'The Flash' Showrunner Explains That Surprising Return

The Flash fans got to see a familiar face they likely never thought they would see again tonight.

Spoilers ahead for "We Are The Flash," the season four finale of The Flash, which airs tonight.

Several weeks after the character's surprising death at the hands of The Thinker, Ralph Dibny (Hartley Sawyer) -- the superhero better known as the Elongated Man -- returned to Team Flash in tonight's episode, emerging from the husk of The Thinker (Neil Sandilands) after the villain's defeat in the season four finale.

Executive producer Todd Helbing told ComicBook.com that when the writers decided to introduce Elongated Man, they knew it would be a longer arc to really uncovering his full potential -- and that once they met Sawyer, they knew he would have to join the team.

"From day one, that was sort of the plan that we came up with," Helbing said. "Ralph's powers are so unique. In the comics, there's a lot of things we haven't done yet with Ralph Dibny. We have a lot of investigative stories to tell; we obviously want to get to Sue Dibny at some point. So it just didn't feel from the beginning that we could tell his story in one episode and we all fell in love with Hartley literally from the moment we met with him and we knew we wanted to have him part of the show moving forward."

Ralph's death reverberated through the team for weeks, with Barry and Cisco even discussing it in last week's episode. His powers, meanwhile, have been key to The Thinker's master plan every step of the way. It should be no surprise, then, that his was the body powerful enough to make it through The Thinker's machinations alive.

That did not stop Helbing from taking a lot of time to consider how to best deliver the resurrection in a way that did not feel like a cheat.

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"We never want to make the experience for the audience feel cheap, or like it's not earned for him to come back," Helbing said. "With The Thinker and DeVoe's plan, it hit a lot of story points with us. The reason why he was jumping through all these other metahumans was to take their powers, and we knew that when he finally got to Ralph, [the question was] how do we keep Ralph alive and bring him back and with his powers? DeVoe was able to return to form and we could pay off the Weeper storyline and emotionally, we could really get something that hit home with the team and send the team on a journey, dealing with a team member's death, and ultimately how this brings them closer together. They all have to work as a team and then it just felt like the best time to bring him back, in the finale, when he goes into the mindscape and he finds Ralph Dibny still alive."

The Flash airs on Tuesday nights at 8 p.m. ET/PT on The CW. The series will return for its fifth season in October. If you have any questions, comments, or theories about what comes next for Team Flash, hit us up in the comments or tweet @russburlingame. ComicBook.com doesn't take hiatus!