Monday, February 9, 2015

Character Appreciation Post: Cisco Ramon ("The Flash")

On every series that touts itself as a drama, you have a character who is the comedic relief. I don't like really dark and heavy dramas. I know it probably makes me a horrible person that shows such as Homeland and Mad Men prove of little to no interest to me, but it's true. I like my dramas with a bit of levity. I enjoy characters like Raymond Reddington on The Blacklist who can monologue and make me snicker. I love Felicity's Freudian slips on Arrow and her rambling. And when things get a bit too heavy on Sleepy Hollow, I'm glad that Ichabod can make a joke about modern society or inventions in order to get me to crack a smile. I tweeted this recently, but I love Arrow. I really do. I love how complex it is and I love how deep the characterization is. I love how twisted the stories can get, even when they get twisted so absurdly that I want an out. But sometimes... sometimes Arrow is just too (literally and metaphorically) dark. Sometimes I just want to watch a drama that's fun, lighter, and just as deep.

That's when I watch The Flash.

The new CW hit series is such a refreshing change of pace from its predecessor, Arrow. It's literally lighter and brighter, with vibrant and fun characters who make jokes almost at super speed. That's not to say that The Flash is fluff. Quite the opposite, actually, this superhero series is chock full of real questions -- of heroism and morality and purpose and love and loss and what it means to sacrifice. Barry Allen is a different kind of hero than Oliver Queen is and that's wonderful. We don't need (or I don't, at least) two series on television with brooding, moping heroes who constantly have the weight of the world on their shoulders. And when I tried to think about what makes The Flash different from Arrow, at its core, my thought process was this: The Flash is a show that is always focused on the good in humanity that is warped into evil; Arrow is all about the evil in humanity that needs to be stopped by the good. The Flash is an optimist's show; Arrow a pessimist's.

Again: that's not to say that Arrow is completely and totally dark or that The Flash is seeped in comedy and nothing else. The truth is undeniable, though: The Flash is just a FUN series, even in its most dramatic moments. And part of the reason the show is so fun is because it has genuinely good, engaging, layered characters who also happen to provide comic relief. Character, as you might have assumed already, like Cisco Ramon.

When The Flash began, I thought that Cisco was going to be the character who provided comic relief and little more. And truly, Carlos Valdes has such impeccable comedic timing and gets the opportunity to deliver so many amazing one-liners that you would presume that to be true -- for Cisco to be the levity that the series needs in light of Harrison Wells' secrets and Barry Allen's angst and Caitlin Snow's tears. But Cisco is much more than that and perhaps it's this unsuspecting nature of his character -- this compassion and strength and vulnerability -- that makes him such a stand-out to me in the show.

Cisco is smart. And he's very good at what he does. I love shows that feature characters who are genuinely good at their jobs and passionate about them. Cisco and Felicity are a lot alike when you think about it. Both characters are extremely intelligent. Both provide necessary positivity and comedy in otherwise dramatic and bleak situations situations. Both are sassy and witty. Both are bright and because they're so bright -- because we often think of Cisco's decision to nickname the metahumans as "silly" or Felicity's babbling as funny, we are often hit harder by the emotional impact of their dramatic scenes. Because the truth is that Cisco isn't just a brilliant engineer and he isn't just a character constructed for comedic relief. He's a very real, very broken, very nuanced individual

We've seen all kinds of facets of Cisco Ramon's personality throughout The Flash thus far and that's what I love so much about his character. We've seen Cisco's snark toward villains like Hartley (Carlos Valdes can deliver a deadpanned line so perfectly), but we've also seen his vulnerability, too. The night that the particle accelerator exploded, Ronnie Raymond told Cisco to put the accelerator in lockdown if he wasn't back within two minutes. When Ronnie didn't return, Cisco forced himself to put the device in lockdown mode. And it's only during "Crazy For You" that Cisco finally tells Caitlin the truth about that night. Cisco has been carrying around that secret for so long and it's caused him so much guilt and pain. That's the reason he's been hunting down Ronnie (and why, as a result, he managed to let Hartley escape).

