Last week’s episode of The Flash put so much in motion it seemed too good to be true, and ultimately it was. After kickstarting nearly every major storyline of the first season, the writers skillfully backtracked, having Barry run himself into the past. If that stemmed disappointment, I understand. Seeing numerous loose ends come to a head, only to be subsequently erased from existence can feel like hurtful deception. But it wasn’t a cop out. With “Rogue Time,” the writers wasted little time, proving they have no problem, fittingly, with putting things in motion.
After the surprise time travel at the end of last week, Barry has to deal with the fallout of breaking the timeline. As with many versions of temporal travel, The Flash hypothesizes that changing the timeline will cause potentially cataclysmic consequences. After deducing, thanks to Barry’s terrible inability to hide what exactly was going on, Dr. Wells warns our hero against making drastic changes to the day he’s already lived. Naturally, the advice is not heeded, and Barry quickly finds Mark Mardon, and locks him away in the S.T.A.R. Labs metahuman dungeon. And thus, the strands of time begin to unravel.
Save for the early bits specifically involving the phenomena, the fact that Barry traveled back in time and was altering the future did not really factor heavily in the episode. There was the occasional dialogue (primarily between Wells and Barry) involving time, but otherwise the hour played out much like any other Flash episode would. Leonard Snart and Mick Rory returned, this time with a third wheel, Snart’s sister, Lisa. Known in the comics as Golden Glider, Lisa Snart is a ruffian with a penchant for theft, much like her brother. While I like the inclusion of the Rogues, as expected as it was, I am still unsure of the performances by all parties. Dominic Purcell continues to bark every word like an unruly animal, chewing up the scenery until it’s nothing but pulp. Wentworth Miller is far more tactful, and by the end of tonight’s hour seemed nicely settled into his role as Captain Cold. But, at times, his portrayal is still slightly too large for the show. Subtlety has not exactly been a common trait among Flash villains, but the Rogues could use some toning down. As for the newcomer, Peyton List had so little time on screen that a valuable opinion couldn’t possibly be formed. While I’m uncertain on the acting of the Rogues, I am certain about their actions.
Miller’s Captain Cold has proven to be a ruthless villain, and The Flash writers have proven unafraid to make waves. Snart, after having his cold gun confiscated in his last appearance, set his sights on the maker, Cisco. We’ve slowly learned more of Cisco’s past in this inaugural season, and this week brought nice insights to his family life and childhood. Soon after he is introduced, Cisco’s brother, Dante (Nicholas Gonzalez), is abducted by the Rogues, as is Cisco himself. After a series of threats that force Cisco to rebuild the weapons, he is tasked with an impossible decision: to give up Barry’s identity as The Flash, or save his brother. What separates Snart as a character, and The Flash as a show versus its contemporaries (like Gotham), is that this threat feels legitimate. The conclusion is far from foregone. Having already frozen his fingers, you believe that Snart would easily turn the rest of Dante into ice, and thus Cisco’s situation is truly dire. Though nothing immediate came of Barry’s identity being unveiled, the mere fact that Snart now has that chip to play (and his knack of showing up at the worst of times for Barry) could be a major factor moving forward.
The writer’s proved their willingness to shake the status quo beyond the Rogues storyline last night. There is clearly no fear of moving the plot forward, and there never really has been, but after last week’s drastic leap with many stories, I was curious to see how things would progress with the reset timeline. I feared that the writers may move too slow, but both the Iris and Dr. Wells storylines were pushed forward in a significant fashion last night. This sets up a blistering finish, and (given the increasing amount of collateral damage accrued on the show) one that is sure to include some bloodshed. In the final moments of “Rogue Time” the death of a (non-major) character, whom I will refrain from mentioning by name, rejiggered my thinking about the show’s willingness to execute. It’s older brother, Arrow is no stranger to heartbreaking deaths, and it seems The Flash could head in a similar direction, what with Harrison/Eobard’s unfettered drive to do whatever it takes. At this point, no one is off limits.
?The worst thing a show can do after an episode full of explosiveness is follow up with a misfire. This was an important episode for The Flash, and one that delivered strongly. It gave a solid hour of television with a well-paced main plot, that also was able to push forward major storylines. Off to a great start in the final stretch, The Flash’s first season is shaping up to be something wonderful, and once we get into the meat of the final episodes, it will be something not to miss.
Eric Walters is a Detroit-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. For more of his TV musings, follow him on Twitter.