Secrets are kept, and eventually exposed in this week’s character driven episode of The Flash, titled “Dead Man Running.” We get a deep dive into the psyche of our favorite snow queen, Killer Frost (Danielle Panabaker,) and are introduced to Ralph Dibny’s mom, Debbie (Amy Pietz) along with this season’s incarnation of Harrison Wells (Tom Cavanagh). It’s a lot to take in.
The episode starts at a darkened warehouse where an arms deal is about to go down. The gang is talking about their missing leader, Mitch Romero (Shawn Stewart,) who was turned into a zombie at the end of last week’s episode. But before they leave the warehouse, Mitch shows up, and brutally kills them all. I guess he’s not happy about being turned into whatever he is. Before he leaves, he steals the dark matter out of the guns that the gang was trying to move.
Meanwhile, at S.T.A.R. Labs, Barry and Iris are breaking the news to the gang that the crisis is coming. They spill the beans about seeing Monitor and the changed timeline of the crisis happening this year, but they do not reveal that Barry is going to die. You’d think after all these years, they would know that keeping secrets from their loved ones never works out well. Barry’s idea is to train the team to go on without him. The team agrees that they have to concentrate on the upcoming Crisis, but Frost does not take the news well, throwing a dagger of ice into a wall as she leaves the room.
Before the team can deal with the crisis, there is still everyday crime in Central City. Ralph is called down to CCPD where Joe and Cecile (in her new role as defense attorney) explain to Ralph that his mother, Debbie, has been arrested for robbing a pawn shop. Debbie, it seems, operates on the other side of the law, with a long rap sheet filled with petty crime. This explains the Ralph Dibny that we introduced to in Season 4. Debbie proclaims her innocence, saying she has an alibi – she was illegally gambling in joint fronted by a dry cleaners. So Ralph, Debbie, and Cecile go there to get proof that Debbie could not have robbed the pawn shop.
Barry and Frost are at the warehouse investigating that crime scene. There is not much left of the gang that Mitch killed, with body parts strewn all over the place. Barry recognizes the dark matter guns that were emptied and asked who would want steal dark matter? Frost knows exactly the right person — Dr. Ramsey Rosso (Sendhil Ramamurthy) — who had asked for Caitlin’s help obtaining dark matter in Episode 6.1. When Barry and Frost arrive at Rosso’s lab, Frost goes on the attack, and Barry quickly rebukes her – her investigative style is a bit too aggressive for Barry’s taste and remember, he is trying to train her for the team after the Crisis. Barry sees some of the bloody ooze in Rosso’s disheveled lab, and wants to take it back to S.T.A.R. Labs for analyzing. Rosso offers to help. Of course, Frost objects, but Barry accepts his offer anyway.
Iris is dealing with a mystery of her own. Her new intern at the Central City Citizen has found evidence that Harrison Wells is still alive. He was seen on security footage at the site of a break-in at McCullough Technologies and wants to go and investigate. Iris realizes that this is a Wells from another Earth, but keeps the secrets that she knows Wells and that there is a multiverse from Allegra – ordering her to stay behind and do some filing while Iris goes to investigate. Allegra is not happy at suffering the fate of most interns – doing the housekeeping while the boss goes for the glory. Girl I feel your pain!
Iris, along with Cisco, goes to the site of the break-in to find this new Wells, but it does not go as easily as planned. The new Wells arrives behind them on a zip line and immediately attacks Cisco who is trying to explain that he’s been through this before – they will start out as antagonists but end up as friends – but Wells threatens Cisco with some kind of precious stone that causes hallucinations. Wells’ wrist device starts beeping and Wells turns to Iris, saying, “It’s you,” but Iris uses a taser and Wells falls to the ground unconscious.
Barry learns the name of the perpetrator of the warehouse crime from CCPD. When he tells Frost and Rosso the name, Rosso pretends not to know him, keeping his secret that he’s the one who turned Romero into the killing machine that he is. Frost recognizes the name as an arms dealer, leaving Barry to wonder why Mitch would rob himself and steal his own weapons.
Barry is alerted to another break-in at Mercury labs, where Romero is stealing dark matter and shoving it into a bloody wound on his own chest. Flash and Frost arrive to stop Romero, but the anti-meta cuffs don’t work on him. A fight ensues, Barry is thrown to the ground, and Frost blasts Romero with ice which causes him to crash through a window. Barry is pissed. He yells at Frost that they are there to stop crime, not to kill criminals. He says he only has weeks to train her how to be a part of the team, and Frost yells back at him to stop being such a lousy teacher. Ouch!
Back at the lab, Rosso has finished the analysis of the bloody ooze. The dark matter that Romero is pushing into his body is destroying his regular cells. The more dark matter he ‘ingests,’ the more powerful he gets. As Barry leaves, he discovers that Rosso is trying to steal some of the dark matter for himself and Barry confronts him. They have an interesting exchange. Rosso spills his secrets: that he watched his mother surrender to HLH cancer, calling her a coward, and that he is dying from the same disease. Barry says he understands that Rosso is angry. Rosso tells Barry that what he sees is the pain beneath his anger – he wants to fight death. Rosso also says he sees the same resignation in Barry’s eyes that he saw in his mothers and asks where does Barry get his strength from in the face of death? Barry says he gets it from the people he loves. Rosso says it must have been hard to tell them. The look of guilt on Barry’s face says it all….
