Friday, October 25, 2019

The Flash Season 6, Episode 3: Dead Man Running

Welp, it had to happen sooner or later. After two good episodes, we get the first dud of Season 6 this week on The Flash.

Like most of the show's most forgettable episodes, Dead Man Running is all talk and setup, with little or no action as it takes ten minutes worth of story (if that) and pads it out into forty two. 

The writing this week was also strangely vague and ambiguous especially any scene involving Ramsey Rosso. I watched the episode twice and still have no idea what he's trying to accomplish or just how his powers work.

Among the episode's many superflous plotlines:

— Ralph's mom Debbie pays him a visit, and tells him it's high time he had a girlfriend.

— Frost moans that she's never had a birthday.

— Allegra's pissed that she doesn't become a Nobel Prize-winning reporter on her first day.

— Barry's reluctant to tell Team Flash he's scheduled to die in the Crisis.

Any or all of these could have been cut out completely without harming the episode one bit.

There were a couple of story arcs this week that were actually somewhat important. The first was Barry's meet cute with Ramsey Russo, aka Bloodwork. I'm assuming the writers are attempting to establish a relationship between the two of them, so it'll be all the more tragic when Ramsey suddenly but inevitably betrays Barry.

The other relevant plot was the introduction, however brief, of this season's version of Harrison Wells. And not a moment too soon either, as Tom Cavanagh's absence has been keenly felt the past two weeks.

But it's not all bad news! Earlier this week, Hot Toys announced that after six seasons, they're finally releasing a high end, 1/6 scale action figure of the Flash! It's based on the Season 1 and 2 costume, and will feature several sets of hands in different poses, clear plastic lightning effects and an alternate, unmasked head sculpt of Grant Gustin. Cool! Start saving your pennies now!


The Plot:
Gat (the high tech arms dealer from Into The Void) and his men break into a warehouse and begin stealing dark matter guns. Suddenly the lights go out, and they're attacked by Mitch Romero (the zombified dealer from the previous episode), who dismembers and kills them all.

At STAR Labs, Barry tells Cisco, Ralph and Frost about his peek into the future and how he saw them all die. He says the Crisis is now scheduled to happen in two months rather than in 2024. In true The Flash fashion though, he doesn't tell them the whole truth, as he leaves out the part where he has to die in order to save the universe. After the others leave, Barry tells Iris he has to prepare Team Flash to go on without him.

Ralph gets an alert from Joe and heads for CCPD. There he finds his mom Debbie Dibney is under arrest for robbing a pawn shop owner. Cecile, who's now a meta defense lawyer, takes an interest in the case (even though Debbie's a normal human). Debbie says she was at the pawn shop that day, but left at 5pm— several hours before the place was robbed. She reluctantly admits she spent the remainder of the day at a gambling den. Ralph says all they need to do is visit the den and get their security tapes to prove his mom's innocence. 

Barry remembers he's a CSI and investigates the warehouse robbery/massacre. For some reason he brings Frost with him, who wears a cunning disguise consisting of a baseball hat. Barry finds a mysterious tar-like substance at the scene. He also discovers the guns the thieves were attempting to steal have been drained of dark matter, and wonders who'd steal such a thing? A knowing look spreads across Frost's face.

Cut to Ramsey Rosso in his lab, as Frost appears behind him and holds an ice dagger to his throat. She remembers him asking Caitlin for dark matter, and asks why he slaughtered the arms dealers. Barry runs in and demands she release Ramsey, as there's no hard evidence he committed a crime. Frost reluctantly releases him, as Barry notices Ramsey's labs been torn up (by Mitch). Ramsey fumbles an explanation that he was robbed. 

Barry finds the same mysterious black substance in the lab, and figures the robber was the same one who killed the dealers.  Ramsey offers to help analyze the black substance, and Frost warns Barry not to trust him. Barry says if there's any chance that Ramsey can help save people, he'll welcome his assistance. 

