I will be very busy these next couple of months, so my TV reviews will wind up being more sporadic than I had anticipated. I’ll be making an effort to compensate for the lack of time I currently have to dedicated myself to these posts by trying new things, like an end-of-the-week TV episode review catalogue, express (I.E. shortened) reviews, and dual reviews of episodes aired within a two-week span. I cannot guarantee that I’ll cover every show I tasked myself with each week, but I will at least aim to discuss them to some degree.
“The New Rogues”
“The New Rogues” is an episode I couldn’t bear to live without reviewing. It’s so hilarious, so ambitious, and so much fun that not formally honoring it with the praise and accolades it deserves would be an immensely inconsiderate disservice to the work The Flash managed to construct here. This truly was a brilliant hour of television, and for the first time in a long time The Flash truly felt like that magical show that graced our silver screens two years ago.
I could honestly start at any specific story arc or plot point and be talking about something golden, but for now I’d like to give my two cents on the most exciting aspect of the episode: Mirror Master. First off: what an amazing flashback sequence to introduce him to the live-action DC Universe. Captain Cold’s bone-chilling (pun intended) appearance mixed with the Bonnie and Clyde dynamic between Sam Scudder/Mirror Master and Rosalind Dillon/Top (both respectively played by Grey Damon and Ashley Richards) made for a thriller of an opening, with the origin story behind this episode’s main baddies blissfully explained through traded blows to the face and an untimely particle accelerator explosion. The revenge plot that follows for the villainous couple relies entirely on a silver-age tone that not only perfectly characterizes their relationship, but sets the mood for the rest of the episode. Their encounters with Barry and Jesse feed off the exhilaration of viewers seeing a pair of new rogues, with impressive CGI that validates the threat they could bring to the city, while the residual effects of the havoc they wrought are presented in amusing, tongue-in-cheek fashion. Mirror Master and Top are relentlessly hunted down for the entirety of “The New Rogues”, but The Flash fully realizes the potential in having some fun with their arrival: Cisco and Wells (almost literally) fight over nicknaming them, and Barry, trapped in a mirror himself, is temporarily relegated to staring at Iris’s behind before Cisco saves the day via a Twin Peaks reference. Hell, even the climax is great, with the show masterfully showcasing Team Flash’s uniform intelligence in apprehending non-speedsters: Barry going all Droste effect on Scudder, in particular, was amazing.
Besides perception-bending fiends and scarlet speedsters, love was also in the air in this episode, with Wally and Jesse surrendering to their feelings for each other while Barry and Iris hilariously struggled to take the next step in their relationship. These are two things I certainly admire The Flash for addressing; particularly the former arc, with the writing being on the wall for quite some time. Thankfully, they’re both written into the proceedings rather seamlessly. With Jesse returning to her original Earth with Wells, Wally needed to make his move, and I love how upfront and aware both of them are about their affections. On the other hand, Iris encouraging Barry to tell Joe that they’ll be openly expressing their feelings for each other allowed for some genuinely amusing moments, while eventually moving them past a relationship hurdle I honestly believed The Flash would settle in for a bit longer.
The team’s search for a new Wells to supplant Harry while he’s gone led to perhaps the most entertaining couple of minutes in this series yet. It’s no secret that Tom Cavanagh carries a distinct proficiency in his performance that caters wonderfully to the various personalities found in other Earths, but watching him play cowboy Wells, “nerd” Wells and Mime Wells (my personal favorite) reinforces the importance in retaining a man of his talent level. This particular scene is laugh-out-loud funny, no doubt, but Cavanagh is so darn passionate here it’s impossible not to also find it ridiculously endearing; an acting element this show needs to have in its holster when it flashes around its lighter tendencies.
Another reason why I felt it appropriate to review “The New Rogues” and “Monster” together is that the latter episode feels like such a surefire extension of the former one. Whether you consider the extended looks at Earth-19’s Wells or Caitlin’s new powers, “Monster” wastes no time digging into the latest of last week’s surprises, and that’s the episode’s biggest strength.
