Spoilers ahead for Episode 12 of The Flash Season 5, called “Memorabilia.”
The Flash explored the future in “Memorabilia,” but not quite in a way that the show has done before. Team Flash’s mission to wake young Grace Gibbons and therefore appeal to Cicada as a father figure took them into Grace’s comatose mind, with the unintended effect of Barry and Iris winding up in one of Nora’s memories of the Hall of Villains in the Flash Museum. In that memory, The Flash unexpectedly dropped a name from DC Comics that may have revealed Batman’s future in the Arrow-verse.
If what The Flash stated is accurate, however, he won’t be the Batman many fans likely expected. The show name-dropped the Red Death, who comics fans likely know as a version of Batman. Here’s how it happened.
In the Hall of Villains, Barry and Iris followed Nora’s memory to where a young version of herself was observing the Cicada exhibit. According to a recording at the exhibit, Cicada resurfaced in 2024 after The Flash vanished, and his killing spree continued. At the time of the recording, Cicada had killed 152 people, with the death toll expected to rise.
That’s obviously bad, but the moment that likely caught the ear of every diehard DC Comics fan came when the recording switched to show an older Captain Singh, who said this about The Flash’s battle against Cicada:
Flash did everything he could. But Cicada killed more people than Zoom or even the Red Death. And the way the city saw the Flash, his legacy…it was never the same.
Assuming Captain Singh was speaking truthfully, the Red Death is going to be a significant villain for Team Flash. Unfortunately, the recording didn’t reveal a date, and young Nora’s age wasn’t specified, although I wouldn’t put her older than five or six.
It’s probably safe to say that Red Death showed up to menace Central City at some point between late 2019 and 2024. That said, we can’t rule out that Red Death turned up after Barry went missing, as “Memorabilia” seemed almost carefully vague about the timeline. Even if Red Death turned up after Barry went missing, however, it couldn’t have been more than two or three years, based on Nora’s approximate age in the memory.
Based on Captain Singh’s comments, we can infer that the Red Death killed a lot of people while at large. They do give the impression that the Red Death was stopped and his death toll was capped, and that at least is a good thing. Still, did Red Death cause even more deaths than Zoom? What was so bad about him that he was singled out in Singh’s statement?
Well, we can’t say what The Flash’s version of the character is, but based on DC Comics, we can make some educated guesses about the Batman who becomes a very, very bad guy.
In the comics, the Red Death hails from Earth -52, and he was once the hero of Gotham City that many expect of anybody wearing the cape and the cowl. This Bruce took a very dark turn, however, due to the fact that each and every one of his Robin sidekicks was killed. He was pushed much farther than the counterpart whose Robin loss was limited to Jason Todd.
Bruce therefore sought more extreme ways to prevent crimes that he was not fast enough to stop as a non-meta human. So, he set his sights on the Flash of Earth -52, determined to become a speedster himself in the Speed Force and use superspeed more effectively to fight the bad guys of Gotham City. He was ultimately successful, although he had to absorb his world’s Flash in order to gain his abilities.
After leaving the Speed Force, he gave up his previous and more iconic Batman suit and went for a new look, becoming The Red Death. As one would expect of a character with “death” in his name, he didn’t hold back from murder, and killed his way through his own gallery of rogues.
He was left with a scarred and monstrous appearance due to the effects of his methods of gaining super speed, and he’s not altogether stable due to how he absorbed The Flash, but this can make him all the more dangerous. All in all, the Red Death is not a villain any hero would want to face on their own Earth.
Surely The Flash would not have name-dropped Red Death without the intention of bringing him into the mix in a future season! The Flash casually name-dropped DeVoe back in its third season before revealing him in Season 4 as the next big bad; could the Red Death be the big bad of Season 6? The show is likely to get battier than usual anyway thanks to the “Crisis On Infinite Earths” crossover that seems likely to include a fair amount of Batwoman, Gotham City, and Bat rogues.
Could the Red Death be the Arrow-verse’s way of featuring Batman without actually featuring Batman? The Dark Knight himself does run the risk of overshadowing any other hero in the Arrow-verse, and while I certainly won’t rule out seeing him in the future (especially if Batwoman gets a series order), the Red Death would be a great way to include a version of the iconic character.
Red Death is also a version of Batman that hasn’t been done time and time again, so he would allow The Flash to cover new ground with a Batman. Besides, The Flash loves a good speedster villain. Red Death would allow the show to pit Barry against a villain who is both a speedster and a super skilled martial artist and detective.
Interestingly, “Memorabilia” also name-dropped another villain traditionally assorted with Batman (and that has appeared on both Gotham and Young Justice: Outsiders in recent years): the Mad Hatter. The Mad Hatter mentioned is a bad guy from another Earth, mentioned by Sherloque as he explained the tech that would ideally help them wake up Grace. Perhaps it’s a sign that Jervis Tetch exists on Earth-1 as well! Who knows who all is locked up in Arkham?