It’s hard to believe it took this long to introduce the Elongated Man into the world of The Flash, but there’s something to be said for holding back a core character until the time is right. Ralph Dibny would never have fit into the darker Flash world of the past couple of seasons, especially with STAR Labs growing increasingly crowded during that time. Now, with the misconceived Julian Albert banished back to England and Kid Flash off on whatever journey of discovery awaits him, why not bring in a new meta with the goofy power of stretchability?
Those of us with deep memories will recall that Dibny was first mentioned early in season one as someone who was apparently killed in the accelerator explosion. That suggests his introduction was originally planned much earlier in the show’s run (and that, rather than being killed in the explosion, he became a meta), but maybe the CGI budget wasn’t quite there yet. It does create a potential continuity problem, however, as the Ralph Dibny introduced in “Elongated Journey Into Night” is established as having a preexisting antagonistic relationship with Joe and (especially) Barry. We can rationalize that away with the fact that the post-Flashpoint timeline has a number of significant variations from the original one… but still, isn’t Barry the only one who remembers those differences? Oh, well. Maybe there’s an explanation I haven’t thought of, but I’m not going to get too hung up on it.
Dibny’s character has been given something of a makeover compared to the original DC Comics version. He was always a lighthearted lover of mysteries, usually deployed as comic relief (at least up until Identity Crisis, but let’s not even open that can of worms), and that aspect has been retained here. What’s new is his backstory as a crooked cop, who ran afoul of Barry on one of his first assignments as a junior CSI by manufacturing evidence in a murder case. Barry got him bounced from the force, leaving Dibny to establish a seedy private detective agency. One crucial element that appears to be missing, at least for now, is his wife, Sue, with whom Ralph formed a Nick and Nora Charles-influenced bantering, mystery-solving team. (At least I’m assuming she’s not in the picture based on his hitting on a client.)
When it turns out Dibny was on the meta bus and the dark matter has imbued his cells with elasticity, Barry Allen the judgmental dick makes an appearance. In his defense, he has every reason to believe Dibny is a bad guy who will use his powers, once harnessed, as a villain. Planting evidence doesn’t become a good thing just because you’re pretty sure you’re framing a guilty person, so Barry was definitely in the right when he had Dibny thrown off the force, and the fact that the writers hedge their bets on that issue makes me a little queasy. By the end, however, it’s clear that Dibny is a jerk with a heart of gold, and Team Flash has an opening for just such a meta.
Stretchy effects are always going to look funny, so it’s best to lean into that, as director Tom Cavanagh and the FX team do here. When Iris enters the STAR Labs hallway and follows the long, rubbery leg all the way to its source, it’s a great visual gag. Ditto when Dibny sneezes and gets a case of runny face. (“Four years seeing this stuff, I finally puked,” says Joe in a line reading that slayed me.) It did annoy me that his face had conveniently sprung back into place (even as the rest of him was spread out all over the lab) so he could have an argument with Barry, but other moments (like the “bullet booger”) made up for it.
The B-plot didn’t do as much for me, although it had its moments. Danny Trejo goes full Machete as Gypsy’s father, interdimensional bounty hunter Breacher, but in this first appearance, at least, the character is a one-dimensional stone-faced badass. The idea of hunting Cisco for 24 straight hours doesn’t end up amounting to much, and it feels like Breacher is only there to provide an additional complication in the final showdown, when he mistakes Dibney for one of the Plastoids who destroyed his home.
For the most part, though, “Elongated Journey” is another very solid entry in what’s shaping up to be a bounce-back season. Cavanagh handles the comic timing better than most of the show’s directors (Joe blurting out, “Cecile’s pregnant,” immediately upon being rescued was perfect), and he captures the cartoon noir feel of Dibny’s world from the comics. Hartley Sawyer appears to have a good handle on Dibny’s goofy bravado, and I’m looking forward to seeing how this reshuffled version of Team Flash gels in the weeks ahead.
- There’s a reason Cisco handles the nicknames, Barry. To paraphrase Reservoir Dogs, “He’s not Plastic Man. Some guy on some other job is Plastic Man.”
- “You look like someone I once sent my daughter to kill.” “I get that a lot.”
- Barry now knows who he’s up against, to an extent: someone named DeVoe, a villain he was warned he would encounter several times last season.
- Ralph does the only logical thing once he gains control of his elasticity: gives himself six-pack abs. And, uh, I bet there’s something else he did, too.
- “I smell a mystery!” The nose wiggle was perfect.