In the episode's Z-plot, Sine-Aid, er, I mean Allegra reports to Iris at The Citizen. She has a hot tip that Harrison Wells (!) broke into McCulloch Industries and robbed it. She wants to write up the story, but Iris has to gently tell her it's still her first week and she's not yet ready.

At the gambling den, Ralph, Debbie & Cecile approach the owner Tony and ask to see his security cam footage. He agrees— for $5,000. As they don't have that much money, it would seem Debbie's going to prison. Ralph sees a poker game going on in the corner, and suggests they play to earn the $5,000.

Amazingly, Barry brings Ramsey to STAR Labs so he can help analyze the tarry substance. Barry says CCPD identified the DNA at the warehouse as that of Mitch Romero, a known Central City arms dealer. Just then there's a meta alert at Mercury Labs.

At Mercury, the zombified Mitch kills two guards and steals a vial of dark matter, which he shoves into a glowing wound in his chest. He's immediately supercharged, growing even stronger. Suddenly Barry and Frost zoom to the scene. As Barry tries to meta-cuff him, Mitch knocks him across the room. Frost hits Mitch with an ice blast, knocking him out the twenty story window. 

Barry screams in horror and tells Frost it's not nice to murder people, and says she's letting her anger get the better of her. She looks out the window and sees Mitch is gone, meaning he's some kind of meta. Barry refuses to let her off the hook, saying she didn't know that when she blasted Mitch.

At the gambling den, Debbie plays poker with the help of Cecile's empathic powers. Somehow they end up losing anyway (?). Meanwhile, Ralph finds out that the security footage is on a flash drive in Tony's office, and stretches his arm under the door to steal it. Which makes the whole poker plot completely pointless. 

Cisco uses facial recognition to track the alleged Wells to an alley. He and Iris arrive there to check it out. Suddenly they're ambushed by Harrison "Nash" Wells, who's clearly from another Earth. He says he's searching for something, and is using his high tech wrist gauntlet to find it. He detects unusual particles on Iris, but before he can act, she tases him and knocks him out.

Meanwhile, Ralph, Debbie & Cecile watch the stolen security footage. Unfortunately it shows that Debbie left the den at 9:30— meaning she's still a suspect in the pawn shop robbery. She reluctantly admits she spent the rest of the night with Marv Perez, her ex-boyfriend. For some reason she told Ralph that Marv died, and says she lied about the deaths of all her old boyfriends to him. This gives Ralph icky bad feelings and he tells her to get the hell out. 

At STAR, Ramsey tells Barry that the more dark matter Mitch absorbs, the stronger he gets. While Barry's distracted, Mitch steals some dark matter samples that just happen to be lying around. Barry catches Ramsey red-handed and realizes Frost was right about him. Ramsey admits he's dying from HLH, but he's doing everything in his power to fight back. Barry says he understands what it's like to know you're going to die, and Ramsey returns the dark matter.

Iris and Cisco take Nash to The Citizen. When he wakes, they explain they know about the Multiverse, and have met the Council Of Wellseses. Nash says he's on Earth-1 searching for an artifact made of Eternium— the same particles he detected on Iris. Cisco says whenever a new Wells appears that things always start out rocky between them, and suggests they skip over that part and become friends. Nash actually releases a smoke bomb and escapes!

Allegra spots Wells inside The Citizen and tells Iris she quits, saying she can't work for a liar (?). Iris says she can't tell her the truth about Nash yet, but eventually will. Allegra says journalists are supposed to always tell the truth, and says she'll see her later. Was this character really necessary?

Back at STAR, Frost is angrily throwing a fit. Barry demands to know what's bugging her. She says she's pissed off to find out that they're all going to die right as she's finally started living. She whines that she's never even had a birthday party of her own. Barry sensitively tells her we're all gonna die sometime, so whaddya gonna do. Somehow that makes her feel better.

Meanwhile, Ramsey's still experimenting in the STAR Labs lab. He hears a strange noise and spots a broken air duct. Suddenly he's attacked by Mitch, who begins choking him. Ramsey croaks out a weak "stop," and miraculously Mitch does so. He then notes that Mitch is mimicking his every movement. I guess because they both have dark matter in them, that Ramsey can control Mitch? It's all very muddled. 

