The Flash’s Elongated Problem

The Flash has a problem.

Although to be quite honest, most shows have problems sometimes (except Westworld. Because Westworld is perfect). Every time I look up, The Walking Dead has killed off a character that the audience loves and has less plot with each season. Empire has been criticised for nonsensical soap opera plots. Game of Thrones seems to only know one Black woman and completely botched the only story involving women of colour. No show is without its problems, and they’re usually of the type we can swallow as long as we’re enjoying ourselves.

And The Flash has certainly had problems, which we have recapped. However, those are minor ones, and are unfortunately ones that we encounter throughout the Arrowverse. But The Flash’s biggest problem, which has become glaringly apparent in the back half of the fourth season, is Ralph Dibny.

The Elongated Man is a popular character in DC Comics

Ralph Dibny is a significant character in DC comics, especially to Barry Allen. He is known as one of the world’s greatest detectives and is one of Allen’s closest friends, in addition to having a famed romantic relationship with Sue Dearborn. But what he’s most known for is being Elongated Man, the superhero capable of stretching his limbs and body into superhuman lengths and sizes. He’s an important member of the Justice League and one of its greatest heroes. So while I was rolling my eyes at the thought of yet another male character being added to an already very male-heavy show, I was at least looking forward to some comic lore.

Boy, they killed that in a hurry.

Ralph Dibny (Hartley Sawyer) has managed to engulf the plot, steal all the opportunities for development, and supplant Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) as the central character, all in the space of less than a season. No less than five episodes have been dedicated to his struggle to become a hero, but he’s also been forced into other plotlines with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer and just as much grace. His journey isn’t just repetitive, it’s weak, with trite growth milestones like “Ralph learned to care about other people today,” and “Ralph learned that it’s bad when people die today.” A veritable cuckoo in the nest, he has also managed to take over the narrative position of almost every character on the show, including the lead character, and handle it terribly.

(This isn’t an attack on Hartley Sawyer, who quite frankly deserves better than portraying such an awful character).

Dibny is portrayed by Hartley Sawyer, who frankly is the only good thing about Ralph Dibny.

And what becomes apparent as the season goes on is that we didn’t actually need him. Practically everything Ralph has brought to the table this season could have been done by someone else, or solved with smarter writing than what’s been used to prop up his character thus far. So as the show winds down and prepares to go into the final round in its battle with DeVoe – not to mention as writers rooms all over network television prepare to break in the new season – I delve into how, exactly, Ralph Dibny has stretched this season of my favourite show into silliness, and how the show can snap back into shape.

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