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The first two episodes of Flash Season 2 were very much about setting up the new concepts and characters the creators had in store for us. But instead of making progress on these fronts with “Family of Rogues,” the episode put the “Zoom and doom” plot on hold to focus on the return of Captain Cold and Golden Glider, to mixed results.
The episode offered a welcome change of pace from the melodrama of “The Flash of Two Worlds,” showcasing Team Flash working together and allowing the Snarts to be seen in a new light. One of the joys of watching the show is seeing how Barry’s interactions with his villains are markedly different from Ollie’s (at least before he became Green Arrow), and it was nice to see Peyton List’s Lisa Snart show true vulnerability when asking for help. Similarly, seeing Barry and Captain Cold’s comedic back and forth of “Snart!” and “Barry!” left me hopeful that their less-antagonistic relationship on Legends of Tomorrow will be more interesting than their current one. I still have occasional problems with Wentworth Miller’s portrayal of Leonard Snart (not entirely sure why there had to be a strange, emphatic pause when he told his dying father he hated him more than the Flash), but I think the evolving relationship between his character and Barry Allen allowed him to add more nuance to his performance. It’s a shame that Captain Cold is kind of being taken out of play as a villain, but I’m all for it if it means we get to see Miller further come into the role.
Captain Cold and Barry’s relationship wasn’t the only one that brought something to the show this week, though. Cisco and Lisa were able to move slightly past the forced sexual tension that characterized their relationship in Season 1, with Lisa telling Cisco that she was beaten by her father, Lewis Snart (Michael Ironside). I particularly liked the note their last interaction ended on, with Cisco questioning whether Lisa saying he was her first friend was true and Lisa’s expression changing to indicate it may or may not be. It was a nice way of letting us know the creators understand what makes their relationship so interesting and aren’t about to go and make them buddies just yet.
The refusal to rely on romantic tension between characters certainly served to benefit Patty and Barry’s relationship. They were able to talk without it seeming like a means to an end, and when they did get around to almost-flirting (with Patty mistakenly believing Barry was asking for her number), it worked a lot better than it did in the previous episode. The writers attempts to portray her as somewhat strange still fall flat (even though Joe’s reactions to her quips – “Oh, hell no” – are always great), but it’s reassuring to see her characterization improve the more screen time she gets.
Joe West and his wife’s interactions proved to be the exception to the rule, however. While Jesse L. Martin was able to deliver a powerful performance that conveyed just how hurt Joe was by Francine walking out, I felt like the episode could have done without her involvement, especially considering the reason for her return (Iris “[needing] her mother” to help her get over the loss of Eddie) was a bit of a reach. I am curious to see how or if Francine coming back into Joe’s life leads to the introduction of Wally West, but I hope they move on this (or getting Iris to talk about the fact that she’s supposed to marry Barry) sooner rather than later.
Speaking of Iris, her development from the sidelined character of Season 1 to the confident and involved member of Team Flash she is this season was once again touched upon. And while it was nice seeing her take the news of her father lying about her mother’s death so well, it seemed a little underwhelming. Like, Barry said it would be okay. And it was. Great. Martin Stein’s Firestorm issues demonstrated a similar degree of questionable staging, as despite the cliffhanger being a clear indicator that there was something more to Stein passing out, the episode doesn’t even attempt to add an air of mystery to it. They simply postpone answering that question until blue flames start coming out of Martin’s body at the end of the episode. Since Martin Stein didn’t have much to offer this week, I feel like he could have sat things out until he was ready to go up in flames.
As for Lewis Snart, there wasn’t much in the episode to take Michael Ironside’s character beyond “abusive father,” but more interesting for the show going forward is the fact that he is the third villain of the season to be killed so far. It seems that the showrunners are so keen to have no one trapped in the villain pipeline for too long that Jay Garrick is the only new character who has spent any time there this season.
Not only was Lewis a little underdeveloped, his main confrontation with the Flash wasn’t that interesting either. Barry’s super speed once again invalidates the tension of the scene by making the viewer wonder why he doesn’t just punch Lewis before he’s able to detonate the bomb, and the writers use the most questionable science ever (having Captain Cold freeze laser beams and walk through them) to even allow this to happen. I haven’t been impressed with any of the fights or climactic scenes in the season so far, which I hope changes when the show gets back to the search for Zoom.
“A Family of Rogues” could have easily been a bit of unnecessary fluff, but the episode’s focus on relationships allowed them to develop in interesting ways and hopefully positioned the show for fewer problems later down the line. The main villain and confrontation in this episode were again pretty weak, but I’m hopeful that this is something addressed in next week’s “The Fury of Firestorm.”