The Flash – Season 2 Episode 3
“Family of Rogues”
The Flash takes a break from alternate realities and Zoom to bring back Wentworth Miller’s Captain Cold to deepen the antagonistic relationship between the two characters.
Having a character driven episode come right after a big plot establishing episode with big ideas is perfect placement. If the show keeps getting the character development right then the notion of parallel universes will all fall into place as something that is acceptable because there’s a strong base of realistic and relatable characters who all do and say things people can identify with.
To date Captain Cold is the most interesting villain the show has next to Reverse Flash so any episode that sees him return is welcomed. Despite having no powers he is a good foil for Barry and Wentworth Miller’s theatrical performance as a dry and witty villain with a code never descends into camp despite the potential the character has to do so.
Snart’s appearance in this episode is very different to what we’ve seen previously as The Flash attempts to flesh him out a lot more ahead of his addition to the cast of the upcoming Legends of Tomorrow. Having him be a simple criminal before appearing on that show wouldn’t work as his motivation for doing something heroic would feel very forced if the character as he was left last season was used.
The easiest way to show how a villain is motivated is give him a troubled upbringing with an abusive father figure. It’s probably about as cliché as it gets and is definitely overused in superhero stories but here there is a layer of sincerity to it thanks to the performances on display.
Snart’s family story has a very important twist as he is entirely motivated by a desire to protect his sister. It turns out that she was beaten repeatedly growing up which caused Leonard -hereafter referred to as Cold- to become very protective of her. Again, it’s really standard villain family stuff but it works here.
Their father Lewis Snart is played by the ever watchable Michael Ironside who isn’t new to the world of DC with notable appearances as the animated incarnation of Darkseid and as Lois Lane’s father in Smallville. He is the perfect choice to play a father figure to two messed up criminals and it’s easy to see how abusive he was by his actions in this episode.
Ironside perfectly plays a guy who would put a bomb in his daughter’s head to get his son to cooperate. Wentworth Miller does a great job of playing Cold as being conflicted but left with absolutely no choice. There are definitely more layers to him yet to come so I hope he appears again before he heads off for the spin-off.
Barry and Cold’s antagonistic relationship is furthered nicely here as Barry notices that his weakness is his sister and that there is an undercurrent of compassion to him as well as a desire to do good. Cold assures him that there really isn’t but Barry sees something that he is willing to nurture.
There are other interesting subtleties such as Cold’s regretful look when Barry is apparently shot by his father and the general feeling of helplessness that is evident from his performance. The writers should use Cold as the template for developing other villains as they have done an excellent job with him.
I really liked the heist sequence that Barry got himself involved in. It was appropriately tense as Cold’s father threatened to detonate the bomb in Lisa’s head if Cold didn’t kill the Flash. Logistically it was a little questionable as Barry could have easily disarmed the situation but the fact that it worked so well more than made up for this. The personal stakes were high for Cold and that came across powerfully. The fact that he casually murdered his father was -excuse the pun- really cold but understandable and perfectly illustrated how devoted he is to the well-being of his sister.
Lisa Snart was really well used here as the damsel in distress. Having her effectively be a hostage didn’t diminish her character in any way as she still had plenty of moments that kept her as a badass. I really like the flirtatious chemistry filled interactions with Cisco who now seems to have a deeper respect for her than he did before. At first I wondered if her vulnerability in front of him was another trick but Peyton List played it as completely honest so I am left assuming that she was being genuine in this instance. I’m glad that there was no double cross that had Lisa in on the scheme all along as that would have cheapened so much about the episode.
Last week saw the return of Iris’ mother Francine (Vanessa Williams) who I always assumed was dead. It turns out that assumption was actually correct because as far as Iris is concerned she was. After she took an overdose of pills when Iris was young Joe told her to leave and let Iris believe that her mother had died. The truth of the situation is that she was a drug addict and Joe felt that Iris shouldn’t have to deal with that in her life.