Suddenly Barry comes in, sees Mitch and coaxes him away with a dark matter sample. He lures Mitch into the STAR Labs Secret Super Jail and locks him in a cell. Mitch begins pounding on the door, and amazingly shatters it. Frost suggests giving Mitch ALL the dark matter they have, which should cause him to overdose on it. For no good reason Barry believes her, and does just that, pounding the vials into Mitch's wound at superspeed. Mitch howls in pain and explodes, spattering blood and guts all over Barry and Frost. 

Barry checks to makes sure Ramsey's OK, and tells him to call if he ever needs to talk. So... good luck with the HLH, I guess?

Debbie returns to Ralph's office to apologize, saying she knew her relationships were all doomed, so she ended them before she could be hurt. She says she's sorry she inadvertently caused him any pain. She tells him to start looking for love and not to worry about her. Paging Ralph's Upcoming Love Story Arc!

Back in his own lab, Ramsey says he no longer needs dark matter. He holds up a sample of Mitch Romero's dark, tarry blood, and deduces it has the ability to heal damaged cells. He shatters the vial, and the blood crawls across the room and seeps into his hand. He growls that he needs more. 

Cisco, Ralph and Iris return to STAR, where Barry's throwing Frost a birthday rave— complete with dozens of known criminals (including Norvok!).

After the party, Barry gathers Team Flash and tells them that he has to die in the Crisis to save billions of lives.

Meanwhile, Nash uses his tracker to return to the alley. He opens a manhole cover and peers down into it.

• Great confusion seems to surround the question of just how the Caitlin/Killer Frost dynamic actually works. 

Last week I noted that once Frost took control of Caitlin's body, it's like she's experiencing everything for the first time. I found that odd, as I just assumed that even when Frost wasn't in control, she was still in Caitlin's head passively observing everything that was going on. 

Based on Frost's comments, it seems she's either unconscious or even non-existent when she's not in control! So I guess that means Caitlin's mind is in limbo, now that she's not behind the mental wheel.

But wait! This week's episode implies that's not the case at all! At one point Ramsey asks Frost if he can speak to Caitlin. Frost replies that she can hear him "if she wants to."

If Caitlin is aware of everything even when she's not in control, then the same should apply to Frost. Which means she's been aware the whole time, and should already know how to "live her own life."

• Ralph's mom Debby Dibney's played by Amy Pietz, who you may remember from Caroline In The City and a guest stint on The Office. Pietz is currently fifty years old. Hartley Sawyer is thirty four. If we assume the characters are the same age as their actors, that means Deb had Ralph when she was just sixteen. 

At first I thought that seemed pretty young, but given Debbie's self-admitted wild & carefree lifestyle, having a kid at sixteen doesn't seem out of the realm of possibility.

• The zombified arms dealer in this episode is named "Mitch Romero." Yeah, they went there. 

Ralph's mom Debbie also talks about her old boyfriend "Marv Perez." That's an obvious nod to writer Marv Wolfman and artist George Perez, who produced the Crisis On Infinite Earths comic miniseries. They also created The New Teen Titans comic in the 1980s.

• When Barry inexplicably takes Frost out on a CSI case, she wears a Patented Marvel Cinematic Universe® disguise, which consists of a baseball cap and... well, that's pretty much it.

This brings up a good point— Killer Frost is a known felon in Central City, right? Ramsey certainly thinks so, when he first sees her. So why doesn't she get arrested every time she goes out in public to "live her best life?" For that matter, you'd think the police would constantly be mistaking Caitlin for Frost as well.

• Barry & Ramsey share quite a few dull, tedious conversations in this episode, that go on for three and a half hours. You could take every one of their interminable scenes and boil them down to:

Ramsey: "I'm dying and I need help to find a cure."
Barry: "Good luck with that, LOL."

