Last week’s episode of The Flash ended with Barry, Caitlin, and Cisco celebrating the fact that they’d managed to solve a big problem (namely Grodd) for once without the help of the treacherous Harrison Wells. In “Rogue Air”, however, we learn that Barry isn’t operating at quite the same level as his former mentor yet, at least insofar in his ability to judge character. Not that that’s necessarily the worst thing in the world, since he comes with his own set of nobler virtues. But Barry has had an unfortunate tendency for much of this season to look a little dimmer than a police scientist should, even one preoccupied with newly acquired super-speed.
“Rogue Air” finds Wells powering up his particle accelerator — part of his master plan to return to the future — endangering the metahumans Team Flash has imprisoned in S.T.A.R. Labs. Barry insists, against Joe’s better judgement, that these villains be moved to another facility, and enlists the aid of Captain Cold and his sister (who’s here christened the Golden Glider) in transporting them via a Cisco-modified tractor trailer. Of course, Snart pulls a fast one and rigs the truck so that the prisoners escape, thus giving him an instant team of rogues and another opportunity to humiliate his least favorite person. The reason Snart never kills Barry is because he enjoys having him alive too much.
After licking his wounds, Barry gets another pep talk from Joe, who tells him he needn’t worry he’s not as ruthless as Oliver Queen, explaining, “that’s not the kind of hero you are.” But the pity party is interrupted by Wells, who shows up at S.T.A.R. looking to turn on the accelerator (which Cisco refuses to turn off, lest it be booby-trapped with Wells’ future tech). Fortunately, Oliver and Ronnie Raymond (A/K/A Firestorm) arrive in the nick of time to do battle with the spiteful scientist, finally capturing him at last.
There’s some odd pacing issues at play in “Rogue Air.” Most notably in the way this episode devotes eighty percent of its time to a relatively minor story — that of the criminal transport and Snart thwarting Barry yet again — and twenty percent to the vastly more important, climactic, and season-arching tale of the Reverse-Flash. The super-powered action is shoehorned into two scenes which should play out much longer: the rogues’ escape and the battle with Wells. The show normally transcends the limitations of commercial television, but here it appears there just wasn’t enough time and money to show Barry battling the Mist, Weather Wizard, Peek-A-Boo, Rainbow Raider, and Deathbolt in a manner that’s warranted.
The bigger concern is with the Reverse-Flash showdown. I’m all for team-ups, especially those involving core members of the Justice League. (And this might be the first time we’ve seen three Leaguers in live-action combat, with the added bonus of Ray “Atom” Palmer represented by his day-saving nanites.) But Barry’s victory over Wells feels much less satisfying for it not being his alone. Though admittedly, Firestorm’s flight sequences look better than ever, and I’ll never tire of watching Oliver swing out of the sky on an arrow line. In any case, the fight deserved to be much more than a mere epilogue to another episode. It feels like it was originally planned as part of The Flash‘s season finale, but moved forward a week in order to explain Barry’s presence in the Arrow finale. If so, it’s the first time a crossover between the two series has proven to be more of a hindrance than a help.
Final judgement on “Rogue Air” may have to wait until next week. Perhaps Barry may yet have an opportunity to earn his victory over Wells by outsmarting him, thus giving this mostly fantastic first season the finale it so richly deserves.
— Could West have a potential girlfriend in the assistant DA? They have a natural chemistry, and God knows the man deserves some happiness.
— “Give me another one. Ice cold.” It’s a testament to Wentworth Miller’s skills that he delivers these ridiculous “cold” puns so straight-faced, even while the jukebox (in the “Saints and Sinners” bar, no less) plays “Cold as Ice.”
— While it’s great that Snart will appear regularly on the Flash and Arrow spinoff Legends of the Future, I’m hoping we’ll still see him and Barry face off from time to time. Their trademark cynicism and optimism complement each other brilliantly.
— So what exactly did Snart want that Barry couldn’t give him? Me, I’d ask for the Bug-Eyed Bandit’s digits.
— S.T.A.R. Labs — where we invent new cutting-edge technology on a weekly basis, but can’t install a basic security system!
— With Wells warning Eddie that Iris will marry Barry, he becomes the only male character on the show besides Cisco who’s had a say in her future. Yikes.
— The rogues’ escape is going to come back and bite Barry BIG TIME.
— “Oh hey, Captain Cold’s evil sister!”
— “I’m really not enjoying being one of the good guys this week. I’m really not.” Cisco keeps getting funnier, but he’s on fire in “Rogue Air”.
— This is the first episode in which we see a speedster store his super-suit in a ring, the traditional means as established in Flash comic books.
Next week: Barry races back in time to prevent his mom’s murder. But at what cost? Plus, be sure to catch the Flash when he appears on this week’s Arrow season 3 finale!
What did you think of this week’s episode? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter (@JMaCabre).