It goes without saying these days that a successful superhero has a long, and fairly stable career ahead of him, as studios - both in film and TV - are eager to make the most out of every comic character they adapt. But already, that's seeming to not tell the entire story of The CW's Flash - at least not where Ronnie Raymond a.k.a. Firestorm is concerned.
After the show's origin story for the character left us wondering if The CW was pitching viewers its next spinoff, it was announced that the character would be moving to the Legends of Tomorrow team-up series - with star Robbie Amell not on board. Amell couldn't explain his absence to us during a recent interview, but claimed more of Firestorm's comic book superpowers are on their way to TV, regardless of who will be wielding them.
For those unfamiliar with the comic book version of 'Firestorm: The Nuclear Man,' the version seen in live-action is actually as faithful an introduction as can be hoped for. After an experiment goes terribly wrong, the brilliant Professor Martin Stein and carefree jock Ronnie Raymond (Victor Garber and Amell, respectively) linked. They remain two separate people, but are able to merge into a single entity through the 'Firestorm Matrix,' blessed with superpowers. Traditionally, Raymond controls the body, while Stein's intelligence exists inside Ronnie's mind.
The Flash recreated that story perfectly, culminating in the pair's discovery that if they merged willingly, their minds could coexist peacefully, getting to wield fire and fly without crippling mental problems in exchange. But comic fans knew that was just the tip of the iceberg when it came to their physics-defying powers.
You see, while fire is the element that gives the hero its name, the pair's mastery is over matter itself, able to tear apart atoms and reconfigure them at will. That's what makes both men necessary, since Professor Stein is the expert in chemistry, With Ronnie more at home in a fight. When Ronnie and Professor Stein departed The Flash in Episode 14, we assumed their investigation into the Matrix would see them return at season's end with mastery of matter.
Return they did, but still only able to produce flames. Comic fans worried that the hero's powers have been 'nerfed' for TV - both on The Flash and the upcoming Legends - can rest easy, as Amell has confirmed that The Flash season finale originally showed this new power in practice. And he fully expects it to be used sooner rather than later:
"The sad thing is there was a moment in the finale that had to be cut out - just because it was such a massive episode and it didn’t actually have anything to do with plot - where they introduced matter manipulation. There’s a scene where Danielle [Panabaker]’s character is checking my temperature and giving me the once-over. I call Victor in the room and we merge, and I turn her thermometer into a daffodil. It was just like a really nice, sweet way of showing… because she’s asking if we’re going to be OK, and I’m like, “Actually, we’re getting pretty good at this whole Firestorm thing.” And we merge without even missing a beat and turn that into a flower. It was a nice moment, but ultimately it just didn’t hold any bearing on the plot.
"So, matter manipulation I’m sure will be reintroduced, or maybe it will be available on the DVD director’s cut of the episode. But there’s so much they can do with this character. My biggest fear with the character was that he was too powerful. I think that sometimes that can be an issue. I feel like that’s the only problem I ever have with the Superman comic book, is other than kryptonite, how do you stop this guy? But they’ve done an unbelievable job."
Amell's concern is a fair one, since a superhero able to turn weapons, foreign objects or explosives into grains of sand is a hard one to genuinely test. At least, not without a series becoming painfully repetitive after the first few episodes. As much of a shame as it is to hear that "Firestorm" fans almost saw Ronnie and Stein deliver a definitive version of the hero on TV, we're willing to bet that they'll be thankful for what they got.
That still leaves the question of where the hero will head next; as we explained earlier, the relationship of Ronnie and Stein - the former controlling their shared body, with the latter simply a voice in 'their' head - is only the first one seen in the comics. At different times in the hero's history, Stein would be called to Ronnie against his will and possess no memory of their actions, or take over the pair's shared form with Ronnie, or another man (or men) existing in his brain. That means that Victor Garber's role in Legends of Tomorrow (and potentially, Amell's absence) may reveal nothing about the writers' long term plans for Ronnie - and Amell.
Fans will be quick to note that the comic book version of Ronnie Raymond would eventually... give up the Firestorm Matrix, sending it into the body of Jason Rusch, the new Firestorm introduced in 2004. Considering that Rusch was introduced on the TV series as a former colleague of Stein's from the F.I.R.E.S.T.O.R.M. project (played by actor Luc Roderique), the writers may have planted the seeds for handing the role off already.
The character was assumed to be a simple nod to fans at the time, with Raymond and Stein's version clearly the story being told. That may still be the case, but with the New 52 reboot linking Ronnie and Jason as two Firestorm heroes with Stein removed from the equation entirely, it's safe to say there are several paths the character may take in The CW's superhero universe.
It may be too much to hope that Ronnie, Professor Stein AND Jason Rusch will become main players in The CW's Flash/Arrow universe. But as much as Amell's fans may hate to consider it, Ronnie's death would be not just unsurprising given Stein's appearances in Legends of Tomorrow footage, but in keeping with the comics. Knowing that a villainous twist for his wife, Caitlin Snow lies in the show's future, losing Ronnie could be what triggers her own metahuman abilities.
It would be unfortunate if the explanation for Amell's absence from Legends of Tomorrow winds up being the simplest: that his time with the character has come to an end. But the writers have showed a habit of shocking fans with their ambitions. Since matter manipulation was meant to be introduced in The Flash's first season, and will likely appear when Amell and Garber merge in the season 2 premiere, Firestorm seems destined for more than just a supporting role. After all, it's the superpower that made Firestorm a certified Justice League member alongside Superman and Wonder Woman.
Perhaps the hole in space threatening Central City in the finale has just as much of an impact on 'The Nuclear Men' as it will on Hawkgirl? Could Stein take over their form, with Ronnie - and Amell's role - reduced to a voice for the time being? Only time will tell, but for now, neither actor is spilling the beans on that secret.
What your hopes for the hero? Do you think removing Amell from the mix is an unwise move for the network and showrunners? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below, and stay tuned for our full interview.
The Flash's Season 2 premiere is scheduled for Fall 2015. DC's Legends of Tomorrow premieres in January, 2016.