(Image Source: IGN)
It was bound to happen sooner or later. After hitting a major stride with three of the season’s strongest episodes, The Flash stumbled a bit last night with ‘Rogue Air.’ Chalk it up to a random diversion from the Reverse Flash storyline and another unfortunate appearance by Wentworth Miller as Captain Cold. When you’ve got 23 episodes to fill in a season slot, not all of them can be winners, but considering the quality of the past few, I was really hoping we’d passed the slump and hit the season’s high point. This episode focused a bit too much on reminding us that Captain Cold existed, presumably to pave the way for the new superhero spinoff arriving next year, and not enough time on the primary showdown between Barry and Dr. Wells. With this slight fumble, my high expectations for the finale have faltered a bit, but not enough to make me lose heart entirely.
Not wanting to be left in the dust while Barry and Iris steal the voiceover thunder, this time around Dr. Wells takes a shot at narrating the opening. It’s the classic villain speech: blah-blah, anger, blah-blah, revenge, blah-blah, everyone will suffer. Turns out he’s delivering his evil villain campaign address to Eddie, who has clearly let himself go since the news that his beloved Iris will be wedding Barry instead of him. Before Dr. Wells can go for the trademark villain laugh to close out his speech, we cut to a quick coffee break with Barry and Iris. Barry delivers the ‘I promise we’ll find Eddie’ speech for about the bazillionth time and Iris bitches momentarily then apologizes for her behavior (‘bout time).
They get a call from Cisco at the lab and head his way. Cisco’s been researching Dr. Wells’ wheelchair, trying to figure out why a superpowered badass would pretend to need it this whole time. Cisco flips the chair over to reveal a futuristic looking device on the bottom. A flux-capacitor of sorts? Come on, Cisco! How did you not notice the resemblance? You’re slacking with your movie references! Joe has to pick up Cisco’s punchline slack by making a lame ‘You can’t get that at Radio Shack’ joke. Oh, Joe. Since when can you get anything at Radio Shack? You’re slacking too! Everyone is slacking in this episode! Do I have to do everything around here?!?!
Cisco suggests that this device could have been charging Dr. Wells’ abilities whenever he sat in it, hence the reason he’s so much faster than Barry. Before Barry can strap himself in and get a long overdue speed massage, the group notices an energy signature coming from somewhere below the lab. They head down to investigate and discover Dr. Wells’ secret tunnel. Barry gives chase to Wells and, in the chaos, Wells is able to free one of the imprisoned villains from her cell: Peekaboo. Peekaboo wreaks all kinds of havoc on Caitlin and might at add that somehow, despite being in a cell for the past few months, her makeup and wardrobe are flawless. Iris saves the day by knocking the transporting bimbo unconscious.
After getting Peekaboo back in her cell, the gang hears the faint sound of someone crying for help. It’s Eddie!! They head back into the tunnel and rescue him. As they carry him back to the labs, Iris notices a conveniently placed engagement ring box sitting conspicuously out on the floor. The realization dawns: the ring is for her. Good thing Dr. Wells left that out for her to find!
Barry, unsuccessful in his attempt to catch Dr. Wells, returns to the lab and apologizes to Eddie for not being able to find him after all this time.
“That’s okay, Barry,” says Eddie. “Sometimes you just can’t see the clues. Even if they’re right in front of you.” And then he gives Iris a major “I know it was you, Fredo” look.
Oof. Laying it on a bit thick, aren’t you, Eddie? It’s not Iris’ fault you’re not as sexy as Barry Allen.
Eddie tells the group that he and Dr. Wells’ are actually related and that Dr. Wells’ real name is Eobard Thawne. Which…uh…wait…haven’t we covered this already? Eddie shares what details he can about Wells’ evil plan to return to the future using the underground tunnel and some kind of futuristic tube which will serve as the key. Cisco heads down into the tunnel and discovers the object, identifying it as a power source which will re-activate the particle accelerator that gave Barry and all the metahumans their powers. It’s set to activate in 36 hours, meaning all the imprisoned metahumans will go bye-bye.
Barry can’t stand by and watch a bunch of people die, no matter how evil they are. He hatches a plan to have the metahumans transported to a prison island Lian Yu. He and Joe go to the police department for help transporting them, but the District Attorney insists they can offer no assistance. Without the aid of the Central City Police Department or ARGUS from the land of Arrow, Barry decides there’s only one person they can turn to: Captain Cold.
This, my friends, is where the episode goes off the rails entirely. Not only does it make no sense that Barry would decide to turn to one of his mortal enemies for help, but Barry’s reasoning for doing so is completely idiotic. (“We need his cold gun!” He tells Joe, who looks just as dumbfounded as I’m sure I did) Before I could even register why any of this was justified, Barry is already chatting it up with Captain Cold at a bar and Wentworth Miller’s dreadful performance is preventing me from forming a single cognitive thought.
I’ve got to take this moment to call out Mr. Miller, because seriously, he is so awful in this show. None of The Flash’s minor villains have made much of a splash, but Captain Cold may be the biggest disappointment of the bunch, mainly because from what I’m told by my more ‘in-the-know’ comic book reading friends, he is one of the Flash’s biggest and best villains. In the show, he’s nothing more than an annoyance. Miller delivers every line with all the enthusiasm of a guy who couldn’t care less about what he’s doing. I kind of get what he’s going for with his tone, that kind of droll, ‘don’t give a s***’ demeanor, but he’s not charismatic enough of an actor to make it work. And the writing, good God, that awful writing, seems content to develop Captain Cold no further than a surface level. Even if Miller was capable of giving a solid performance here, he’d still have to suffer through delivering the worst ‘cold’ puns this side of Mr. Freeze in Batman & Robin. Every moment he’s on screen hurts my soul.
