‘The Flash’ Review: Barry Goes Dark In the Thrilling ‘Rogue Air’
Recap and review of The Flash – Episode 22 – Rogue Air:
With The Flash season finale airing next week, “Rogue Air” seemed like a strange choice for a penultimate episode. The story mostly centers on rescuing the metahumans imprisoned in STAR Labs once Wells’s new Particle Accelerator threatens to incinerate them. It feels like a one-off story, but because this is The Flash, we know better.
For one, while it seems unlikely we’ll see what becomes of these escaped metahumans this season, the involvement of Leonard Snart (Wentworth Miller) and sister Lisa (Peyton List) suggests this will all tie into The CW’s upcoming Arrow/Flash spinoff, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, while this story does seem isolated from the larger narrative of defeating Wells (Tom Cavanagh), it ends up having immediate relevance to Barry’s character arc this season. In attempting to do the right thing, Barry (Grant Gustin) goes dark, turning to Snart for assistance when the CCPD proves unhelpful. Despite repeated warnings from Joe (Jesse L. Martin), Barry puts his trust in Snart and pays a huge price for it when the villain, in an impressive strategic gambit, sabotages the prisoners’ transport, allowing them to escape and ensuring that they’ll each owe him a favor in the future. He even lets Barry live when he easily could have killed “The Scarlet Speedster,” pretty much ensuring that Barry, too, will owe him a favor somewhere down the line. It’s a brazen plan that proves surprisingly effective for Snart, although it comes at the cost of Barry’s dignity, as he now must face the reality that he’s not Oliver Queen. He can’t be the type of vigilante hero who bends rules for the greater good. He’s a man who gets things done by the book, and sticks to matters of principle. Barry could easily have just let the prisoners in STAR Labs die, but he chooses to rescue them on the principle that while they’re bad, they don’t deserve to die. Joe says this is what makes Barry a unique hero, and I’m inclined to agree with him, if only because Barry showed an uncanny resolve to do right by these villains, when just about anyone else would have just said “to hell with them.” It’s one of those elements that makes Barry Allen one of the most intrinsically likable heroes on TV.
But even while Wells didn’t explicitly plan for Barry to become so consumed with rescuing the metahumans, it did helpfully tie into his larger plan to prevent Barry from interfering with his new Particle Accelerator, since it kept Barry distracted for just long enough for the new device to go live. It culminates in a downright thrilling climax, as Barry finally squares off against Wells with the help of The Arrow (Stephen Amell) and Firestorm (Robbie Amell). A fight in which the heroes have the 3-on-1 advantage really shouldn’t be this exciting, but the episode did a great job of establishing just how formidable Wells is as a threat, noting that not even Barry is as powerful as Wells is. While Arrow is able to temporarily subdue Wells with an arrow filled with speed-impeding nanites, the hand-to-hand fight inevitably results with Arrow on his back, about to have his heart shredded. Enter Barry and Firestorm, who manage a double-team attack that sends Wells soaring off the roof of a building and crashing onto a car below. One last shot from Arrow, and Wells goes down. “I got you,” Barry declares, and it’s one of the most triumphant moments of the season, capping off a hunt for Wells that feels far longer than it’s been. Ultimately, Barry succeeds by eschewing rogue tactics and teaming up with his fellow heroes, admitting that he can’t do this alone, no matter how responsible or how strong he may think he is. It’s a hell of a story to anchor the penultimate episode of the season. In fact, it’s a shame that none of the other character arcs are as interesting.
I really like Candice Patton as Iris, and I thought she got a couple great moments here, such as knocking out Peek-a-Boo (Britne Oldford) and delivering a passionate speech to Eddie (Rick Cosnett) about destiny. This latter bit, in particular, is a great moment for the character, since it’s frankly insulting to Iris that Eddie would put so much stock in Wells’s newspaper from the future, as if some byline from a newspaper is going to decide her fate for her (hell, we’ve seen that headline change before this season, showing that the future isn’t as immutable as we think). On the one hand, I was glad Eddie was saved (turns out he hidden at STAR Labs the entire time). On the other hand, I can see why Iris is so upset with him, because really, why WOULD you believe a stark-raving lunatic when he shows you a newspaper from the future? Who’s to say he didn’t invent the entire headline just to mess with you? Eddie claims the headline was the impetus for his realization that Iris has always loved Barry, and that he’s always known at some level, but it just feels strangely cowardly of Eddie to simply give up like this. I’ve liked Eddie in the past, but it was hard for me to reconcile the Eddie of the past 21 episodes with the Eddie we get here. He’s really not going to fight for Iris? Similarly, while the interactions between Lisa and Cisco (Carlos Valdes) were cute, they seemed to undermine the more serious tone of the episode. It’s a small nitpick, I guess, but it’s one that got to me. Still, the episode’s positives FAR outweigh whatever negatives plagued it.
Ultimately, I’m at the edge of my seat, waiting for next week’s finale. The Flash has been one of the more remarkable first-year series I’ve seen on The CW, and “Rogue Air” did a tremendous job at setting us up for the conclusion this first season. The fact that I have no real idea what’s going to happen speaks volumes for how well this story has been told, and for the sheer amount of possibilities that exist for concluding or continuing it.
But what did you think of the episode? Sound off in the comments!
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