Season One, Episode Four – “Going Rogue”
By Molly Jane Kremer and Jarrod Jones. Batman and Spider-Man are well known for their spectacular rogues galleries. The Joker, Green Goblin. Rhino, Clayface. Two-Face, Venom. Every villain that confounds either hero is tailor-made for marquee attention. Heath Ledger even won a posthumous Academy Award for his portrayal of the Dark Knight’s most vile nemesis, which is only indicative of the high status these villains lend to our heroes, to say nothing of our popular culture. And the only hero that could boast such a prestigious – and entertaining – group of ne’er-do-wells is decidedly The Flash. No contest. If anything, The Flash might have the best group of villains around. It’s all up to a spirited debate.
Which is why the fourth episode of The Flash – titled, appropriately enough, as “Going Rogue” – is such an enticing thing to devour. Finally, after two episodes featuring arbitrary villains plumbed from the depths of DC’s back-catalog, we get an actual, bona-fide Flash Rogue. And we don’t just get a Flash Rogue, we get THE Flash Rogue: Captain Cold.
The Flash, while less popular than those other high-profile superheroes (for now), has always boasted some of comics’ greatest villains. It’s practically DC Comics’ best kept secret. While Batman may have the higher-profile villains (but who wouldn’t, with almost 60 years of exposure via television and movies?), the Flash’s Rogues are just as multidimensional and complex as your average Catwoman or Poison Ivy, if not moreso. Captain Cold, Heat Wave, and Mirror Master are (up to a point) regular, blue-collar guys trying to make a living, and that living just happens to operate outside of the law. Those character traits lend themselves to compelling drama.
That’s why “Going Rogue” is an episode that conflicts with fan’s expectations as much as it entertains them. Wentworth Miller stars as The Flash’s premier villain; unfortunately the episode offers little nuance for the character, leaving Miller with not much to do other than bloviate in a Terence Stamp-esque monotone. Having former Flash-scribe (and present DC CCO) Geoff Johns as one of the showrunners ought to inspire confidence that each member of the Rogues will have the depth necessary to provide real pathos, but instead “Going Rogue” leaves Miller providing window dressing for a future “Flash Vs. The Rogues” showdown. (The tacked-on ending only ensures this.)
This year, DC Comics’ properties feature in four television series spread across three major networks, and two of them are on the CW. Of those three networks, the CW has the most experience with superhero shows – ten years with DC’s Smallville are under their belt (plus the short-lived Birds Of Prey, and now let us never speak of it again), not to mention two seasons of Arrow. And with two current comics-based shows cohabiting the same shared universe, CW has the capacity to accomplish something that is, as yet, unattainable for Fox’s Gotham or even NBC’s Constantine: the DC Comics crossover.
While this episode didn’t feature a team-up with Stephen Amell’s Oliver Queen, we did get an appearance by another member of the Arrow family, Emily Bett Rickard’s Felicity Smoak. Considering that Barry Allen’s (recent) television introduction was in Arrow, it only stands to reason that The Flash’s first crossover (and, no, the pilot doesn’t count) would feature one of Star(ling) City’s more prominent residents.
And even though Felicity’s appearance in The Flash serves little purpose than to bolster ratings (from a justifiably nervous television studio), she never detracts from “Going Rogue”. Instead, Felicity injects some much-needed energy into the flagging Iris/Barry/Thawne dichotomy, and their subsequent double date – at a Trivia Night during the day – only catapults Barry’s character further, and that is never a bad thing.
“Going Rogue” focuses more on Iris (Candice Patton), her budding relationship with her father’s partner, Det. Eddie Thawne (Rick Cosnett), and its consequences on her life (and, more specifically, on her relationship with her dad). Detective Joe West (Jesse L. Martin) was officially let in on their relationship during the last episode, and it was made clear to both Thawne and Iris that he was far from happy about it. In this episode, Joe handles some serious house-cleaning as he lets Eddie know that that he doesn’t consider their professional relationship friendly, and he informs Iris that her relationship with his partner only makes his job harder. (Although you have to think, what would he be putting it any differently if she were dating Barry instead…?)
