There’s a lot to love in this week’s episode of The Flash, but the thing I appreciate most is the amount of agency the show gives Barry. It may sound strange that a television series focused on a single superhero doesn’t always allow that hero to be, well, heroic. But this is the age of ensemble-cast TV; and in an effort to give the spotlight to all of its characters, The Flash sometimes forgets that it’s Barry we most want to see using his wits to solve problems. Thankfully, from its opening moments, in which Barry coordinates a clever rescue plan via telephone to save Iris from certain doom, “Family of Rogues” allows our boy to shine without the constant aid of his support staff.
Of course, “Family of Rogues” also functions as one of a series of backdoor pilots within this season of The Flash and Arrow. While the latter show will usher the Atom and White Canary into 2016’s Legends of Tomorrow, The Flash is developing Captain Cold and Firestorm (and eventually Hawkgirl) for the upcoming spinoff. Here, we see the first sign of potential goodness in Leonard Snart, played once more with appropriately chill relish by Wentworth Miller. Snart’s father Lewis, we learn, abused him and his sister their whole lives — physically in the case of Lisa, who bears scars from his anger. “Sister Cold” turns to Team Flash for help when her brother goes missing, and they discover he’s in cahoots with his trigger-happy dad, who, lacking his son’s criminal code, ensures his loyalty on their next robbery by planting a bomb inside his daughter. Given their past history, the STAR Labs gang has zero reason to trust her. And until the episode’s climax, in which Leonard finally defies his father and saves Barry, our heroes stand a good chance of getting double-crossed.
Joe, meanwhile, after learning his long lost wife Francine is back in Central City, is torn about whether or not to tell Iris. We discover the woman was a drug addict who neglected their child, skipped rehab, and fled town. Joe lied and told Iris she was dead so she wouldn’t think her mom abandoned her. He’s essentially the polar opposite of Lewis — a father who lies to protect rather than destroy his daughter. After a pep talk from Barry (yes, Barry actually gives advice in this episode more than he receives it), he finally decides to tell Iris. Rather than take the predictable route of having her run off in anger and be estranged from her father for the remainder of the season, the show has the good sense to make Iris wise enough to understand her father’s motivations. Candice Patton, to her credit, nicely underplays her character’s reaction.
As part of that Legends of Tomorrow groundwork, it turns out Professor Stein’s “wellness hiatus” isn’t quite over after his collapse in last week’s episode. As expected, he’ll need to resume his persona as Firestorm, and find another partner to replace the late Ronnie Raymond. A partner we’ll meet next week.
Caitlin continues to recover handily from Ronnie’s “death.” She all but begs Jay to stay after the two develop a Speed Force Cannon to shoot him through the wormhole in STAR Labs and back to his home on Earth 2. He agrees. Fortunately so — since his assistance may soon be needed, what with Earth 2’s Harrison Wells arriving via the same breach in the episode’s closing moments.
The show’s other new recurring character, Patty, is back this week, working on Joe’s anti-metahuman task force. She also takes a step forward in her relationship with Barry, giving him her phone number, even if she does quickly backpedal and say it’s for professional purposes.
I’m looking forward to seeing Captain Cold on Legends, but only if he continues to make regular visits to Central City to continue tormenting Barry. Miller and Grant Gustin complement one another perfectly, as two men who love their work and recognize that shared passion in each other. Even if they do happen to operate on opposite sides of the law.
— As Lewis Snart, veteran character actor Michael Ironside is the spitting image of Jack Nicholson in The Departed. It’s uncanny.
— Cisco’s impersonation of Professor Stein is also dead on.
— There’s a nice nod to Superman: The Movie (a favorite of executive producers Andrew Kreisberg and Greg Berlanti, as well as star Grant Gustin) when Barry uses his speed to catch a bullet in mid-air and pretends to collapse.
— Iris continues to get a little more to do this season. She starts this episode by risking her life for a story, which earns her the cover of Picture News. (And hey, Linda’s still working there!)
— “Good to know whatever Earth you go to there’s always a Big Belly Burger.”
— Cisco and Lisa’s relationship is one of the show’s most welcome and offbeat. His best moment this week didn’t involve a snappy one-liner at all. Instead, it was the silence with which he reacted to her goodbye kiss.
— “He broke my sister’s heart. Only fair I break his.”
What did you think of this week’s episode? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter (@JMaCabre).
Images: The CW