The following is the fourth installment of my weekly The Flash, Season 3, Reviews for Culture Fly
The most successful superheroes tend to be the most relatable. The ones the audience can see themselves in. Throughout its run, The Flash has used soapy drama to chime with viewers. Barry (Grant Gustin) may be able to run at supersonic speeds but really he’s an average guy. As the show has grown it has been able to put the action on the back burner and place more faith in its characters and their interactions. The throwback episode ‘The New Rogues’ proves why.
‘The New Rouges’ plays like a season one episode. It opens with a flashback to the first particle accelerator explosion and features old school Flash villains. The Mirror Master (Grey Damon) makes his first appearance, accompanied by his lover Top (Awkward’s Ashley Rickards) as they try to find Leonard Snart aka Captain Cold (Wentworth Miller).
Miller’s role is reduced to being a cameo but he chews the scenery in his limited screen time, drawling the cold-related puns like “cool down” the only way he knows how. He’s been off saving the timeline or something in DC’s Legends of Tomorrow so it’s nice to see him return to The Flash.
Damon and Rickards have some chemistry but they aren’t very memorable in their roles. Their characters’ meta-human abilities give the show a unique visual palette. When Top uses her powers to induce vertigo, the background bends as if it is being seen through a kaleidoscope and watching the people be thrown through reflective surfaces like mirrors and windows is an engaging element to the action. It’s interesting to note that the cheaper special effects are, the more accomplished they seem. The CGI of Barry running up a building may show the episode’s confidence, but it also shows its limitations.
In the first season, there would have been a couple of encounters with the Rogues with Barry’s action scenes being limited to an orange blur and Gustin’s facial expressions. In this episode, the show’s fiftieth, the action is held back because the writers understand the real sparks fly from character relationships and some good ol’ fashioned interpersonal drama.
Naturally, more and more time is dedicated to Barry and Iris’s (Candice Patton) budding romance with Barry having to come to terms with the fact that his girlfriend’s dad is also his adoptive father/housemate. However, this slightly incestuous undertone is forgotten when seeing the characters interact with each other. The way Barry and Iris sit on the sofa together, the way they cuddle, is recognisable and relatable. Jesse L Martin as Joe ‘Dad Cop’ West brings the dad-daughter relationship to the fore. His awkward glances are the perfect foil to his daughter’s determination to make everything fine.
Don’t worry, this isn’t a rom-com with a brief appearance from the Flash. Enough of the shows elements remain for it to keep its identity. Harry (Tom Cavanagh) has to cherry pick a replacement Wells from the multiverse, giving Cavanagh the opportunity to play four versions of the same character in three seasons (along with glimpses at Cowboy Wells and ye-old-English Wells). Harry will come back but H-R or hipster Wells, looks interesting and there is new space to develop his relationship with Cisco (Carlos Valdes). This workplace relationship is always entertaining and the science mumbo jumbo is enough to keep sci-fi fans happy.
‘The New Rogues’ is a reminder of what the show used to be. It is also a reminder of how the show has evolved and how the emphasis is now firmly on Barry Allen and not the Flash.