After a long, cold, winter hiatus, Barry Allen and his crew of intrepid scientists returned tonight in the mid-season premiere of CW’s The Flash.
The preshow teaser immediately apparent which dangling threads from the mid-season finale will be touched on in “Revenge of the Rogues”, namely that Barry is still reeling from his defeat at the hands of the the man in the yellow suit (or as Sysco aptly and finally names him this episode, the Reverse Flash) and the continued and interminable march of the Barry/Iris/Eddie love problem. Barry’s loss of confidence in both his personal and superheroic lives has him in a pretty dark place at the outset of the second half of the season, casting a shadow off doubt over the shining optimism which has been the show’s trademark to this point.
After months of teasing, The Flash finally delivered the long-awaited reunion of Prison Break alumni Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell as Leonard “Captain Cold” Snart and Mick “Heatwave” Rory, respectively. The pair do manage to showcase their signature rapport, which effective conveys the burgeoning sense of brotherhood which is a crucial part of what makes the Rogues so special, but Purcell does ever-so-slightly overplay the part. His gravelly voice and exaggerated cadence make it seem like he’s trying just a bit too hard to get across that “this is a super villain, you guys! He’s crazy and evil!” Overall, the interplay between the two works well and is consistent with the fire and ice theme they employ. Snart’s cold calculation plays well against Rory’s hot-headed impetuousness in a way which makes it clear what each brings to the other in terms of teamwork. Snart need’s Mick’s aggression and passion, while Mick needs Snart’s ability to consider all the angles from a detached perspective. The one thing which Snart seems incapable of viewing from that perspective is the Flash. By all indications, he’s verging on obsession with the speedster, something which is again consistent with comic portrayals and serves to drive both characters towards the epic final confrontation of this episode.
The elephant in the room where dangling plot threads are concerned is the Firestorm storyline. While Barry, Cisco, Wells, and Joe are all focused on the crimes of ice and fire, Caitlin is understandably zeroed in on trying to understand how her handsome fiance went from rugged engineer to schizophrenic flying fireball. The episode introduced the character of Jason Rusch, who longtime fans of Firestorm will recognize as being destined to become a part of the hodgepodge of personalities which make up the Firestorm matrix. The name drop of Professor Martin Stein (shown to be played by Alias alum Victor Garber), also a part of that matrix, comes as a part of a rapid-fire bit of expository dialogue between Jason and Caitlin. Included in that data dump was the implication that the Army is involved in trying to either employ or cover up the F.I.R.E.S.T.O.R.M. project, which would suggest that Clancy Brown may be due for a return to the role of General Wade Eiling at some point in the very near future.
Looking at The Flash‘s long game, Harrison Wells continues his emphasis on making Barry faster. Why he’s so interested in improving Barry’s capabilities is still a mystery, but he does appear genuinely invested in Barry’s survival, so the Scarlet Speedster’s wellbeing is obviously key to his long-term plans. His attempts to divert Barry’s attention from the Rogues and towards the Reverse Flash (aka himself) suggest that his plans for the future (or the past) can only succeed with a Flash at the peak of his powers.
Speaking of peak powers, one particularly fun element of this episode was the focus of Team Flash on not just amping up Barry’s abilities, but those of the more mundane members of Central City’s law enforcement apparatus. The willingness to share their toys with the police and not hoard them for use for the team’s own use against metahumans is one of the great things which sets the Flash apart from characters like Batman and Arrow. Where Bruce or Ollie would keep law enforcement at arm’s length, Cisco’s attempts to arm the police for direct conflict with metahumans shows a commitment to not hogging the glory and making the city a better place in any way possible. That sort of bringing to light the things which have been kept in the proverbial dark until this point is central to this episode. Where Arrow has spent nearly three seasons keeping Team Arrow in the shadows, this episode jump-starts the process of making the Flash Central City’s shining beacon in a big way. When Cold and Heatwave openly challenge him and he takes center stage in protecting the city and working with it’s police force, Barry officially makes the jump from being a masked vigilante to being a hero.
One area that the production team on The Flash has truly mastered is making maximum use of its budget to deliver top-notch science-fiction action. The final battle is utterly spectacular, even garnering a mention from science-fiction icon William Shatner during his live-tweet of the episode. That said, it’s not totally perfect. There are a couple of awkward cuts and one angle in particular seemed designed to make up for the reality that they can’t afford to show the entire battle in heart-pounding close-up. Regardless, it seems that every episode of The Flash ups the ante in terms of wow-factor, and the biggest challenge facing the show moving forward will be how to keep this up.
#TheFlash that was a good action segment
— William Shatner (@WilliamShatner) January 21, 2015
The Flash “Revenge of the Rogues” sings a glorious song of Ice and Fire. 8/10