With The Return Of Captain Cold, The Flash May Have Hit Its Stride

Illustration for article titled With The Return Of Captain Cold, iThe Flash /iMay Have Hit Its Stride

Or choose another running metaphor! The Flash has picked up the pace. He's gotten on track. The show has become sure-footed! It's found its runner's high! Whatever hackneyed way you want to say it, the fact is that "Revenge of the Rogues" was one of The Flash's best episodes yet.

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Of course, it wasn't perfect, and the show isn't near Arrow levels of quality yet, but it was excellent without being a pivotal episode, relying on its overarching mystery, or — and I apologize ahead of time for writing this, really — it wasn't flashy. It was a basic, run-of-the-mill Flash episode that just so happened to be very good.

It helps that "Revenge of the Rogues" brings back the show's best villain, Wentworth Miller's Captain Cold, now accompanied by Dominic Purcell's Heat Wave. The two Prison Break co-stars have a fun chemistry, especially when its twisted into the old, calculated Leonard Snart and the hotheaded, pretty much insane Mick Rory — and it bodes well that Captain Cold is watchable, especially when he's set to be on of the Flash's greatest foes.

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In the show, Snart is already obsessed with the Flash — not out of petty revenge, but as the one real threat to his newfound powers. Cold sees it as prudent to take out the Flash, but Heat Wave thinks he's obsessed… and although Heat Wave is crazy as hell and thinks burning people alive reveals their true selves, he's not wrong in this instance.

In a plot development the 1966 Batman TV series would have called "A bit on the nose", some rich couple is bringing in a painting titled… wait for it… Fire and Ice worth $25 million. (The painting is half-red, half-white, of course.) But what Snart really wants is a chance to fight the Flash, who fails to show up to stop the duo.

Where is the Scarlet Speedster? After failing to stop the Reverse-Flash in the mid-season finale, he's training like hell in order to become faster and improve his powers for round 2. When he hears about the return of Captain Cold, his instinct is to go catch him, but Wells makes a salient point — the Reverse-Flash is a much greater danger, and the last time Barry fought Cold, a train derailed and Barry had to rescue all of the passengers. Wells posits that if Cold is looking for a fight, people might be safer if the Flash doesn't give it to him. Barry agrees! Unfortunately, in one of the episode's few flubs, Barry doesn't explain this solid argument very well to Joe when he explains why he's sitting this fight out, and Joe can immediately see Wells' influence in Barry' decision.

Illustration for article titled With The Return Of Captain Cold, iThe Flash /iMay Have Hit Its Stride
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So what are the cops to do? Get special heat shields from Cisco and STAR Labs, that's what. They literally appear to be shields with heaters in them, and work great against Snart's cold ray — not so much against Heat Wave's "absolute hot" ray, which is how the pair are able to steal the thematically appropriate painting, and several cops are hurt.

Barry feels guilty, and he feels even worse when Snart and Rory decide to force his hand by kidnapping Caitlin (who's been investigating Firestorm, but more on that in a sec). They even somehow hijack all of television to tell the Flash to meet them for a showdown if he wants to Caitlin to live! It's a very, very silly ultimatum, but it actually has a major impact on the show — when the Flash does fight Cold and Heat Wave, he does so in front of a huge group of cops who have cordoned off the area — meaning the Flash is no longer an urban legend, but Central City's known protector. Add to that the fact that the cops have had to fight their first supervillain — a guy with a cold gun instead of a metahuman, but still — and the world of The Flash has just changed significantly. Turning supervillains into a regular part of the rest of the world of The Flash— as opposed to being a weird, secret fight club for Barry and his pals — is going to be really fun going forward, and definitely a major difference between Flash and Arrow.

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The showdown between the Flash and the two Rogues isn't exactly an action-packed display of special effects, but it's fine; plus, I can't be upset when the only way for the Flash to defeat them is to make them cross the streams of their guns, which they all acknowledge is from Ghostbusters. The Flash has to basically take the hit from both beams in order to get the two villains to cross 'em, and not only are the bad guys caught, but Cisco gets his two very dangerous ray guns back.

