If The Flash is going to take a break from the Earth-2 shenanigans and the overarching threat of Zoom to focus on a single, isolated one-and-done episode with a standard Flash foe, that foe should always be Captain Cold. And if Captain Cold brings his evil dad to visit? All the better.
“Family of Rogues” wasn’t great, but it was a perfectly serviceable episode of The Flash as the series starts to slowly build momentum to all the madness we know is coming. It’s always, always great to get Wentworth Miller back as Cold, and his repartee with Barry is great enough that you’d be forgiven for being a little sad he’s inevitably going to be on Legends of Tomorrow instead of tormenting the Flash on a weekly basis.
The episode start with Barry and Patty Spivot having yet another meet-cute, Dr. Stein recovering from his fainting spell, Caitlin and Jay Garrick trying to figure out a way to get Jay back to Earth-2 through the portal in the STAR Labs basement. But “Family of Rogues” really begins when Lisa Snart, a.k.a. the Golden Glider and sister of the fabulous Captain Cold, finds Cisco to ask him and the SuperSTARS for help.
It turns out that Cold has been kidnapped, but when Barry finds Leonard Snart, he doesn’t appear to be kidnapped at all. In fact, he seems to be committing crimes with his criminal father played by a perfectly cast Michael Ironside, a situation baffling enough that Cold is able to freeze Barry (luckily, Cisco included a heating system in the new uniform for just this sort of occasion).
When Barry returns to STAR Labs to ask Lisa what the hell, she says there’s no way Leonard would work with their father (he was abusive, a disturbing plot element that The Flash isn’t really equipped to handle with any delicacy; the show tries to quickly move past it). The obvious answer is that Daddy Cold is forced Leonard to work with him; however, when the cops find a headless body at a Snart HQ, they realize that in fact Cold Sr. has put a bomb in Lisa’s head, and is threatening to kill her if Leonard doesn’t use his skills and cold gun to help daddy dearest.
If all this sounds perfunctory…. Well, it pretty much is. The real fun is getting Wentworth Miller back on screen as Cold, and watching him and the Flash work together to defeat a common enemy—especially when Barry decides to go undercover(!) as one of Leonard’s criminal buddies to infiltrate Daddy Cold’s gang to figure out what they’re planning on stealing. While “Family of Rogues” likely won’t go down as anyone’s favorite episode of The Flash, it is worth it almost entirely for Miller’s total consternation when Barry shows up claiming to be the new criminal “tech guy.” It leads to a lot of great moments, like Barry secretly using his speed to bypass an electronic security lock—he literally just starts punching in all the numbers super-fast until he hits the right one—or secretly catching the bullet that Ironside fires at him after Barry opens the vault.
This also leads to a lot of great scenes between Lisa and Cisco, who build on their unlikely charisma together. I wouldn’t necessarily say romantic sparks fly between Carlos Valdes and actress Peyton List, but the two characters seem to genuinely like each other, despite one being a nerd and the other being a thief. It’s something most shows would inevitably turn sour, with the femme fatale deceiving the hapless, romantically challenged nerd, but Lisa never comes across as condescending, and Cisco never comes off as naïve. He knows the score.
The conclusion, where Cisco races to suck the bomb out of Golden Glider’s neck while Dad orders Leonard to ice the Flash is silly, utterly contrived, and still very, very fun. There’s no reason for Barry to confront the Cold family before Lisa is safe, but he does, merely so Cisco has some kind of arbitrary deadline. Of course at the last instant Cisco saves Lisa, Barry tells Leonard his sister is safe, and Captain Cold trains his cold ray off Flash and on his father’s heart.
Leonard goes to jail for murdering his dad, but Cold has no regrets, and only Barry seems naïve enough to believe prison will hold him for long (Barry also gives Cold a big, smug “I know you have good in you speech!” which is kind of weird, after Leonard has literally just murdered his dad in—wait for it—cold blood).
While the main storyline was pretty insubstantial, there were a lot of nice touches throughout the episode, even beyond that of Wentworth Miller. The episode begins with Iris trapped in a tall office building with people shooting at her (she’s investigating some kind of real estate scam), calling Barry for help. I love this scene because 1) Iris didn’t need anyone’s help to do the investigating, and I get the sense if the dudes didn’t have gun and weren’t blocking the stairs she wouldn’t have bothered to call Barry at all; 2) there’s not forced romantic nonsense between Barry and Iris, which makes them genuinely seem like friends; and 3) Barry tells Iris to jump out the window, and she does, and Barry runs across town and grabs her before she even hits the ground. It’s these sorts of scenes that make me love this show.
But there’s more Iris goodness! Because as you’ll recall, Iris’ mom Francine showed up last week out of nowhere. As it turns out, she was a drug addict and passed out and basically left little Iris to play with an open flame; Joe checked her into rehab, she fled to days later, and rather than tell his 6-year-old daughter her mother abandoned her Joe just said she was dead. Now she’s back with some bullshit about Iris needing her mother after losing her fiancé—which happened six months ago!—but Joe shuts her down and tells her to get out of town. (Her reasoning is stupid as hell, but I assume the show is doing this purposefully because it wants us to find Francine terrible.)
Anyways, Joe frets about revealing the truth to Iris, but Iris—after a moment of completely justified shock—understands why Joe did what he did. So not only do we have a needless emotional conflict avoided, not only does Iris act with total maturity, this gets resolved in a single episode! Awesome. Now the question is if Francine arrived out of nowhere purely to provide a parallel to the Cold family turmoil, or if the West family has a more troublesome reunion in store?
We may or may not see next week. I know The Flash is just biding its time until Tom Cavanaugh returns—to play whoever the hell he’s playing—and the Speed Force completely hits the fan, so to speak. While I’m eager to get to the real story of season 2, as long as we get more goodness like Captain Cold in the meantime, The Flash can take all the time its needs getting there.
• Barry’s scientific mind at work: “Hmm. So the breach repels anything that tries to enter it? I think I’ll run at it really fast. Ow!”
• Barry and Patty Spivot, by the way, have crazy chemistry. If the writers provide enough for her, I could definitely see her as the breakout Felicity analog of The Flash.
• Dr. Stein ends the episode with another strange fit that includes him flaming on a la Firestorm, except blue. Looks like next week we get the return of Jason Rusch. I have no idea how this will work with Legends of Tomorrow.
• Was it me or did Jay act kind of sketchy after Caitlin managed to convince him to stay on Earth-1 until Zoom is defeated?
• Dr. Stein cops an “Excelsior!” when he discovers Jay and Caitlin’s speed cannon. I smirked.
• The episode ends with a Wells moment, where Wells seems to exit Earth-2’s version of the STAR Labs portal. If so, where did he go? Was he on Earth-1? Is he Zoom? Is he Wells? Is he evil? The Flash seems to be going out of its way to make him look sinister, so I feel like he may actually be good and the show wants to surprise us.
• Let us acknowledge that Captain Cold used his cold ray to freeze lasers—beams of light—and then the frozen lasers literally broke into chunks of ice, and then never, never speak of it again.