There’s a moment halfway through last night’s The Flash where, in the middle of a typical Team Flash talk-around filled with pseudo-scientific mumbo-jumbo concerning Star City’s newest meta rogues, Joe West throws his hands up and says, “I can’t pretend to understand or care about the science of it all…” And in that moment, friends, we were all Joe West. Because that’s always been the deal between us and The Flash, right? It has been for me; the motor-mouthed attempts at explaining whatever Giant Talking Shark of a plot point is happening that week are occasionally fun, yes, but it’s pure story and character work, the heart of this show, that’s essential. I can’t pretend to understand or care about the science of The Flash, and usually, because I’m simply having so much damn fun, that doesn’t matter. The flip-side of this (or MIRROR IMAGE, if you will) are episodes like this one, “The New Rogues”, which bogged itself down in so much mumbo-jumbo that it ended up becoming a distraction from the fun, from the character work and, most importantly, from the story. Four episodes in to season three, and I’m not really sure The Flash knows what that story is in the first place.
Funny enough, “The New Rogues” is also all about identity — finding it, keeping it and holding on to it with frost-tipped fingertips.
First, let’s take a look at those titular New Rogues: Sam Scudder, the “Mirror Master”, and Rosa Dillon, “Top.” Mirror Master–and Top, gender-swapped here from Rosco Dillon, to a lesser extent–is one of those classic comic book villains where any explanation gets a “so he’s got like a dumb mirror gun?” and it’s just like, yes, trust me, he’s awesome, he’s great. The introduction of the character into The Flash’s universe could have, and should have, felt like more than a villain-of-the-week re-tread. But boy, it did, and part of that is episode writer Benjamin Raab and Deric A. Hughes treated the characters like an actual mirror; they seem deep, but look a little closer and they’re just shiny, flat surfaces.
Even if I think the decision to make Mirror Master a meta robs him a bit of his complexity, I did greatly enjoy what Scudder and Dillon brought to this table on a pure aesthetic basis. As shallow as it is character-wise, I’m a sucker for an old-timey bank robber crew, down to Top’s 50s-esque wardrobe, like Bonnie and Clyde with super powers (so basically Beyonce and Jay-Z). But, again, there’s nothing much here besides some surface-level enjoyment. The duo start off driven by revenge against Leonard “Captain Cold” Snart, but then halfway through just kind of decide “orrrrrrrr we could just rob banks because…?”
Basically, Mirror Master and Top serve as a training exercise to get Jesse Quick from a super-powered amateur to a seasoned crimefighter over the course of an episode. The problem is that there is very little effort to get from Point A to Point Punches Top in the Face. The first go-around, Dillon is able to use her vertigo-inducing abilities–known in my house as “standing up too fast”–to send Jesse careening off a building to be saved at the last moment by Barry. In the episode’s climax, Dillon is once again able to use her vertigo-inducing abilities and it…just kind of doesn’t work? Jesse is a “quick learner,” or so she says, but what did she learn besides the power of teenage love?
Elsewhere, we have Cisco and Caitlin fucking with the fragile strings that hold the multi-verse together because they don’t want to miss Harry Wells when he goes home. Worse still, it’s Harry’s idea, which goes against pretty much everything that character stands for.
Again, there’s some entertaining stuff here; Cowboy Wells probably deserves a spin-off, and it’s funny that the solution in the end is to find a Harrison Wells that lives in a six-floor walk-up in Brooklyn. But it’s a textbook example of a group characters–highly-intelligent characters, at that–being presented with enormous consequences of foolish actions and then doing those same actions again. Does this not seem like a bad idea, to futz around with a multi-verse that Barry only kinda-sorta got straightened out, to anyone? “You ever gone fishing, Snow?” Wells asks Caitlin, ignoring the fact that, when one goes fishing, one is not dropping their lure into all of time and space, and there is only a small chance the fish one eventually reels catches is actually a horrific hellbeast from another dimension in disguise. You want to get another Zoom? Because this is how you get another Zoom.
Part of me, honestly, is just happy Tom Cavanagh is sticking around. Like I said last week, The Flash is simply a better show with a Wells in the picture, even a Wells that dresses like Thomas Middleditch on You’re the Worst. And really, it’s Earth-2’s parting words to Cisco that make the most impact; earlier, as part of some science that probably-maybe made some sense, Caitlin used her hidden powers to break Barry out of a mirror. Harry, being a genius and all, is the only one who noticed. “Then who did it?” Cisco asks.
“You tell me,” Wells answers.
Caitlin’s slow transition into Killer Frost is actually The Flash‘s most intriguing plot point right now, because it comes with options. The first, and most obvious, is that Caitlin is hiding these powers from her friends because, hey, Killer Frost is straight psychopath and I wouldn’t want to share a face and hairdo with her either. But does that make sense? Or, rather, is that big enough a problem that it warrants hiding this from Barry, Cisco and Co. for so long?
There’s more to this story, more to the idea that the harder Caitlin works to suppress her (God I’m sorry) killer instincts, the stronger they manifest. It’s appropriate, right on the borderline of on-the-nose, that this episode ends with Caitlin looking into a mirror and not exactly recognizing the face reflected back.
- I’m a little disappointed Iris doesn’t mention the fact Barry stranded her hundreds of miles from home last week, but there is a lot of good, heart-felt stuff here between the two. Which, knowing Barry Allen, will be self-sabotaged into oblivion in roughly two weeks.
- It’s worth noting that Harry Wells appears to not the difference between a normal French person and a mime.
- I didn’t talk much about Wentworth Miller above, mostly because there is not enough space for the love I have for the way he plays Captain Cold. The Flash desperately needs a member of the rogues gallery that sticks around, and nothing sticks like Cold. With that said, Miller’s appearance felt a little empty, and the hologram of Snart contributed exactly zero percent toward the plan to capture Mirror Master and Top.
- Speaking, WHY does every comic book city have a warehouse filled with abandoned carnival equipment on the outskirts of town? Seems A) Wasteful and B) Like you’re asking for super villains to use it as a hideout.
- “Top, like a Top, that’s her name, what do you wanna’ go?” Carlos Valdes as Cisco is a treasure, now and always.