There is very little doubt that comic book fans and television fans alike are absolutely infatuated with The Flash’s inaugural season. The series currently sits at a very hefty 96% approval over at Rotten Tomatoes (a site that is known as much for internet trolls and naysayers as it is for its “freshness” scores) and it even took home the 2014 People’s Choice Award for Favorite New TV Drama. After one of the more successful mid-season finales on television, fans of the CW series were chomping at the bit to get back to the adventures of Barry Allen, and after a month long hiatus, those fans got their wish with Revenge of the Rogues. Was it worth the wait? In a word: abso-fucking-lutely. Spoilers ahead.
This week, The Flash had plenty of stuff to deal with: 2 supervillains in the form of Captain Cold and Heat Wave, a crisis of priorities, and even some awkward time with Iris, now that he has revealed his feelings for her. For some shows, it would be tough to keep all of these themes in play without watering down the episode a bit and giving the audience more flash than substance. In the case of Revenge of the Rogues, somehow the showrunners were able to keep all of these themes not only active and full but entertaining and satisfying. Bringing in two villains to fight Flash was a master stroke and Captain Cold and Heat Wave were perfectly played. Not to mention, I am sure there were plenty of Prison Break fans out there that were happy to see Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell back on screen together and, for the most part, they still play very well off each other. It is often easy to go a bit over the top with the villains when it comes to comic book adaptations (just look at the original Flash series) and while Heat Wave stepped his toe over the line a few times, the showrunners never let him stay there too long.
My only issue with the series since its pilot has been the Iris/Barry relationship. I love where the couple ends up but have never been the biggest fan of the soap opera moments that CW series’ demand in each and every episode of each and every show they produce. Apparently, I must not be the only one who feels this way because last night’s episode avoided many of the moments that could have easily strayed into soap opera territory. Now that Iris knows how Barry feels, things have become a bit weird between the two, and CW absolutely could have drawn those moments out. Instead, they made a wise decision by addressing the situation, then quickly moving on. In the end, they are best friends and that point was driven home with more subtlety than CW is known for and the episode benefited from this restraint.
While Iris and Barry’s relationship is cooling, the writers used this time as an opportunity to explore the other relationships in Barry’s life, which turned up some surprising results. We all know Dr. Wells is not the man he is pretending to be and in this episode, the writers really pushed the Hunter Zoloman theory. When we first find Barry, he is testing his abilities; challenging himself to become fast enough to defeat Reverse Flash. While this need for revenge is years in the making, this sudden need to push himself to his limits is a solid result of Wells’ manipulation. Fans of the comic book are well aware that Zoloman’s entire purpose in becoming Flash’s ultimate villain is to drive Flash to be a better hero. While this does seem to be yet another indication of Wells’ true identity, I have always been the type of person to look left when a magician tells me to look right, and the solution in this case seems a bit too simple. That is one of the wonderful things about this series, though. There are many layers and as one question is answered, three more pop up. This keeps the audience interested and the more theories that are running around, the further we could be getting from the truth. Could Wells be Barry from the future? Sure! Could Wells be Reverse Flash? Sure! Since we’re on the subject, I may as well mention a theory that we have been kicking around over here at Nerd Bastard HQ – What if Barry’s dad, and stay with me here, is actually Barry from the original 90’s Flash series, i.e. an alternate timeline, that came from the future as Reverse Flash to ensure that Barry grew into the hero he was destined to become? This would explain why the showrunners are trying to grab actors associated with the original series. Hey, it’s just as valid (and batshit crazy) as plenty of other theories out there and only time will tell!
Another relationship that was explored, albeit briefly, was the friendship between Barry and Caitlin Snow. As Caitlin continued to search for any evidence that Ronnie can be saved, Barry was able to provide a bit of comfort, along with an idea that instantly transformed her searches from “Firestorm” to “F.I.R.E.S.T.O.R.M.”, which, apparently, made all the difference in the world. Later in the episode, as she is being used as bait by the baddies, she pleads with Heat Wave, telling him that he can do whatever he wants with her but begs that he leave Barry alone. This was an interesting turn, considering their friendship has been more of a work relationship than anything else. At least, that was how it appeared. Instead, Snow is actually willing to die for Barry which either says a lot for her abundance of character or her feelings for Barry. Either way, that whole Killer Frost thing is definitely going to hurt a bit.
One of the best moments of the episode was also one of the final moments of the episode. In the wake of the reality of Iris moving in with Eddie, Joe and Barry realize that they need each other, though neither one is quite ready to admit it. While they may not be biologically related, this scene really drove home the fact that this is a father and a son, trying to find their footing in a very strange new world. Their relationship is one of the best father/son relationships on television and it will be interesting to see where it goes.
We are getting closer and closer to the actual season finale and if Grant Gustin is to be believed, we are going to all be blown away by the finale reveal. Until then, we will have to simply keep guessing as to the mysteries that keep The Flash at the top of my “must watch” list and revel in the fact that comic book fans have a series that is truly worth our time.