The CW’s highest-rated series, The Flash, raced into San Diego Comic-Con on Saturday for a panel spotlighting the DC superhero show. Series stars Grant Gustin (Barry Allen/The Flash), Candace Patton (Iris West-Allen), Tom Cavanagh (Harrison Wells/Eobard Thawne), Carlos Valdes (Cisco Ramon), Danielle Panabaker (Caitlin Snow/Killer Frost), and Hartley Sawyer (Ralph Dibny/Elongated Man), as well as series showruner Eric Wallace, took to the stage for an SDCC panel moderated by IGN’s Laura Prodom. The spotlight examined the unique structure of the show’s sixth season, the arrival of new villain Bloodwork, and how our heroes are preparing for the impending Crisis on Infinite Earths.
As the panel opened, the following sizzle reel, which introduces actor Sendhil Ramammurthy as Dr. Ramsey Rosso, aka Bloodwork, was shown:
Following the video, the panelists came to the stage. Wallace described Rosso as an acquaintance of Caitlin’s who joins Team Flash, but eventually goes down a dark path that leads him to evil. Bloodwork will be a different type of villain, as all of the other villains on the series have played by certain rules. Rosso and Barry will have a unique relationship, Wallace said, and are both facing something similar in the coming Crisis, which will result in their interactions being very, very different.
Regarding the structure of the season and how it’s going to build towards Crisis on Infinite Earths, Wallace said the show is trying something different this year. The twenty-two episodes of the season will be divided into two parts, with the first half of the season featuring Bloodwork, leading up to Crisis. The second half of the season, post-Crisis, will be a separate story featuring a different big bad altogether.
Gustin said that The Monitor appears to Barry at the end of the season’s first episode and tells him the only way to save the universe is for The Flash to die. The rest of the season sees Barry and Iris dealing with that in the build-up to Crisis.
Asked how Cisco is adjusting to having taken the metahuman cure at the end of the last season, Valdes said Cisco loves not having powers. The new season starts with Cisco having found the normal life he wanted last season, and the rewards that he’s reaping in balancing his work life and personal life. Asked how he fits into STAR Labs, Valdes said he’s using his human powers more now rather than his metahuman powers. He called Cisco an ‘impossible’ character who can do anything, whether it’s hacking or science or whatever else is needed.
On Iris’s evolution, Patton said fans can expect to finally see the Iris West-Allen they love from the comics, an ace reporter dedicated to tracking down the truth. She said the Central City Citizen will bring on some new employees, and Wallace said those new characters would appear very soon.
When it comes to Iris and Barry’s relationship, Gustin said he thought the two were dealing with the loss of their daughter in different ways. The new season picks up ten seconds after the end of the last season, and Gustin said that Barry will try to, no pun intended, bury his feelings and distract himself with super heroic deeds, and Patton said that, while they do deal with things differently, eventually they will realize that they need to come together as a team to get through it.
Asked how much his impending disappearance, as prophecied by the changed dateline on Thawne’s future newspaper, is weighing on Barry, Gustin said it’s weighing heavily. Barry continues to find his strength in Iris as he always has, he explained, but it’s still tough to hear that he’s supposed to vanish no matter what happens.
Cavanagh revealed that he will debut another new Wells this year, in keeping with the tradition of the show. He called the newest iteration of Wells a ‘sensual’ version of the character, more of an adventurer and swashbuckler than previous versions. The panelists then repeated the word ‘sensual’ until it lost all meaning. Prudom said she was both horrified and excited by the prospect of a sensual Wells, which Cavanagh said is always the intended result when introducing a new version of the character. He would not confirm whether he would be doing a new accent or not for the character.
Panabaker was asked what to expect for both Caitlin and Killer Frost in the new season. The actress said she thought last season was a great exploration of the relationship between the two distinct personalities, and that the new season will feature more of Killer Frost, including placing the character in situations she’s not normally in like helping at STAR Labs or trying to live a normal life. Panabaker also said that she will be directing the sixth episode of the season.
The end of last season saw Ralph Dibny pick up a new case, and teased the arrival of Sue Dearbon, who comic fans know becomes Ralph’s wife. Sawyer was tight-lipped about what he could say, save for that Ralph would be working the case this season. In addition to the case, the new season will also explore Ralph’s family and his background, and examine why he is the way he is personality-wise.
