The Flash returned this week with almost a “re-pilot” of the six-year-old series. It featured the debut of a new big bad, a clearer understanding of a on-going plot teased earlier this season, and the first real adventure for Iris West-Allen’s (Candace Patton) Team Citizen. All of which was showrunner Eric Wallace’s plan for the second half of season 6 — or as he put it when he talked to Rotten Tomatoes recently, “graphic novel No. 2.”
As opposed to previous seasons in which one major villain recurred throughout (that is, Reverse-Flash or Cicada), Wallace set out to design two distinct stories with two distinct antagonists. Graphic novel No. 1 saw Barry (Grant Gustin) facing off against — and empathizing with — Bloodwork (Sendhil Ramamurthy), while graphic novel No. 2, as revealed in this week’s “Marathon,” sees The Flash and Team Citizen uncovering the mystery of Black Hole. And much as how Bloodwork related to Barry’s journey ahead of the Crisis, the terrorist organization known as Black Hole will relate to the Team Citizen’s story going forward.
“We were looking for a way to tell a Team Citizen story, not just a Team Flash story,” Wallace explained. “That’s one of the important things in these first few episodes of the season. They are going to have a real story, and so when we started coming up with the threat for the season, we had to include one that also included Team Citizen in an absolutely indispensable way.”
The intention to give Team Citizen a story led to the inclusion of Black Hole, a fairly recent addition to the DC Comics canon in a story that, in fact, focused on Iris.
“It was just one of those serendipitous things that when we decided what we wanted to do character- and emotion-wise with Team Citizen, Black Hole was just terrific and it’s just paid so many dividends and so many surprises,” Wallace said.
One of those surprises was hidden in plain sight throughout “Marathon” as McCulloch Industries and its mirror tech — to say nothing of all the references to Eva McCulloch (Efrat Dor) — finally led to a new Mirror Master.
But unlike the show’s previous one-off takes on the Flash rogue, this version will be a sustained part of the story which Wallace identified as a key difference developing the character: “You have to explore them as a person. It’s always about the emotion. What does the villain want? What do they need and how does that conflict with Barry or Iris’s wants and needs?”
And it seems those needs will tie back to Black Hole’s boss, Joseph Carver (Eric Nenninger), and Iris’ emerging role in the Post-Crisis world. Wallace added that viewers are “going to be blown away by this interpretation of events. It’s nothing like they are expecting.”
Similarly, it is unclear what to expect from Black Hole itself. Their comic book counterpart specialized in using the Speed Force to create weapons, but it remains to be seen if this will be the case on television. That said, we know they can make weapons which accentuate meta-abilities, as illustrated by the new Dr. Light, Kimiyo Hoshi (Emmie Nagata) and her light-focusing disintegrator gun.
The character is another pull from DC Comics lore; in fact, she had a splashy debut in the original Crisis on Infinite Earths maxiseries. But Wallace assured us her absence from the television “Crisis” was not the primary reason she debuted in this week’s episode.
“It was always separate for us and we said let us use Dr. Light in our back half because she’s important to us,” he explained. “We’ll learn about her more and more as the season goes on.”
As long-time DC readers will note, a Dr. Light who takes pride in following orders is quite a change, but, Wallace said, “we’ll learn what her relationship is with Black Hole and obviously with Carver and what it means to follow Carver’s orders and things like that.”
He also pointed out that Earth-Prime offers latitude in changing some personality traits of the comic book characters they adopt into the show.
And since Hoshi is now the official Dr. Light of Earth-Prime, what does that mean for the previous Dr. Light, Linda Park (Malese Jow, pictured), who arrived from Earth-2 in The Flash’s second season to aid Zoom?
“Linda Park on Earth-Prime is still around,” Wallace said. “But in this new Earth-Prime, Post-Crisis world — the way history was written — Linda Park never became Dr. Light. Hoshi did.”
For fans of the character, and her relationship with Wally West in the Flash comics of the 1990s and early 2000s, the change in her history may mean a version of that story is to come. Or, at least, the option exists.