So the main plot is, if occasionally hokey, a solid hour of entertainment, but what may make "Revenge of the Rogues" even better is that the show finally gives Caitlin something interesting to do! She's gone from passively being shocked by the appearance of her flaming hobo of an undead fiancé Ronnie Raymond into actively trying to figure out how to help him, and it makes a world of difference for her character. With an assist from Barry, she realizes that "Firestorm" — the word Ronnie uttered before flying off — is an acronym for a project that Ronnie happened to be working on… and co-wrote a paper about with one Jason Rusch.

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Caitlin tracks down Rusch, who starts really detailing the background of the hero that will be Firestorm. To whit: Ronnie and Jason were working for one Dr. Martin Stein on a experiment to transmute elements. Stein took the experiments too far, the university shut them down, and Stein went off to seek new funding from a mysterious benefactor. At that point, Ronnie seemingly died in the particle accelerator accident, and Stein also hasn't been seen from since.

Comics fans know where Stein likely is, although I imagine they're confused how Ronnie affiliation with Stein is getting worked into his TV origin, where he appeared to work solely for STAR Labs (I think we can safely guess who Stein's benefactor was, though). Still, this is a genuinely interesting plot and a much better use of Caitlin's time than playing Fauxlicity or pining over her flaming hobo fiancé. Of course, her journey is interrupted when Cold and Heat Wave kidnap her to be a damsel-in-distress for Flash to fight over, but still, it's at least somewhat a step in the right direction.

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And it's way better than Iris, whose big story is that she's moving to Eddie Thawne's place, which is well-handled but still a story that keep Iris as having no agency except as Barry's object of desire. Two things keep it from being wholly worthless: 1) Barry and Iris kind of reestablish their friendship by the end, so at least they'll be able to function on that level moving forward, and 2) Eddie actually uses one of Cisco's shields to save the Flash during his battle with CC and HW, which is keeping Thawne from being a stock romantic rival (although that doesn't really do Iris' character any good).

But still, this episode was overwhelmingly more good than mediocre, and it didn't need the Reverse-Flash to do it! I've talked before about Flash needing to follow in Arrow's footsteps, in order to take it to the next level — and it appears that it may have done exactly that over the mid-season break. We'll have to wait and see, because this race is not yet over! Nor, unfortunately, is my penchant for discussing this show almost exclusively in running and race metaphors.

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Illustration for article titled With The Return Of Captain Cold, iThe Flash /iMay Have Hit Its Stride

Assorted Musings:

I dig the repetition of the opening narration this episode: "My name is Barry Allen. And I am not the fastest man alive."

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• Captain Cold telling Heatwave to put on his seatbelt was delightful.

• Barry's backpack when he was little was red with yellow highlights, natch.

• If anyone can remember what F.I.R.E.S.T.O.R.M. stands for, please say so in the comments. Somewhere, Agent Ward is muttering, "It means someone really wanted this project to spell 'firestorm.'"

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• For a painting worth $25 million, I find it somewhat odd that the absurdly rich couple that brought it to Central City did so without packing it or securing it in any way. Seriously, they carried it off the plane, by hand, by its frame.

• Remember that aside where Heat Wave fixes his ray gun after a cop shoots it, and he announces, "Man, I'm glad you made be learn this thing inside and out"? I'm 99% sure this is implying the two can now make their own weapons, meaning the fact that Cisco confiscated the original weapons is useless.

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• Barry moves home with Joe. I wasn't sure how to feel about this, but when Barry said, "I'm a Millennial. It's what I do." I was sold. Still, I want no wacky roommate comedy from The Flash.

• Captain Cold's sister breaks him and Rory out of their prison transport van, because Cold always has a plan. In the comics, Snart's sister Lisa is the villainess the Golden Glider, who has the ability to glide on any substance, including air — originally because of special tech, but in the New 52 because of an actual superpower. We'll see which way The Flash TV show goes.

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• Next episode: The Pied Piper!

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DISCUSSION

Cool_Breeze
Cool_Breeze

Flash!! AHHHHHHHHHHHHAAaaaaaaaahhh!!

