Holy crap, how was that not the first season finale? Last night’s episode of The Flash, innocuously titled “Rogue Air,” is jam-packed with everything that’s made the second series in the DC TV-iverse so enjoyable, but also takes the show to a new level of goodness. And we still have one more episode to go!
The episode begins with Wells’ narration, but that’s not the only way their former mentor is overshadowing the Super STARS in “Rogue Air.” Immediately after Cisco reveals the battery hidden in Wells’ wheelchair — which Cisco thinks he used to charge himself, in order to stay faster than the Flash — the particle accelerator begins starting up again. The STARS suddenly realize Wells has been hiding from them in STAR Labs the entire time — and keeping Eddie down there, too. While the group finally rescues Eddie, Barry chases after Eobard/Wells, only to fall short yet again.
But there’s a bigger problem than Barry’s inability to catch up his former mentor. The STARS discover that they only have 36 hours before the particle accelerator fully activates, killing the evil metahumans they’ve imprisoned in there. Barry, Joe and the rest realize they have to get these guys out of there… but how? And where? And most importantly… should they really be holding these people at all?
While it’s nice to see The Flash finally address its most problematic plothole, “Rogue Air” doesn’t just stop there — it turns it into part of the crux of the episode. Joe sees the opportunity to bring up that what they’re doing — holding these people without any kind of due process — it both legally and morally wrong. Of course, Barry knows that these superpowered villains can’t be set free even for a minute, because they’d use their powers to escape, hurt others and terrorize the city. But Joe doesn’t let Barry off the hook — yes, jailing these guys may be the lesser of two evils, but that doesn’t make it good. Even as Barry finally manages to get Argus to transport the prisoners to Oliver’s island prison of Lian Yu, Joe refuses to see this as anything more than a bad answer to a worse situation.
Now the trick is to get the bad guys from STAR Labs to the Ferris Air landing strip on the other side of Central City… without endangering the people of Central City at the same time. Cisco discovers a futuristic power source in Wells’ abandoned wheelchair that will somehow create a field that will suppress their powers, and adds it to a truck; meanwhile, Barry decides to find another bad solution to the problem of what to do if the bad guys escape — namely, hire Captain Cold and his sister to ride shotgun.
You might think this is an extremely dumb idea on Barry’s part, and it is pretty much is. However, I would argue that it’s a very comic book-y idea on Barry’s part, and a decision that makes a reasonable amount of sense in the heightened reality of The Flash. More importantly, however, this is supposed to be a stupid decision on Barry’s part, and although the show doesn’t really make this clear until late in the episode, it eventually leads to what might be one of the defining moments of the Flash as a character.
The other thing great about Barry asking Captain Cold to help transport the Villain Express is that Captain Cold is completely awesome. Seriously, I’m genuinely sad that Wentworth Miller is going to be a star in Legends of Tomorrow next season, but I understand because his Leonard Snart is so unbelievably entertaining. He somehow sneers everything he says, he talks like a ‘70s James Bond villain, he literally plays Foreigner’s “Cold As Ice” on the jukebox when Barry tracks him down at a nearby bar to ask for his help — and it’s somehow cheesy and awesome and not even slightly annoying. Honestly, any decision that puts Captain Cold on my TV screen is a good one.
Well, I should clarify: It’s good for me, not for Barry. Because Cold — with help from his sister, who receives the nickname Golden Glider while flirting mercilessly with Cisco — sabotages the power dampener, frees Weather Wizard, Peekaboo, Prism (a.k.a. Rainbow Raider), Deathbolt, and Mist, they take out the Flash, and suddenly Cold has several new Rogues in his gallery (well, minus Deathbolt, whom Cold kills because “he owed me money”). Cold leaves Barry alive, mostly to mock him for trusting an unrepentant criminal, for trying to appeal to his love of Central City, when he spends his days trying to think of ways to rob it and its people.
This leads to the scene I mentioned earlier. Barry feels like a moron, as well he should. Joe enters, and asks Barry what the hell he was thinking — anyone could have seen what was coming. Barry says that he thought he could control the situation — and Cold — like Oliver does as Arrow. What began as Barry just being a moron somehow turns into Barry, desperately hunting for a solution to the prisoner problem, trying to solve it like his friend and partial mentor Oliver — not realizing that he doesn’t have that option. He’s too nice. Even with his speed powers, he’s not intimidating. He can’t cow Cold into submission — and he also can’t be imprisoning his foes on his own, either. When Joe says “This isn’t who you are,” he’s talking to The Flash as much as to the Flash. Any maybe Barry doesn’t need to figure out how to contain the bad guys he meets, since they’ve all just escaped, he knows his previous answer was no real answer at all.
