*Be aware that SPOILERS are discussed*
The CW series The Flash, now in its sixth season, not only has a new showrunner in executive producer/writer Eric Wallace, but it also has a new feel, with new storytelling devices and a new villain with interesting parallels to the show’s titular hero, and it’s all leading to the big “Crisis on Infinite Earths” crossover. In the season opener, called “Into the Void,” Barry (Grant Gustin) and Iris (Candice Patton) are dealing with the heartbreaking loss of their daughter Nora, and Team Flash must, yet again, save Central City from their greatest threat yet.
After a recent screening of the Season 6 premiere, held at the offices of The CW, showrunner Eric Wallace answered questions about the episode, what’s to come, how it all leads to the “Crisis on Infinite Earth” crossover, and where they go from there. During the chat, he talked about how Barry and Iris will be dealing with the knowledge that Barry will die and how that will differ from when Iris’ life was at stake, the parallel in storylines between Barry and Bloodwork (Sendhil Ramamurthy), the first villain of Season 6, getting to see much more of Iris’ work as a journalist, Cisco’s (Carlos Valdes) love life, Caitlin (Danielle Panabaker) and Killer Frost’s agreement, expanding the meta storytelling, the latest Wells (Tom Cavanagh), the return of John Wesley Shipp and Keiynan Lonsdale, and the science of it all.
Question: With The Monitor telling Barry and Iris that The Flash must die, how will they grapple with that, this season?
ERIC WALLACE: That would be the plot of Episode 602. “Crisis” turned out to be the best thing that could have happened to The Flash because it created an immediacy to things. We know that, on December 10, 2019, The Flash will die. He said it. We’re not messing around. So, as a married couple, they can count the number of days and weeks. The countdown begins next week. What kind of urgency does that give them? An extreme one. It turns the dial up to 10, and it makes them think, is every moment together our last? What can we do? Should we find this? Is it inevitable? Those are all of the things that they’re grappling with, for these next seven episodes. Episode 608 ends and it’s “Crisis” time. It’s time to go off to, literally, cosmic war. So, their relationship is strained, but it’s also going to bring them closer together than ever before because that’s what tragedy does.
In Season 3, Barry and Iris had a similar situation when they learned that Iris was going to die in the future. What did that experience teach them, that could help them now?
WALLACE: You should watch [Episode 602], when that exact question is asked and answered. That is literally the plot. What this story has enabled us to do is to look back at any other time, when somebody was facing life and death, and see how they reacted then. So, in the writers’ room, we had a lengthy discussion about it being the other side of the coin. We know how they reacted with Iris, but how will they react, in Episode 602? I will tell you that, it’s different. It’s not the same because of what they learn next week. That’s the great part of this story. The Monitor showing up and making a cosmic pronouncement drives them to extremes, in order to fight against or except the coming crisis. Episodes 602, 603, 604, 605 and 606, especially, are all about, do I accept death, or do I fight it?
This show seems to sort be setting up “Crisis”, in its own way. How did you balance telling the story of Bloodwork, while also setting up this massive crossover?
WALLACE: Fortunately, it worked out really great because “Crisis” is about grief, and about death, and about the end of all worlds. You have the Bloodwork villain, who is facing the end of his own world. So, from his point of view, who cares about “Crisis” because he’s more concerned about the immediacy of his own life. Now, does that mean he could perhaps live past “Crisis”? That’s the real question that he has to grapple with, and I won’t give you the answer. So, it turned out to be the most fortuitous set of story events possible, dealing with life and death, dealing with his death as a villain, and dealing with the death of all worlds. When all of the showrunners got together to talk about “Crisis”, I pitched them what Bloodwork does, and they were like, “Oh, that’s great!” And then, all of this synergy started to happen. The Arrow folks said, “Hey, we’re gonna do something crazy in Episode 801.” And I went, “Oh, that’s perfect!” It was this dominoes situation that fell. There’s a lot of cross collaboration. It might not seem like it, at first, but it all comes together very nicely in “Crisis”, our crossover event. It all feeds into itself.
How aware is the rest of the team about what’s going on with what The Monitor said?
WALLACE: You’ll have to watch Episode 603. You’re right on the money. We asked that same question in the writers’ room, so we made it an episode. You’ll get your answer in Episode 603.
Is Barry aware that Oliver Queen is also working for The Monitor right now?
WALLACE: No, and when they both find out, it’s good stuff. It’s so great. I can’t tell you when it happens, but I will tell you that is a scene that happened. It is a moment, and it is coming. Let’s just say that people might get pissed off, a little bit.
In the “Crisis” comic book story, both The Flash and Supergirl died, and there were variations of them later. What were your thoughts about that, when it was done?
