The Flash: Mask of the Red Death Brings Closure to Batwoman
Leslie’s performance as the deranged Red Death—a version of Ryan from an alternate timeline—has been wildly entertaining to watch, a satisfying mix of cunning and crazy (with a dollop of otherworldly advanced technology on top) that makes her unlike any villain that Team Flash has faced before. And, yet, if you squint, it’s not that difficult to see how she’s not really that different from the Ryan Wilder we know, who also wants to fight crime in a city in desperate need of justice.
“You have to have fearlessness when you play villains,” Leslie says. “You have to, because if you think about all your greatest villains, and especially those in [Batman’s world], they all believe that they are justice. It’s very few of them that are killing just to kill. Most are doing it based on what they believe in, and there’s no difference with Red Death because she believes what she’s doing is right.”
Leslie describes Red Death’s “obsessive” idea of justice as “unhinged,” because it tends to skew a lot closer to exacting vengeance or doling out punishment than it does actually helping those that need it.
“The problem, which is what makes her different from good Ryan or Batwoman, is that while Red Death will do anything for the justice that she wants, and if you pay close attention, it’s actually more of a power trip,” she says. “Because true justice maybe means you won’t be the winner in the end. And [Red Death] wants to be in control over everything, so it ultimately stops being about justice and starts being about power. Batwoman obviously wants justice, but she has rules—I think as a hero you have to create rules. You have to create a sense of morality you will follow no matter what. And that’s what Batwoman has that Red Death does not have.”
The Flash’s take on Red Death is, of course, quite different from the DC Comics version of the character, given that showrunner Eric Wallace says he was essentially forbidden from using Bruce or Thomas Wayne and therefore ”couldn’t really dip into the Dark Nights: Metal storyline.” But, according to Leslie, the opportunity to build her own take on the character was freeing.
“I haven’t really done my full research, but I don’t [think] Red Death has ever been brought to live action before,” she says. “So we didn’t really have anything to go off of but our own creativity. It made it fun, and it let us make it our own.”