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Flash Recap: Rogue Air
May 16, 2015 By Trevor Richardson
“Rogue Air” begins in a way that felt very different from every episode so far. It reasserts everyone’s circumstances and emotions, showing them all in silent moments, alone with what they care about most. Joe is quite perfectly placed across from his missing partner’s desk, staring at the back of a picture of his daughter, Iris. Iris is sitting in the coffee shop that used to be her workplace and is often the location of her secret meetings with The Flash. Caitlin stares at a photograph of her absent fiancee, Ronnie Raymond. But Cisco really takes the cake here. We see him sitting in STAR Labs with that look of pensive determination that has been cropping up more and more with the typically jovial character then he stands and you realize he was sitting in Dr. Harrison Wells’ abandoned wheelchair, the focal point of his deception, the transport for the mentor and hero that changed Cisco’s life, and as he stands he stares down at it from an angle that is actually one of the most comic book style shots to date. Slightly above, looking down as his body is twisted with all the feelings, his hands nearly curling into fists. You can almost see those famed yellow boxes blasting his thoughts about how this chair, much like Cisco himself, was left behind when the charade was no longer necessary.
All of this, of course, is playing out during a chilly voice over from Tom Cavanagh as Wells who is speaking to the still captive Eddie Thawne. Cavanagh has really shown his acting chops of late, coming from a background of largely sitcom starring and guest starring roles, and this speech is one of his finest moments. He is basically asking Eddie to imagine how he would feel if everything he loved was gone and how far he would go to get it back. In recent years, or perhaps decades by now, a dramatic shift in how we write bad guys has taken place. Formerly, the megalomaniac bent on world domination seemed to go-to. Another was just the hyper-intelligent baddie who wants to get rich and doesn’t care who he hurts along the way, a la Gene Hackman’s Lex Luthor. Nowadays, we like a villain with a reason, particularly a reason that makes you feel for the guy. I’m reminded of Zod’s speech in The Man of Steel, how in his culture your reason for living is your assigned duty, it’s the person’s identity, their heart, and when Clark destroys Zod’s chance at fulfilling his duty, he destroyed his soul. That, for me, was the best part of that movie and that’s the sort of bad guy I’ve seen this vision of Eobard Thawne shape into. At the end of the day, he is a man determined to go home to his family. That’s it. Everything he has done has just been a methodical plan, executed more or less perfectly, in order to be set free from his prison in the 21st Century. And, as he is always reiterating, to him these people are already dead so he feels absolved of any ethical or moral considerations.
All of these thoughts, ideas, and feelings I just described, mind you, are within the first two minutes or less of “Rogue Air.” That’s how you know this is going to be a good one. I wrote five hundred words before the show even properly started.
Now, to the story…
We begin with a brief heart-to-heart between Barry and Iris that is abruptly cut short by a call from Cisco. At STAR Labs, Cisco reveals a discovery about Harrison Wells’ wheelchair. It wasn’t just a ploy for sympathy or a misdirect to keep people from suspecting him of being the man in yellow, the wheelchair contained a kind of battery for his powers. It is not only why he was so much faster than Barry, it’s also why, if you recall, there have been moments of weakness where Well’s powers appeared to be failing him. It’s why he stole the tachyon accelerator that he wore for a time and it’s also what’s enabled him to remain charged despite the fact that there is no Speed Force in the 21st Century until Barry generates it as the Flash. This is one of the last major missing pieces to the mystery of Wells and it’s a good one.
This is immediately followed up by the particle accelerator at STAR Labs coming online and the discovery that Wells is hiding in the lab itself, it’s the one place Barry never checked and the reason he hasn’t been able to find Eddie despite literally checking the entire city more than once. As they race to find him in their own home base, there is still enough time to sneak in one little chuckle as Cisco doubles back for his big gulp soda left on the table. It’s not hilarious, but these little touches are what make this show what it is. They take the time for a laugh even as small as Cisco thinking, “I know he’s our archenemy, but that doesn’t mean my orange soda has to go to waste.”
Of course, the other thing that makes this show is the fact that a lot of the time, when I’m thinking something is a gag, it also has a purpose. In this case, Cisco knows that when Reverse-Flash uses his powers, liquid floats in the air, so he brought it along as an early detection system. I’m still standing by the fact that he also just likes orange soda.