WALLACE: I was the perfect age for “Crisis”, when it first came out, and it blew my mind that so many characters that were beloved died, and then they were re-booted. So, when we were approaching the writing of “Crisis”, obviously, we can’t just kill all of our number ones on our shows. That’s insane. You can kill a couple of them, and we do, but you have to find the balance. What it meant to me was that we should tap into that feeling that the readers in 1985 would have had, when reading that story, with the tectonic shifts in the comic world, underneath. When you watch the crossover, you’re going to feel those tectonic shifts, especially at the end. It’s not small. It’s game-changer, in the same way that the ending of “Crisis”, the comic book, was a game changer, and it opens up to a whole new world.
How much more of Iris, as a journalist, will we see, over the course of this season?
WALLACE: You’ll be ridiculously happy, this year. Before I even got here, as a fan, I kept asking myself, “Why isn’t this woman a journalist? I don’t understand. She doesn’t have a staff. She has no office. That’s a pretty crappy journalist. Does she work out of her house?” If we know, from Episode 518, that she becomes a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and that she has an empire, we need to start building those seeds, and we need to do it now. So, we have very urgently done that, this season. You will meet her new staff member very soon. The new staff starts in Episode 602. Why waste time? We just get to it. Depending on how the back season goes, because we have a budget, it might be a small staff at first, but it’s very much about seeing her take charge of what we refer to as Team Citizen. They will appear, and they will be getting into trouble, especially in the back half of our show because now we have a new way to bring in meta storylines, with her investigations. It doesn’t always have to be a bank robber anymore. It’s been the blessing, from the story gods.
Will Iris meet Lois Lane?
WALLACE: I’m not going to answer that, but I think you know the answer. Is that clear? I’m not saying a word.
Cisco’s relationships haven’t always been well-served on the show. Will it be, this time?
WALLACE: Yes. In fact, we love Kamilla. That’s why, when we skipped forward four months, we wanted to just rip the band-aid off and be like, “She’s already in the family. She knows Barry is The Flash, and she knows about Vibe. They’re doing just fine, and having a healthy relationship that’s not Barry and Iris. As far as their relationship ups and downs, and highs and lows, they won’t be having that kind of drama. They’re doing great. That’s one of the themes of his season arc that plays over all 22 episodes. Can you be happy, being human? Can you be happy, not being a meta? Can you be happy, not saving the world, every week? Yeah, you can. You can get a beer at the picnic, and maybe you do punch in nine to five and let The Flash handle everything else. That’s nice. That’s a big thing that Cisco will be struggling with, all season, and Kamilla is a part of that.
With Killer Frost and Caitlin coming to an agreement, what will we see from Killer Frost, trying to live a life?
WALLACE: Now that she has a life coach? It has been a pure delight, writing Killer Frost this season. She’s much more in the forefront than Caitlin is. That life coach stuff starts in Episode 602. It’s the second scene, and we honor the promise of the premise. We deliver, and it’s led to these hilarious situations. We talk of her almost as a teenager who finally got the keys to the car, but doesn’t know how to drive, and then she’s gotta drive to go to the store, or the movies, or wherever. Everything is new, through her eyes, which means she’s gonna make some mistakes, which is great. It’s going to lead to some more tears, but she’s also going to grow into something that didn’t exist before. Maybe you do lose that Killer. Maybe it’s just Frost, down the line. And Danielle is having a blast. I told her what’s coming in the back half [of the season], because that’s what we’re breaking. We’re at graphic novel number two, and the result of where she ends up, emotionally, in graphic novel one, gives her the strength to face what lies in graphic novel two.
Will we be seeing more meta storylines that show different types of metas that aren’t criminals?
WALLACE: Yes. It goes back to honoring the old of the first five seasons, but finding new ways to make it fresh. You should just watch Episode 602. There are two new story devices to bring in cases. One is that they don’t have to be a bad guy, and the second one appears next week. It’s a new way to get stories in because it’s based in character. That’s part of the fun. Let’s see different kinds of stories. Just ‘cause this show is The Flash, it doesn’t mean another main character can’t take center stage for an entire episode. Look for that, ‘cause that’s happening. We have such a talented cast, so why aren’t we using them?
The synopsis for Episode 602 mentions John Wesley Shipp. Which version of him will we see?
WALLACE: It’s Jay Garrick. Season 6 is a little more serialized now, which probably comes from me having been on Teen Wolf. Sometimes we pick up right from where something left off. We fooled the audience [with the premiere] because we did a direct pick-up, but then we jumped forward five months. But a lot of the episodes, especially Episodes 602, 603 and 604, end, and then, it picks up one second later because I want the immediacy that audiences get when they’re watching a streaming show that’s eight or ten episodes. That’s our competition, quite frankly. I want that same immediacy brought to The CW, and I love them so much for saying, “Do it. We support this.”
The Season 6 premiere talks a lot about getting to know a new version of Nora, eventually. Is there a pregnancy storyline bubbling for Iris, at all?
WALLACE: Not this season, but that doesn’t mean a huge hint about Nora isn’t coming, this season. There will be two. One will probably be misinterpreted the wrong way ‘cause it’s a deliberate misdirect. I like that, and I like mysteries, but it’s real. So, look for that. The comic book fans will be watching Episode 602, and they’ll see a particular thing and go, “Oh, my god, I know what that means.”