Yes, it started out as Barry being a moron, but it somehow turned The Flash’s most glaring issue into a powerful moment where Barry decides what kind of hero the Flash is going to be — much like Oliver’s decision to stop killing in season one of Arrow. Maybe it’s not The Sopranos-level moment of character introspection, but it does make for compelling, enjoyable superhero television.
You know what else makes for compelling, enjoyable superhero television? Awesome scenes of heroes fighting villains, and man, does “Rogue Air” deliver in this respect, too. I don’t know how much sense it makes for Firestorm to fly down and Arrow to rappel off a building right as Wells walks up to STAR Labs — probably none at all — but man watching the three heroes try and fight the Reverse-Flash simultaneously is just so much damn fun. The R-F punches Firestorm so hard he flies half-way across the city; Oliver manages to hit the distracted Wells with an arrow full of nanomachines which prevent him from using his speed (sure, why not) so the two of them can have a fist-fight; and the three of them finally manage to team up to knock out Wells, which is where the episode ends.
With one more episode still to go.
This might be my favorite part of the penultimate Flash episode, because now I don’t know where the show is going next. I had completely assumed that the Barry-Wells showdown would culminate with Barry chasing him into the past, where he would change the timeline to save his mom, but with catastrophic results. But with Wells captured already — and nothing in the “next week on” preview indicating him getting loose — I have no idea what’s going to happen when Barry returns to the past, but I’m pretty sure there isn’t a “happily ever after” in store for him or the SuperSTARS. In fact, I believe the Flash is about to receive another major lesson in superheroics.
• Much like when Iris did it last week, Wells’ opening narration is pretty striking. I would love if the show continued opening up each episode with other various characters.
• Uh, is the Jitters coffee shop’s real name “C.C. Jitters?” Has it always been that way? Did I miss that? Or repress it somehow?
• Iris again saves the day, this time but knocking the hell out of Peekaboo before she can strangle Caitlin. Seriously, how did these guys ever survive without her? (Wells, obviously, but Iris doesn’t have to murder anybody to keep the STARS safe.)
• Cisco bringing a beverage to hunt Wells because he sees how liquids fly around when the Reverse-Flash is using his powers nearby is both amusing and shockingly practical.
• Captain Cold: “Ferris Air? I thought this place got shut down.”
Barry: It did. One of its test pilots disappeared.”
A clue that Green Lantern may be joining the DC TV-iverse, or a fun easter egg? Definitely an easter egg. Settle down.
• Cold also manages to get Barry to destroy all records of Leonard Snart in exchange for his help, which he obviously does not give. I’m not sure how this really benefits Cold — I mean, it’s not like many people are going to forget the name of the dude who has the ice gun — but I imagine it’s going to play into Legends of Tomorrow somehow.
• No surprise, Cold gets the line of the night and reaches new levels in sarcasm at the same time: “Good luck with… all of this. I’m really excited to see how it all turns out.”
• I should mention that once freed, Eddie breaks up with Iris, but the show refuses to go to clichés. Despite being told that Barry steals his girlfriend in the future, Eddie isn’t bitter and doesn’t turn evil, he’s just sad. When Eddie tries to be vague about why he’s breaking up with her, Iris not only fights pretty hard to keep him, but calls him out on breaking up with her because of Wells’ nonsense. But Eddie doesn’t break up with Iris because of Wells — he does it because he’s finally admitted how Iris and Barry feel about each other. Fantastic stuff.
• I really hope Eddie stays a good guy throughout the series. We all expect him to turn evil, and I would love the show to subvert that by keeping Eddie a loyal ally of the Flash.
• The Reverse-Flash has his Flash ring, which his yellow suit bursts out of and which he basically runs into to put it on. This is a device right out of the comics, and it’s silly, and the VFX on it is kind of so-so. That said, COOLEST. @#$%ING. THING. EVER.
• I think we can all guess that in the final episode, Barry alters the timeline to save his mom, returns to the present and finds he’s caused some serious new problems. That seems obvious. My theory is this: In the new timeline, the Reverse-Flash never killed Wells… allowing Tom Cavanaugh to rejoin the SuperSTARS. If/when the Reverse-Flash shows up, he’ll be played by Matt Letscher, who was the original Eobard Thawne before stealing Wells’ face. Thoughts?