As the soda floats, the red blur of Reverse Flash speeds past them and Barry takes up the chase. Meanwhile, Cisco and Joe watch as the prisoner release protocols are activated and Peekaboo gets free, taking them both out and sealing the door behind her in a couple quick jumps. She attacks Caitlin but is quickly taken by surprise when Iris hits her over the head. Then we cut back to Barry chasing after Wells.
Barry loses Wells, but all is not lost. After they lock up Peekaboo back in her cell, they finally find Eddie. As if that weren’t enough, Iris finds the engagement ring that Wells had tossed away in the shadows. Eddie catches the team up on the little bit that he knows. Wells is Eobard Thawne, he’s from the future, and he and Eddie are distant relatives. Wells spent most of his time working on a futuristic tube and not really talking to Eddie much, which begs the question of why he took him in the first place. He said Eddie was his insurance policy, which might simply mean that he wanted to keep Barry busy looking for him so he could work in peace, or there might be more to it than that. All of that quickly stops mattering at all when Cisco discovers that Wells’ mystery tube is a high-tech battery that is powering up the accelerator.
The team determines that in less than two days, the accelerator will be fully powered and Wells will be back to finish what he started. If the accelerator activates, every prisoner locked up in the pipeline will be incinerated. They determine that they have to move them. But moving them somewhere that is strong enough to hold them will be a challenge.
Joe asserts that Iron Heights Prison can’t contain metahumans, to which Barry responds, “You’re right, but Lian Yu can.” Lian Yu, of course, is the name of Green Arrow’s island, now home to Oliver’s secret prison. In short, the majority of the villains from the Flash universe are about to be introduced to the worst enemies the Arrow has ever faced.
As Joe talks to the DA about getting a possible escort to transport the prisoners from STAR Labs to an airfield where Argus, the covert group that Lyla Diggle worked for, will take them the rest of the way to Lian Yu, he does not get the response he expected. Instead of support and a clear route to the rendezvous, he is reminded of how many rules he is breaking by working with The Flash and maintaining an illegal prison. While Joe and Barry discuss ethical gray areas, Joe asks at what point they become no different than their enemies, to which Barry replies, “We’re way different, we only break the rules to help people.”
Cut to Captain Cold at a bar. He turns to see Barry standing there, no mask, and says, “Well, well, well, if it isn’t the Scarlet Speedster.” I may be wrong, but this might be the first time that particular expression is used by someone from Barry’s own timeline, indicating that Cold gives The Flash this nickname just as the Flash’s people gave him the name “Captain Cold.” If so, that’s pretty cool, and it shows you how much Leonard Snart has gotten into the theater of all of this — the names, costumes, and the potential for fame and fortune.
The meeting with Snart goes about like you would expect. He is open to helping Barry, but there is a price. He writes something down on a piece of paper, but we don’t get to see what it is. Judging by Barry’s reaction, Snart wants him to steal something and it appeared to have a lot of zeros. Barry asks if there is something he wants in return that he can actually get and Snart, ever the cool customer, shrugs, “I’ll think about it,” and strolls out.
Meanwhile, Iris and Eddie kind of have it out. Iris shows him the ring he found and he drops the bomb on her that Wells showed him the future and he saw that they don’t get married, Iris and Barry do. This, as far as breakup lines go, is pretty final, and Iris watches him walk away. Eddie seems like a different man after his experience and, despite him being sad, I think I kind of like it. He seemed driven, focused, and more confident than ever, even as he is falling apart at the seams.
As it turns out, the price for Leonard Snart’s help in moving the meta criminals is the complete deletion of his criminal history, for himself and his family, everywhere from the FBI to the CCPD. After some hot debate between Barry and Joe, the Flash races to the evidence room at the CCPD and complies. Snart, and his sister with the gold gun, are on board and Barry does not seem happy about it. And neither should we, you have to know there is a twist coming. What’s to stop Snart from simply talking to the metas and vying for their loyalty: “Follow me and we can all be rich.” This is a really, really dumb idea. Especially if you figure that the easiest thing to do is to simply knock them out and run them to the airplane one by one, which Barry can totally do since that is how he got them into the Pipeline in the first place.
