Tuesday, October 25, 2016

New Wells, New Metas, "The New Rogues" Restores A Lot Of Fun To The Flash Formula!

The Good: Decent character work, Good performances, Special effects
The Bad: Very basic plot, Some technical elements
The Basics: "The New Rogues" helps to turn around the downward momentum of the third season of The Flash with the introduction of one of the coolest Flash villains!

Have you ever had something that you're really excited about, but by the time it materializes, you dread it? I'm a fan of The Flash - both the books and the CW television series. As a fan of The Flash graphic novels, one of the things I have been most eager to see is how the character of Mirror Master would be adapted to The Flash. During Geoff Johns's run of The Flash, the Mirror Master - and his mundane, Scudder, identity - had some particularly compelling moments and his backstory was both realistic and appropriately dark. So, when it was announced that Mirror Master was finally coming to The Flash, I got excited. Then I saw the cast list.

Wentworth Miller is included for the cast of "The New Rogues," the episode that introduces Mirror Master and that instantly got my goat. After all, the events of "Flashpoint" (reviewed here!) would not have influenced the first season of Legends Of Tomorrow (reviewed here!) and, spoiler alert, Miller's Leonard Snart died and has remained dead on that show. So, I lowered my expectations and sat down to "The New Rogues," now expecting it to be a shitshow that did not care at all about the continuity of the larger DC Television Universe. Fortunately, Leonard Snart's appearance in "The New Rogues" is solely in the form of a flashback, so not all of the continuity goes out the window in the episode. And no, "The New Rogues" is not the hellishly bad episode I had grown to fear it could be in the hours before I watched it . . . but it is not incredible either.

"The New Rogues" follows on "Magenta" (reviewed here!), which was a very typical "Metahuman Of The Week" episode. "The New Rogues" follows the previous seasons' trend of breaking up such episodes with a visit by The Rogues, who are a mix of mundane criminals with awesome technology and Metahumans. As one might expect, "The New Rogues" starts the process of assembling a new collection of Rogues, even if it very subtly dismisses the Weather Wizard as a Rogue for the near future (in the search for Snart, all of his known accomplices are gone - dead, imprisoned or AWOL, so the implication is that Mark Mardon is no longer in play).

Opening three years ago, on the night of the particle accelerator accident, Sam Scudder and Rosalind Dillon decide they are out of Leonard Snart's gang. When the dark matter explosion occurs, Dillon is turned into a Metahuman and Scudder is blasted into a mirror. Back at S.T.A.R. Labs in the present, Jesse and Barry train in the pipeline and the team learns that Jesse is as quick as The Flash. After Barry cuts short his date with Iris, Sam Scudder appears elsewhere in Central City, searching for Leonard Snart. Not finding him, he throws a man through a mirror universe out of a second story window. To try to lure a Harrison Wells to S.T.A.R. Labs on Earth-1, Wells and Cisco create a multidimensional lure.

With Scudder searching for Snart, Joe and D.A. Horton hunt down Snart's only known remaining cohort, Rosalind Dillon. Dillon is rescued by Scudder. Dillon now has the power to inspire crippling vertigo using her eyes and in his first encounter with them, Dillon is able to incapacitate Jesse while Scudder traps Barry Allen in a mirror. As the S.T.A.R. Labs team tries to figure out a way to get The Flash out of the mirror, they search the multiverse for another Harrison Wells to join their team to bring down metahumans in the future. With Barry rescued by an unlikely source (save that viewers will figure out exactly what is coming long before it happens!), The Flash and Jesse Quick go into the field to try to defeat Mirror Master and The Top!

Mirror Master enters The Flash narrative after a string of alternate universe-style episodes over the past season and given that alternate realities are a popular way to bring Mirror Master into the story in the books, putting him in play now is a thematically grim notion. Fortunately, "The New Rogues" does not put The Flash into one of Mirror Master's mirror universes to menace the hero and have him forced to figure out that he is not on his Earth. Instead, "The New Rogues" is a fairly straightforward revenge story with a man who can travel through mirrors or any reflective surface. The episode smartly avoids having Barry Allen's perspective from inside the mirror illustrated, which avoids the whole "mirror universe" or "mirror reality" can of worms.

