NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of The Flash are present in this review
Captain Cold and the Rogues returned to The Flash in a very unexpected way this week, with only Heat Wave sitting out proceedings for the time being. As the title of the episode and Mick Rory’s absence suggests, “Family of Rogues” was all about the Snart family, presenting an interesting new side to a group of villains that we thought we knew, after so much mayhem that they caused in Season One.
This meant that Zoom and the talk of parallel universes pretty much sat on the back burner this week, in favour of a main plot kicking up when Lisa Snart approaches the group in the newly-rebuilt CC Jitters, enjoying a new cup of Flash-themed coffee, no less! Apparently, Lisa is desperate for help. So desperate in fact, that she has no choice but to call Team Flash for assistance. What could possibly be so awful?!
Turns out, her brother has been kidnapped, and only The Flash can save him. After some resistance, Barry does indeed go to check on Captain Cold, only to find that he seems to be quite well and willing in his latest criminal enterprise, and not only that, but he’s also working with his estranged father, Lewis Snart, played in a guest role by Michael Ironside. That’s a cool bit of ironic casting, since Ironside played General Sam Lane on The CW’s former DC Comics-inspired primetime drama series, Smallville, where Peyton List was also his on-screen daughter as Lucy Lane in that series. Anyway, Cold turns his Cold Gun on Barry, though a convenient heating tool installed by Cisco allows him to break free. Contrived? Maybe a bit, but the episode wouldn’t have been terribly exciting, had Barry spent the entire time in an ice block. Besides, Cisco’s reasoning for installing the heating tool at least makes sense, since Captain Cold has proven to be one of The Flash’s most dangerous and frequent foes to date.
Upon Barry’s return to S.T.A.R. Labs, Lisa claims that Captain Cold would never work with their father, who she confirms is abusive, and a nasty criminal in his own right. What unfolded next was actually a pretty emotional scene, where Lisa confides in Cisco that Cold, back when he was just plain old Leonard Snart, was the only protection she had. He was a jerk brother, but he was the only thing preventing her from turning out a lot worse. The show has teased romantic tension between Cisco and Lisa since her introduction late last season, but this is the first time that it’s felt real and tangible. There is a strange bond between these two, and that was the real strength of the episode; Displaying the complicated bonds between family, friends and budding lovers.
Using the Rogues for this kind of story was also a great idea, even if Mick is absent this week, since the relationship between The Flash and Captain Cold in all DC media is consistently interesting and unpredictable, particularly due to the sort of ‘gentlemens’ agreement’ that they have, which is the backbone of the Rogues’ rules, forbidding them from taking lives in particular. Barry even makes an honest effort to talk Cold out of working with his father’s heists, though Cold simply sticks Barry with his dinner cheque in response. I guess it’s no worse than Barry abandoning Cold in the woods at night last season. I absolutely love their rapport on this series, and it’s something in particular that The Flash really got right in terms of adapting the comics.
As much as the romantic tension and cheeky rapport still played a big part in their usual ways though, Lewis Snart was no joke. It’s soon revealed that he implanted an explosive in Lisa, forcing Cold to work with him, under threat of Lisa’s life if he refused, and he aptly demonstrates said explosive by detonating his tech guy’s head when he mouths off to Cold. It’s a twisted bond, but it is family, I guess… Still, this character got unusually brutal for the standards of The Flash, and even by the standards of the show’s darker sister series, Arrow, Lewis Snart was a pretty vicious villain! Still, he made for a good allegory of how family keeps together, even during dark and violent times. His violent nature made the plot feel real and gripping, even in a series that’s generally pretty light and fluffy in tone, though not to the point where it takes away from dramatic moments like Lewis’ behaviour, past and present.
Things come to a head when Barry must try to stop Lewis’ big play for some diamonds, which Cold has naturally been roped into, with Barry posing as a new tech guy named, “Sam.” Again, possibly a cool nod to Ironside’s role as Sam Lane on Smallville. Anyway, Barry gets the Snart’s in, though is shot in the process, faking his death by using his speed to catch the bullet just in time, which even fooled Cold. It was pretty clever, though it didn’t take away the tension, as Cisco had to use a risky high-pressure retrieval gun to remove the explosive from Lisa, which conveniently detonates if it’s exposed to air. After The Flash tries to intervene and apprehend Lewis, Cisco manages to remove the bomb safely, and Barry announces that Lewis can no longer hurt Lisa. Cold responds by shooting his father in the heart with a big old ice block, saying that he hates The Flash, but there’s no one that he hates more than his father! Damn… As Lewis dies, Barry leaves the CCPD to apprehend Cold, later visiting him in Iron Heights Prison.
Despite Detective West believing that Cold will always be evil, Barry says that the events of the episode showed him that Cold has good in him, and if he really wants to, he could be a hero. This could potentially set up an arc for The Flash where Cold reforms, which also happened in DC Comics lore after the New 52 reboot, but more than likely, it’s probably meant to help groom fans of the series for Cold (and Heat Wave) to take a heroic turn in next year’s Legends of Tomorrow series. Regardless, Barry is not wrong, and it was very satisfying to see new dimensions added to the Snart family for the first time this season. Cisco and Lisa even share a kiss before Lisa rides out of the city on her motorbike. Honestly, that was a pretty well-earned and sweet moment, even if Lisa is supposed to be a villain.
Several other things happened over the course of the episode, but they all felt firmly in the background, even if they were still solid moments. Barry actually gets Patty Spivot’s number, no doubt setting up for their inevitable romantic arc, Iris gets a big front page expose at her paper, and Jay, Caitlin and Dr. Stein manage to stabilize a path between Earth-One and Earth-Two from the breach in S.T.A.R. Labs. Jay is about to leave and return to Earth-Two, though Caitlin in particular convinces him to stay, at least until Zoom is apprehended. That’s good though, since Jay is a good new character, and it would be a shame if he left so soon.
The only subplot that sort of felt awkwardly thrown in was Iris having to learn that her mother is alive, and actually had a history of drug abuse. This finally explains why her mother left, and why Detective West lied about her mother being dead, but it didn’t ultimately have a resolution this week, and it kind of felt disconnected from so many other things that this episode was juggling. I get why the writers put it in, since it’s meant to echo the whole theme of family that this episode is hammering at, but it didn’t mesh well with the Snart situation. It might have been better if the episode had just left further developments with Iris’ mother for next week, since it seemed like this story needed more screen time than what it got to fully satisfy.
Still, The Flash delivered one of its best Rogue-focused episodes yet with “Family of Rogues”, which humanized the Snart family nicely, on top of building some budding relationships between several characters, whether it’s Barry and Patty, Caitlin and Jay, or Cisco and Lisa. The episode ends with some great hooks for next week as well, as Dr. Stein collapses again, after briefly turning into a blue-flamed Firestorm by himself for a second, and Harrison Wells stumbles out of the portal that the S.T.A.R. Labs crew managed to stabilize from Earth-Two. Is the Earth-Two Wells up to no good? I guess we’ll have to see, though that’s not to say that this episode fell short in reasons to have you on the edge of your seat!
- Snart family dynamic is explored brilliantly
- Built up lots of solid romantic tension between characters
- Wells and Firestorm are about to return
- Francine West plot needed more screen time