The Flash continues to prepare for the upcoming Crisis. Not only is the hero preparing, but the show, too. And that means some lower-key, character-focused episodes. This week, Barry spends some quality time with Ralph Dibny, the Elongated Man. While Cisco has stepped away from heroics, Ralph has embraced the idea of being a hero wholeheartedly. He credits Barry with turning him around, so it makes sense that we’d get some time with the pair. In fact, it’s long overdue. But does it work in this genre format? Spoilers follow for The Flash Season 6, Episode 6, “License to Elongate.”
“License to Elongate”
Where our Cisco-focused episode leaned hard on the idea of a mistaken-identity murder mystery, this week’s episode goes hard on James Bond stuff. Because it’s Ralph Dibny (and actor Hartley Sawyer), it pushes toward comedy and self-awareness, much to its advantage.
Ralph is working on one of his cases, searching for a woman named Sue Dearbon. Eventually, Sue will become Ralph’s wife, though he doesn’t know that just yet. For now, he’s laser-focused on finding her, and Barry goes with him to help out on the case. But the place they’re going is no place for metahumans, so the pair suits up in another kind of suit to infiltrate the party.
Throughout the episode, we get all kinds of fun plays on Bond tropes. Ralph schmoozes an attractive woman, and Barry reveals that he has absolutely zero game. Then, Ralph and Barry sit down for a game of mahjong with the villain, Remington Meister, who wears eight very conspicuous rings. They have a tense conversation with the villain over their gambling game. The main conceit of this episode is that Barry is having a tough time separating himself from The Flash. Ralph is convinced that there’s no place for superheroics in this mission. Barry’s resume consists of words like genuine, earnest, and serious, though. Suave and debonair aren’t even on the list.
Do you expect me to talk?
Ralph’s lack of confidence in Barry over The Flash results in the pair’s capture, where the villain straps them back-to-back to a chair in front of a giant laser while a countdown ticks down toward the destruction of Central City. The two make it out, of course, and come up with a silly plan to stop the villain, which starts with Barry wandering drunkenly onto stage in front of literally dozens of crime lords who can spend hundreds of millions of dollars on a murder satellite.
This stuff works from moment to moment, but not as a whole package. While Ralph introduces himself as Dibny, Ralph Dibny, knock-off spy music plays. Later, while the pair wrapped up, Ralph prompts the villain with a Bond classic: “Do you expect me to talk?” “No, Mr. Dibny, I expect you to die,” replies Meister. “Oh c’mon, that’s literally straight out of a Bond movie!” Ralph protests, as if these characters all realize they’re all cosplaying while human lives hang in the balance.
A favorite moment of mine comes when Barry and Ralph are fighting Meister and Ultraviolet, the villain from a few episodes back who wears a facemask and fires ultraviolet rays. Barry challenges her with “I love Mortal Kombat!” My laugh at this was loud and genuine. The Flash is largely an earnest show, so most of the laughs are more sensible chuckles than they are out-loud laughs.
Oh right, other characters
While the be-suited gentlemen are infiltrating, a couple of other plotlines are rolling forward. Cecile Horton is no longer the District Attorney and is trying her hand at being a metahuman-focused attorney. She helps Chester Runk, the guy who opened a black hole over Central City in the season premiere, get his life back after he comes out of his coma. This plotline isn’t very interesting, but it hints at Runk joining team Flash.
The other plotline has Allegra, Iris’ new intern, helping out Nash Wells with his project to debunk the Monitor. Wells says that he “busts myths” with a straight face. Eventually, Wells spills not just the beans but the whole aisle of beans to Allegra, telling her about the multiverse and even about the Flash’s secret identity. Like Oliver over on Arrow, Nash wants to stop the Monitor, Mar Novu, as he believes the being simply travels between multiverses to spread fear and chaos.
This episode overall is okay at best. It has great moments like those I mentioned above, but doesn’t work as well as a whole. Hartley Sawyer does an admirable job holding up the episode, though, and the writers have done a great job of slowly growing his confidence and charisma with small story beats and one-on-one moments. Even if this episode is ultimately not great, it’s seeing Ralph in the spotlight is fun and Sawyer did a great job with the time the writers gave him.