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Friday, August 19, 2016

Ashley Rickards cast as The Top in The Flash Season 3

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Edited by Robert Beach 

Another day, another casting announcement from CW.  Seriously, at this rate, I should really have a whole dedicated column just for reporting on new DC Comics characters coming to the cavalcade of CW superhero shows. This latest news ties to The Flash, which means it has an extra strange bit of significance to it. In case you didn’t know, The Flash’s upcoming 3rd season is being split into very distinct halves, in a manner greater than usual. While every CW season is split in two, season 3 of The Flash will have two different story arcs; the first one is known as Flashpoint followed by a mysterious second story in the latter half. 

The Flashpoint story, in which the Flash alters time to save his mother and father and creates a bizarre alternate present, is interesting, but I suspect this major casting announcement is tied more to the mystery story of season 3B. I’ll get into how as we go on, but for now, let’s start with what the big casting news is: Ashley Rickards will be playing a woman version of the classic Flash foe The Top. 

Roscoe Dillon, The Top, was a petty criminal in Central City before the Flash showed up, and he was forced to adopt an elaborate gimmick and advanced technology to defeat him. For whatever reason, Dillon settled on spinning tops and somehow managed to teach himself to spin fast enough to deflect bullets. 

That’s honestly just how a lot of super villains worked back in the Silver Age: weird powers developed out of obsession, concentration, or “sheer willpower” without much explanation beyond that. It didn’t really matter at the time how The Top was able to spin fast enough to bounce bullets off himself. The fact that he could was the important part. 

Even though The Top is a decidedly goofy bad guy with an even goofier costume, he ended up as a member of the Rogues, the union of Flash villains not quite powerful enough to be a full threat on their own. This idea hasn’t popped up on the show, but it’s a cornerstone of the Flash’s mythos. I’m betting the Rogues will play a key role in season 3B. Most of the Rogues are already on The Flash such as Captain Cold, Weather Wizard, Trickster, Pied Piper, Golden Glider, and Heatwave while still more are scheduled to appear like The Top or Mirror Master. 

The Rogues are a unique and compelling villain group. Unlike Superman’s cadre of villainous megalomaniacal conquerors or Batman’s gallery of violent psychopaths, the Rogues are all thieves. Professional thieves.  That makes their arrangement something half-way between a tradesmen’s guild and a social club, which produces a cool aesthetic. 

While with the Rogues, The Top started dating Golden Glider, the sister of the team’s defacto president Captain Cold. I’m not sure if this idea will persist to The Flash given that their Top is a woman. If it turned out Golden Glider on the show was bisexual, that’d be pretty progressive of them. In the books, The Top eventually developed psychic powers, which proved super useful after he died. 

Yes, not even death was enough to keep the ridiculousness of a bad guy with the powers of the Tasmanian devil down. In a weird twist of awareness, it eventually turned out all The Top’s spinning had damaged his brain beyond repair. After a failed revenge plot, Top expired. Rather than passing on, his spirit stuck around and developed the ability to possess the brain dead. 

This came up first when Barry’s parents, who were still alive and together in the comics up until 2011, were in a car accident and The Top possessed the body of Barry’s dad. It’s a creepy and twisted storyline and part of what marked the beginnings of DC’s shift towards moderately more mature stories, coming out at the dawn of the ‘80s.  Even though Barry managed to defeat The Top and return his father’s spirit to its rightful body, The Top came back several times, simply moving on to possess the bodies of other people. 

His most prominent return was when he took over the body of vice-presidential nominee Senator Thomas O’Neill with plans to win. The plot was to have his running mate assassinated and have the country seat the Senator in the Oval Office. Even though Barry thwarted The Top’s presidential ambitions, the villain managed to maintain possession of the Senator's body up until his more permanent death at the hands of Captain Cold. 

If you’re wondering why Captain Cold would kill The Top, a fellow Rogue, it’s because, at the time, they were involved in a 4-way conflict known as the Rogue War. This is why I think The Top’s casting is so important to The Flash season 3B. The CW plan to adapt the Rogue War for the back half of the upcoming season. 

The story was primarily about a schism among the Rogues when several villains decided to become heroes and work with the FBI to hunt their former associates. The villain side, led by Captain Cold, consisted of Mirror Master, Weather Wizard, the super fast son of Captain Boomerang, and Axel Walker (the new Trickster). On the hero side, they were led by James Jesse (the original Trickster), and included Heat Wave, Pied Piper, and Magenta. 

As the two groups fought, the conflict eventually spilled out into the streets of Central City where it was revealed that The Top had secretly orchestrated the entire war. It was revealed that Barry had gotten the super sorcerer Zatanna to cast a spell on The Top to make him become a hero. The spell ended up driving The Top crazy as he was torn between his villainous desires and the mystical impulse to do good. 

His solution to that problem was to use his own psychic powers to “spin” the minds of the Rogues, causing several of them to become good guys, though he reversed the process upon the revelation he was behind it all. Top also had his own group of Rogues for the encounter made up of Plunder, Murmur, Tar Pit, Girder, and Double Down. They all ended up summarily defeated in the ensuing melee. As the battle raged, Captain Cold ended up freezing The Top solid then shattering him, which pretty much killed him forever. 

Given how many Rogue War characters are already part of the Flash mythos and the new ones added this season (Mirror Master, Top, Dr. Alchemy, and Magenta), it strikes me as incredibly likely that this is what’s coming to The Flash. We know from Legends of Tomorrow’s season 2 breakdown that Captain Cold is going to return, so I could easily see the events of Flashpoint acting as a catalyst for the Rogue War without necessarily following the same plot. 

After all, Captain Cold is much more of a hero in this continuity, and there’s no Zatanna to alter Top’s mind. Maybe, in this version, Cold becomes the good guy, and then The Top’s meddling is more Machiavellian. Only time will tell, yet I wouldn’t be surprised if, after the Flashpoint is over, the Rogue War begins. 

The Flash season 3 premieres on October 4, 2016

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