The Flash -- "Dead Man Running" -- Image Number: FLA603b_0393b.jpg -- Pictured (L-R): Danielle Panabaker as Killer Frost and Grant Gustin as Barry Allen -- Photo: Jeff Weddell/The CW -- © 2019 The CW Network, LLC. All rights reserved

If Oliver is the father of the Arrowverse, Barry must be the cool uncle. The Arrowverse sprung forth from the work of the team behind Arrow, and The Flash carried the torch as the Arrowverse expanded. Supergirl, Black Lightning, and Batwoman all seem blissfully unaware of the coming Crisis (Batwoman is back in time a ways, anyway).

Oliver and Barry, meanwhile, have to come to terms with the future. Both know it’s inevitable, and Barry knows – knows – that he will die. He’s seen the billion possible futures to come, and knows that the only one where his universe survives is the one where he dies. That’s tough – to know that out of the countless lives in the universe, yours is the one fulcrum point that the survival of so many others counts on. It weighs heavily on the speedster. Spoilers follow for The Flash season 6, episode 3, “Dead Man Running.”

“Dead Man Running”

While the Crisis weighs heavily on Barry and Iris, though, the rest of the world is blissfully unaware. This episode has the coming Crisis acting as an undercurrent to the more pressing matters.

While Ramsey Rosso has been working in the shadows for the first two episodes, the third episode brings him into the light for the first play on the episode’s title. A grisly attack on a warehouse leaves a bunch of gangsters dead. Their weapons have been emptied of their dark matter ammo, and the goons themselves are in pieces. Some ultra-coagulated blood left on the scene of missing dark matter points Frost (no more Killer, thanks) back to her friend Ramsey, who just happened to be using dark matter to work on his blood illness.

Frost and Barry have different approaches to situations like this. Frost is at Ramsey’s throat with her razor-sharp ice blades, and Barry is after her a moment later, scolding her. Throughout this scene, it’s hard not to look at Barry as gullible. Frost clearly knows this guy and is no longer the type to randomly threaten people. It feels like Barry is almost purposely ignoring her. Is it a misguided attempt to stay positive? I’m not sure. During this interrogation, Ramsey name-drops the first of two DC references in this episode. He mentions he got some help from someone named Ted Kord. You might know him better as the Blue Beetle.

Also Dead Man Running

After things cool down, Barry invites Ramsey back to Star Labs to work on the blood samples they’ve collected. Once in Star Labs, Ramsey wastes no time trying to steal more dark matter, though Barry catches him immediately. Despite being a poor thief, Ramsey is still an intelligent doctor and an observant one, too. He quickly spots that Barry, like him, is a dead man running for his life.

The two argue over what to do about that. Ramsey wants to fight for his life, while Barry wants to cherish what he has left. Barry talks Ramsey into putting it back and working together to figure out the blood samples. They belong to the guy Ramsey killed last week with his new power, Mitch Romero. Romero finds Ramsey in Star Labs quickly, and Ramsey figures out that they’re connected and that he can control Romero by influencing the blood in his body.

Barry interrupts the discovery, though, and he fights Romero with Frost. The two end up overloading him with dark matter, causing him to explode like a gusher fruit snack.

Levity for the proceedings

While all this is going on, Ralph finds his mother Debbie waiting in CCPD’s holding on charges of burglary. I question here why Cecile didn’t use her powers to get a read on Debbie, because she’s super shady. The trio go on an adventure to an underground casino and Ralph discovers that his mom has been lying to him about her boyfriends in order to protect him from being hurt.

Iris and Cisco, meanwhile, are tracking down Harrison Wells #3,548. Iris’ new intern, Allegra, spotted him on a security camera. As usual, it’s good to have Tom Cavanaugh back, and he’s fun without being quite so goofy. This one, Harrison ‘Nash’ Wells, is sort of like a cyber-Indiana Jones. He’s searching for Eternium, the second DC name-drop. Eternium is a piece of the shattered Rock of Eternity, the place where Shazam gets his power.

While Frost is helping Barry out, she’s also dealing with a crisis of her own: she’s only just started living, and now the world is about to end. Last week, she was dealing with expressing her emotions at all. This week she’s having difficulty controlling them. She tells Barry about how she’s just now getting to experience life and doesn’t get to do normal stuff like celebrate a birthday.

Don’t forget about the Crisis

The episode closes out with Barry throwing her a party, during which he tells team Flash the truth about the Crisis – that he has to die for everyone else to live. The Crisis will continue to underscore the season with a sense of dread even as we find light moments. The episode is filled with these little pauses. Barry and Frost getting splashed with viscera, Cisco getting punched out by Nash, and Ralph’s elastic arm snaking under a door to plug in a USB drive all bring levity to the proceedings. It feels like the characters are making a concerted effort to find happiness even as doom approaches, rather than wallowing in dread. The tone of this season is very different so far.

Also, a favorite moment: Ralph, upon finding out about the Crisis, calls the Monitor an Asgardian cosplayer, and I can’t unsee it.

I’m enjoying the optimistic tone of The Flash season 6, and I hope it continues. At this moment, I genuinely don’t know whether Barry will live or die. Unlike so many other heroes, Flash is canonically not just Barry Allen. Replacing the show’s main character would be an unorthodox move to be sure, but not unheard of in the Flash’s history. That the writers seem to have hit a stride with all this doom and gloom coming feels right, and it’s keeping me invested in the season as we rush forward to December 10th.

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