‘The Flash’ Review: ‘Going Rogue’
Back when 'Angel' first premiered on The WB, it would more than occasionally feature episodes with characters from the mothership show 'Buffy The Vampire Slayer.' Buffy, Oz, Willow, and others would pop by for both ratings as well as some sweet inter-show continuity. And when you have the entire DC Universe to play with, it makes sense for The CW to bring the worlds of 'Arrow' and 'The Flash' together from time to time. Sure, these are two different worlds, but one that shares the same sky, and luckily for us, the same Felicity Smoak.
Emily Bett Rickards has been stealing 'Arrow' from under Stephen Amell and company for more than a season now, and she’s equally adept at putting those on 'The Flash' to shame as well. Ostensibly an episode that establishes Barry Allen’s first long-term nemesis, “Going Rogue” is really a Smoak-tastic hour that not only gives Rickards a chance to shine, but also offer up some meta-critique for world-building in the world of small-screen superhero shows.
Now, “meta” isn’t my favorite flavor of entertainment, as things can get pretty arch pretty quickly. (The divisive 'Lost' episode “Exposé” is an excellent example of how things can go from self-depreciating to self-congratulating faster than you can say “Razzle Dazzle!”) But here, it works, mostly because the meta nature of Felicity’s crossover isn’t underlined but rather is understated. She’s useful to Barry’s attempts to catch Leonard “Captain Cold” Snart, but she’s more useful in offering up the denizens of S.T.A.R. Labs a blueprint for potentially functioning as a cohesive unit over the long haul.
One of the things I enjoyed about the pilot episode of 'The Flash' was the way it didn’t muck around with slowly assembling a crew to assist in Barry’s crimefighting. But as Felicity (or more accurately, the script by Geoff Johns and Kai Yu Wu) astutely points out tonight, there’s indeed benefit in the sheer weight of accumulated experiences. The fact that Snart obtains a weapon designed as a failsafe against Barry’s post-coma emergence highlights the fact that Barry’s time in a coma under the supervision of Wells, Cisco, and Caitlin doesn’t count as bonding time for the quartet. Just as Batman continually prepares for a scenario in which Superman goes rogue, so too did Cisco prepare for a potential psychopath with superspeed to wake up one day.
It’s a smart way to introduce tension in the group, but it’s hampered somewhat tonight by the fact that Cisco has only served as competent comedic relief until this point. Thus, the shift in which Wells absolutely lays into Cisco for losing the cold ray comes out of nowhere. Sure, this layer had to come in at some point, but it’s delivered so abruptly that I wondered if I had missed a few scenes between them. This is where the longevity of Oliver Queen’s team comes in handy: We no longer have to wonder how certain people will react, as we have spent enough time to predict what they will do. Here? Sure, we have a vague sense that Wells may or may not be masterminding some evil plot using Barry as unwitting bait, but we have zero background on his relationship with Cisco. The vagaries of Wells’ motivations means his interactions with almost everyone can’t truly be parsed. It’s far more fascinating if Wells cares for Cisco AND is using him, but we just don’t have that level of information yet. Tonight’s newly-introduced dynamic will probably pay off in the long term, but fell short in the present.
Also still falling short in the present is anything involving Iris and Eddie, especially when contrasted with the chemistry between Barry and Felicity. And yes, Felicity could probably have chemistry with the snacks served at Trivia Night, but it’s still one thing for a show to tell us two people are into each other and another for two actors to actually sell that chemistry. I’m sure the thespians playing Iris and Eddie are super nice people in real-life, but I don’t buy the pair for a second onscreen. More importantly, I don’t buy the Barry/Iris stuff, either. “We are perfectly perfect for each other,” Felicity tells Barry near the end of the episode, and she’s absolutely right! Maybe two seasons of Felicity/Oliver interactions make the star-crossed coupling more palatable over on 'Arrow,' but I have zero need for Barry and Iris to do anything but keep trying to set the other up on dates, if they even need to interact at all at this point.
Still, I’m dwelling too much on the negative, when the big picture stuff worked very well. Not only was an extra hour of Felicity on my television a pleasure, but Wentworth Miller’s Leonard Snart is a welcome addition to the show’s roster. Not only is he the first villain to escape at hour’s end, but the show’s closing teaser suggests that he’ll be forming a super group (known as The Rogues) in order to challenge The Flash at a later date. Miller’s character keeps Snart’s surprising moral code from the comics, and has a refreshingly down-to-earth approach that stands in contrast with his visually awesome cold ray.
We’re only four weeks in, but 'The Flash' has shown great skill at presenting interesting combat scenarios for Barry. Simple brawls simply won’t do here. Tonight’s train rescue might have been more visually impressive than the pilot’s tornado battle, and certainly highlighted what Snart calls Barry’s “weakness”: his need to help other people. That’s hardly an unusual Achilles’ heel, but Snart’s instant recognition of this tendency suggests a keen intelligence far beyond that of a high school drop-out. At some point, villains are going to have to stick around past a single episode in order to make a dent in this universe. And while Wells might ultimately be the Big Bad (to steal a 'Buffy' phrase), it will be good to see recurring figures match powers AND wits with the Fastest Man Alive.
A few quick observations about tonight’s episode:
- “I’m talking to air now. Which is odd. And I’m still doing it!” Eventually,
- Felicity Smoak will be too twee by half. But it was not this day.
- Wells beating Barry at chess was a semi-anvilicious moment, but not as much as him telling Felicity that he “foresaw” her greatness.
- Eddie doesn’t know the name of the Millennium Falcon. He is truly history’s greatest monster.
- Iris has started a blog. Well, it’s been a good run, internet.
- Fun With Wikipedia: The matchbook at the episode end is used by Mick Rory, aka “Heat Wave,” a recurring member of The Rogues. The “Keystone City
- "Motel" is a reference to Keystone City, home of both the original Flash Jay Garrick as well as the third Flash, Wally West.