Emily Bett Ricards and Grant Gustin on The CW’s “The Flash”
Does everyone else sit on their couch with a dopey grin on their face while watching this show? It can’t be just us.
The Flash continues its streak (sorry) of highly entertaining episodes with “Going Rogue;” expanding the show’s universe a bit, reaffirming its ties to another show’s universe, executing one hell of an eye-popping speed rescue sequence, and finally giving the charming hero a kiss from a pretty lady (even it was a bit on the chaste side). Even better: just at the point where we feared the show might be getting formulaic, they break the formula, with probable long-term effects on the story. These people know exactly what they’re doing.
Enter Leonard Snart, a.k.a., Captain Cold. It says a lot about The Flash that one of his longest-standing and most persistent villains is a thief with a kickass ice gun. Not a killer clown or a mutated goblin or a megalomaniacal world-conqueror; just a professional with a cool (sorry again) gimmick who wants to make a score and get away from the law, with enough of an ego to think he can go up against a man who can outrun sound and enough nerve and smarts to actually pose a threat to him. There’s something refreshing about a supervillain who just wants to make a buck using this cool thing he found (sort of). Better yet, he’s not some tortured monster created by the same accident that gave Barry his powers. Guest star Wentworth Miller did a great job with the character, turning him into a snarling, wise-cracking pro who doesn’t have time for fools or amateurs who, best of all, gets away at the end. It’s time for Barry to have a long-term story other than “I need to find all the people who were changed like me” or “I need to find the man who murdered my mother.” These are worthy goals, but we suspect they will be drawn out for some time to come without resolution. In the meantime, he needs a smart bunch of recurring villains to go up against (instead of a series of randoms). He needs a gallery of rogues. And it looks like that’s exactly what he’s going to get, to our delight. In case you didn’t know, in the comics, the Flash has a set of supervillains that rivals Dick Tracy’s and Batman’s.
In addition, we got some tension with Team Flash that was something other than them counseling Barry to slow down or that he can’t save everyone, which was already getting a little old. No, this time, a member of the team did something that causes Barry to distrust them, which is another nice way of building on what they’ve already established while opening the show up a bit. Barry has to come to terms with the fact that his powers would be deadly if someone less heroic than he possessed them, and people are likely going to be a little afraid of what he can do. He also needs to realize that his newfound friends are very newfound and he doesn’t know them well enough to put all his trust in them. Oh, there was some bit about smoothed over feelings at the end, but you can’t put that genie back in the bottle. It’ll be good to have this kind of lingering tension in the background for a while; especially since this was the first episode where Cisco didn’t get on our nerves.
In other news, Barry + Felicity = 4EVR. Come on, this is so cute. Can’t we just have her bounce back and forth between Starling City and Central City every week? Because at the risk of enraging a lot of Arrow fans, we never felt she had that much chemistry with Ollie, but it’s pretty much off the scale in her scenes with Barry. Ditto for him, although it’s to the show’s detriment to have it pointed out.
Bringing Felicity into this story, while fun, had a negative effect the creators couldn’t have wanted: it made the already problematic character of Iris look even worse. For a show that’s hitting all the superhero tropes so effectively, it’s surprising how bad a job they’re doing on setting up the unrequited love interest. We don’t think it’s the actress’s fault, since we can’t point to any interaction or line reading that she failed to make work. It’s definitely the writing, which treats her as if she were 16 years old and/or not very bright about what goes on around her. Whether it’s the “Daddy, I’m gonna pout SO HARD if you don’t love my boyfriend” or the “Oh, Barry. You need a girl who really knows you and understands how special you — excuse me. Gotta make out with my hot boyfriend for a sec.” Look, we don’t think we’re going out on a limb here by noting that grown women who look like Iris West (i.e., gorgeous) do NOT go around unaware of men being attracted to them. It just doesn’t scan. Which means she comes off looking like a tease. All of this could be corrected with one scene of her dropping the facade with someone and just saying “It kills me that Barry has a thing for me, but I’m doing everything I can to point him in the right direction. I just want to save our friendship.” Seriously; just one line to that effect could recast all her prior actions and interactions in a different light. And we know the writers are capable of such turns because they did exactly that with the character of Joe this episode.
Jesse L. Martin has really grown on us in this role. At first we found him too weepy and avuncular to be dynamic enough for a story like this, but he’s selling us on the character based solely on his charm and comfort in the role (not his first time sporting a detective’s badge on TV, after all). We were getting pretty annoyed, however, with his stereotypical protective father schtick, and it made us wonder if perhaps the West family as a whole are weak spots in the story. But then they had him turn around and shut both Iris and us up by pointing out that she’s dating someone upon whom he relies to keep him from getting killed, and vice versa. It was a wonderfully unexpected take that played with our expectations – and yet ANOTHER example showing that the creative team know what they’re doing. It’s possible they have a blind spot with Iris, but we’re hoping to see a similar twist like this to explain her actions. We tend to doubt it, though. This love triangle thing looks to be something for the long haul. After all, this whole episode was about letting the perfect girl for Barry go away because he’s pining for the girl who’s oblivious to him. It’s all very high school, which isn’t exactly unusual for superhero romances, but it’s going to get dull week in and week out if they don’t have some sort of plan for dealing with it.
Even so, we’re spending too much time complaining about it, possibly because this episode went out of its way to highlight the absurdity of Barry’s crush. It doesn’t really matter, because this is still the most consistently fun and entertaining hour of TV in the new fall season.