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The Flash - The New Rogues & Monster - Double Review: "Strong characterization"

8 Nov 2016

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Hey everyone! Sorry that I had to skip two weeks from reviewing the show, university is becoming more and more demanding as I approach graduation! However, from here onwards I should be able to cover the show reliably as I organize my time better to keep talking about The Flash, which after a disappointing start (for me) has bounced back big time! Seriously, I’m enjoying it a lot lately, and as such I’m eager to talk about the past 2 episodes.

The New Rogues
Ah, the rogues, they are the go to villains of The Flash, offering the casual experience to the otherwise serialized elements of the show. To The Flash’s credits, the rogues are almost always memorable, so much so that Captain Cold and Heatwave found themselves on their own show “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow”. The Flash continues its hot streak with Mirror Master, a villain that while not brilliantly written makes up for it in fun and charm.

“Fun” is one of The Flash’s greatest strengths. Sometimes people forget that at their core, TV shows should be entertaining, and some look the adjective “fun” as something that is a lesser form of television reserved for comedies while dramas should be more heavy in tone and deep in thought. However, those people are forgetting that both are not mutually exclusive and a show can be as much fun as it can be complex, and while The Flash has struggled a bit recently in complexity (as opposed to its brilliant hang on it during season 1), it is still as fun as ever and it makes for very compelling hours of television, this one included.

The previous episode “Magenta” was a back to basics for The Flash and “The New Rogues” ups that one up with a better, more fun, villain that pushes hour heroes as Jessie learns how to properly be a superhero. However, the main event here has to be Harrison Wells going back to Earth 2.

Every interaction Harry had with Cisco and Caitlin is simply an “A” grade. The banter, the affection and the pain of leaving are all delivered in a very enjoyable and a very poignant way that enhances every single scene these 3 share. It’s simply perfect, it’s what The Flash should always aim. So far this season, whenever it comes to Harry, the writers just nail the interactions. One of my favorite moments has to be when he steals Cisco’s chance to name the villain.
Cisco: “he’s like a…”
Harry: “Mirror Master”
Cisco: “What the…?!”
Harry: “Boom!”

Something so simple, but so effective and very much unseen in most TV. Humor and banter are key aspects of human life, but there are a plethora of dramas that forget that it’s ok for the characters to joke and play to each other’s quirks and traits. The Flash doesn’t forget that, and as a result we have these key moments which are not only fun, but that make these characters relatable, real. I could make a whole essay on this very little exchange about why it showcases what makes The Flash special. It’s not the action or the superpowers (though they always entertain), it’s 100% its characters, they are the root of the show’s success.

Almost everything about “The New Rogues” works perfectly character wise: the biggest hiccup here, in my opinion, is the rushed Wally/Jessie relationship, to which I have to say Jessie was quite unfair to Wally, pushing him to pursue something together when she was just about to leave to another universe. I think the writers should have spent more time with Jessie here on Earth 1 before heading back to Earth 2 in order to make this storyline more effective.

But aside from that, as I said, everything works perfectly. That includes the Iris/Barry/Joe awkwardness. The biggest issue The Flash has to overcome with this couple is how incestious it feels and to a degree, the show actually acknowledged it during this episode by how weirded out Barry is to make out with Iris in front of Joe. I’m glad they are starting to address the issue, and while Barry seems to overcome the weirdness of it all, it seems like Joe will need a minute and I’m eager to see how the show deals with it. While not a fan of relationship drama (unless done marvellously well), I’m quite intrigued as to how The Flash will continue to tackle this situation.

There’s a lot of fun with Barry getting trapped in the mirror, a good character growth moment with Jessie’s learning curve to be a superhero, a really clever way to defeat mirror master, and I could talk about it all in lenght, but what really makes the episode is Harry coming to terms with going back to Earth 2.

It’s so heartfelt that he likes working with team Flash and it’s so hard for him to leave that it makes for some really poignant moments as he and Jessie are about to leave. I was really sad to let him go, a bit worried about the new Harrison Wells coming (more on that in a bit), but also excited to see what this new version will bring to the table. That being said, Harry is always welcome back here.

One thing I’m worried about is Caitlin not addressing the issue of her powers with the team. I get that she is probably scared to become the Killer Frost we saw on Earth 2, however, I’d think at this point she would have taken a page from the whole Cisco situation and come clean when needed to help with Barry being stuck in the mirror, but alas, she did it in secret.

In any case, this was a very, very good episode of The Flash for me. I enjoyed almost every second of it, and I hope we get more of these kinds of episodes on the future.

