Richard Curtis’s 2013 time travelling rom-com, About Time, may not have made it on to many geeks' must-see lists (which is a shame because it’s actually rather good) but it does offer some interesting advice about re-treading your steps. The legend that is Bill Nighy explains to his son that his secret to life is living each twice; on the second time do everything almost exactly the same only this time try to enjoy it. To forget the causality minefields of endless changes in search of perfection and just savour everything you miss when constantly worrying about the unknown. While Henry Allen may have a good father/son speech up his sleeve, for now Barry Allen is taking a much more altering approach to his flashback and unexpected do-over. Although he may be fast enough to travel through time, can he ultimately outrun the consequences of his actions?
Rogue Time – After his super speed barrier attempt blasted him back into yesterday, Barry Allen quickly averts last episode's disasters despite Harrison’s warnings. Things soon get a new kind of bad when The Rogues come back with a vengeance and new co-ed membership.
This is really equal parts a time travel and Rogue episode. That’s two very big areas to cover but just like last week The Flash writers prove more than up to the task. As with both prior Rogue episodes (4 and 10), it’s collaborated between showrunners Geoff Johns and Kai Yu Wu (The Flash: Season Zero prequel comic writer) to great results. Wu’s clear understanding and love of the Rogue characters allow all required ground to be covered with efficiency without sacrificing the entertainment. Just as before this fledgling gang is an utter riot on screen. Their combined chemistry is flawless, yet each gets their own moments to shine and showcase the great actors playing them. Snart gets his moments of calculated planning and cold exchanges. Rory gets to overheat his temper and take childlike pleasure in the violence he delivers. Then there’s new girl in town of Leonard’s sister, Lisa Snart, played by the Robbie Amell’s old Tomorrow People pal, Peyton List. Despite going up against these two big guns she more than holds her own as the “pretty but toxic” member of the group. In keeping with the weapons, not powers theme of the Rogues on the show, she’s a fair variant on her Golden Glider alias, but giving her a gold shooting gun is a wonderful nod to her origins. Weapons aside, her character is closer to the New 52 incarnation as she’s more criminal cohort than a conscience to Cold.
The re-introduction of the gang is handled extremely well with a kidnapped Cisco forced to make them new guns after the old were taken from them. It avoids the dumb pitfalls of stealing them back (like why the guns weren’t just destroyed) and makes a brilliant arc and character expansion for Cisco. Firstly, his seduction/kidnapping is hilarious “I should have known better, I am not that lucky” but it’s the relationship dynamic with his brother that really fascinates. They almost have a reverse Ace Rimmer connection. Seeing Dante as the unshakable family favourite gave Cisco the drive to achieve for himself, to earn respect rather than being given it. Though this doesn’t make it any easier to suffer his flaunting of their preference. Dante’s ultimate confession to Cisco is highly endearing, and adds some real weight to the more dramatic events that follow.
The final exchange between Barry and Cold is brilliant in itself but also sees Barry instil the comic Rogues' no killing philosophy by taunting Cold’s criminal pride, and even more curiously sets up an informal truce between them. It’s been confirmed the Rogues (now officially christened!) will return in the season’s penultimate episode (22) entitled “Rogue Air”. Is this laying the groundwork for a mutual enemy team up between The Rogues and The Flash over a bigger threat.... like The Reverse Flash? Now that would be one hell of a prospect!
Going back to time travel, you have to stand up and applaud the way some of the previous events are re-used in such unexpected ways. We all knew that Cisco would live; they’d be no tidal wave, no crippled Captain Singh and definitely no happy ending for Barry and Iris. Yet there’s so many deliberately placed memorable reference points in the first act that only now emerge as significant (like Cisco’s brain freeze) that it becomes so fun to watch a confused Barry call the shots. Though the best moment of this episode (and top 10 this season) was the surprise repeat of the Harrison and Cisco exchange. It delivers many familiar lines and sentiments in and entirely reversed context, including one big heart shaker. It also throws their entire relationship into a new perspective as they bond even closer while the ever present Harrison subtext speaks of choosing between two people you love. Is he grooming Cisco to betray Barry for him? Presumably to make whatever device he’ll use to eventually sap Barry’s power. Yet that’s far from Harrison’s only great moment this week as Tom Cavanagh continually proves he’s delivering the best character on any comic adaption series around right now. His causal conversations with Barry over perils of time stream meddling are enthralling and equally bubbling with undertone: “time is an extremely fragile construct; any deviation no matter how small could result in a cataclysm”. This could easily be a hint at planning his own cataclysmic event and his foreboding ripple effect notions clearly imply has own experiences of trying to change history. As he tells Barry, “Whatever tragedy you think you’ve just averted time will find another way to replace it”, it jogs memories about his deceased wife. Maybe repeatedly trying to save her, in vain, is what caused him to be stuck in our present in the first place?
The only drain this week is the recurring Barry/Iris failures. While it makes total sense for Iris not to confess her feelings again when Barry tries to trigger them, the episode’s “friends again” conclusion really feels like we’re going nowhere once more. Having Eddie punch Barry was exactly what we wanted to drive that wedge between them and start Eddie on a darker (hopefully yellow suited) path. So it’s quite annoying that the episode felt the need to cancel that all out again with Catlin’s (all be it funny) lightning head condition BS. Especially now we’ve clearly parted with the enjoyable Linda Park it leaves nothing romantically for Barry to do but his Iris moping default.
The dead weight Iris scenes may slow things down from last week phenomenal episode, but only just as there are so many other great characters and storylines driving it forward. It’s a definite quickening episode as we move into the final quarter of the season with just 7 episodes to go and the final moments point to a clear end direction and confrontation. Whether or not we’ll get a Flashpoint Paradox remains to seen but with episodes as good as this, we know it will be time well spent.