After along winter’s nap, The Flash and his friends are back. Since the hiatus, the series has been renewed for a second season and there’s been a lot of speculation about over the true identity of the Reverse Flash. Although the secret of the yellow-clad foe isn’t explored in the midseason premiere, another aspect of The Flash’s villainous world took center stage — the legendary Rogues, led by Captain Cold.
This was the first episode that expanded upon the Rogues concept. We’ve had Weather Wizard, Captain Boomerang (on Arrow), Captain Cold and now Heat Wave, but we haven’t had them working as a unit. This week, Wentworth Miller was note perfect reprising his role as Len Snart, a mastermind who hides his emotions beneath an icy exterior. Cold was part criminal genius and part babysitter to his partner Heat Wave, played by Miller’s Prison Break co-star Dominic Purcell. The two actors still have a great onscreen chemistry, as Cold’s cool veneer serves as a powerful counterpoint to Heat Wave’s fiery outbursts. Purcell is a force of nature as Mick Rory, the burnt pyromaniac who keeps his penchant for violence barely suppressed. The most startling aspect of the pairing is that it seems Snart truly cares for Rory, in an Of Mice and Men sort of way, and Rory values Snart as a partner and caregiver. It was a villainous pairing we haven’t seen before on TV and captured the spirit of Cold’s relationship with the Rogues from the comics, particularly those written by Geoff Johns, who co-wrote this episode.
This unique partnership is forged to bring down The Flash, the only force — or so Cold believes — that can hope to stop the Rogues. The episode did a good job in fleshing out the two villains and adding little nuances that set them apart from their power sets. Let’s face it, the fire guy and the ice guy could be perceived as pretty generic, but Snart and Rory were the original fire-and-ice guys, and this episode gives them the accorded respect and sells them as a true threat.
However, they’re threat different from the Reverse Flash, who’s a very personal villain, with a grand scope. Snart and Rory are in the game for thrill and profit, and at first Barry Allen dismisses them as mundane crooks – an unworthy distraction from his pursuit of his mother’s killer. But after the Rogues attack the Central City police, Barry turns his attention to the elemental threat. The series is doing a great job differentiating the major-level threat of characters like Reverse Flash and whatever the heck Harrison Wells is, and the more down-to-Earth, but no less exciting, threat of the weapons-laden spree criminals.
Speaking of Wells, I have to express my admiration for the way Tom Cavanagh owns this character. It’s as if he’s playing two roles: He banters with Barry, Caitlin and Cisco while playing the concerned friend and mentor to The Flash, but he’s also the ominous, walking-the-razor’s-edge-of-evil Harrison Wells who may or may not be the Reverse Flash. In the opening scene of this week’s episode, with Barry about to be mowed down by a training drone, Wells looks as if he’s ready to sprint out of his chair to save Barry; the moment was heart stopping. Was Wells about to use his speed, or was he simply clenching up? The is-he-or-isn’t-he dynamic is awesome, and I can’t wait to find out Wells’ secret.
Wells and company come up with a way to defeat Cold and Heat Wave — the old Ghostbusters crossing-the-streams trick, which Barry pulls off after a lengthy fight sequence that would have made Carmine Infantino proud. The Flash defeated the Rogues with the help of the STAR Labs crew and Eddie Thawne, and all was well. Of course, there were some more soap operatic elements, like Iris West moving in with Eddie, an event that caused Barry melodramatic consternation. But even those scenes were palpable because of the sweet exploration of the relationship between Joe and Barry. This led to Barry moving in with Joe, which could lead into some fun Odd Couple moments.
So we had the first Flash-versus-Rogues fight, Iris moving in with Eddie, a continued deepening of the Joe West/Barry Allen dynamic and, as if all that wasn’t enough, we got more Firestorm. No, Ronnie Raymond’s flame-headed alter ego didn’t appear, but we were introduced to some important people in Firestorm history — namely, Jason Rusch and Martin Stein. We also got confirmation that Firestorm’s power set would match his comic book counterpart. I was afraid the series was going to forego the elemental transmutation thing for just simple fire powers, but nope, The Flash has too much reverence for the DC Universe to do that.
Back in the day, “Firestorm” served as a backup strip in The Flash comic, and that tradition continues as the television show seems to be running its own mini-“Firestorm.” Enjoy it, DC fans, I know I am. Plus, did anyone else tingle with anticipation when Kaitlin Snow got up close and personal with a cold weapon? I thought for sure the cold gun was going to malfunction and cause Kaitlin to meet her DCU destiny.
I know I’m gushing, but the series is combining so many disparate elements of DC history that I can’t help but be impressed. This episode marked the beginning of the Flash Rogues, and there’s more to come. Hartley Rathaway, the Pied Piper (set to make his debut next week), was name-dropped by his snobbish parents right before Snart and Rory stole a painting. Plus, as Snart and Rory were being carted away by the police, they were saved by a mysterious figure Snart welcomed and called “Sis.”
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