• Boy, that dark matter has some amazing— and contradictory— properties. At the beginning of the episode, Frost somehow knows that dark matter makes Mitch Romero stronger. Later on Ramsey says he can use gene splicing to "negatively charge" Romero's cells, which will weaken him. Then late in the third act, Frost says if they inject ALL the dark matter they have into Romero, he'll overdose on it. Comic Book Science!

• When Ramsey mentions he used dark matter in his experiment, Frost suspiciously asks where he got it. Ramsey says, "From an old colleague. Ted Kord. He was actually willing to help me with my research."

Kord's been mentioned before, mostly over on Arrow. In the comics, Ted Kord is the superhero known as Blue Beetle. He's sort of like Iron Man, as he uses his fortune to create a high tech costume and crime fighting gadgets. 

I wouldn't mind actually seeing Blue Beetle appear on the show!

• Credit where it's due: When Barry first encounters Romero, he zooms up behind him and superspeed and slaps a pair of meta cuffs on him. Yes! It doesn't work, of course, as Romero manages to wriggle out of them or something and knock Barry across the room.

Regardless, the point is that Barry used his powers here exactly as he should have in that scene. Exactly as he should have used them against both Cicadas in EVERY GODDAMNED EPISODE OF SEASON 5! That right there is one of the many, many reasons why the previous season was so frustrating. Barry would just stand around staring at Cicada instead of actually doing something, giving him ample time to fly off.

• As usual, murder doesn't seem to be a crime in the Arrowverse. Or at least it's not for the members of Team Flash. When Romero attacks Mercury Labs, Frost blows him out the window with an ice blast, seemingly killing him. 

Barry mistakenly believes Frost just murdered Romero, not knowing he was already dead. So what does he do about it? Call the police? Slap a pair of meta cuffs on her? Zoom her into a cell at STAR Labs? Nope! Instead he scolds her by screeching, "Frost! That cannot happen again!"

• When the gambling boss demands $5,000 for the security footage, Debbie gives up. Ralph refuses to quit though, saying they can earn the money to exonerate her. Cecile then points adorably to her head and says, "Um, excuse me, down here. How exactly are we going to earn it?"

It's a pretty funny moment, and nice to see Danielle Nicolet has a sense of humor about her diminutive size.

• Ralph squeezes his hand under the gambling boss' door, and somehow manages to blindly feel around and find the flash drive in a large room full of objects. Sure, why not.

• Allegra shows Iris a security cam photo of Harrison Wells sneaking around McCulloch Industries. Iris looks at the photo and realizes that yet another version of Wells is now running around on Earth-1. Later on she and Cisco use a scanner to hunt for him.

Wait... why do they automatically assume this is a Harrison Wells from another Earth? How do they know it's not Eobard Thawne, who's still at large out there somewhere? Last we saw of Thawne he was wearing Wells' face again, so... 

Iris & Cisco are damn lucky their boneheaded assumption was right and they didn't blunder into the Reverse Flash!

• Cisco uses a hand-held scanner to search for the new Wells. I'm wondering if The Flash crew just took some real-world item and glued some bits & pieces to it, or if it's a custom-built prop. It doesn't look like anything I've ever seen before, but that doesn't necessarily mean anything. Most likely it's a smart phone with some customized housing around it.

• Most of the time The Flash is pretty good about hiding the faces of its stunt people. This scene was not one of those times. That is most definitely not Tom Cavanagh rappelling down a zip line (zoom in for a better look).

The same thing happened a few minutes later, when the Secret Super Jail explodes and knocks "Barry" on his ass. Yeah, not even close to Grant Gustin, guys.

And while we're on the subject of the Super Jail, what the hell? How in the name of Stan Lee's Toupee was Mitch Romero shatter the door simply by pounding on the glass? Isn't the Super Jail built to hold metas? Doesn't it supposedly suppress any and all super powers? So how'd Romero escape it so easily? Does the power dampening technology not work on dead people?

• So, Nash Wells. It's way too early to make any kind of judgement about the character, as we only saw him for two minutes in this episode. At the very least he isn't sporting an outRAgeous accent like Sherloque, so that's a plus!

