On Tuesday, Hartley Sawyer, the actor who plays Ralph Dibny on The CW's The Flash was fired after his racist and misogynistic tweets surfaced. The tweets, which dated back to 2012 and 2014, had come to light in recent week, leading to the decision to let Sawyer go after three seasons on the series with showrunner Eric Wallace saying in a statement that Sawyer's "social media tweets, they broke my heart and made me mad as hell. And they're indicative of the larger problem in our country."
While news of Sawyer's departure is one that has sparked quite a bit of discussion among fans, it's also prompted quite a few questions about what this shake up means for The Flash Season 7 -- specifically since Season 6 itself ended in a bit of an unfinished and uncertain place for many of the series' characters due to the coronavirus pandemic production shutdown. As fans may recall, the adjusted Season 6 finale, "Success Is Assured" saw Iris (Candice Patton) still trapped in the Mirrorverse while Eva (Efrat Dor) had escaped, retaken her role as head of McCulloch Technologies, and, as was revealed in the last moments of the episode, pinned the murder of her husband Joseph Carver (Eric Nenninger) on Sue Dearbon (Natalie Dreyfuss).
It's the Sue Dearbon of it all that leaves the biggest question in terms of The Flash Season 7 when it comes to Sawyer's departure. Sue Dearbon and Ralph Dibny are a beloved character pairing in comics, one that fans of The Flash have eagerly been anticipating since Ralph's debut in Season 4. Season 5 saw Ralph take on the case of the then-missing Sue, a case that kept Ralph away from Central City for much of Season 6, but ultimately saw Sue debut on The Flash when Ralph tracked her down in Central City. While Sue ended up being a bit of a wild card for Ralph, by the Season 6 finale it seemed like not only was Sue here to stay, but that the Ralph/Sue romance fans had been hoping for could develop -- something that, at the time Wallace himself acknowledged was part of the endgame.
"The good news is we love them too, so get ready for more Sue Dearbon," Wallace previously said. "I won't' tell you when because she's a wild card. You never know when she's going to pop up. However, the biggest twist in her story is still to come and it's going to change Ralph and Sue's relationship and get them even closer onto the path that we eventually know they should be on, which is coming together and falling in love. We're not going to get there quite yet, but we're going to take a big step forward."
Sawyer himself even told ComicBook.com earlier this year that the show wanted to pace the Sue/Ralph relationship, with Sawyer praising Wallace's plan for the pairing.
"It's an understatement to say she was not what he expected. I mean, I don't think that ... I think it's really cool the way that we brought Sue in, which I think everybody knows is that something that's kind of come up since I joined the show a couple of years ago," Sawyer said. "And we knew that on a long enough timeline, all roads led to Sue, but we really took our time getting there with developing it. And I've talked about that in the past that we wanted to really develop Ralph and move him down the line in terms of maturing and becoming the hero that he is and will be, so that he's ready for that when she comes into his life. And we never wanted to just get there and be like, 'And now it's a thing.' And make it that easy because something that Todd Helbing and I had talked about in the past, and Eric Wallace and I talked about this a lot, and Eric has done a great job with how sees and how he's planned out the whole Sue Dearbon thing was we don't want to rush any of this. There's a lot of interesting stuff combined here."
Clearly, Sawyer's departure changes that trajectory. That said, The Flash may have an opportunity to move forward with Sue's story. While Sawyer's firing does create a situation in which the story that wraps up Season 6's events will certainly require some changes, the series could find a way to write Ralph out entirely and instead focus on Sue more or less "saving herself" from Eva's false accusations -- Sue has clearly proven herself to be more than capable in her appearances on the series thus far.
There's always the possibility that The Flash could, should they choose to, recast Ralph. Ralph's metahuman powers as Elongated Man allow him to shapeshift. We've seen him do it a handful of times on the series. It's possible that the show could create a compelling reason for Ralph to permanently change his appearance -- he does have a somewhat shady past, after all. It's a move that would allow the show to keep the Ralph/Sue story going as well as continue the friendship between Ralph and the rest of Team Flash that has become increasingly important over recent seasons.8comments
However the series chooses to deal with Ralph in the wake of Sawyer's firing, it's something that will be some time before fans get to see it for themselves. The Flash isn't expected to return with new episodes until January 2021.
How do you think Sawyer's firing will impact The Flash's Season 7? Let us know in the comments below.