When the powers that be announced that Elongated Man would be introduced in The Flash‘s fourth season, it felt like the show was fulfilling a promise it made in its fantastic first season. But if you just finished watching Tuesday’s episode, in which Harley Sawyer made his debut as Ralph Dibny, you might be a bit confused.
Let’s rewind: In season 1’s “Power Outage,” Harrison Wells, a.k.a. Eobard Thawne (played by Tom Cavanagh, who directed tonight’s episode), rattled off an Easter-egg-filled list of the people who were hurt in the particle accelerator explosion. Of course, Ralph Dibny was one of the names on the list, which also included Bea da Costa, a.k.a. Fire; Grant Emerson, a.k.a. Damage; Al Rothstein, a.k.a Atom Smasher; and Will Everett, a.k.a Amazing Man.
Given this conspicuous name-drop, it was definitely fair to assume that Dibny has had his stretching powers since the particle accelerator exploded. However, as we learned in “Elongated Journey Into Night,” that’s not the case: Dibny, a skeezy former CCPD officer turned P.I. and nemesis of Barry’s (Grant Gustin), was one of the metahumans created when Barry exited the Speed Force in the season 4 premiere.
What accounts for this continuity error? Executive producers Andrew Kreisberg and Todd Helbing addressed that very question after a recent press screening of Tuesday’s episode.
“I don’t remember,” said Kreisberg, laughing. “You know what? You make a lot of TV, we’re gonna say some things that we probably shouldn’t have.”
But then Helbing chimed in with an explanation: “Hello, Flashpoint!”
“Oh yeah, Flashpoint,” chuckled Kreisberg. “That’s right, Flashpoint erased that. Doesn’t matter. Changed it. Sorry.”
Ah yes, Flashpoint — the gift that keeps on giving almost a year later. In case you forgot, Flashpoint was the alternate timeline Barry created when he foolishly ran back in time to stop his mother’s murder at the end of season 2. Eventually he tried to set things right, but unfortunately the timeline didn’t revert to exactly the way it was before, and there were some changes (Cisco’s brother died and Caitlin gained powers, to name a few).
In all seriousness, Kreisberg went on to explain that they’ve wanted to introduce the famed DC Comics detective for quite some time. “Every once in a while, somebody would it bring it up as sort of an episodic thing, and we thought that he was sort of too big a deal, but what we really wanted to do was, it’s season 4, and shows can get stale,” Kreisberg said. “So we really wanted to bring somebody in and then really have it feel like something new and something different and something that you hadn’t seen a lot of on television. And not just his skill set, but also that character.”
He continued, “You know, shows that have seven years or eight years or nine years, they always have that new character come in around season 3 or season 4 or 5 that helps take you through their way. Obviously they’re not similar characters, but you know, thinking about like Faith on [Buffy the Vampire Slayer]. That was sort of our hope for Ralph.”
For more on Tuesday’s episode of The Flash, read our postmortem here.
The Flash airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on the CW.
— With reporting by Natalie Abrams.