The prisoners are placed in a container truck which Cisco has modified using Wells’ super battery to dampen their powers. They get to the airfield without a hitch, but the Argus plane is late. Inside, the five inmates are beginning to get riled, spoiling for a fight, while the people transporting them are all at varying levels of banter and confrontation. Perhaps the best is Cisco and Snart’s sister, sitting in the cab of the truck, as she asks Cisco why he never gave her a cool alias like he did for Leonard. Cisco’s response, “Female inmate,” gets a laugh and he finally dubs her “Golden Glider” as she is called in the comics. As the plane begins to land, however, Cisco’s dampening field fluctuates and the inmates inside begin to regain their powers. They are either on their way to a serious fight or a mass escape of everyone they have captured since all this started. As Cisco runs to warn everybody, Golden Glider smirks, making you wonder if she and her brother did something to cause this.
As expected, of course, Snart sabotaged the truck in order to get some powerful metas in his debt. After a brief skirmish, he sets them free and takes a few minutes to mock Barry before he and his sister ride away. Barry made a big mistake this week and learned a lesson about where the line is and when you don’t cross it. He tells Joe that he saw the way Oliver works and thought he could do it too. Oliver is not afraid to do whatever it takes. However, where is Oliver right now? The Arrow has been smeared in the media as a killer, he lost his best sidekick in order to stay out of prison and, currently, he is a brainwashed goon under the control of Ra’s al Ghul. Maybe Oliver isn’t the best role model. Of course, Joe says, “You’re not the Arrow, Barry, that’s not the kind of hero you are.” The thing that makes the Flash different, and even special, is that he isn’t the Arrow. He does things differently and when he strayed from that he managed to undo all of his work from the past year. Barry has a hope, even an optimism, that keeps him from blurring the line between good and evil. He wanted to save his worst enemies from behind killed by Wells when the accelerator came online. They all did terrible things, but they are still human beings and, to Barry, worth protecting. When he tried to handle things in a way that was contrary to the kind of hero he is at heart, it blew up in his face. In the future, he will likely remember how the Flash does things and what makes him a superhero instead of a vigilante.
As the particle accelerator fires up, the team watches on security cameras as Wells strolls in confidently. Barry rushes to face him and, after a bit of banter, Wells tells him he can’t stop him. It’s at this perfect moment when Firestorm, aka Ronnie Raymond, explodes onto the scene, landing beside Barry with a nod. Wells grins and says, “Oh, you brought a friend.” Then, of course, Oliver swings in dressed in his League of Assassins gear looking intimidating to say the least. Wells delivers the quintessential bad guy line, “This is going to be fun,” and shows us the ring that, in Flash lore, contains the suit. His yellow suit explodes out and he races toward it, effectively changing in the blink of an eye.
The next two minutes are just non-stop awesome as something resembling a Justice League level battle takes place on the grounds, walls, and rooftops of STAR Labs. Firestorm gets blasted toward the horizon as Reverse-Flash uses the classic speedster trick of creating a whirlwind with his arms and Barry runs to catch him. Oliver, left alone momentarily, handles himself flawlessly. For starters, he hits Wells with a nanite-infused Arrow “courtesy of Ray Palmer” and it stalls Wells’ abilities, forcing him to fight hand-to-hand against Oliver Queen. After a decent bout, Reverse-Flash vibrates the nanites out of his body and is back to full speed just in time for Barry to show up and have his turn with the villain. All of it reaches a pivotal climax when the three heroes combine their forces perfectly. Barry draws Wells into the open, commanding Firestorm to attack which sends him into a freefall. Reverse-Flash crashes into a car, clearly injured, and Oliver hits him with another nanite arrow. Down for the count, Barry thanks his friends and Oliver says he may need a favor soon. “Anytime anywhere,” Barry says and they all part ways.
This episode ends on Barry triumphantly telling the unconscious Wells, “I got you.” It was an all-star cast with great action, great twists and turns, and everything that we’ve been hoping for from this show since it began. Top scores all around in my opinion, but nothing will top the feeling of seeing Oliver Queen zip in when he’s been in a morally ambiguous way these past few weeks. I’ve wanted to see some good old-fashioned superheroing from that guy and I got my wish. “Rogue Air” was a great episode.
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