This is what I love about this show: Flash is having fun with his powers, as he should be. HE'S THE FLASH. If you've read ANY of the comics, you'll know that he doesn't have the usual "with great power" conflicts that are present with many younger heroes. Hell, Spiderman has fun with his powers, too, but MAN is he conflicted sometimes. Flash's biggest worry is what Iris will think when (WHEN. IT'S GOING TO HAPPEN) she finds out. Knowing her from this show, she'll probably be cool with it and just be mad at Joe for not telling her. HAVE FUN, DUDE.

1. This was a pretty cool episode, and I liked (even if it was a little forced) the way Flash was revealed to the general public. As good as Smallville was, I absolutely did not like how long it took for them to reveal Clark's powers to the public. Sure he was a "Blur" for most of the later seasons, he wasn't even in suit until the LAST EPISODE. I know, I know, that was about him BECOMING Superman, but still.

Here, Barry isn't ready, but he has to save his friend and for some reason the police just set up a police line instead of trying to, you know, preemptively arrest the two terrorists that just hijacked the airwaves and threatened a person's life on live television. So instead, he has to publicly take on Mr. Freeze and Human Torch - I'm sorry, Cold and Heatwave (Thanks CISCO!) in front of everyone. We're barely half way through the first season and everyone knows Flash is real. SUCK IT SMALLVILLE.

2. When is Dr. Wells going to accidentally stand up in front of everyone? Can we please have it happen this season because that would be SO GOOD. At the beginning of the episode when Cisco's drone is testing Flash and the missile is too quick, Dr. Wells is gripping his chair like he wants to get up and help. He finally relaxed when Flash threw the freaking missile right back at the drone. Come on Dr. Wells, JUST STAND UP ALREADY.

Side note: That was some clever foreshadowing on the writers' part: At the very beginning, for Flash to beat the drone, he had to SLOW DOWN and instead of zipping around, carefully grabbed the missile and threw it back (Yeah it was still with super speed, but he still slowed down to assess and be able to pull it off). At the end? He had to slow down to get the dastardly duo to cross their streams. SO. MANY. JOKES.

3. Dan Dorian, TELL ME YOUR SECRETS. While watching last night's episode, I had a thought: We know Dr. Wells has a yellow suit. We also know that he likes the name "Reverse Flash." We also know that he's probably from the future. We also know that Reverse-Flash kicked the ever living shit out of him last episode. We also know that Eddie is probably going to be the Reverse Flash in the future as well. What does this all mean? I think Wells is posing as Reverse Flash to convince Barry to become the best Flash he can be, but when Dr. Wells got beat up, that was the REAL Reverse-Flash (Eddie) who is trying to stop the process. It'll be revealed that Dr. Wells was posing as the Reverse-Flash UP TO the point where the real Reverse-Flash beat him up. Maybe Dr. Wells is Zoom!

4. Cisco's pun game is on point. I said it. Keep going kid, just like Flash, HAVE FUN WITH IT.

5. Speaking of Cisco, even though he accidentally killed Caitlin because he didn't know any better, he was a pretty good detective while working with Joe. Piecing together the traffic camera footage as well as checking heat signatures was pretty nifty. It wasn't "Hack the NSA with my iPad Arrow style" nifty, but it was good detective work.

6. Captain Cold is safety conscious. That was sweet, making sure Heatwave wore his seat belt. That's love.

7. Was Caitlin's boyfriend working for F.I.R.E.S.T.O.R.M. as well as STAR Labs when the accident happened? Maybe he had already been tested on, and the accelerator accident reacted with whatever the program did to him, creating Firestorm. I wonder if Mercury Labs was behind it. It's interesting that the Military got involved, as they tried to do the same thing Bette.

8. IRON HEIGHTS! That was a cool little easter egg. Iron Heights houses most of Keystone City and Central City's most dangerous inmates (read: Flash's rouges), and seems like it might be used as this show's Arkham. We've already seen in Flash AND Gotham that it's somewhat easy to be broken out. DUN DUN DUNNNN.

This is a fun show. Keep it up, DC/WB!