‘The Flash’ Review: ‘Rogue Time’ Is Solid Gold
Recap and review of The Flash – Episode 16 – Rogue Time:
No matter what happened this week, The Flash was going to have a hard time topping last week’s stellar episode. But “Rogue Time” is still a great episode in its own right for how the events of last week continue to reverberate throughout the story, even as it all gets rewritten due to time travel.
In fact, the most interesting aspect of the episode is the ripple effects Barry’s actions have in the present, as his deviations from how the previous iteration of that day had gone end up causing an entirely new calamity. By putting Mardon away before he can capture and harm Joe (Jesse L. Martin), paralyze Captain Singh, and create that potentially city-destroying tidal wave, Barry (Grant Gustin) creates the circumstances by which Cisco (Carlos Valdes) is able to attend his brother’s birthday party. His brother, Dante (Nicholas Hernandez), says some insensitive garbage and Cisco ends up going out to drink. And it’s here where he’s spotted and seduced by Lisa Snart (Peyton List), the sister of Leonard Snart/Captain Cold (Wentworth Miller), who’s back in town with Mick Rory/Heat Wave (Dominic Purcell). The rogues are looking to take over the Santini crime family, and they need Cisco’s help if they’re going to build new versions of their old weapons. So Cisco gets taken hostage with Dante, and not only is Cisco forced to create new weapons for the crooks (including a gold gun for Lisa), he’s also forced to reveal the identity of The Flash after Snart threatens to disfigure Dante. And just like that, we have an episode with repercussions that could extend far beyond what happens this week. In a lot of ways, the episode argues that it might have simply been better for Barry to leave things they way they were. Sure, Joe gets tortured and Singh gets paralyzed, but what are the odds that Barry wouldn’t have been able to stop Mardon anyway? Yet, by changing the timeline, Barry is indirectly responsible for giving the Rogues new, more advanced weaponry, and creating a situation in which his identity might be revealed to the world.
That said, while the pacing of the episode isn’t as tight as in previous weeks, just about everything else is spot-on. Of particular note are the performances. Gustin is strangely endearing when he’s under his goofy, lovestruck spell, expecting Iris (Candice Patton) to just re-confess her feelings. Naturally, he fails to realize that Iris was only able to come to that realization due to the very specific set of circumstances she endured last week. So we end up with a cringe-inducing moment, as Barry tries and utterly fails to get Iris to confess how she feels about him, since she still doesn’t realize the nature of her feelings herself. Gustin plays that embarrassment and heartbreak every bit as well as he plays Barry’s foggy-headed, heart-shaped glee. There’s also a poignancy to Barry’s portrayal as a protector. In stopping Snart and his rogues from robbing the Santini Casino’s money truck, Barry essentially threatens Snart by saying that if he ever threatens one of his loved ones again, he won’t care who Captain Cold reveals his secret identity to, he’ll put him away himself. In this instance, we have a Barry who must travel the middle distance, allowing Snart to go free on the tenuous notion that it’s for the greater good. Using some reverse psychology, he’s able to convince Snart that if he’s so good, nobody really has to die in any of his robberies. And really, that’s about the best Barry can do in trying to mitigate the damage Snart could cause, since he can’t lock up Snart without his identity being revealed, nor can he prevent the other rogues from going berserk in their leader’s absence.
In this way, the episode explores how Barry handles the consequences of his actions. After all, he immediately accepts that Cisco isn’t to blame for revealing his secret identity, since Barry put Cisco in this position by altering the timeline in the first place (little does he know, however, that in doing so, he essentially saved Cisco’s life). It’s tremendous storytelling, and it’s bolstered by a wonderful performance by Gustin, which is actually surpassed by Miller. I swear, the dude just luxuriates in every line that’s written for Leonard Snart, offering up a casual, sadistic villainy that could turn Captain Cold into The Flash’s Joker, if only for how the two persist in their endless war with one another, neither able to truly put the other away for good. The symbiotic relationship between Captain Cold and The Flash is one of the best aspects of the episode, and also one of the things I’m most looking forward to as the series moves forward, since this could be an all-time hero/villain TV pairing.
But there are other excellent performances worth noting. Once again, Carlos Valdes knocks it out of the ballpark, playing Cisco as someone whose self-worth is minimized with each passing second due to the circumstances of his life. His parents prefer Dante, even though Dante is basically lying about nearly every facet of his supposedly successful life. And while the brothers do make up in a touching moment, Cisco still has to live with having put Barry in danger by revealing his identity. But Wells (Tom Cavanagh, who also delivers superbly) convinces him to stay by arguing that everyone at STAR Labs wants him here because they love him, a statement that adds a chilling weight to Wells’s actions last week. However, it goes a step further when Wells repeats his speech from last week in which he essentially names Cisco the son he never had. The context is different, and maybe even the sentiment behind the words as well, but it’s clear that Wells would prefer to have Cisco around. Part of the brilliance of what Cavanagh is doing here is in delivering a version of Wells whom it’s conceivable could still be redeemed, since there’s the kernel of a good man in there somewhere. Or, at least, it seems that way. And that’s a massive achievement for Cavanagh’s performance, considering everything we know about Wells as a result of last week’s show. But we know Wells is a bad man, and he proves it this week by murdering Mason Bridge (Roger Howarth) for getting too close to breaking the story about the “real” Harrison Wells. And when Barry finds out that Bridge is now missing, he finds himself suspecting that Joe has been right about Wells all along. So while the show undid last week’s reveal, it hasn’t really undone the plot threads that will likely lead to the same discovery. It’s actually pretty amazing that the show could reverse such a massive, twist-heavy episode and still feel like it’s progressing.
“Rogue Time” wasn’t as good as last week’s episode, but I doubt anything they could have done this week short of repeating the exact same beats would have been. The Flash is still a series that is absolutely nailing the vibe of what a comic book adaptation should be. It’s fun but with a pervasive darkness that keeps it from feeling campy or shallow. Even an okay episode of The Flash is still pretty damn great, and that’s basically what “Rogue Time” was.
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