• As near as I can tell, Nash is the FIFTEENTH version of Harrison Wells to appear on the show so far.

• Nash claims he's come to Earth-1 looking for Eternium. Believe it or not, that substance is actually from the comics. In 1998's Legion Of Super-Heroes #110, the Rock Of Eternity (located in the secret lair of Captain Marvel, aka Shazam) is destroyed. The shards of the broken Rock are called Eternium. Exposure to Eternium causes Captain Marvel to lose his powers— just like Superman and Kryptonite.

I'm assuming Eternium will likely have a different backstory and affect here on The Flash, since there's no Captain Marvel in the Arrowverse.

• At one point Nash corners Cisco and threatens him with a large ruby, telling him it causes horrible nightmares in its victims. In the Sandman comic, the character of Dream possessed a large, nightmare-inducing ruby. 

This is likely just a throwaway gag, as again, there's no Sandman or Dream in the Arrowverse.

• Per Frost's bright idea, Barry injects Romero with ALL the dark matter in STAR Labs, which causes him to explode in a fountain of gore. Barry & Frost react with disgust as they're deluged by his remains.

Gosh, if only either of these metas had the power to speed away in the blink of an eye, or create a protective shield out of ice. Ah well.

• For decades, the Elongated Man was one of the very few married superheroes in all of comicdom. He and his wife Sue Dibney often went on missions together, ala Nick & Nora Charles.

Ever since Ralph was introduced on The Flash, fans have been clamoring to know when Sue would appear on the show. Based on Debbie prodding Ralph to hurry up and find love already in this episode, I'd say it's inevitable that Sue will show up any week now.

• At the end of the episode, Barry throws Frost her first ever birthday bash, inside STAR Labs. She invites all her old friends, many of whom are wanted criminals. STAR Labs is an allegedly secure facility filled with dangerous high-tech weapons and devices. Does it seem like a good idea to fill it up with dozens of thieves and other security risks? I hope Cisco locks his lab when he's not at work!

And why the frak is Norvok there? Yeah, he kind of redeemed himself last season in Seeing Red, but he's tried to kill the various members of Team Flash several times over the years. 

Even if they've all kissed and made up, there's the matter of his identity. At the end of the aforementioned Seeing Red, Norvok and dozens of other superpowered inhabitants were resettled and given new identities to protect them from Cicada— basically a Meta Witness Protection Program. Wouldn't partying with Frost back in Central City blow his new cover? Or is that all moot now that Cicada's been killed (twice)?

• By the way, Frost mentions she's thirty and never had a birthday party of her own. Sure enough, Caitlin turned thirty earlier in 2019 in King Shark Vs. Gorilla Grodd.

• Barry has absolutely no trouble telling Cisco, Ralph and Frost that he saw them die in his future glimpse of the Crisis. Yet for some reason he can't bring himself to tell them that he found out he has to die to save the world. Apparently he believes he's far more important than the three of them combined.

• So basically Ramsey Rosso/Bloodwork is Venom. Got it.

By the way, whenever I want to test an unknown substance on myself, I don't inject it with a syringe, laws no! Instead I hurl it against the wall, then wait while it extends a pseudopod and seeps into my palm.

• In the tag scene, Nash returns to the alley, pulls up a manhole cover (excuse me— person cover) and peers down into the sewer. I dunno about anyone else, but this scene was giving me strong "Locke Peers Down Into The Hatch" vibes.

This Week's Best Lines:
Not very many this week.

Ralph: (referring to The Monitor) "So what else did our Asgardian cosplayer say?"

Ralph: "Look, Cecile, yes, my mom has an eventful past, but..."
Cecile: "Okay, robbery, larceny, bribery, fourteen allegations." 
Debbie: "Not a single charge, Miss Perfect Hemline."
Cecile: "Thank you."

Barry: "There's always gonna be a crisis, or some meta-human that's threatening to take away the life that you love. Truth is, we're all living on borrowed time."
Frost: "So, what, everybody feels this crappy all the time? That actually does kind of make me feel better."

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