Marc Guggenheim answered a question when someone asked what made them decide to create such a dark backstory for Felicity Smoak ("The Secret Origins of Felicity Smoak") and his answer intrigued me. He said: "Because it's so surprising in light of her innocent and cheerful present-day character." I feel that the same holds true for Cisco Ramon, don't you think? And that's what makes him such an incredible character: because the moment we think that we can dismiss Cisco as the comedic relief or the sidekick, he reminds us that he's lost and he's suffered and he carries that pain inside of him. He's not dark and dramatic or brooding, but he deals with just as much regret and sadness as everyone else on this show.

But emotional vulnerability is only part of the reason that I love Cisco. I love and admire him as a character because he's constantly defending the people he cares about. He's constantly trying to better their lives and he thinks a lot about other people before he thinks of himself. (That's why moments where Barry snaps at him for creating the weapon that destroyed his powers is so painful -- because Barry and Cisco shared a bond, one of trust and of friendship, and that was decimated.) I think it's easy to argue that every character on The Flash (just like every character on the team in Arrow) is a hero. Unconventional heroes are still heroes. Hackers are heroes. Doctors are heroes. Engineers and soldiers are heroes. Cisco is a hero simply because every day he chooses to help other people. He chooses to do good in the world in spite of all of the bad that he's seen of it.

That makes him a hero, just as valid as Barry Allen or Oliver Queen.

Cisco also constantly goes out of his way to protect the people and things that he cares about. He searches for an abducted Caitlin with Joe and hugs her when he finds her. Truly, I think that in Ronnie's absence, Cisco has become a sort of partner and comforter to Caitlin. He tries to protect her at all costs and I think that a lot of it stems from his deep care for her, but I think it also is part of the residual guilt that he feels for being the one to doom Ronnie to death/not really death the night the particle accelerator exploded. Because Cisco feels responsible for what happened to Ronnie, he takes over the jobs that Ronnie had -- stepping up as a leader, making calls, protecting Caitlin. It's so beautiful and so painful to see Cisco harbor so much guilt. It's even more beautiful to see Caitlin (and the others) assure him that he made the right decision. That he did exactly as Ronnie would have done.

And I think that Cisco is such a strong, lovable, dynamic and fun character that occasionally we forget his insecurities. Occasionally we gloss over him like so many others do. But Cisco is a real, layered young man who is trying his best to use the gifts he's been given in order to help his city and humanity. Some days for him, that doesn't feel like enough. But I love that he has such a supportive group of people around him who remind him constantly of his value.

From what we know of Cisco Ramon, I love him. 

I love that he's smart and witty and funny. I love that he's complex and has a lot of pain and sadness within him, but that instead of crippling him, it motivates him to do better -- to BE better -- for the world around him. I love that people rely on Cisco. I love that people trust him. I love that he protects his own, whatever the cost. I love that he can use his intellect to fight back against metahumans. I love that he's not afraid to be silly, but that he's also not afraid to be vulnerable and honest either. I love that he's unassuming. And I love that he's not a sidekick -- he's a hero.


  1. Oh, that brought a tear to my eye. I too love Cisco and I love every moment watching him on screen. I love how much joy he has in his work and just the world around him in general. His eyes see possibilities everywhere and everything that is cool and interesting delights him. And he is unashamed of expressing that delight at any time.
    He is so funny but he expresses concern and care for people, from talking with Diggle and Roy in the van during the crossover to Caitlin whenever she is feeling low.

    We've seen the guilt he's been carrying around and these last couple episodes have shown us his insecurity too. Hartley makes him feel a little insecure and has done ever since he made fun of his shirt on when they first met. He is trying to prove something to Hartley and to Dr Wells, in spite of how simply brilliant he is. He looks up to Dr Wells so much that it hurts me to see how that trust and admiration will probably be betrayed.

    I just want to adopt him. Dr Wells told Cisco he hired him for his humanity and for the wonderful spirit he brings with him to the lab. He brings those same things to our screen and he makes the Flash a joy to watch.

  2. Brilliantly written! I love this show so much. And Cisco is awesome. One of my favourites.

  3. I just read Felicity´s post (wow) , and now I´m going to read this one..... I´ve always thought Cisco is The Flash´s Felicity.....


  4. Cisco has always been my favorite, and I can see that many people overlook him. Great article, very true.

  5. I personally like Cisco because he goes out of his way for others. Its like they mean more to him than himself. He is always trying to cheer people up in times of need, and will offer to help whenever its needed. This is the type of personality I like in a man. Caring, brave, compassionate, loving,generous. I wish there were more people like Cisco Ramon. <3