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The Flash: Red Death Explained

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Warning: This article contains major spoilers for The CW’s The Flash Season 9 episode, “The Mask of the Red Death, Part 1.” Read beyond this point at your own risk. After being unmasked and revealed as Ryan Wilder/Batwoman (Javicia Leslie) — or at least some version of her — in “Rogues of War”, this week’s episode of The Flash delved further into the identity of the Red Death as well as explained why she was in Central City and what she needed a Cosmic Treadmill for in the first place.

Most of the explanation of who the Red Death is and why they are in Central City comes not in an exchange between the villain and The Flash, but between the villain and Iris (Candice Patton). After an EMP blast sends Central City into darkness, Ryan Wilder mysteriously shows up at Iris’ home in need of help, claiming to have been injured in the blast. However, Iris notices something is off and confronts Ryan, prompting Ryan to give her (a version) of the truth.

This Ryan Wilder is not the Ryan Wilder that Team Flash knows of. Instead, this is one from another timeline where there is no Batman, as she was adopted by the Waynes as a child instead, but the Waynes were murdered, leading her to grow up to be Gotham’s protector, studying the tech of her enemies to make her own and, eventually, that of her allies as well — including The Flash. She claims that she reached a point where she could eliminate crime before it happened, but that The Flash grew jealous, busted criminals out of prison to against her, and that she tried to hide in the Speed Force, but as her own speed was artificial, she was spit out in this other timeline. Now she just needs to get home, bringing this Iris with her to try to help stop a Rogue War.

Iris doesn’t exactly believe this and, ultimately, the truth comes out. Ryan went too far, The Flash tried to stop her, and she wants to kill him. She also apparently accidentally killed her timeline’s Iris and wants to take this Iris with her to use to lure the Flash out so she can kill him, too. She plans to do this by using The Flash in this timeline to power her Cosmic Treadmill, literally running him to death. It’s a very bonkers and very comic book-y plan, but it’s also a plan that doesn’t really work for her. Mark/Chillblaine (Jon Cor) double crosses her at the last moment and ends up destroying the treadmill so that Barry and Iris can escape. With the treadmill toast, Red Death is now trapped in this timeline so that means she needs a new plan: simply take over this timeline and start a war.

The Flash showrunner had previously teased that there would be an important connection between Red Death and Iris.

“It is fair to say that Javicia has something to do with that red lightning bolt,” Eric Wallace said. “I don’t think that’s going to come as a surprise to anyone. The question is how does it happen and why is she here? And also, who exactly is she playing? That’s a mystery that doesn’t get talked about in her initial appearances on the show. Also, how will it affect her relationship with Iris?”

He continued, “One of the happy accidents that happened in Armageddon when we had Javicia over was the discovery of the incredible chemistry between Candice Patton and Javicia Leslie. After seeing that, I literally made a note, ‘We’ve got to do more of this. This is gold.’ When Javicia comes onto the show, one of the most powerful emotional moments is when her character finally interacts with Iris and it’s going to be in a way that folks are not expecting. And it may show you a side of Javicia Leslie that you haven’t seen before because she just knocks it out of the park with performance. It’s something that I think fans are going to just love.”

The Flash airs Wednesdays at 8/7c on The CW.

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