The references to DC Comics’ greater universe are more subtle – and yet more powerful – in this episode. Beyond the introduction of Mr. Leonard Snart (and another Rogue that shall remain nameless), the MacGuffin Captain Cold tries to steal is the Kahndaq Dynasty diamond (a squeal-inducing reference for any fan of Shazam’s nemesis, Black Adam). The showrunners know their audience, and know exactly how to satisfy – or, to the more cynical mind, pander to – the average comic book nerd, and this episode was the most successful so far in seamlessly integrating its fan-service into the plot.
Before acquiring the cold gun that lent itself so well to the alias of “Captain Cold”, Leonard Snart (Wentworth Miller) was just a common thief. But his weapon was the product of S.T.A.R. Labs’ Cisco Ramon (Carlos Valdes), who created the cold gun as a way to slow down “The Streak”(Barry’s current alias), in case he ever went bad. (“I built it to stop you. What if you turned out to be some psycho like Marden or Nimbus?”) This strangely doesn’t jibe with what we’ve seen of Cisco so far; in fact, he’s been Barry’s biggest fan since he rose from his coma, and this level of distrust makes no sense with what we’ve seen of his character.
This breach of trust causes the kind of drama we have yet to see on The Flash. Not only does it cause a rift between Barry and Cisco, Dr. Harrison Wells (Tom Cavanagh) is extremely upset at Cisco for creating something that could hurt Barry. Maintaining the character’s menace while instilling crucial character traits the episode depicts Wells’ more sinister aspects found in some of the last three episodes’ secondary scenes, and even though Wells still seems to have Barry’s best interests at heart (or at least his idea of them), what the viewer comes to realize is anything but.
All the dots are aligned with The Flash, and because of this its writers are in sync with what they want to accomplish with their first season’s arc. That’s what makes The Flash so frightening: if the endgame involves us losing Barry Allen during the first season, then everyone ought to be working overtime to make us accept a man named Wally West. Because they’re not (as far as we know), all that’s left is the comforting knowledge that The Flash continues to inspire and provoke in equal measure, making the episodic nature of our contemporary super-hero narrative appear to be not only easy, but inherently enjoyable.
Iris has started a blog about “The Streak”, despite Barry’s attempts at talking her out of it. Maybe, just maybe, she’ll think of a flashier (ahem) name for Central City’s anonymous hero.
As Snart, Wentworth Miller makes sure to drawl out his words slowly and deliberately – appropriate for a guy who uses a gun that slows down molecules.
Cisco sounds so excited when he finds out Barry knows (and knows the identity of) Starling City city’s bow-wielding vigilante. His reaction to the inevitable full crossover will be entertaining, to say the least.
There were brief seconds of visibly bad special effects toward the beginning of the episode, but by its end – where we got to see Barry racing against the ice from Snart’s cold gun, or when we witnessed him racing through a train wreck – it’s all but forgiven.
The beginning of the episode had Barry playing ping-pong with Cisco, Operation with Caitlin, and chess with Dr. Wells. It was exceedingly entertaining seeing Barry bounce happily back and forth between them, especially with how serious the rest of the episode turned out to be.
The mention of the Kahndaq Dynasty diamond was, for comics fans, attention grabbing, even if that was the only mention. (We can’t expect to see The Rock as Black Adam showing up. Yet.)
Barry and Felicity are exceptionally awkward and adorable together, aggravatingly epitomizing the recently in-vogue “nerd-cute” ideal. (Which doesn’t mean they’re not perfect for each other.)
Every time Barry runs on that damned treadmill a nerd squees. (Especially these nerds.)
The amount of “cold” and “cool” and “chill” and “heat” puns were at times kinda subtle, but mostly kinda ridiculous. And kinda great.