The Flash: 110 “Revenge of the Rogues” Review
Reviewed by Louis Rabinowitz.
At some point early on in their careers, every superhero has a humbling moment – a time when a villain leaves the hero bleeding and ever so slightly embarrassed, before sliding away to evilly plot for a few more weeks. That moment came for Barry in December’s mid-season finale, where the Reverse Flash, killer of his mother, ran rings around Barry in their first encounter. And with the identity of the Reverse Flash revealed as Harrison Wells, some training was clearly in order for the Scarlet Speedster…
The mid-season premiere, Revenge of the Rogues, opened with a short training scene, showing Barry testing his mettle against some explosive drones in order to improve his speed and reflexes. While the revelations about Wells and Reverse Flash were left on the backburner in the first episode of the year, the training scene was a nice way to acknowledge the emotional impact of his violent encounter with Reverse Flash, whilst linking it into the more standalone story of the week. Upping Barry’s speed also opens the door for more story possibilities such as the heralded time travel element of The Flash’s mythos (which has been confirmed to be coming very soon indeed) – and showing the hero improve his abilities is a neat way of showing the evolution of a character who is still something of a novice in the superhero business.
It was a landmark week for bad guys, as Revenge of the Rogues served up a duo of classic foes in the form of Leonard Snart aka Captain Cold (whose first appearance marked an early high for the show), and new face Mick Rory aka Heatwave, in a prototypal version of the famous villainous team from the comics, aptly named the Rogues. The mid-season finale gave us a violent, brutal foe that appeared almost scary at points – but Revenge of the Rogues flipped that entirely by presenting Cold and Heatwave as far-larger-than-life villains of the slightly campy variety.
While Cold and Heatwave might have appeared out of place in darker sister show Arrow, the portrayals of the Rogues worked rather well here, lending the episode a classic comic book feel – complete with slightly wince-inducing puns (example: ‘Why do they call you people the heat? I’m the heat!’) and scenery-chewing performances. This tongue-in-cheek approach might not be to everyone’s taste, but to this reviewer it was a very welcome approach that slotted perfectly into The Flash’s light tone.
Dominic Purcell and Wentworth Miller are famous for playing another duo of criminals in Prison Break – and the two plays off each other nicely here, with the contrasting portrayals helping to keep both characters very distinct from one another (perhaps too distinct). As for their magnificently over-the-top performances: a little restraint might have been advisable (especially from Purcell), but nonetheless it’s a couple of very entertaining performances from the established duo. Some more nuances are needed, however – the appearance of Captain Cold’s sister (but more on that later) bodes well for more development in future appearances, but for now Cold and Heatwave are in need of a little more back-story and character development.
The Flash has always been strong at servicing its supporting characters among the bright and colourful action – and there’s some good material for most here. Barry’s confession to Iris in the mid-season finale was a refreshing moment of honesty for the character – and the fallout is handled well here. It would have been easy to portray the two as completely estranged after the confession, but instead The Flash goes for something of a middle ground – the two are entirely awkward about it, with both happy to pretend it didn’t happen. The handful of scenes the characters share don’t seem hugely different to what came before the confession on the surface, but Grant Gustin and Candice Patton do a good job of making it very clear that the two can’t just cast off Barry’s revelation and move on.
As for the STAR Labs team, it was something of a mixed bag. Cisco’s impassioned speech to the CCPD was a nice moment of emotional honesty for a character that rarely seems to express his feelings, and led a heartwarming little moment later on as the previously skeptical police chief congratulated Cisco on his nifty heat/cold shield. However, Caitlin and Dr Wells didn’t fare quite so well – Caitlin’s kidnapping was a fairly humdrum damsel-in-distress moment that was resolved far too easily, and the mid-season finale’s stinger, revealing Wells to be in possession of a Reverse Flash suit, was barely touched upon.
It was a packed episode, so these elements weren’t hugely impactful on the episode’s quality – but it’s a shame to see certain promising elements executed in a middling fashion. However, on the character front, Joe and Barry continue to excel as a heartwarming and amusing double act; Jesse L Martin and Grant Gustin utterly sell the father-son relationship, which has grown to become one of the highlights of the show – and with Barry moving in, it seems there’s plenty more Joe/Barry scenes on the horizon.
The Firestorm elements of the mid-season finale were somewhat crowbarred in – and the development on Firestorm (or F.I.R.E.S.T.O.R.M, the world’s longest acronym) in Revenge of the Rogues also felt awkwardly inserted into an already busy episode. The nuggets of information revealed here were intriguing enough, but it’s perhaps one plot element too far for a show that’s juggling an awful lot of ongoing plot points. With 23 episodes this season, The Flash can afford to space out the development on the story arc – cram too much in, and the episodes, as this episode did to a certain extent, can feel slightly bloated.
The centerpiece of the mid-season premiere was the big fight between the Flash and the Rogues – and it was certainly an exciting and well-executed action scene, packing in thrills like Barry zipping across buildings and a short but sweet heroic moment for Eddie (as he saved Barry from freezing/burning to death). The Flash has always been strong on the action front, and the battle was one of the show’s strongest set pieces yet, cementing the four-colour comic book feel of the episode. There’s a few logical nitpicks to be made, but it’s the sort of thrilling scene that sets the show well apart from the crunchier and more brutal Arrow; no blood or broken bones here, just science-fiction guns and super speed.
For the first stinger of 2015, The Flash shifted the focus away from Wells’ machinations to a tease for the next chapter in the Rogues saga, as Captain Cold and Heatwave were broken out of a prison transport van (clearly displaying their talent at breaking out of anything prison-related) by Cold’s unseen sister. Introducing a member of Cold’s family is a smart (or Snart) move, which should shed some light on the enigmatic bad guy – and of course, it means that the stage is firmly set for more Flash vs Rogues action down the line, which can only be a good thing. Speaking of the Rogues, another member from the comics team pops up next week, as former Wells mentee Hartley Rathaway returns to unleash The Sound and the Fury…
Frothy comic-book fun at its purest, Revenge of the Rogues is a convincing if bloated opener for The Flash’s 2015 adventures.
Scene of the Episode: Hot N’ Cold – Barry takes on the Rogues in an extremely entertaining concluding fight scene.