Iris calls Barry during a shootout, and Barry tells her to jump out the window so he can save her. She does; Iris was working on a Realtor scam that went bad, and her story makes it to the front page. At Jitters, Lisa Snart “bumps into” Cisco, Caitlin, and Barry, saying she needs their and The Flash’s help. She tells them that her brother has been kidnapped, and wants The Flash to save him. Cisco is able to locate Captain Cold’s gun, but discovers Leonard working freely…with his father. Flash confronts Lisa, who doesn’t believe Leonard would be working with her father unless he was doing so against his will. She tells that that their dad, Lewis Snart, was abusive and terrible to them, and that Leonard hates him. While investigating, Barry and Patty discover one of Lewis’ henchmen with an exploded head, and the team realizes that Lewis must have put explosives in his associates. They determine that Leonard is working for him because there’s a microbomb in Lisa’s head, too, which Cisco promises to remove. Barry goes undercover as a new “tech guy” to replace the dead henchman, infiltrating the operation to try to stop Lewis while Cisco removes the bomb in Lisa. Leonard goes along with the ploy, and while Barry is able to get the two past the defenses to get the diamonds they want to steal, Lewis shoots him anyway. Barry catches the bullet in secret, though, and uses the opportunity to suit up as The Flash and confront them both. Cisco builds a compressed air gun that he uses as a vacuum, safely removing the bomb from Lisa. With the bomb gone, Leonard turns on his father and kills him. Barry gets Leonard put in Iron Heights, but tells him he honestly believes he’s good in him. With Lisa safe, she departs, but not before kissing Cisco.
Meanwhile, Francine West, Joe’s thought-to-be-dead wife, confronts him, asking to see their daughter. Joe refuses, and after some pushing from Barry, he tells Iris the truth — that her mother was an addict that put their daughter in danger, and disappeared after being admitted to rehab. Iris holds no grudge towards Joe, instead understanding why he kept it a secret. Back at STAR Labs, Jay figures out how to create a stable portal in the rip they found in the basement of the lab. However, Caitlin convinces him to stay at least until they’ve beaten Zoom, after also giving him hope that he can be a hero as a scientist even if he doesn’t have super speed. Dr. Stein, who was still recovering from his collapse at the end of last week’s episode, seems to be back in good condition — until he collapses again, this time catching on fire like when Ronnie transformed into Firestorm, except with blue flame. After the team leaves, Earth-2’s Harrison Wells emerges from the portal.
It’s safe to say that “Family of Rogues” is easily the best episode of the opening trifecta of season 2, and perhaps the best of the Rogue episodes so far. It’s not an action-heavy episode — with the exception of the stellar opening sequence with Iris jumping out of a window — but what it lacks in adrenaline thrills, it makes up for with genuine suspense and character exploration.
It’s a feat that the Rogues characters have managed to become such an integral part of the Flash series in just a scare few scattered episodes. Even when the Rogues episodes faltered a bit on plot terms, Captain Cold and his associates always made an impression one way or another, even if there wasn’t much to the characters. In fact, that’s been to the show’s benefit; all the Rogues are people who just enjoy playing the bad guy game. As this episode and “Rogue Time” both make apparent, it’s not that that the Rogues are hellbent on doing eeeevil, they just want to have fun. Their way of doing it is by stealing, which gives them more money to have more fun and do more stealing. To quote The Middleman, “It’s sheer elegance in its simplicity.”
“Family of Rogues” takes the concept established in “Rogue Time” and runs with it, not only exploring how benign the Snart siblings’ villainy technically is, but by contrasting it with their father’s outright maliciousness. There’s an argument here that Lewis Snart is “true” evil in a sense, a man who hurts specifically to hurt, even when it’s not benefiting him. We see him murder people on a whim, only not murdering people when it’s a matter of self-preservation. And, of course, we see the truth behind the broken childhood Cold mentioned a few times, that Lewis was a horribly violent to his kids — particularly targeting Lisa, it seems — and it goes a long way to make him the most despicable character in the show very quickly. Michael Ironside doesn’t have to do much differently from the bastards he usually plays, but he’s still perfectly cast in the role.
The real surprise in this hour is Peyton List as Lisa, who improves on her previous appearances and makes a solid argument for why we ought to see more of her, even if her fellow Rogues eventually jet off to Legends of Tomorrow. List excels at that seductive and edgy-but-vulnerable femme fatale style of delivery, and the layered material she gets here gives her more than a few moments to shine. Lisa garners a lot of sympathy in a little bit of time, and it’s thanks to List displaying real earnestness without losing the hardened sensibility that makes the character interesting. The episode also takes Cisco’s infatuation with and seduction by Lisa, mostly played for laughs last season, and organically turns it into a mutual attraction between the two. Lisa has someone treat her with respect and care even at her most vulnerable, while Cisco gets to see her appealing humanity and better understands her motivations. Whether the show pushes these two as an “official” romance or just keeps it as a tantalizing arms’ length remains to be seen, but if it does the former, these two will make a very interesting and entertaining couple.
