The final season of The Flash just revealed the identity of its main antagonist, the Red Death, marking the return of a very familiar face to the Arrowverse. As the series approaches the end of its nine-year run, Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) and Team Flash are about to face one of their deadliest enemies yet, a speedster powered by the Negative Speedforce and sporting a suit with a distinct bat symbol. The third episode of the season, entitled “Rogues of War,” saw the Flash face off against the Red Death for the very first time and ended with the shocking reveal of the supervillain’s identity.
Several Arrowverse characters are returning to The Flash for its ninth and final season, which also doubles as the final chapter in the CW’s hit shared universe, which began with 2012’s Arrow. Not only will Stephen Amell’s Oliver Queen, a.k.a. the Green Arrow, be returning for the show’s final episodes, but several other heroes and villains have also been confirmed to make appearances throughout the season. In a shocking twist, “Rogues of War” reveals that the villainous Red Death is one of these returning characters, leaving plenty of questions about why this former superhero is menacing the Flash and how exactly she attained her terrifying new speedster powers.
Javicia Leslie Plays Red Death In The Flash Season 9
In a shocking cliffhanger ending, The Flash finally unmasked the Red Death, revealing the familiar face of Javicia Leslie. Longtime viewers of the Arrowverse are sure to recognize Leslie from her all-too-short stint as the eponymous hero in the final two seasons of Batwoman. Portraying Ryan Wilder, Leslie replaced Ruby Rose as the protagonist of the Arrowverse series after the actress infamously quit the series after its first season. Ryan Wilder became the new series lead until its cancelation in 2022, although the character has continued to appear in guest roles in other Arrowverse series, including The Flash‘s “Armageddon” storyline during its eighth season.
“Rogues of War” heavily telegraphed the revelation that Batwoman is secretly the Red Death throughout the episode as Team Flash investigated their new villains’ mysterious benefactor. Thanks to some terrific sleuthing on the part of Iris West-Allen (Candice Patton) and Chester P. Runk (Brandon McKnight), the team was able to ascertain that Wayne Enterprises had been funding the new Rogues team. After contacting Luke Fox (Camrus Johnson) in Gotham City, Team Flash learned the disturbing news that Ryan Wilder had disappeared several days earlier, hinting that she was involved in the Rogues’ exploits. The final moments of the episode confirmed this theory, with the Red Death finally revealing her identity.
Is Ryan Wilder Now Red Death? Who Is Leslie’s Character?
Although the Red Death wears the face of Batwoman, Gotham City’s iconic hero may not really be the villain after all. The Arrowverse often delves into the concept of the multiverse, using the scientific theory as a storytelling device that allows for any number of alternate-reality characters to appear. The Flash has even made a running joke of its many multiversal variants, specifically with longtime cast member Tom Cavanagh, who portrayed no fewer than ten different versions of Harrison Wells throughout his stint on the series. It is, therefore, possible that the Red Death is actually Ryan Wilder from another universe, absolving Earth-Prime’s Batwoman from any of her supposed crimes.
A Batwoman variant as Red Death would retcon Crisis on Infinite Earths, the Arrowverse crossover event that rewrote the multiverse. According to the franchise’s own explanation, the multiverse has been destroyed, leaving the events of the Arrowverse to occur on what is known as Earth-Prime. Nevertheless, the ending of Crisis on Infinite Earths has been overwritten multiple times already, with certain other universes, as the DCEU’s Earth-89 and Superman and Lois‘s as-yet-unknown Earth have continued to exist despite the destruction of the multiverse. Furthermore, Red Death’s comic book counterpart does indeed hail from an alternate universe, making it likely that this will be the case in The Flash as well.
Which Character Is Red Death In DC Comics?
For its ninth season, the Flash is changing Red Death’s identity from Batman to Batwoman. In DC Comics, the Red Death is a multiversal variant of Bruce Wayne who had failed in his crusade to save Gotham City from its criminal underworld. Succumbing to the weight of his failure as Batman, Bruce began working on a way to attain the Speedforce, believing himself to be more worthy of its power than Barry Allen. Eventually, Bruce and Barry merged together into one body, complete with the massive power that the Speedforce provides. As the Red Death, the supervillain allied himself with other evil Batman variants to wreak havoc throughout the multiverse.
It took the full power of the Justice League to fight the Red Death during this storyline, proving that he is truly one of the most powerful supervillains in the DC universe. With the strength and skill of Batman and the speed of the Flash, the Red Death was nearly unstoppable, earning a very prestigious place in Barry Allen’s Rogues Gallery. Therefore, the multiversal speedster supervillain is a perfect antagonist for The Flash‘s final season, giving Barry Allen one of the greatest fights of his life to close out the beloved series. If the comics are any indication, however, Barry won’t be able to take down the Red Death alone.
Why Red Death Says “I Am Vengeance”
During her reveal as the Red Death, Ryan Wilder utters “I am vengeance,” a line familiar to Batman’s iconic mythology and deeply symbolic of his villainous counterpart’s motivation. Batman has often declared himself as the personification of vengeance in his crusade against crime in Gotham City. The late Kevin Conroy, the voice of the Caped Crusader in Batman: The Animated Series, even made the line famous in an iconic monologue, as he declared “I am vengeance. I am the night. I… am Batman!” This statement appearing in The Flash, however, carries with it a dark parallel to Batman’s original interpretation of the phrase.
In the comics, the Red Death also declares himself as the personification of vengeance, drawing a dark parallel to Batman. Recent films like The Batman proved how dangerous his vengeance ideology can truly be–and just how quickly it can be twisted for darker motivations. It seems as though The Flash will add its own commentary to this recent trend, as Batwoman’s own ideology will be tested against her villainous counterpart, who has taken her crusade to an unhealthy extreme in an effort to make up for her own failures. Much like the comic book story, the Red Death shows just how easily pursuing vengeance can twist a once heroic crusade.
What The Flash’s Red Death Identity Reveal Means For Season 9
The Red Death’s identity has massive implications for the future of The Flash‘s ninth season. By changing the Red Death’s identity, The Flash can adapt the Arrowverse’s unused storylines for Batwoman Season 4, giving the character the sendoff she deserves. Moreover, Ryan Wilder’s Red Death hints that the Arrowverse won’t directly adapt the comic book supervillain but will instead make some changes to her origin and powers. It isn’t yet clear if the Red Death merged with her world’s Barry Allen, but her use of the Negative Speedforce may hint that she instead became one with Eobard Thawne, the Reverse Flash, marking a major departure from the comics storyline.
The Red Death in The Flash also explains several of the returning heroes set to appear in the show’s final episodes. The Red Death is a threat worthy of the Justice League itself, making it all the more reasonable for major heroes to appear to aid Barry in this fight. With major heroes like the Green Arrow returning, the Arrowverse itself is building to a satisfying ending that can finally unite its version of the Justice League for the biggest fight of their lives. Even with the Justice League at his side, however, Barry Allen is in for the fight of his life as The Flash comes to an end.