Through “H.R.” we get an enormously welcoming continuation of Tom Cavanagh’s fantastic, diverse acting chops, as he shows off a quirky, eccentric approach to a man initially portrayed as mysterious and brooding. H.R. is curiously happy-go-lucky, and his use of incessant charm to win over the favor of his new teammates is a clever way of building an air of uncertainty between him and Team Flash. Hardly anyone is buying his act (if you can even call it that), and once Barry and Cisco’s suspicions reach their boiling points the two gentlemen decide to go through his stuff to verify those suspicions. Although his message recording got me thinking otherwise as well, I was honestly shocked to find out H.R. was entirely innocent, and even somewhat amused that he was basically masking his glaring ignorance behind everyone else. It’d be fair to have the gang express their frustrations and overall disappointment considering how important it is for them to be guided along by a Wells-type of intelligence, but I really liked the emotional plight centered around H.R.’s trickery; besides, how can you possibly hate a bubbly personality who just wants to write a novel?
Elsewhere: Caitlin’s trip to her negligent mother’s lab made for some decent, albeit eye-rolling material. More often than not, you’re likely to scratch your head over a number of remarks said and decisions made in the Caitlin arc this week. By slinking away from S.T.A.R. Labs to tend to her powers going all out of whack, Caitlin basically chooses secrecy with the group instead of simply revealing her situation, which, although understandable given the context of Earth-2’s Killer Frost from last season, feels extremely bone-headed. Barry has consoled villains overwhelmed by their powers before; the rest of Team Flash finds Caitlin an essential member and a close friend (although, in fairness, you wouldn’t know the former half based on how inconsequential she’s been as a character lately). Why not just tell everyone what’s up and figure out a solution? We don’t get anything valuable from the verbal animosity expressed between her and Carla besides the realization that Caitlin being the opposite of her mother has indirectly led to tragedy all her life. There’s not even any sort of mentioning over when exactly Caitlin gained her powers (Was it the result of Flashpoint? Was she hit with the particle accelerator, too?) In addition, that assistant who laughably attempts to capture and contain Caitlin plays off as a cheap excuse to create stakes in a B-story that should be laser-focused on the dynamic of the characters involved. It wasn’t all a total loss, what with Carla and Caitlin “on the road to recovery” and Caitlin’s powers seeming to get a hold of her instead of the other way around. Given what Wells told Cisco before he left with Jesse, it’ll be interesting to see if he or someone else catches on to what their stiletto-clad scientist is hiding.
“Monster” also spent some time finally fleshing out Julian in one of the most forgettable villains-of-the-week in recent memory. His backstory could’ve been laid out more extensively than a simple, wordy exposition of how rich he was back home – but it works for a number of reasons. For one, his decision to come to the ‘States and make a name for himself in the field of science is threatened by the entire state of the CCPD. With The Flash hanging around, the cops literally do nothing, and guys like Barry get away with breaking certain office rules without severe punishment (a fantastic bit of self-awareness on the show’s end, by the way). Julian expected to discover a humbling environment where hard work was prioritized and his skills mattered, and he sees that’s simply not the case with this job. For him to try and take matters into his own hands by nearly shooting that teenage kid was rightfully tense, and the conversation Barry has with him after reveals a pathos to the character we were not previously shown. I’m beyond relieved that the asshole who couldn’t stand the sight of Barry breathing is dead and gone; this new, more – I don’t know, “approachable”? – Julian could actually be fun to watch in the coming weeks.
Quite frankly, the teenage-kid-driven hologram that gives the episode its name just sucked. All it did was prove the insane level of stupidity the CCPD incorporates into their work, while destroying transformers in its wake – and I’m not talking Optimus Prime and Megatron. For someone, even that kid’s age, to resort to terrorism over bullying is awful, and had The Flash went all afterschool special on us the writers’ intentions would’ve felt even more cruel; could you imagine Grant Gustin staring at your television screen about bullying in America after this? And he didn’t deserve the talk that Joe gave; I’m mostly saying that because the episode gave us no reason to care for him and his problems.