The Flash has wasted no time trying to catch up to the level of publicity and quality its predecessor, Arrow, has met in its 3-year run. Grant Gustin fits the role of the speedy Barry Allen like a glove, and wears the emotional struggles his nights playing the hero behind the mask and tights evokes like a champ. Like Stephen Amell and his series, this is definitely Grant’s show. He owns it, and everyone else in Central City goes as he does. The first nine episodes of this series could not have stated that any clearer, as we constantly learned more about our main hero as he grew with his powers. For these particular reasons, “Revenge of the Rogues” plays off more as a test of his growth than anything else. The fallout of Barry’s recent battle with his arch-nemesis – the “Reverse-Flash” who totally kicked his ass a month ago – is evident throughout, and they physical and emotional battle it pits him in is explored until the credits roll. Luckily for us, it makes for some pretty good television.
Prison Break’s Wentworth Miller returned as the bone-chilling (pun-intended) Captain Cold, and brought his new teammate, Prison Break alum Dominic Purrell’s Heat Wave, along for the ride this time. With this being the mid-season premiere, as well as the focus being Barry’s inability to manage his personal priorities, the show picked a perfect time to introduce this new villain tag-team. Miller already established himself as the far-and-away best baddie the show has yet produced when we first saw him in “Going Rogue”; Barry couldn’t even apprehend him after their first encounter. So, why not give him a little backup? (and why not have him be the guy who played his brother on a different show?) The whole idea of stealing paintings and breaking into high-profile garages just to get the Flash’s attention was fresh, and it was a great way to polarize the Captain Cold/Heat Wave tandem. Considering how calculated and cunning Cold can be, it made sense to have that clash with Heat Wave’s greed and recklessness. Regardless of their differences, they’re quite the dangerous pairing, made even more apparent in one scene when they critically injured an entire police squad well-equipped for just Cold’s techniques. But they fit in the context of this episode so well because their actions challenged Barry’ priorities. More than anything, Cold wants to neutralize his adversary. Most people don’t broadcast it across town on a live feed with a time and place, but this was a legitimate demand. Barry eagerly wishes to instead focus on finding the whereabouts of Reverse-Flash, despite the fact that he does absolutely nothing in this episode to try and grab a lead on that front. For Cold to go out and kidnap Caitlin simply to provoke him demonstrated his thirst to defeat his nemesis, and reminded me exactly why he’s such an excellent opponent to have in this series. Also, the big fight between the Flash and Captain Cold/Heat Wave was not only justification that Barry’s further understanding the parameters of a true top priority, it was a rather neat special effects show. I can’t help but question why the entire CCPD stood idly by while Barry figured out how to beat Cold and Heat Wave by himself, but at least there was some cool-looking CGI in-between all of it.
Still, “Rogues” was all about Barry focusing on what matters most. As much as he hates hearing it from Joe, he’s going to have to put his “Reverse-Flash” investigation on hold, especially when his friends are in immediate danger. Anyone who’s anyone can see where Barry is coming from though, since Reverse-Flash did kill his mom and left his father behind bars. The impact his presence left on Barry in the mid-season finale is all too telling. Just thinking of the man in yellow intimidates him, and it narrows his focus on stopping him way more than it should. Wells being in his ear about honing in on his powers doesn’t help matters either. Before this week, I wasn’t sure if Barry completely grasped the breadth of his responsibilities (which is basically a character arc the show has rightfully built up week-by-week). What we witnessed last night was a young man blindly seeking for a solution to a problem, while almost allowing another one with Captain Cold get out of hand. So, he’s not quite there yet, but like I said with his showdown with Cold/Heat Wave, he’s getting there. And a thumbs up to the show for giving Grant Gustin so much outstanding material to work with last night. His immediacy to take on Cold after his initial threat; his talk with Isis at the end of the episode to clear the air over him expressing his feelings for her; the budding moment with Joe where he moved back into the old home; all of it showed a character who anchors this show because he has so many grounded and compelling layers.
Caitlin and Cisco also had some solid moments in “Rogue” that helped re-establish their importance as the central supporting cast. The whole F.I.R.E.S.T.O.R.M. project is intriguing – even more so with Jason Rusch making his series debut, and I’m curious to learn what else Caitlin discovers from it. And who knows; maybe the prospect of transmutation will lead to both Jason and Ronnie meshing together like the comics so destines them to. Caitlin thoroughly looking into things, like the incident involving Dr. Stein, definitely makes things a bit more interesting as well. Cisco’s presence this week was more rewarding for viewers, as he got the chance to show off some cool new gadgets he invented at Star Labs to help take down Captain Cold (featured by a brilliant Ghostbusters reference). The running bit with his silly villain names rubbing off on Wells was amusing, and I appreciate seeing at least one of his colleagues have some fun with it (although Caitlin has given it a go once or twice in the past to a lesser effect). The best part of his story arc was the closure of making up for the particle accelerator incident a year ago that he regretfully triggered. His assistance with the CCPD last night was met with a warm reaction from the squad, including Captain Singh (!), and I’m glad that he could move on having known that he made up for a past mistake.
Before watching The Flash, my only significant knowledge of the character and the comic book world that surrounds him came from a few episodes of Justice League: Unlimited. Now bear with me here, because that show opened my eyes to a few instances from “Rogue”. The overwhelmingly thankful reception the police gave the hero after taking down Cold would’ve struck me as odd, especially since Eddie was recently authorized a task force to take him down (Side note: Did anyone else find it a bit weird, though somewhat in-character, that Eddie was the only one who reached out to give Barry a hand with Cold and Heat Wave in that fight?). However, Justice League: Unlimited, having been given the reputation of authenticating the DC characters to a tee, portrayed the Central City police as avid fans of the Scarlet Speedster. Being a casual fan of both that show and this one, I don’t have much of a choice but to agree with what the majority’s trying to sell, which isn’t too hard considering the level of crime Barry has already stopped this season.
Cold wound up breaking out of prison with Heat Wave (which is fitting for all the most obvious of reasons), but the mention of his sister helping with the jailbreak apparently speaks volumes with the comic book junkies. It entails that The Flash is intent on forming some type of team to take down Barry in the coming weeks, and it would go a long way in explaining why Cold is so obsessed with organization and proper planning. It surely does take more than one bad guy to catch the fastest man alive, and having a set of clear heads is becoming more and more of a requirement. Anyway, if we’re supposed to prepare for a whole league of Sinister Six-type baddies going after the same superhero, then happy hunting in my opinion.
The Flash was on a roll when it wrapped up the mid-season festivities with the pivotal Flash/Reverse-Flash showdown, and “Revenge of the Rogues” picks things up without missing a step. It featured a strong moral dilemma for Barry to tackle, great action and CGI effects, and the return of the righteously over-the-top Captain Cold. Couple that with a few new story strings to chew on, like F.I.R.E.S.T.O.R.M. and the building of a league of anti-Flash villains, and what we’re left with is an hour of television that pulls us right back into Central City without much of a hitch at all.
+ Gustin once again delivers the goods as Barry/The Flash
+ Miller and Purcell reunited again as Captain Cold and Heat Wave
+ Some really cool-looking CGI throughout
+ The new story arcs work extremely well
+ Cisco winning over the CCPD