So, despite the fact that he has some superhero buddies just a couple cities away, Barry asks Captain Cold to lend him a hand. Captain Cold agrees to help, but only under the condition that Barry will delete all trace of his existence from every database ever. Sure, why not? This episode doesn’t make any sense anyway. Barry, in his Flash garb, deletes every file in the Police database, and brings all the physical evidence to Captain Cold and his sister Lisa.
Wait, she’s in this too? Ugh, the only thing worse than one campy performance is two campy performances. Seriously, did we learn nothing from the Schumacher Bat-flicks? And, no, I’m not saying that camp in a superhero show is a bad thing. After all, the Adam West/Burt Ward Batman series is one of the greatest things on this planet. The problem is when you’re trying to establish a specific tone and you have actors come in who are not in line with that tone in any way. It throws everything off and undermines the quality of what everyone else is trying to do.
But around this point, we’re due for some Iris/Eddie melodrama, and that’s exactly what we get. Eddie’s been acting distant ever since the kidnapping and Iris doesn’t understand why. She finally catches up to him at the police department and confronts him about his behavior and the engagement ring. Eddie reveals that he knows what the future holds and that Iris will be getting married to Barry instead of him. Iris insists that the future isn’t set and that this information means nothing (someone’s been watching The Terminator), but Eddie calls her out on her bluff.
“There have been three people in this relationship from the start,” he tells her. “You, me…and Dupree.” No, he doesn’t actually say that, but we all know exactly who the third person in this triangle is. Barry.
And just like that, he breaks up with her. And Iris, despite the tears, doesn’t do much to stop him. Maybe the seed is being planted for Eddie to become a super villain later on? Maybe. But, I’ve gotta admit, I feel bad for the guy. He’s gotten the shaft at every turn, but he’s always been loyal and a big team player regardless of his personal issues. Truthfully, I wouldn’t blame him in the slightest for taking it out on the Flash, but at the same time, I hope the writing team treats this very delicately. Seeing him switch from being a good guy to a bad at the drop of a hat would be doing his character a major disservice. Not that that’s definitely the direction they’re going in, buuuut…just be careful, writers.
The gang gets everything set up for the big transport to get all the supervillains the hell out of Dodge. They knock out the metahumans with gas and Cisco sets up a damper in the giant transport truck so they won’t be able to use their powers to escape. The convoy makes its way to the airport and Captain Cold contributes his unique powers, which according to Barry were absolutely necessary, by doing absolutely nothing. Seriously, the most important thing that happens with either Captain Cold or his sister is that Cisco gives the sister a new nickname: the Golden Glider. She and Cisco also flirt a little bit. Because Cisco is irresistible and whatnot.
When they get to the airport, things start to go haywire. The superpower damper in the truck malfunctions and the villains get out and destroy the plane intended to transport them to the prison island. The Flash does his best to take out the villains, but he’s quickly overpowered, even despite his goofy superfast arm flapping powers. Captain Cold and the newly-dubbed ‘Golden Glider’ even the odds, saving the Flash and the rest of the group. But, he allows all the villains to escape, and reveals, to nobody’s surprise, that he was the one who tampered with the superpower damper in the truck, allowing the villains to break free. And on that note, he rides off into the night with his sister in tow.
And now we’ve only got about 10-15 minutes left in the episode, and I’m starting to realize something: weren’t we supposed to be seeing the Flash team up with the Arrow and Firestorm to take down the Reverse Flash? Why did we just waste an entire episode on Captain Cold and the villains escaping out into the night when we were promised such an awesome showdown?
And then, right in the last 10 minutes, that’s exactly what we are given. Not only is this showdown with the Reverse Flash a fantastic action sequence, complete with the Reverse Flash’s suit-vomiting ring, not only is it the best thing this episode has to offer, it also reaffirms the complete worthlessness of everything that preceded it. Why would the Flash team up with Captain Cold when these guys were waiting on the sidelines for the call to action? Why did this episode have to focus on an unrelated plot and characters when we could have had more of this awesomeness?!
Surprisingly, the heroes manage to take down the Reverse Flash, leaving him unconscious at Barry’s feet. I was expecting another cop-out with the Reverse Flash escaping into the night, shouting, “We’ll meet again, the Flash!!” But, nope, he’s actually been bested by the combined efforts of this terrific trio. Firestorm and Arrow parts ways with the Flash, but not before the Arrow can say, “Oh, by the way, I need you to make a cameo in my show too. You know, for the finale.”
The Flash stands over the Reverse Flash’s unconscious body and says, “I got you.” And boom, we’re all set for the finale next week.
‘Rogue Air’ felt way more like a weaker mid-season effort than a worthy build up to the final episode of the season. It focuses too much on Captain Cold and the Golden Glider and not enough on Barry’s showdown with the Reverse Flash. It feels like more of a ‘board-setting’ episode than anything else, but the problem is that it’s setting the pieces for stories down the line that have nothing to do with this particular season. A major disappointment overall.
As we reach the end of The Flash's first season, did we really need a pointless placeholder episode? It's a bit of a shame that we had to hit this low point after such a fantastic streak, but hopefully the finale will end things on a strong note.