‘The Flash’ Review: Poignant ‘Family of Rogues’ Explores the Ties That Bind
Recap and review of The Flash – Season 2 Episode 3 – Family of Rogues:
The Flash is a sci-fi action-adventure, but the show also has the heart of a family drama. This is never more evident than in “Family of Rogues”, since the episode has both primary and secondary stories centered on the ties that bind its characters, mostly familial but also platonic. It’s a rich episode that gives further insight into how these characters have grown.
Case in point, there’s Leonard Snart (Wentworth Miller). Captain Cold is a complex guy, wanting to prove his mettle as a criminal of such savage capability that he can commit his heists without killing anybody. Granted, the “no casualties” vow is part of his deal with Barry (Grant Gustin), but it seems that Leonard has now taken it on as a personal code, a challenge of sorts that will gauge his abilities as a crook. Because, really, any old crook can get away with robbery if he kills everyone in his path, but it takes someone far more elite to do all that without killing a single soul. Which is why it’s all the more puzzling for Barry when he learns that Leonard is working with his estranged father, Louis (Michael Ironside). In short, the A-story of the episode kicks off when Lisa Snart (Peyton List) seeks out The Flash for help finding Leonard, whom she believes has been abducted. However, it turns out that Leonard is willingly working with his dad, which completely befuddles her, since Leonard always hated the man for his abusive, violent treatment of them as children. In order to get to the bottom of this, Barry poses as a techie named Sam, getting close to the Snarts under the guise of helping them with their latest heist. It’s a solid structure for the episode, and it allows us a window into a very different family dynamic.
Basically, the episode never really gives us the indication that Louis Snart is in any way redeemable as a human being, so what we’re left with is the question of just why Leonard would even want to give his dad a second chance. It shows a deeper, more human underpinning to Leonard: he’s often a remorseless guy, yet we can see the remorse continually written across his face here for giving his dad another shot at being in his life. You could argue that it’s because Leonard wants to prove he’s nothing like his dad, despite arguably becoming a criminal due to the type of life his father provided (or, rather, didn’t provide) for Lisa and himself. And yet, the story here illustrates that these two men do have a lot in common. For one, they’re both criminals, and they both share the same dry cynicism about the world. In a lot of ways, Louis is a mirror of the pre-Flash Leonard, the Leonard who’d kill indiscriminately to get his way. However, where Leonard and Louis part ways is in how the son is more willing to change than the father. Louis can’t see the reason in not simply killing the guards that are standing in their way during the big heist, whereas Leonard has softened his stance somewhat. Oh, he’s still a criminal, to be sure. But he’s not the savage his father is, and he operates by at least some sense of a code. He’s also committed to things beyond the next big score — namely, Lisa. That loving bond is enough to keep Leonard from ever truly being as horrible as his father, even if the episode does end with Leonard going to prison for icing his father to death, after learning that Louis had implanted a bomb in Lisa’s head as collateral against Leonard. Ultimately, Leonard finds himself in prison for killing the one person who actually deserved it, yet he still doesn’t reveal Barry’s secret like he previously threatened to, as Barry senses the desire in Leonard to be something more than just a criminal. If this isn’t a setup for DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, I don’t know what is. Except awesome.
By the same token, the stuff with Cisco (Carlos Valdes) and Lisa is just as poignant. Cisco has a soft spot for Lisa’s situation, because he knows what it’s like to be at odds with your own family, albeit not necessarily to the same degree as Lisa. Still, he provides a shoulder for her to lean on, and even saves her life when he manages to extract the bomb from her body with an air-compressed suction gun, in one of the more exciting moments of the episode. I love when The Flash gives Valdes a prominent role, since Cisco is arguably the heart of the show, the man who’s equal parts comic relief and moral center. Seeing his continued chemistry with List manifest here made for great TV, particularly in the scene where Lisa tells the story of how Louis used to abuse her, and how Leonard was her sole protector against the monster her father had become. There’s genuine pathos here, hinting at yet another character who’s a criminal of circumstance, rather than necessity. I’d love to see The Flash come back to this relationship this season, although I admit it’s mostly because I’m a sucker for the whole “lovers on the wrong side of the law” trope. By the same token, I hope the show continues the story of Iris’s mother, even while this episode neutralizes some of the mystery surrounding it. In short, Joe (Jesse L. Martin) tries to pay Francine to leave Central City and never return, insulted that she’s come back after 20 years with promises that she’s finally “ready” to be a mother.
After a heart-to-heart with Barry, Joe ultimately tells Iris (Candice Patton) the truth: her mother is alive, and she wants to meet her daughter again. It’s the most powerful scene in the episode due to the strength of Martin and Patton’s respective performances. The old Iris might have held a grudge against her father for keeping this secret for so long, but this Iris is far more understanding of the impossible situation her mother put him in. I just thought this was the most subtly compelling storyline of the episode. I’m hoping this somehow gets wrapped into the larger, overarching narrative of the season, since it’s almost too good of a story to utilize as a B-story. But I guess there’s time to let it build, since we’re not getting as much progress in the overarching hunt for Zoom. Long story short, the biggest of the 52 portals to Earth-2 is in the basement of STAR Labs, and the only way to use it to go back and forth is to stabilize it. Jay (Teddy Sears) is ultimately able to do this, but Caitlin (Danielle Panabaker) convinces him not to head back to his home just yet, rationalizing that they still need him to help take down Zoom. Of course, Caitlin’s crush on Jay is super-transparent, and a little bit unsettling, considering how recently she just lost Ronnie. But if it keeps Sears around a little longer, I’m all for it. Yet the biggest development of the episode has little to do with Jay, as Dr. Stein (Victor Garber) begins to transform into F.I.R.E.S.T.O.R.M. unwillingly, except the flame flickers between red and blue. The power goes out of control, and Stein passes out, leaving the team struggling to save his life while, at a portal across town, another mysterious person steps through a portal from Earth-2.
“Family of Rogues” doesn’t advance the overarching plot to defeat Zoom all that much, but I would argue this is as strong an episode of The Flash as any that would have, owing to the genuine intrigue surrounding the family dynamics among these characters, and the bonds of blood and friendship that have formed between them. Hell, we even get the escalation of the budding romance between Barry and Patty (Shantel VanSanten). This was more of a character-driven episode than action-oriented, but I thought that approach worked terrifically for the story the show was trying to tell. The Flash often benefits from knowing what kind of show it needs to be from one week to the next, and it’s that confidence in identity that keeps it from ever feeling incongruous or tonally dissonant. Basically, it’s why this show has remained as strong as it’s been in Season 2 so far.
But what did you think of The Flash, “Family of Rogues”? Sound off in the comments!
And for more on The Flash, read our review of last week’s compelling “Flash of Two Worlds”!