Back at the newspaper office, Harrison Nash Wells wakes up and explains to Cisco and Iris that he has been tracking the element Eternium (Hello Shazam Easter egg!). It seems that a strong signal of it is coming from Iris. Nash sets off a smoke bomb and disappears. Just then, they see that Allegra was still there. Allegra tells Iris that she quits. Iris has kept her connection to Wells a secret, and that makes her a liar. Iris needs to be honest with Allegra or she’s out of there. Iris tells her that she wants Allegra to stay and will tell her the full story when the time is right. Allegra agrees to stay, reminding Iris that they are journalists; their job is to speak the truth, not control it. (Preach!)
Ralph, Cecile, and Debbie are still in the pop-up casino at the dry cleaners. The owner will not give them the security footage to prove Debbie’s alibi without a payment of $5000. Ralph convinces his mom to play for the money, which will buy him time to elasticize himself into the owner’s office to steal the footage. It’s a fun game of poker, with Cecile using her secret meta powers to cheat by assessing the other players at the table. Ralph is able to grab the flash drive just as they are about to lose.
At Ralph’s office, they watch the security footage that reveals that Debbie left earlier and still had time to commit the robbery at the pawn shop. Scrolling ahead the outside footage shows Debbie meeting Marv Perez – a man she had dated in the past. She had told Ralph that Perez was dead. Ralph is angry and asks what other lies she has told him. Now Debbie’s secrets are revealed: she told Ralph that all of the men she dated that Ralph had grown attached to had died. All lies. Ralph gets so angry, he kicks his mother out.
Back at S.T.A.R. Labs, Barry is running through the pipeline with Rosso’s words ringing in his ears. He is obviously starting to rethink his decision not to tell the team about his impending death. He also remembers Rosso’s statement about the pain beneath his anger and this triggers a thought about Frost. Barry goes to Frost, who is angrily carving up a practice dummy and asks her what is going on with her. Frost admits her secrets: that the Crisis scares her and she does not want to die when she is just getting the chance to live. She wants to be around long enough to figure out her favorite flavor of ice cream or have her first birthday party.
Mitch Romero is also at the lab. He breaks in for more dark matter, and almost kills Rosso. While being choked to death, Rosso squeaks out the word stop and surprisingly Romero does. Rosso is shocked and notices that after Romero puts him down, he begins to move in a mirror image to Rosso. Just as they are about to touch hands, Barry walks in. He sees Romero and using dark matter as bait, lures him into the pipeline to be locked into one of the vaults. Unfortunately, it doesn’t hold because he is no ordinary meta, and Romero breaks through. Frost has the idea to keep fueling Romero’s anger with more dark matter causing him to OD. Barry races back and forth to gather all the dark matter which Romero keeps stuffing into his shoulder wound, until he literally bursts, covering both Frost and Barry with ooze. Eww.
The episode denoument:
Debbie shows up at Ralph’s office to apologize. She explains to Ralph that she lied to avoid Ralph being hurt. After his dad left, Ralph was devastated and did not want Ralph to blame her or blame himself for her failed relationships, which she ended on her own. Ralph presents her with an addendum to the Book of Ralph, to try to get her to open up and accept love, which she has not done since her husband left. She says she is not ready, but she wishes those things for Ralph – that he can be open and accept love. A touching moment and a nice way to lead into the upcoming storyline of Ralph’s future wife.
Barry throws a party for Frost, with a large guest list that she picked herself. In a quiet moment Frost finds Barry alone. She starts talking about next year’s party, and Barry says, ‘Yes, you should do that.’ Frost realizes that whenever life ‘Post-Crisis’ is talked about, Barry never talks about himself. He admits that he is going to die in the Crisis. Frost thinks he should tell the team, and Iris does too. It seems Allegra’s words about the truth have affected Iris as well. They agree to tell the team together.
Rosso goes back to his lab, now knowing that he no longer needs the dark matter for his cure. All he needs is more of the ooze that turned Romero into the zombie. He again uses himself for the human trial and the ooze enters his body, invigorating him. He smiles and says he needs more.
And finally, Wells is seen once again searching for Eternium. He lifts a manhole cover and is seen peering in, having found what he was looking for. What exactly that is will have to wait for future episodes.
Whew! There was a lot going on this week, and it’s all leading up to the upcoming Crisis. Stay tuned! Oh, and postscript: I know this column concentrates on The Flash, but I hope you are all watching Arrow too, because Oliver and the Monitor are busy making preparations for what is to come. Let us know what you think of “Dead Man Running” and your thoughts on the Crisis and the Arrowverse below.