That’s not to say Wentworth Miller’s continually spot-on portrayal of Captain Cold wasn’t on par with the rest of his appearances. The Flash has put together a nice redemption story for Cold — well, maybe not redemption per se, but a recognition that he could do the right thing given the right circumstances. It cycles back to the episode’s thesis on the nature of villainy: Is Leonard Snart a bad guy, or just a guy who does bad? The episode firmly plants its foot on the latter, as all of his actions are rooted in protecting and avenging his sister. Yes, he puts an icicle through his father’s heart in a remarkably violent, but earned moment. But he also has a genuine camaraderie with his nemesis Barry Allen, and actually seems to enjoy having Barry around so long as it’s to his benefit. There’s a very fun Batman/Catwoman relationship at play here, as Barry and Leonard know they’re each other’s enemies, but they can’t help but respect one another and see the benefit in keeping the other around. Captain Cold is in prison by episode’s end, but even Barry knows he’ll eventually escape, and he’s not really all that bothered by it (though he and Joe are okay with sticking him in the metahuman section, in a chuckle-worthy moment.) Miller is a trooper when it comes to getting cheesy lines and delivering them with aplomb, with stuff like, “He broke my sister’s heart. Only fair I break his.”
All this family drama is some of the darkest material The Flash has presented — an abusive father literally puts a bomb in his daughter’s head before getting impaled with ice through the chest — so it’s a testament to the continually bright cinematography and generally optimistic tone that this all feels like fun. And though the plot is fairly straightforward, ample effort is put into cranking up the suspense. A perfect example is the climactic cross-cutting sequence, which has Cisco pointing an air compression gun at Lisa to suck out the bomb while Captain Cold points a gun at Barry. We also have Barry fake his own death after catching a bullet, in a terrific act break.
And that’s coupled with a dark B-story, too, which has Joe reveal the truth about Iris’ drug-addled mom. We spent all last season with Joe keeping secrets from his daughter, so at first this appears to be a retread. But then Joe tells a positively heartbreaking story about young Iris calling the cops on her overdosing mother and very nearly burning the house down, and it comes together. Jesse L. Martin is always dependable when it comes to bringing the waterworks, and he’s no disappointment here. But Candice Patton really kicks it up a notch — even though most of her role in the scene is to be reactionary, she displays a very heavy understanding and clear portrayal of what’s in Iris’ head, and it’s marked improvement over her first season work. Iris also comes off as a much more grown up character here, taking life-changing and potentially soul-crushing news with stride. It’s a truly wonderful scene between the two, and Iris touching her father on his arm to show her support after he breaks down is a small, but immensely touching moment.
Meanwhile, Patty and Barry have a couple of meet-cutes at Jitters, and it’s delightfully awkward in a way meet-cutes should be. It does sort of seems like their flirtation is being pushed a bit harder than it should be — the chemistry is certainly present, but both their scenes are barely tangentially related to the rest of a tight episode, so that makes it stick out. That said, Shantel VanSanten continues to be very charming, and you can’t help but feel sympathy when Barry shoots her down…well, mostly anyway. It’s hard to tell where Barry’s at in terms of a romantic life — we haven’t seen Barry and Iris actually talk about that stuff even three episodes into the season, a far cry from the romantic throughline last year.
But, that’s surely because they’re both plenty wrapped up in their own lives, including the Earth-2 crisis. That’s relegated to just a few minutes of screentime, mostly spent on igniting the spark between Caitlin and Jay and getting Jay to come to terms with life without speed. It seems oddly soon for the team to have built the “Speed Cannon” and opened the doorway for Jay to return home, and his decision to leave and then stay again is markedly rushed. It’s weird that Jay has no people worried about him or rent to pay or something, especially since he could, in theory, go back to Earth-2 and then come back to Earth-1 later. It’s great that Jay is sticking around, and Caitlin certainly makes a decent — even if kind of desperate — case, it all just seems underdeveloped. Especially given that it’s clearly a two-way path, seeing as the alternate Harrison Wells shows up. That’s an expected wrinkle, but one that’s exciting to finally see be expounded on.
“Family of Rogues” is a stellar hour, filled with titillating teases at what’s to come, along with insightful, meaningful expansion of the recurring villains. Much less plot is crammed in than a usual Flash episode, letting the characters have extra room to breathe and a more time to amp up the suspense. It results in a near-perfect installment, and raises the bar for the inevitable Rogues follow-ups, not to mention aptly sets up an arc for Captain Cold in Legends of Tomorrow.
Odds & Ends
- Stein recovers from last week’s cliffhanger collapse…only to collapse again in another cliffhanger, this time on fire. At least this time we know it’s going somewhere.
- That said, I love that Stein called it a “Wellness hiatus.”
- I also love that everyone seems to be on board with calling Captain Cold “Lenny.”
- Cisco’s reaction to Jay naming the Speed Cannon: “We should hang out more.”
- Hey, it’s Linda Park! And she’s got a cool new haircut! Really glad she didn’t just disappear after Barry broke up with her, as brief diversion-type love interests often do. (Remember McKenna on Arrow?)
- We’re just going to ignore the fact that Captain Cold “froze” a few laser beams and then shattered them, okay?
- During an extremely tense moment, Danielle Panabaker gets the biggest laugh of the episode by seemingly flubbing her line, jumping and interrupting with “It’s…d—Flash!” Also, Panabaker’s hair is ON POINT this season.
- Barry has “therma threading” in his suit to heat up on Cisco’s command. In addition to a defibrillator. I never would have expected the show’s deus ex machina to be the suit, of all things.
- “Does it physically pain your family not to rob people?”
- “Whatever Earth you go to, there’s always a Big Belly Burger.”