Reverse-Flash Eobard Thawne escaped from our heroes last year, and the question was raised of when he would be returning. Wallace said he wasn’t sure they would see him again immediately, and Cavanagh said the character casts a long shadow and they have a lot of other stories to tell before Thawne returns.
It was then revealed that Cavanagh would also be playing Pariah as part of the Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover, and Wallace provided a little information on who Pariah is and his role in the original Crisis miniseries. Asked why Cavanagh was the right choice for the character, Wallace joked that it’s not because he’s sensual, but that the secrets of why his character becomes Pariah are all part of the first half of the season and lead to a twist at the end of the Bloodwork case that ultimately launches the Crisis.
The new season will feature a slight shift in tone, and Wallace jokingly described the season as ‘the season of thrills and chills”. Gustin said the show feels more adult and mature than it has in the past, and that while he can feel it getting darker, it still maintains the sense of humor the series is known for.
To the question of what Joe West and Wally West are up to this year, Wallace said they would be bringing Wally back for a couple of episodes that will feature Kid Flash and Flash fighting “one of the greatest Flash villains ever.”
Barry has a new suit again this season, which Gustin described as building on what they did last year. He said they redid the cowl entirely and it looks the closest it’s ever looked to the cowl in the comics.
Audience Q&A then began, and a fan asked Gustin and Patton about filming the scene last season in which the two had a huge, tense fight about sending Nora back to the future. They said they had a great time doing it. They had never fought like that on the show, and Patton said it was one of her favorite moments of last season.
A fan dressed as Killer Frost said through tears that Panabaker was her hero. She asked if there’s anything Panabaker finds extraordinary that others might find ordinary. The actress said she finds the fan extraordinary for her bravery to stand up and ask that question, which was met with applause from the panelists and crowd.
Gustin was asked how he has incorporated characteristics of Barry Allen into his own life. Gustin said he admires Barry’s optimism, and that it has helped him be more like that off-screen.
A fan dressed as Green Lantern asked if the cast thought GL would make a great addition to the Arrowverse, and if so, when, which drew laughter and applause from the crowd. The panelists all said they did, and Wallace said they really wanted to do something with Green Lantern but they had no idea when something like that would happen.
A long-time fan of Gustin’s asked how he would compare his experience as the main character on The Flash to his experience back on Glee. Gustin said the experiences are completely different. Glee was his first TV role ever, and he said he barely remembers it because it was such a whirlwind. He said it’s really different being a series regular on something versus a guest star, and that while he used to always want to be working when he was on Glee, now that he’s the star of a show he just wants to take a nap.
Gustin said the current Flash suit is the favorite he’s worn. He really liked last season’s but it wasn’t quite what he wanted the suit to look like, and he loved the first suit for it’s vintage, urban look, but the new suit is really close to the one seen in comics.
A group of female fans noted the strong women on the show, and asked Panabaker and Patton if they approached scenes differently when they knew they included moments that might inspire young women. Patton cited the pilot, noting how much it would mean to so many people to see an Iris West who looked like them. Panabaker said she loves getting to play Caitlin as a character whose intelligence is celebrated. She didn’t cite a specific moment, but she said fans do come up to her and say they want to be doctors or scientists because of Caitlin.
A fan asked about Cisco’s role now that he doesn’t have powers anymore, and Panabaker reiterated that Cisco still has abilities even if he doesn’t have metahuman powers. Valdes joked that the fan was trying to get him fired and he needs to stay on the show because he’s trying to buy a house. He said Cisco will return to what he was doing during season one more this season.
The final question came from a child in a Flash t-shirt. He asked what the cast members had learned about themselves from playing their characters. Sawyer said he’s learned not to take life too seriously and to enjoy things, while Panabaker said embracing change is something she has learned as a result of playing Caitlin. Cavanagh said that the group of actors all try to be grateful for the show and their positions as a result of the show.’
Gustin reiterated his appreciation of the optimism of Barry Allen, and added that the process of making the show has taught him a degree of patience he never knew before. Patton said that playing Iris has brought forward for her the idea that life is fragile and you should love people while you have the chance to love them. Valdes said that, if life gives you something, make it yours and put your own spin on it. Wallace said that his job has taught him to treat everyone in life with compassion, and that doing so can lead to great things happening in your life.