Shaun Rosado is recapping and reviewing The Flash this season. Follow him on Twitter @pneumaz!
“Why do they call you the heat? I’M THE HEAT!”
We are back! After a month long hiatus from the midseason finale, The Flash has returned with an all new episode with Barry Allen wrestling with the fact that he is no longer “The Fastest Man Alive.” To hear our titular character say those words was a perfect way to bring us back into the world of the Flash and to remind us just how much has changed for Barry in the last month after his encounter with his nemesis: The Reverse Flash.
While the man in the yellow suit did not make an appearance this week (not that we should expect to see him anytime soon) his presence was felt throughout this episode as Team Flash works towards increasing Barry’s speed; preparing him for his inevitable confrontation with the mysterious speedster. Instead we were treated with two major villains this week as Wentworth Miller returned as Captain Cold and the debut of Dominic Purcell as Heat Wave. These are the anchors of the villainous team known as the Rogues. While other members will change hands, this is the duo that keeps the Rogues alive, which makes tonight’s episode a huge moment for the show.
When you look at the enemy roster of heroes such as Batman, Spider-Man, or Superman, they are typically solo players and infamous for not playing well with others. The reason that is so important is because the Rogues aren’t like your classic superhero villains. Yes, they do wear some ridiculous costumes and have outlandish plans from time to time, but the team itself is bound by a set of self imposed rules and code of conduct. They are, for lack of a better term, a team working for a common goal: the defeat of the Flash. With him out of the way, they can pull whatever job they want and essentially run Central City.
The irony in this episode, is the fact that Barry, clearly has bigger problems and believes Central City’s Finest can handle the threat of a non-metahuman bad guy. This was brought into sharp focus as Barry tells Joe he can’t worry about a man with a gun when there is a villain out there who could walk into their police precinct and kill every officer inside before one could blink. It’s a sobering thought and showcases the very real stakes that Barry is wrestling with.
Cold’s arrival in “Going Rogue” last year was a highlight in the first half of the season as we began to see the development of compelling villains. One would have thought adding on his lieutenant, Heatwave would have continued to add nuanced antagonists to our roster of baddies, but it didn’t quite get there. Upon reflection though, this makes sense. Heatwave, while visually a badass, is a bit of a one note pony. He is a pyromaniac and loves fire with an intensity some people can’t even understand. He’s also there to stand in stark contrast to Cold’s methodical approach to problem solving. While the idea of the cold calculating criminal is something that has really come into vogue over the last ten years; the hothead pyro has been around for decades upon decades. Take a few lines about fire, add a zippo lighter, and a gravely voice and you have a perfect introduction for Heatwave. In that regard, Purcell gave a tour de force.
Without a doubt it was clear that both actors were enjoying themselves, showcasing this super-villain odd couple for the world. While it may have been a little campy or over the top, it gave the viewer exactly what was needed, the stark contrast between the calculating leader and his Impulsive second in command. As the show continues and we see the evolution of the Rogues, I highly suggest keeping an eye on Purcell and his performance as Heatwave. Cold teaches him a lot over the years and there are a number of great stories where Heatwave is forced to take on the mantel of leader and lead the Rogues against the Flash.
On the other side of this equation, Grant Gustin really showed some excellent growth as an actor and his portrayal of Barry this week. The discovery of his mother’s killer has ratcheted the tension on Team Flash, specifically between Dr. Wells and Joe. One wants Barry to focus on serving the city and staying positive (Joe) and the other wants to focus on increasing Barry’s speed so that he can handle the threat of the Reverse Flash (Wells). Through the episode Barry realizes he can’t adopt either philosophy in it’s entirety and has to balance both. The reaction of Joe was that of a father; while he may not completely understand, he supports Barry’s decision. Dr. Wells, on the other hand, feels its a mistake; revealing cracks in his polished veneer. In a clever turn, Joe catches this and starts to doubt Wells’ altruism, which should build to a great confrontation in the future.
This leads us to the inevitable showdown with the Rogues. Cold, kidnaps Caitlin and uses her to publicly reveal that the Flash does in fact exist (#TheFlashExists). This was by far, my favorite moment as it had a distinctly Western feel: the showdown between good and evil. And it works from a narrative point of view. I do have two quibbles here though: one major, one minor. The minor quibble was that the Central City police didn’t interfere at all. I realize that in a classic western story, the entire town watches a showdown and that was probably what the producers were going for, but these are trained officers with Snipers on the SWAT payroll. You’re telling me these guys weren’t setup to take a few pot shots to at least distract the bad guys and give the Flash a better chance? Shenanigans. Since it didn’t hurt the storytelling though, I can let that pass.
What I have to get a little miffed at is the McGuffin of kidnapping Caitlin. Again, I realize that the damsel in distress is a well worn troupe in superhero circles as well as westerns, but I felt this was such a weak decision. While it made sense that Cold would go looking for members of Team Flash since he saw them in his premiere episode, I felt Caitlin was a poor candidate. In previous episodes, when a kidnapping occurs we’ve seen the woman in question (usually Iris) work towards foiling the villain if not escaping the bad guy outright. This gives our females leads agency to have their own agenda and ability to affect the world. The use of Caitlin last night was a step backwards in that regard. How that affects her down the line may be a setup for her evolution into Killer Frost, but for now it feels like lazy storytelling.
I personally, would have loved to see Cisco get kidnapped. It makes a sort of sense as he talked some serious smack to Cold during their last encounter as well as provide us a moment where we can have that amazing Cisco humor annoy our two villains. While it gives him no more agency than Caitiln, it does provide a humorous beat and plays against type. Equal opportunity kidnapping by super villains, that’s all I’m saying. Also, can you imagine what Cisco would have said upon being saved by Caitlin? It would have been hilarious.
In any event, that leads us to the actual confrontation between The Flash, Cold and Heatwave. The event itself was a great visual moment, giving us a great sense of how well these villains work together, if somewhat oblivious to the other’s actions. I thought it was a brilliant moment when Barry elects to not move at super speed but instead very slowly in order for the Cold and Heat beams to neutralize one another. It also highlighted a throw away line from the pilot where Cisco told Barry that the suit was originally designed for Firefighters to endure extreme heat without harm. Seeing the suits original purpose put in action was a nice nod and gave the moment credibility instead of merely ignoring the fact that Barry should have been severely burned.
On that, it is worth noting that Cisco was given a number of strong moments during the show this week. His joking with Team Flash is always a treat but we were also able to see him help heal the rift between STAR Labs and the police with the invention of the Heatshield. It’s a quiet but redemptive moment that certainly felt earned. And despite my complaints about Caitlin’s kidnapping, it’s impressive to see her evolution as well, pursuing the FIRESTORM plot thread, which is slowly building to a reveal. Team Flash is truly becoming well developed and not just a support mechanism to our guy in the tights.
All in, this was an impressive entry into the Flash, hinting at future villains (The Pied Piper) and introducing others, albeit off screen (The Golden Glider). The stakes are ebbing ever so higher and the cast is growing at an impressive rate. The second half of the season is shaping up to be a massive story with great moments ahead.
During my review of ‘The Man in the Yellow Suit’, I put forth some theories about the identity of the Reverse Flash and how all the thread lines can tie up. In the following month, cast members have revealed the identity of the man in yellow. For the record, I’m still not convinced. It could very well be that our villain is only Wells, albeit from the future, but I still think it’s more complicated. Time will tell on that one. In any event, I am ecstatic at the mystery and can’t wait to see how it develops. Until next week, Flash Fans!