By Chancellor Agard
August 24, 2020 at 01:38 PM EDT
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Elongated Man is slinking away indefinitely when The Flash returns next year.

In an exclusive interview with EW, The Flash showrunner Eric Wallace revealed how the CW drama will handle Ralph Dibny's super-flexible hero following the firing of his portrayer, Hartley Sawyer. The actor was dismissed in June after old racist and misogynist tweets resurfaced (Sawyer issued an apology for the comments on Instagram).

"The beauty of comic book stories and superhero stories are the conventions that heroes come and go, but they never fade away and they never disappear entirely. So we're going to treat it like we would if we were writing a comic book graphic novel. We're giving the Elongated Man a bit of a rest for while. But we will leave the door open," said Wallace. "Who knows what the future could bring. It is unknown. But I'm not saying by any means that it's the end of the character, in fact, quite the opposite. We just don't know when he will return, or in what form he will return. And that's the beauty of comic book stories. It keeps it fresh."

Before sending Elongated Man off, though, Wallace and the writers felt it was important to "honor the character." To that end, Ralph will play an important role in tying up some loose ends from season 6, which was shortened because of the coronavirus pandemic.  In the season 6 finale, Eva McCulloch/Mirror Mistress (Efrat Dor) framed Sue Dearbon (Natalie Dreyfuss) – who eventually marries Ralph in the comics — for murdering Joseph Carver.

"In order to wrap that up, which we're going to do at the top of season 7, Ralph has to be part of that. Now thank goodness, Ralph is a guy who can change faces and his appearance in many ways. Without giving any spoilers away, there are a couple of ways that we can have Elongated Man still appear in at least one episode this season to wrap that storyline up, that gets us what we need and still allows fans to say goodbye to the character, at least for the indefinite future," said Wallace.

So is the show recasting the role for the season 7 premiere? "It's funny, I guess technically it would be a recasting, but the character won't be a big part of season 7. He'll only be a part of just wrapping up the Sue storyline," said the executive producer. "Yes, one could say it is a recasting, but we're going to do it in a way that I think honors the spirit of the character and provides not only a satisfying conclusion to Sue's murder mystery, but also it's done with some humor."

Sergei Bachlakov/The CW

Losing Elongated Man did create a problem for one of season 7's planned storylines; however, Wallace turned it into, to borrow a term from DC's Legends of Tomorrow, a probltunity — meaning, an opportunity to make that arc even better.

"There was a whole storyline that involved Ralph with another character in particular going off on a two hander journey — a season-long [arc] that would have involved a whole bunch of twists and turns that would have played into the season's big bad, which I don't want to spoil. And yeah, we can't do that anymore," he said. "However, as is always the case, and this is why I like planning ahead, it turns out to be a situation of some lemons and we made lemonade out of it. We pulled the Elongated Man out of this particular storyline, and the storyline became so much stronger because now it's focused on the other character, [who] I don't want to reveal because it's a surprise."

He continued: "For that other character, it became a much more of an emotional journey. And this other character I'm referring to is one of our series regulars, so it's going to be very exciting. That particular character now gets to go somewhere that we never imagined they would until many seasons down the line, but we just pulled that up. So I think it's going to be really fun. And it was a good way to, like I said, make an awkward situation into a great opportunity that ends up making Team Flash as a whole, stronger."

Colin Bentley/The CW

Elongated Man's temporary sunsetting also raises questions about Dreyfuss' future on the series, because season 6 started laying the groundwork for Ralph and Sue's comic book mandated relationship. Thankfully, Sue isn't going anywhere.

"You're going to see Sue more than once this year even without the Elongated Man — on her own, making appearances, and helping Team Flash in an unexpected way. And it's just going to be hilarious because she was so much fun," he said.

Keeping Sue in the mix was "one of the easiest decisions I've ever had to make as a showrunner," said Wallace. "I called up Natalie and said, 'Don't worry, you're still going to be part of this season. We'll find a way.' Now, when I told her that, to be honest, I wasn't quite sure [how]. But I am happy to report we found a way."

In fact, this is yet another probltunity for the show because losing Ralph has given the writers even more freedom to put their own spin on the character.

"Now we can expand her character and give her more backstory and more growth in ways that we hadn't initially planned. [It's] really exciting to see how she's going to interact more with Team Flash once her name has been cleared — because we are going to clear her name obviously. But then what's the reason for her to come back to Central City? And that's going to be a bit of her story this season," said Wallace. "You try to take lemons and make lemonade, and suddenly, now Sue's possibilities are wide open. And we have a particular storyline that she's going to help us out with, [specifically] with one of our villains this season that we would have never gotten to had not the circumstances changed. So it is going to be, I think, fun and unexpected for the audience, as much as it was for us to write."

The Flash will return in 2021 0n The CW.

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Episode Recaps

The Flash

After the success of Arrow, Barry Allen (a.k.a. The Flash) gets his own CW treatment in this comic-themed spin-off.

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