Even though the new Team Flash lineup has the overall threat of Cicada to worry about, it's not as if Central City has suddenly become invulnerable to all the other dangers out there. In "Doll'd Up," Barry and Iris will actually come face to fuzzier-face when the comic book villain Rag Doll arrives. However, as it usually goes with The Flash's TV foes, we'll be getting a fairly different version of Rag Doll for The CW drama.
CinemaBlend spoke with Rag Doll portrayer and jaw-dropping contortionist Troy James about what fans can expect from this bendable-as-hell new villain. James, who became a viral phenomenon after his America's Got Talent tryout, told me his vicious Rag Doll will be a semi-combination of both the Golden Age's Peter Merkel and the Modern Age's Peter Merkel Jr., on top of other things. He revealed about the new-to-TV character:
I was doing some research on Rag Doll, since he's not the most well-known, and I came across the fact that there was a Rag Doll Sr., a villain who was born flexible. But also Rag Doll Jr., his son, who wasn't born flexible but had a lot of surgeries to be like his father, so there's definitely some family issues there. I kind of took a bit of both when I was determining which Rag Doll to play, because you know that he's a psychopath and he likes to cause extreme...how do I want to say it? He is very sadistic, which is more in line with Peter Merkel Jr., and I am naturally flexible, as is Peter Merkel Sr. So it's almost like the meta-powers were enhanced by what he had naturally. And it was fun to play around and to create my own Rag Doll.
It feels like a genius planner such as The Thinker was responsible for putting this scenario together. The most effective way for The Flash to tackle its lower-tiered, multi-identity villains is to combine them into single entities, sure. However, there can't be THAT many actors out there able to bring Rag Doll's contortionist tricks and treats to life as successfully as Troy James can. (Seriously, his work as the silent monster Pretzel Jack in Syfy's Channel Zero: The Dream Door is magnificent.)
Of course, Troy James' Rag Doll would almost necessarily need to change things up from the Peter Merkel that was created in 1942. That version was a carnival worker who turned to crime using a rag doll costume to trick people, and was later capable of using hypnosis and brainwashing to aid in his crimes. His son, Peter Jr., had more of a darker personality, no doubt in part due to the self-mutilation he went through to artificially gain his father's abilities.
As Troy James implied, Peter Jr.'s more mentally troublesome tendencies will be prevalent in the TV version. Here was the actor's more general assessment of what fans can expect from Rag Doll.
He is a supervillain with extreme flexibility, and unlike other supervillains who want to be the strongest, or if they have the biggest bone to pick with the Flash family, this guy is just a psychopath. He commits crimes, but more than that, he plays with his victims. He gets off on causing the most misery as possible. And we see, when he interacts with the Flash family, what happens to cause conflict there.
So while Cicada has some very specific reasons why he's going after Flash and Vibe and the rest, it sounds like Rag Doll might have a different kind of dog in this fight. He might be a tad more like a slasher movie antagonist who's just looking to cause as much chaos as possible, regardless of who the victims are. (That mask helps that argument along.) And who could say no to a victim like The Flash?
Since Troy James had mentioned an enhancement of Rag Doll's meta-powers, I had to ask if that meant the villain was indeed a metahuman, as opposed to a Flash character whose powers came from other sources. In his words:
I believe so. I believe I am a meta, but there is a natural ability in there as well. He's extremely flexible. They call him triple-jointed, but of course that's not a thing in real life. So think of an extremely hyper-mobile person who gets their flexibility magnified x100.
In my mind, that could possibly give Rag Doll some of the same strange abilities as Ralph's elongated powers. In that R.D. can possibly bend and mold his body into far more shapes than the average person, even if he can't literally change into another person. Maybe more like Plastic-Man than Elongated Man, then.
When Troy James was cast on The Flash, I'd wondered if that meant that Rag Doll wouldn't require the use of CGI to show off his quasi-elasticity. But you can't really magnify a character's flexibility by 100 without adding some digital magic to the cauldron, right? James says there is indeed "a little bit" of CGI helping things along, but not too much. In his words:
Well, when it comes to CG, there are a few things that no human can do. So I do get enhanced a little bit. But for the most part, it's all on me.
Troy James is somewhat nervous about fans getting to meet Rag Doll for the first time, but he's also extremely excited about getting a chance to scare audiences anew. (Seriously, go watch Channel Zero: The Dream Door while waiting for The Flash to return.) Few things are scarier than "the unpredictable," so we're hoping that the Arrow-verse's comic-mashing take on Rag Doll delivers Flash's most frightening baddie yet.