‘The Flash’ Review: “Revenge of the Rogues”
It feels like forever since ‘The Flash’ last aired a new episode, so it’s great to finally have this entertaining show back on the air. It’s also a month later in the fictional world of the show when things start back up tonight in “Revenge of the Rogues,” and it seems as if Barry Allen and company are still nursing their wounds from the events in “The Man in the Yellow Suit.” But while plenty of people are hurting in Central City, ‘The Flash’ shows no signs of losing its light touch in the all-too-often dark world of Hollywood comic-book adaptations.
As the show’s first recurring villain, Wentworth Miller makes a welcome return tonight as Leonard Snart, a.k.a. Captain Cold, alongside Miller’s ‘Prison Break’ brother Dominic Purcell as Mick Rory (otherwise known as Heat Wave). One of the great advantages that television shows have over films is the ability to move as fast as Barry Allen, relatively speaking, in terms of the story it can deploy. A filmed version of ‘The Flash’ might build up The Rogues over the course of a couple of films and nearly a decade of time. But by the end of tonight’s episode, we have three slots already filled within the course of ten installments. (The third, Snart’s sister, is still unseen, but a quick Internet search should give you a taste of what’s to come.)
What do The Rogues want? To publicly out The Flash, a move that makes a whole lot of sense. Let’s assume that Iris’ blog didn’t exactly set the world on fire, and only having a handful of people knowing the existence of The Flash didn’t really create the proper amount of stakes. After all, as seen in Harrison Wells’ Newspaper Of The Future, The Flash is an entity that earns front-page news. So in some ways, Snart is just nudging Barry along the same path that Wells is simultaneously paving. Losing tonight’s climatic battle (which owed more than a little to the plot of ‘Ghostbusters,’ as the episode overly acknowledged) didn’t mark the battle as a defeat for Snark. Much in the way that Ivan Vanko showed the world that Iron Man could be defeated in ‘Iron Man 2,’ so did Snart cast a huge spotlight on The Flash for those that might be tempted to defeat this superpowered hero. Rory has Snart’s motivations wrong: Snart doesn’t need to defeat The Flash himself. Snart simply needs The Flash out of the picture.
For a lot of this episode, The Flash is out of the picture, at least in terms of The Rogues’ activity. “I’m Barry Allen ... and I am not the Fastest Man Alive,” he intones at the outset of the hour. Still focused on stopping The Reverse-Flash, Barry has spent his time since the holidays honing his skills with the help of Wells, Cisco, and Caitlin. (If you didn’t cheer when Barry hurled that drone missile, it’s possible you’re a bad person.) Snart is serious business, but still pales in comparison to the threat of The Reverse-Flash. Wells encourages this line of thinking, even though the midseason finale STRONGLY hinted Wells himself is The Reverse-Flash. Why train Barry to be better equipped to defeat him? Is Wells really The Reverse-Flash? Should we be looking at Eddie Thawne, whose heroic act saved Barry’s life while simultaneously revealing something akin to an obsession with The Scarlet Speedster? ‘The Flash’ can’t keep things this vague forever, but for now, it’s still fun to watch them maddeningly tease out both possibilities.
All the heroics were typically fun, but what really stood out in “Revenge of the Rogues” was each character’s almost pathological need to state their feelings in direct ways. So much “conflict” in television comes from two people that won’t share information that we the audience know. Yet ‘Revenge of the Rogues’ dodged that bullet at almost every step. In other words, it treated its audience like adults, which goes a long, long way towards creating a feeling of trust between viewer and show. Much of the eye rolling in the series’ fall run came from Barry’s crush on Iris, since his reticence to tell her anything made Iris a weak character. With Barry telling her about his feelings in ‘The Man in the Yellow Suit,’ the door was open for ‘The Flash’ to feature six episodes of the two awkwardly avoiding one another. Instead, they hashed out a way forward like adults (within reason, as Iris took Barry’s picture to her new place with Eddie).
But that wasn’t the only example of honesty in action. Joe West called Harrison Wells out on his poisonous words to Barry concerning his civic responsibility. Cisco got a great moment where he teaches Central City’s Finest how to use their new cold-resistant shields, but also doesn’t shy away from the terrible things he helped cause a year ago. Over at STAR Labs, Caitlin doesn’t hide the nature of her search for the word “Firestorm” from Barry, which instantly leads to the two learning the word is an acronym for a project that is just TOO LONG to type out here. But it involves Victor Garber as Professor Martin Stein, who will feature heavily in weeks to come, and that’s awesome, because Spy Daddy from ‘Alias’ is welcome on any TV show. And finally, with Iris gone, both Joe and Barry admit they would love to live together again, which is great even though I’m jealous since I want to be Joe West’s adopted son most days of the week.
That type of honesty removes the safeguards that help keep a 22-episode season of afloat. But this is a show that isn’t interested in keeping most things secret for too long. Sure, there are long arcs in play regarding The Reverse-Flash and Barry’s role in an upcoming world-changing event. But ‘The Flash’ keeps honesty important on the micro level, and in turn creates characters that are open to each other and to those at home. In just ten episodes, this program has created a lot of compelling fictional figures. That’s this show’s super-power, and it’s pretty damn potent.