The Flash returns this week with its first new episode since its midseason break. When we last saw Barry he was heartbroken (as usual) over Iris moving in with Eddie, and narrowly escaped death at the hands of the Reverse-Flash (who we’ve been shown is Harrison Wells), with the help of Caitlin’s long-thought-dead boyfriend Ronnie. “Revenge of the Rogues”, as its title says, gives Mr. Allen some additional problems in the form of the returning Captain Cold (or Leonard Snart, played by Wentworth Miller) and his new ally Heat Wave (Mick Rory, as portrayed by Dominic Purcell), the latter of whom possesses a weapon similar to Snart’s cold gun but capable of delivering “absolute heat.” The two villains plot to destroy the Flash, whom Snart believes is the only thing preventing them from seizing control of the city.
Though Barry is set on stopping them, Wells convinces him he should focus only on his training exercises, through which he hopes to increase his skills in order to defeat the Reverse-Flash. Ever the manipulator, Wells preys on Barry’s altruism, and tells him the best way to protect the innocent from Snart (like the trainload of passengers he endangered during his first appearance) is to avoid confronting him altogether. Joe, however, is smart enough to notice Wells’ influence over the young hero, and confronts Wells when he and Cisco appear at police headquarters with a gift of specially designed extreme-temperature-resistant shields. It’s a gift questioned by Central City’s finest, whom we learn are distrustful of S.T.A.R. Labs since its particle accelerator explosion “nuked” the city.
Meanwhile, Caitlin investigates the word Ronnie uttered before he disappeared — “Firestorm.” Barry deduces it’s an acronym and, after sharing some info he learns from a little speed reading, sets Caitlin off to meet with Jason Rusch, a colleague of one missing Martin Stein, architect of the F.I.R.E.S.T.O.R.M. nuclear project, which we learn was dangerous enough to melt a concrete wall. Shortly thereafter, Caitlin is kidnapped by Snart and Rory. They announce her capture on TV, taunting the Flash to reveal himself to the public and come after them. Barry, Cisco, and Wells conclude that by getting the two villains to cross the streams of their weapons (yes, like in Ghostbusters), they’ll cancel each others’ weapons out. While Joe and Cisco rescue Caitlin, Barry executes Team Flash’s plan — when he realizes he must slow down long enough for both Snart and Rory to blast him. The police forgive S.T.A.R. Labs and Barry is hailed as a hero.
The two criminals are taken to Iron Heights prison, with Rory furious at Snart. But the latter insists everything is going according to plan, as the world is now aware of the speedster’s existence. Suddenly, their armored car is attacked and the two men are freed by Snart’s sister…
“Revenge of the Rogues” (a slightly misleading title, as only one of its two rogues seeks revenge) is another episode about duality, most obviously as embodied by Captain Cold and Heat Wave, both of whom are perfectly played by former Prison Break stars and real-life buddies Miller and Purcell. Purcell gets the showier role. Partly because its his character’s first appearance, but also because Rory is appropriately hot-headed, given to rants and growls and covered in burn scars he wears like badges of honor. Still, as great as Miller was in his first episode, he’s even better here, his cool no-nonsense demeanor further enhanced by his partner’s impulsiveness.
The other set of opposites on display in this episode is a pair of father figures: Wells and West — one who purports to care only about Barry, abandoning all morals in order to protect him; the other, the man who raised him, who knows his surrogate son won’t be happy unless he’s free to help the helpless. Of course, despite his words to Wells, Barry can’t resist lending a hand throughout this episode, helping Joe clean up his home after Iris finishes packing and assisting Caitlin with her investigation into Ronnie’s transformation.
There’s an argument to be made that with the conveniently themed Heat Wave and Captain Cold working together, the show ventures even further towards old-school superhero comic territory than it has before. When they scheme to steal a painting known as “Fire and Ice” (Snart ranting about its “dichotomy”) and Rory explains his love of heat to Caitlin, some may fear the show skirts dangerously close to the Adam West Batman. Especially with Snart yelling, “Freeze,” or “The flame or the frost!” But I’m all in favor of superhero adaptations that embrace their roots and acknowledge the genre’s unique mix of silliness and sublime. It’s all worth it just for the chance to see another iconic four-color image fully realized — cold and heat guns blasting away at the Flash as he tears down the streets of Central City and up the side of a building.
— From the CG-animated drone firing at Barry in the opening sequence to Captain Cold’s ice blockade, The Flash‘s effects sequences look better than ever.
— So Firestorm’s name, like that of Arrow‘s Atom, is an acronym? I can’t wait to see what they do with Zatanna.
— We find out here that Barry collected comics as a kid (or at least Space Ghost). Hopefully, as in DC’s Silver Age continuity, we’ll learn some of those comics actually chronicled the real adventures of Earth 2’s superheroes. Could we meet the original Flash, Jay Garrick, this way?
— “Revenge of the Rogues” introduces Jason Rusch, who became the DC Universe’s third Firestorm. Introduced in July 2004’s Firestorm Volume 3 #1, he was created by Dan Jolley and ChrisCross.
— Hands up, everyone who thought Eddie might die while saving the Flash, further complicating Barry’s relationship with Iris.
— If Barry can read as fast as he runs, might he soon become The Smartest Man Alive?
Next week: We meet yet another classic Flash foe — The Pied Piper!
What did you think of this week’s episode? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter (@JMaCabre).