The Barry Allen and Iris West relationship progresses and it is mirrored by Jesse Wells making moves on Wally West. Wally is hesitant to get into a relationship with Jesse, only because he knows he will lose her. Barry and Iris have a hiccup over the progress of their relationship given that they were raised as siblings and now have a romantic relationship. In some ways, "The New Rogues" feels like it is a Valentine's Day episode months early as Joe West even starts to develop a romantic relationship with D.A. Horton. While the episode is a little relationship heavy, it is actually nice to see on The Flash given how much of the third season so far has been very quickly tearing down relationships in troubling ways.

Cisco returns to form rather abruptly in "The New Rogues." Cisco was sullen and did not name Metahumans in clever ways when Barry Allen returned from the Flashpoint Tangent Universe. Yet, in "The New Rogues," he and Harry compete for naming the Mirror Master and The Top (Dillon). It's weird because the executive producers have no way of knowing how the changes to The Flash universe would go over with the fans, but it is almost like they course-corrected for completely gutting Cisco's character before they even got the negative feedback from the fans. Seeing the potential of Cisco returning to his geeky, delightful self is one of the treats in "The New Rogues."

Tom Cavanaugh is given an awesome chance to perform as different incarnations of Harrison Wells through the interdimensional casting call. The various Wells's are goofy, stuck-up, and weird, which allows Cavanaugh to play the same character with a lot of variations. The fun of it is that Cavanaugh is not simply playing in different costumes, he uses a tiny amount of time to create entirely new characters. This plays off Wells's new, more overtly crass, persona since returning in the prior episode and the episode's resolution promises a wonderful new permutation for Cavanaugh to play.

On the plot front, viewers can only hope that the interdimensional casting call is followed up upon by luring someone other than Wells from an alternate universe (my first thought was, "oh my gosh, what if Grodd gets the signal?!"). The plot is otherwise pretty basic both within the episode and with its serialized elements - most notably the transitions going on with Dr. Snow.

"The New Rogues" returns the humor to The Flash in a good balance with the menace. Dillon is hardly a compelling villain or a well-rounded character, though Ashley Rickards plays her fine. Grey Damon is good as Sam Scudder, though he is presented somewhat monolithically, almost like a parody of a gangster with his bearing.

The primary characters in "The New Rogues" are a decent mix of brilliant and troublingly stupid. Harrison Wells is smart enough to recognize that his and Cisco's solution did not rescue Barry Allen, which is refreshing. Cisco is smart, fun and observant and Iris stands up for herself and her relationship in a delightfully adult way. But how Jesse Quick goes back out into the field against The Top without something like goggles or contact lenses that prevent Dillon's powers from having an effect upon her is baffling and just plain stupid. At the other end, Scudder is inadvertently characterized as one of the smartest Metahumans to show up on The Flash; the man was trapped within a mirror for three years and within a couple of days, he is able to manipulate his powers to such a sophisticated level that he can throw people through reflective surfaces and travel through the windows on a skyscraper exceptionally fast.

The special effects for The Top's vertigo power are very cool. Jesse and The Flash running together and the many times Scudder passes through mirrors are very coolly rendered.

"The New Rogues" might be lacking in larger statements and themes, but it is a solidly entertaining episode of The Flash that is enough to pleasantly defy expectations. It is exactly what the new season has needed!

For other works with Danielle Nicolet, please visit my reviews of:
"Who Is Harrison Wells?" - The Flash
"Rogue Air" - The Flash
Lego Marvel Super-Heroes

[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into The Flash - The Complete Third Season on DVD or Blu-Ray, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the third season here!


For other television season and episode reviews, please visit my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2016 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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