In the Bronze Age comics, we learned that Iris was actually born in the 30th century and was sent back in time. Is that a story that would ever be adapted to the TV show?
Can you elaborate?
WALLACE: No, but I’m telling you yes.
What’s the process for honoring the stories that so many of us know from the comics, and yet presenting them in a way for modern audiences, where you can deviate a little for surprises?
WALLACE: As a Bronze Age reader, myself, I know what storyline you’re talking about, and I love it. The comics are so rich with wonderful themes and ideas, so that’s what we want to honor, every week, and draw from. But ultimately, what we have to do is tell modern, contemporary, grounded stories, so we have to find a way to mix them. Everything should start with, “What cool thing do I want to see? I just want to see that because it’s insane, or because I love it. When I was reading my Bronze Age comic book, this is what happened. And then, I’ll sit back and go, “Well, we do need Iris to get to this place, emotionally, and now this storyline supports that.” So, suddenly, we’ve got a piece of Bronze Age hard data, and we’re incorporating it into a story. That’s why it, hopefully, feels a little seamless, and it rewards the Bronze Age and Silver Age reader, and even the modern readers with Bloodwork. Bloodwork is a contemporary villain, who’s in the comics right now. That’s something I specifically wanted to do. I wanted to pull in a new kid who’s reading The Flash right now and goes, “Oh, I love Bloodwork. He’s so crazy!” I want him to connect to our show, too, and not just his dad, who’s probably my age and has had a long Flash connection.
We haven’t yet met the new Wells, so what can you say about Tom Cavanagh’s latest character?
WALLACE: He’s my favorite since Harrison Wells, the Reverse Flash of Season 1. He’s cool and suave. This is a man of adventure. This is a man who can get in a fight and old his own. We haven’t seen a Wells like that. There’s this completely unexpected side to him, which I will not spoil, that’s just wonderful, and he has a secret. It’s a secret that will be slowly dripped out in graphic novel number one, but which will really mess with his mind, literally, in graphic novel number two. It’s going to lead him to an emotional place that’s similar territory to one of the other Wells, and I don’t want to give a spoiler away, but it takes it in a completely opposite direction. It will be very apparent, by Episode 606, what his secret is. You all will ask yourselves, “Wait a minute, that’s like the other Wells, but I don’t think it’s gonna end the same way.” It’s a very emotional story that we’re very excited, and I know Tom’s excited about it. And he looks good in his costume. He’s having a good time, and I’m loving it. I’m laughing, as I write it, which is great.
Sue Dearbon has been teased a bit. Will we be meeting Sue, this season, and could you ever see Ralph and Sue in their own spin-off series?
WALLACE: I’ll answer the second question first, and yes, without question. We’re actually writing the episode right now, where Sue first appears, and boy, are we having a blast because Sue is such a delight. Sue Dearbon will appear in the back half. But sometimes what you see, isn’t what you see. Is that opaque enough?
Keiynan Lonsdale has said that he’ll be back this season. When might we see that?
WALLACE: We’ll start breaking his episode next week, and my nervous problem is that I’ve talked to him and he said he’s gonna be in it. I’ve heard that he’s still saying it, but I’m dreading the phone call of, “I’m busy. I’m doing another album.” I support, so much, his music career and his other artistic endeavors, which I think are terrific. But if all goes well, we should be breaking his story, in the next couple of weeks. I’m trying my best to honor that and get Kid Flash in for a couple [of episodes] because the story is so good. Kid Flash will now meet a classic villain from the classic days of the classic comic books, and maybe he’ll have to save The Flash’s behind, which is what I want to see. He’s not a kid anymore. He’s grown up.
How do you approach the science of it all, on this show?
WALLACE: I’m a science nut. I used to write a comic for DC comics, called Mr. Terrific, which was super sciency, to the wazoo. And I used to work on Eureka, back in the day, which was a science-based, family comedy-drama. I got in a habit, way back in the Eureka days, of just reading Scientific American and Googling websites and NASA sites, on a regular basis, so science is my friend. I like to use the Stephen King rules of writing, where you come up with the crazy idea, and then find the facts to support it. We’ll write the science in the scripts, in a way that’s very complicated and very technical, and then, we’ll do what we call a simplicity pass to make sure everyone can understand the basic concepts. And then, we’ll do another pass for how much we really need to explain because it is a science-fiction and fantasy show, but we don’t have 800 pages. We have 42 minutes, and the scripts will get too long, if you bog them down with that type of stuff. It is a balancing act, but I do like to put as much real science into the stories as possible because there might be young people watching this and going, “I wanna be a scientist, like Caitlin. I wanna be a scientist like Cisco.” Suddenly, maybe there will be one more scientist in the world, and that would be really awesome. So, I take it very seriously, the messages that the show is presenting to our young people and to people of color.
The Flash returns for Season 6 on The CW on October 8th.