core storyline for Barry and Frost, and more exciting teases for the upcoming Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover event. The Ralph/Cecile team-up didn’t pay off nearly as much, especially when Ralph’s drama with his mother ended up being so strangely absurd, but it’s also nice to see another Wells doppelganger finally returning to the show, even if this one seems a lot sharper than most, and especially resistant to the idea of falling in with Team Flash. It’s a bummer that we’ll probably never see Shazam or Black Adam in the Arrowverse, considering that they’ve been earmarked for Warner Bros.’ big screen DC Extended Universe at this point, but the tease of a new Harrison Wells looking for Eternium will hopefully also lead somewhere cool, even if it’s another reminder of high-profile DC personalities that will no doubt stay out of The CW’s reach.
- Ramsey starting to develop into an interesting and worthy antagonist to Barry
- More strong Crisis buildup with Barry and Frost
- Entertaining Wells-driven side plot with Cisco and Iris
- Ralph's family drama is too strange to be believable