CW’s The Flash Could Use Way More Cecile and Way Less Ralph
***Warning: Spoilers for the episode of The Flash titled “Honey, I Shrunk Team Flash” ahead.***
Once a show has established itself over the course of multiple seasons, integrating new characters can become an extremely tough task. Not every person can effortlessly gel with the exact chemistry that hooked its audience, and the addition of an incompatible element could not only wind up to be bad, but detrimental.
One of my favorite television ensembles currently on the air is Team Flash. For four years we’ve watched this intelligent, snappy band of meta and civilian heroes come together to protect Central City while growing as a family. Wally West’s (Keiynan Lonsdale) introduction in season two proved to be an exceptional fit, tempering Barry Allen’s (Grant Gustin) by-the-book approach to heroics with his own younger, more accessible interpretation of an imperfect guy who wants to make a difference. That’s part of why his presence is so sorely missed these days: not only did he deserve to shine as Kid Flash, but he provided a balance and a motivation with which we could identify. He wasn’t as romanced by the science of it all like most of the others; he simply wanted to help.
With Wally’s seemingly prolonged absence and Barry’s stint in prison, there’s a speedster-sized hole in the heart of Team Flash and naturally, many fans are eager to see how the show plans on supplementing that loss. It appears that they plan to use the Elongated Man himself Ralph Dibny (Hartley Sawyer) as a sort of uncouth, loud-mouthed salve.
After watching tonight’s episode, “Honey, I Shrunk Team Flash,” I propose a better idea: we need way more Cecile Horton.
The district attorney, played by Danielle Nicolet, has existed in the background since the later half of season one, but became more present in the third season as her relationship with Joe West (Jesse L. Martin) flourished beyond polite professionalism. The show has done a great job of allowing her to exist outside of her relationship with Joe: audiences get to watch her work as a passionate attorney, an expecting mother over the age of 35, and now as a potential metahuman.
Her willingness to work alongside the women of Team Flash in the episode “Girls Night Out” not only showed her in an eagerly helpful light, but as an undiscovered asset. As we watch her test drive her brand new telepathic powers – sometimes adorably, sometimes annoyingly – her experience could serve as an opportunity to explore how an established couple restructures their boundaries. Plus, watching her get along so well with the team furnishes my hopes of seeing more older Black women function as superheroes. If she can learn to harness her powers without being totally invasive – even if these powers are temporary – then she could be such a welcomed addition to an already stacked team.
(Sidebar: the team will eventually get hip to Cecile suddenly acquiring the same telepathy as DeVoe so that we can all fret as a family, right? RIGHT?!)
Just imagine: Barry being out of commission for a while would leave room for Cisco/Vibe (Carlos Valdes) to step up as the leading meta, a position that he’s more than earned, Caitlin (Danielle Panabaker) could continue to learn how to navigate her identities as Dr. Snow and Killer Frost, and Cecile the Telepath (I’ll let Cisco handle the names, obviously) could continue her education under the tutelage of Central City’s meta experts.
So where would that leave the Ralph, the Stretchy One?
Well, let’s be real: have we really seen him function as an actual asset to Team Flash?
What has Ralph Dibny contributed beyond a preponderance of gross, sexist comments and entirely unhelpful anecdotes?
Yes, his powers have saved the city from devastation more than once. Still, it’s difficult to justify Ralph’s presence with two or three moments of decency when the remainder of his screen time rings like so many wasted opportunities to develop other members of the team. And as we continue to witness an overdue reckoning against sexually abusive men in multiple industries, is there really room for a man who jokingly refers to women by their body measurements, unchecked? This incarnation of Ralph Dibny makes it so difficult to really care about his journey as a new, reluctant hero. Frankly, I don’t want him here. Team Flash doesn’t seem to want him here. Why is he here?
It’s unreasonable to expect any show that aims for longevity to never change. The shows with staying power, however, figure out a way to evolve without totally alienating large sections of their audience. Give us the woman who gleefully and readily wants to contribute to Team Flash and leave the sentient silly putty with gross jokes behind.