It’s not uncommon for someone to want to step in their husband or wife’s shoes for a day. But we imagine that desire is pretty irresistible when you’re married to a superhero.
In tonight’s episode of The Flash, “Run, Iris, Run,” Iris West unexpectedly finds herself with the Flash’s powers after a run-in with a new bus meta. Barry, on the other hand, winds up completely powerless, leading to him taking on Iris’s role on the team while she suits up and hits the streets.
“It’s a complete role reversal,” shares Candice Patton. “It’s about the team trusting in Iris and her getting her moment to kind of step out from behind the console and be a leader in a different way.”
Over four seasons, Iris has gone from being oblivious about the Flash and Barry’s feelings towards her to being the leader of the Flash’s team and Barry’s supportive wife. While all these changes and evolutions have been things that Iris wanted, fans can’t be blamed for asking…what about her? It’s one thing to want to help your husband and your city’s resident superhero (especially when they’re one and the same), but doesn’t Iris want anything for herself?
“Everybody this year is sort of looking outward and we wanted Iris to look inward and figure out exactly what it is that she wants to do,” explains Flash Executive Producer Todd Helbing. “She made this sacrifice to be team leader when Barry went into the Speed Force, and she’s always doing things for other people. It’s nice to get her to do things for herself and what’s going to make her the most complete version of herself.”
Of course, as many people who have found themselves searching for who they are or what makes them happiest in life can attest, sometimes it takes a profound event in life to kickstart that process. For most of us, it’s not finding yourself with superpowers for a day, but hey…most of us don’t live in Central City.
Iris’s stint as a superhero—which only lasts a single episode, so don’t get too used to her in the suit—includes everything the other superheroes on the show have been through, albeit much more condensed.
“It’s different because we knew we were going to do it in one episode, so it’s not like she could go through all the trials and tribulations that Barry went through,” Helbing elaborates. “We wanted to have her do something that Barry had never done before, sort of using everything that she’s learned over the past. But we really wanted to have the sort of dynamic where when they swap places, she gets to now know what it’s like for Barry every time he goes out there and Barry knows what it’s like for her.”
“I always thought it would be cool for fans and for the show to see Iris suit up for an episode,” shares Patton. “I never wanted it to be a thing where Iris became a [permanent] superhero on The Flash. We’ve got enough superheroes and that’s just not who Iris is.”
Yes, for any of the show’s fans—and there are more than a few—who feel that Iris is a stronger character without superpowers, you can take some comfort in knowing that the woman who plays her agrees with you.
“I think the most important thing about Iris as a character is that she’s a hero in her own right without any superpowers,” says Patton. “She uses her heart and her intellect and her street smarts to help the team. It appeals to the audience that we ourselves as human beings everyday can be heroes in our own lives. We don’t need superpowers. We don’t need to be struck by lightning tomorrow to do something important. I think Iris illuminates that on the show.”
Also, having superpowers onscreen is much harder than it looks, as Patton discovered.
“Just learning to run in front of a green screen—your arms are moving, but your legs are not, which is a weird thing,” she reveals. “There’s no treadmill, you’re just literally standing there doing this. [swings her arms like she’s running] Grant, god bless him, he was giving me tips. ‘Don’t stand up straight and do it because you’re going to look ridiculous.’ Literally giving me the play-by-play of how not to look like an idiot onscreen. He’s had four years to perfect that. I got one episode to try to make it not look stupid.
“It was weird and interesting and fun and challenging all at the same time. But it was great. I’m so happy I got to do it.”
For Patton, it represents yet another step forward in a character who has come a long way since the early days of being Barry’s platonic best friend and frequent object of rescue, and while having superpowers is undeniably fun, it’s all in the interest of her rediscovering what she’s really passionate about.
“She understands that Barry having speed is what gets him up in the morning,” Patton says. “It’s what he’s passionate about. For her, I think it reignited that she still has to find that, and that journalism’s the thing that she put to the side to take up the mantle at S.T.A.R. Labs, but it’s still a part of her. It’s still the reason that she wakes up.”
That’s right, anyone who was hoping to see Iris return to her comic book roots and get back to her career as a journalist will see her take her first step toward that tonight. “Run, Iris, Run” leaves the character in a great place at the end of the episode, with a lot of promise ahead. DeVoe is still out there, but assuming Team Flash finds a way to defeat him, things are looking sunny for Iris and for the actress who embodies her.
“It reignited my love for Iris and her tenacity, courage and strength,” says Patton about tonight’s episode. “I think of what she means to me and to a lot of fans. When fans knew that this episode was happening, people who love Iris were just over the moon and it reminded me of how big our impact is. It makes me excited to go to work.”
"Run, Iris, Run" airs tonight on The Flash at 8 p.m. (7 p.m. CST) on The CW. Be sure to stop by DCComics.com tonight after it airs to read Ashley V. Robinson's thoughts on it in the #DCTV Couch Club!