“It’s one of the things that we’ve discussed and it’s one of the things that I thought was important; it’s like ‘what if we want to go there someday?’” Wallace explained. “We need to be able to do this. Now we can.”
As “Crisis on Infinite Earths” producer Marc Guggenheim previously told us, the crossover and its world-changing events offered the producers the opportunity to make tweaks and fixes — like Linda’s new Earth-Prime life — to the various series. For Wallace, the “fixes” for The Flash include things like this, a repaired exterior for S.T.A.R. Labs, and one he found the most vital to the show Post-Crisis.
“I think the coolest thing is now all of the heroes and their families and friends from all the different shows can communicate with each other on a more casual basis,” Guggenheim said. “It used to be that Flash could only talk to Superman or Supergirl if it was the end of the world or an apocalypse or a Crisis. Now, there’s no reason why Iris and Kara can’t get coffee sometime.”
That sense of the characters dropping by in a more casual manner is on display in “Marathon” with John Diggle (David Ramsey, pictured) stopping by Central City to deliver Barry’s inheritance from the late Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) and the journey both go on as a consequence.
“I think as all the shows move forward over these next one, two, three seasons that proceed — hopefully we have those many seasons,” Wallace said, “you’ll be able to see another side of the characters, and we’ll be able to get deeper into character relationships because they’ll be able to meet up under non-Crisis circumstances. And that’s really where friendships are really born: just hanging out, having a cup of coffee, playing ping pong, or whatever.”
That sense of camaraderie definitely set Post-Crisis comics apart in the ’90s, particularly in the pages of The Flash, where Wally West benefited from the friendship and experience of Golden Age Flash Jay Garrick. And it seems some form of this bond will exist between the television Jay (John Wesley Shipp) and Barry.
“Without question, Jay Garrick is definitely alive and well with his wife Joan,” Wallace said. “I told John Wesley Shipp that because he’s like, ‘Whoa, my character’s dead, dude. You killed me in Crisis.’ I said, ‘No worries.’ As soon as we can get to it, we will see those two characters again played by John and Michelle Harrison.”
Granted, the Black Hole situation may keep the Garricks from organizing a barbecue anytime soon.
As seen in “Marathon,” other Post-Crisis changes or anomalies are already being cataloged by Cisco Ramon (Carlos Valdes). His glass marker boards offer eagle-eyed viewers the geographic positions for Supergirl’s National City and Black Lightning’s Freeland, which previously only existed on other Earths. The boards also indicate some of the changes to previous events and crossovers, like “Crisis on Earth-X” involving time-traveling Nazis clones instead of an invading army from a world where World War II never ended. Both the map and the timeline reflect charts and graphs the writers came up with while trying to understand the changes they wanted to make to Earth-Prime, but Wallace said they no longer exist in a physical space as much of this information has been “internalized” by the writers — although the actual documents remain on file with the staff’s writing assistant.
Sadly, Cisco’s journey to put all of the changes into his “Who’s Who” binder means the character will be absent for the next little while.
“It is a pause for the character [because Carlos is] not available,” Wallace explained. “But don’t worry — he is integral to the upcoming graphic novel No. 2 in ways that are really going to test him. He’s on a really great journey.”
The producer also suggested he will be a “different man” when he returns.
“His world has kind of been rocked,” he teased. “And it’ll be really interesting to see over the course of the season how he deals with the self-revelations. Not the revelations about Earth-Prime or having hush puppies with Black Lightning or whatever he does [in the world], but what he experienced emotionally. When he comes back, it’s all about how it changes him.”
In the meantime, Cisco has left Nash (Tom Cavanagh) to watch out for Team Flash. But as teased at the end of “Marathon,” the last remaining version of Harrison Wells will have a story of his own to consider; in fact, you may be wondering if Nash is the only Harrison Wells to have ever existed on Earth-Prime. Wallace said his status in the world is “a story point and you’re going to get the answer to that literally in Episode 611.”
The Flash airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on The CW.