This episode has Joe confess this to Iris in a way that I really liked. Joe apologises for what he did but makes no apology for why he did it. He feels that he made a mistake but also stands by his decision rather than trying to convince Iris that it was the right thing. He simply lays out the facts and his reasons for doing it so that she can make up her own mind. It’s a really powerful scene that has Jesse L. Martin take Joe to a really emotionally vulnerable place as he faces the risk of alienating his daughter forever.
I didn’t quite buy Iris understanding the justification so soon. What she heard clearly upset her but given her reaction to everyone lying to her last season over Barry’s identity I would have expected her to at least go silent for a little while before processing what she has been told. I can completely accept that the producers want to move Iris away from her self absorbed complaining that defined her last season but in this instance I would have accepted a more passionate reaction. I am interested to see what comes of Francine’s return and how this affects the West family dynamic.
Jay Garrick is given the job of building the “speed cannon” – a device that will stabilise the portal to his world found in the basement of S.T.A.R. Labs. He spends most of his screen time interacting with Caitlin who is clearly attracted to him and vice versa. They have an interesting conversation about Jay’s value to the world as a physicist being as important if not more so than his role as a superhero. There is definitely an attraction between them that is bubbling along in the background but definitely exists.
Jay feels a little lost without his speed but this helps him come to terms with it and he agrees to stay on Earth 1 to help Barry deal with Zoom. As an aside I find it amusing that Jay is so willing to accept that his home world is called Earth 2, I would like to see a little objection as a joke.
Barry and Patty’s flirting felt a little more organic this week. They work well together in the field and get along naturally when not at work so the budding relationship is progressing nicely but not too quickly which I like. Patty seems like a good character so far as well but her constant need to tell everyone how brilliant she is might get annoying after a while.
Lastly the final scene where Harrison Wells appears from the now stabilised portal is a great tease for the upcoming episodes. He seems as shifty as ever judging by his facial expressions so I wonder what this version will be like when he starts to get some real screen time. Team Flash definitely should have put some kind of security measure in that chamber as having a stabilised portal unattended is a really stupid idea.
A really strong outing that develops the antagonistic relationship between Barry and Captain Cold in a way that doesn’t feel like obvious set-up for the upcoming spin-off.
Having a character driven episode come right after a plot establishing episode with big ideas is perfect placement as it shows that this show keeps getting the characters right which makes the more outlandish things easily acceptable since they have a strong grounding.
Captain Cold has been the best developed villain outside of Reverse Flash so any episode that sees him return is welcomed. Wentworth Miller’s theatrical performance never strays into the realm of camp despite how easy it would be for this to happen.
It turns out that Cold has a very troubled family history with a father that was abusive to him and his sister. Seeing his father played by the always excellent Michael Ironside really helps show this and it’s instantly believable that he is the sort of man who would put a bomb in his daughter’s head.
Cold’s conflict with his father is used to flesh out his character as someone who will do anything for his sister and lets Barry see a glimmer of nobility beneath the surface to be developed in the future.
The heist sequence that has Cold’s father dealt with once and for all is wonderfully tense as the stakes are really high for Cold who risks losing his sister if he doesn’t comply with his father’s wishes.
Lisa Snart was well used and her flirtatious relationship with Cisco is a lot of fun to watch. I liked seeing her become more vulnerable as she feared for her life and it was good that it was allowed to remain genuine.
Joe’s confession to Iris that he lied about her mother being alive is a brilliantly acted moment for Jesse L. Martin. It’s very well written as Joe simply lays out the facts for Iris to evaluate on her own. I didn’t quite buy Iris being understanding so quickly as it feels like she should be a lot more shocked than she was.
Jay and Caitlin’s conversation about his value as a physicist being as -if not more- important than his value as a superhero. There is definitely an attraction between the two of them that sits in the background but will surely develop.
Barry and Patty’s flirting feels a lot more natural than it did last week and it’s easy to see how well suited they are. Her tendency to brag about how great she is at everything might get annoying after a while.
I’m excited to see what the appearance of the alternate Harrison Wells in Earth 1 means for the upcoming episodes. It could go any way at this point.