Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Best Episode Yet? "Family Of Rogues" Has A Lot To Recommend To Those Who Love The Flash!

The Good: Character moments, Performances, Direction
The Bad: Minutiae, Resolution
The Basics: An impressive outing for The Flash, "Family Of Rogues" raises the bar for the super hero television show!

As a reviewer who loves the science fiction/super hero genre that has spawned from the crossover of comic books into films and television shows, Tuesday nights are a big night for me. Tuesday nights are when both Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. and The Flash air and while I have to wait several hours for The Flash, I review Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. in real time. Last night's episode of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., "Devils You Know" (reviewed here!) threatened to up-end one of the trends I've noticed between the two generally unrelated shows: Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. has constantly trailed The Flash with the quality of its episodes. But "Devils You Know" was a rare peak for Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. and it made me think, before even seeing the new episode of The Flash, "Family Of Rogues," that the trend might be broken.

It wasn't.

Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. might have had a wonderful episode, but The Flash had a truly magnificent one. "Family Of Rogues" does what great television ought to do, which is to connect with the viewer and tell a good story that has resonance outside the simple bounds of entertainment. It's a pretty rare thing when I argue against serialized television, but the irony of "Family Of Rogues" is that the few weak spots the episode has is in how it tries to be a part of the larger story of The Flash. The "villain of the week" plotline forces "Family Of Rogues" to virtually neglect "Flash Of Two Worlds" (reviewed here!) and the way the final act tries to incorporate elements of the prior episode into it actually feels cheap for a change (up to and including ending the episode on an almost identical scene to last week's episode). Outside that, the weaknesses in "Family Of Rogues" are incredibly small - though some are painfully obvious.

Opening with Barry working in his lab, The Flash is called by Iris, who is in an abandoned building getting shot at when she calls for help. Barry easily disarms the assailants and rescues Iris, who runs off to write the story she was investigating. Returning to S.T.A.R. Labs, Barry and the team look over the wormhole in their basement. Unable to pass through the breach, Jay proposes that they stabilize the breach so he can return home. Joe meets Iris's mother, Francine, in a bar and tries to pay her off to leave town once and for all. At Jitters, Barry runs into Patty Spivot and is hanging out with his friends when Lisa Snart walks in and bumps into Cisco. Lisa actually want the help of The Flash, claiming Leonard has been kidnapped and the team brings her back to S.T.A.R. Labs to enlist his help.

Barry attempts to rescue Leonard Snart, only to discover Captain Cold is working with his own father. Lewis Snart is a bad guy and when Barry confronts Leonard a second time, Captain Cold threatens to out Barry as The Flash. Soon, the team realizes that Leonard is working against his own personal code because Lewis has implanted a bomb in Lisa. As the S.T.A.R. Labs team works to defuse the bomb in Lisa, Barry infiltrates Lewis's heist team to control the situation and keep tabs on Captain Cold and Lewis.

"Family Of Rogues" is hampered by a big plot conceit at the outset. When Lisa Snart shows up, the team does not trust her. In "Flash Of Two Worlds," Dr. Snow gave Jay Garrick a physical examination and a de facto lie detector test. When Lisa approaches the team for help, they assume she is a liar. Time does not seem to be a factor in the caper - the team is out for coffee at the beginning of Patty's work day and it's night when Barry encounters Leonard, so . . . - so it makes no real sense that they don't hook Lisa up to the S.T.A.R. Lab equipment. Which would have allowed them to discover the explosive in her right away. But, it also would have allowed them to discover if she was lying.

One of the intriguing aspects of "Family Of Rogues" is that, despite being heavy with Joe West and Captain Cold, in many ways this is the first proper episode to focus on Lisa Snart. Lisa and Cisco continue to build their relationship and it actually works. Cisco had an initial physical attraction to Lisa in the prior season and here they connect based on their family situations. Lisa has a loyalty to Leonard, much like Cisco has to his family; Cisco empathizes with the pain Lisa has that is tied to her family. In "Family Of Rogues," Lisa Snart is characterized as a survivor of child abuse (in the books, it is usually presented with even darker motivations from Lewis Snart) and Cisco, being sensitive and empathetic, wants to come to her aid.

The serialized elements in "Family Of Rogues" feel very organic. The episode's Joe plotline focuses on Joe wrestling with how to tell Iris that her mother is still, actually, alive. The plot conceit could come across as one of the cheapest soap opera tactics of all time, but The Flash pulls it off. Much of that, arguably, comes from the strength of actor Jesse L. Martin. Martin makes Joe's moralizing engaging to watch and his confession to Iris absolutely tearjerking. Seriously, I teared up watching Joe West tell Iris the story of her mother and the painful decisions he made to try to keep her safe. Candice Patton's reactions are wonderful, but Jesse L. Martin makes telling the story spellbinding and heartbreaking.

At the other end of the spectrum, "Family Of Rogues" has charming scenes that feature Barry Allen and Patty Spivot. As a little advanced "fuck you!" to viewers from the producers of The Flash, the scenes Barry and Patty have are chock full of chemistry. Grant Gustin and Shantel VanSanten have amazing on-screen chemistry and their banter is the foundation of a great potential love story. The "screw you" to fans is coming, though, because the storytelling conceit that is very clearly being employed by the producers and writers is delay and then reversal. In the first season of The Flash, Barry's feelings for Iris were revealed to all of the key players in the relationship. At the outset of the second season, Iris is still mourning the loss of Eddie, but when The Flash rescues her at the beginning of "Family Of Rogues," it has the appearance that Iris might well be ready to move on. So, to keep Iris from falling in love with Barry, the resurfacing of her mother is thrown in as a plot/character complication. If the producers tread down this entirely predictable path, Barry and Patty will develop a relationship which Iris will then muck up at the last minute because she'll finally be through mourning her loss of Eddie and whatever complications her mother throws at her.

The banter between Barry and Leonard Snart is similarly wonderful and "Family Of Rogues" goes a long way to making Snart a viable protagonist for the new spin-off. Wentworth Miller has the ability to headline a television show, so the limitations of watching a show that would feature Captain Cold has been more in the character than its lead performer. "Family Of Rogues" allows Miller to smirk his way through chemistry with Grant Gustin and glower his way into the back of Michael Ironside (Lewis Snart). Miller makes it work.

Despite the way "Family Of Rogues" stuffs in the last-minute shot and keeps Jay Garrick around in the lamest way possible (Dr. Snow's mourning for Ronnie is clearly over!), the episode is well-preformed, wonderful with its dialogue and moves the characters forward incredibly well. Despite the references to other episodes of The Flash, this might well be the essential episode for those who want to peek in on the series to watch!

For other works with Michael Ironside, check out my reviews of:
X-Men: First Class
Terminator Salvation
Total Recall
V: The Television Series
V: The Final Battle


For other movie and television reviews, please visit my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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