Grade: A-

“Monster” lives and dies with Julian’s characterization, which was brilliant. I can’t even begin to describe how happy I am to hear him say that his despise of meta humans doesn’t come from trauma or sob backstory, but actually comes from a legitimate source of concern of what these people with great power could do, and how frustrating it is that these “chosen ones” decide to cause mayhem instead of doing the greater good. It adds a layer to realism to a show where sob stories have become a bit abundant to the point of being a bit too much, and it makes Julian a more relatable character in the process. Win-win.

Everything else…. meh. It was ok, not the best the show can do, but a solid showing aside from a couple of things.

As many points as The Flash earned with Julian’s characterization it equally lost them with the villain of the week. The concept of the monster was really awesome to play around and I was really looking forward to see how team Flash would deal with it. But sadly, it was just a hologram, manipulated by a teenager who just wanted to be powerful.

This kind of plot where a teen wants to gather power because he feels left out could’ve worked if done properly, but it’s presented in throw away lines that showcases as nothing more than giving a quick justification for doing something. That’s not just sloppy writing, it’s terrible writing. The writers took a relatable situation only to serve as a quick explanation to what happened, effectively performing a bait and switch, changing the monster fight promised in the episode for the realization that the bad guy is just a guy who was hurt. News flash: kids like this exist, and they don’t go around causing chaos for the kicks of it (well, some do, but you get the point. There was not a real outline that would allow us to understand why he did it).

The only good thing the reveal of the teen villain brings is the moment where Julian goes into crisis mode as he realizes he almost killed a kid. That allows him to open up to Barry about where he came from and how the world changing is actually scaring him, as the position he worked so hard to get, and the world he fought so hard to understand, just changed beyond his understanding. That’s powerful characterization done well and Tom Felton delivers his performance so greatly that I’m really hoping he isn’t Alchemy, and that if he is, the show manages to keep him as a series regular for the next season. He seems like a great addition to the show now that he has more layers to him.

The other two big aspects of the episode are Caitlin and the new Harrison Wells (H.R) of which I have both mixed feelings: let’s talk Caitlin first.

On one hand I’m glad to learn more about her, and her relationship with her mother does outline character traits she has very clearly, but her mother looks so cold (pun intended) that it’s hard to pinpoint where Caitlin’s sweetness came about. That’s not to say bad parents will always give you a bad child in result, awesome people have come from broken homes with terrible parents, but it did made me say “mmmm…” while watching the episode. Also, I don’t like the very stereotypical approach it seemed to have, in which a parent shield themselves in work. That’s been done before and better.

Now, I did appreciate how in the end she stopped Caitlin from killing the guy who wanted to use her as a lab rat and how she came around to recognize her mistakes and apologize, however it felt too sudden to feel earnest and it doesn’t really come from character development, but rather in the heat of the moment which makes it feel less sincere. I feel there was material for powerful stuff here, but it gets lost in transition. The execution here only works when it comes to Caitlin because she is a character I’m invested in, but everyone else around her feels pretty bland.

Now H.R… I don’t know, coming from Harry this felt like a step down. I like the idea that he wants to prove his worth by inspiring ideas to help the productivity of team Flash and that he is not actually a scientist, but in this episode he wasn’t just annoying to the team, it was annoying to me as well as a viewer. Tom Cavanagh is an amazing actor, but maybe he did it too well to the point I just wanted H.R to stop talking: not sure if that’s brilliantly executed or poorly constructed, which is why I have mixed feelings about it. On one side, I praise that I felt the same awkwardness the characters felt, but on the other side, I didn’t enjoyed it one bit. I hope they tone it down a bit from here onwards, it has potential, but I hope it doesn’t go as far as it went here.

As for Joe’s dating prospects, I’d say bring it on. It’s time the guy gets a little bit of leeway and fun, so I hope he ends up following Iris’ advice, not because I’m crazy about relationship stuff, but rather because I have come to care about Joe and I want him to be happy, which speaks very well of The Flash writers.

So as you can see, this was a bit of a mixed bag, but it was a solid enough episode for me to consider The Flash is still in the right direction. The first two episodes of the season had me conflicted, but now I feel the show has effectively rallied and will start to be its better self: maybe not its season 1 self, but a better version than what we saw during season 2 where the show effectively underwent an identity crisis. I hope I’m right about this!

One last thing: please Wally, don’t be predictable, don’t go to Alchemy for your powers, you should know better than that.

Grade: B
About the Author - Pablo
I'm currently studying Psychology while also writing fantasy books (one already published in my home country, Chile, you can check it out on the facebook icon). I watch many different types of shows, including my favorites Game of Thrones, Mr. Robot, Jessica Jones, and about 23 more. Currently writing occasional reviews for Halt and Catch Fire and regular reviews for The Flash season 3
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