The writers on The CW’s The Flash apparently have a lot of parental issues to work out, so I truly hope that this episode was quite cathartic for them. The tone of “Family of Rogues” alternated, wildly at times, between very silly comic book capers and heartbreaking stories of domestic violence, drug addiction, and abandonment. Normally, The Flash is very good at balancing the plot elements between the dramatic and the action-packed; this episode was no exception as far as run-time goes, but the tone was way off. One of the drawbacks to having such a fast-paced production is that sometimes the emotional beats are rushed and simply don’t have time to land the way they should.
Before we get to tonight’s recap from both Barry’s mild-mannered and super-speedy points of view, we should really talk about that cold open. Apparently, Iris has decided that her friendship with The Flash gives her leeway toward putting herself in more dangerous situations than usual. While Barry seems totally fine with it – and Candice Patton seemed thrilled to have her character jump out of a high-rise window – there’s likely going to be a time in the future when The Flash won’t be able to just zip over for a late-night rescue so that Iris can get a good scoop. It’s one thing to have a character written as a constant damsel-in-distress like the classic Lois Lane, but it’s equally silly to push a character in a reckless direction simply because of her superfriends.
Now, let’s take a look at what happened to the ordinary forensic investigator Barry Allen in this episode. I’ve been formatting my recaps by splitting between his normal and super personalities, so of course this episode overlaps the two in new and interesting ways. I’ll still be keeping the super stuff in the super section, even if Barry’s out of costume for part of it.
We’ve got a few subplots going on at this point in the season: There’s the flirtatious happenings between Barry and Patty Spivot, which gets some progress in this hour as Patty offers up her phone number by episode’s end. (These two are very cute together and I wholeheartedly approve, I just wish there was a better “ship” name for them.) Another is the budding romance between the newly arrived ex-speedster Jay Garrick and Dr. Caitlin Snow, which provides extra tension while the two super-brains are working on stabilizing the portal between the two Earths. (Oh, and Dr. Stein is back and totally fine, right?)
Thematically, like I mentioned above, this episode centers on the relationships between our young adult protagonists and their various parents and mentors. For once, Barry is actually the one portioning out advice for his adoptive father Joe, rather than the other way around. Essentially, Barry has to remind Joe that he’s a fantastic father when Joe’s wife Francine shows up with the aim of reconnecting with Iris and consoling her over Eddie Thawne’s death. Barry suggests that Joe comes clean with Iris about her mother, and he does just that. We learn that Francine was a drug addict who endangered Iris when she was very young before abandoning the family. It’s a tough scene to watch, but Patton and Jesse L. Martin do a fantastic job with it and with the time they’re given. This reveal was only slightly better than “out of nowhere” because Francine was at least introduced in an earlier episode.
A tougher pill to swallow by far was the relationship between Lisa and Leonard Snart and their criminal father, Lewis (Michael Ironside). Long story short, Lewis was a brutally violent drunk whose poor parenting led Captain Cold and Golden Glider into their life of crime. Lisa’s physical and mental scars give us a better picture of what growing up with their abusive father was like than Leonard’s own cooperation with the man does, but it’s ultimately Leonard’s actions towards the episode’s end that punctuates the story. Now’s as good a time as any to get into it.
Since Lisa Snart straight-up shows up in the coffee shop to ask for Cisco and The Flash’s help – while pretty much admitting to a recent crime – one would think the Scarlet Speedster would be best served by whisking her away to jail. But remember that Barry’s secret identity is known to her brother Leonard, and that he owes Captain Cold a favor for sparing his life. That favor is cashed in big time by helping Leonard and his abusive father pull off a diamond heist. (After Captain Cold freezes him and only Cisco’s therma-threading suit-tech saves the day, that is.)
Since Leonard hates his father Lewis, what reason could he possibly have for helping the career criminal? Well, it seems that Leonard’s weakness is his sister Lisa, whom he protected and pretty much raised on his own as they were growing up. Since Lewis has a habit of placing thermite explosives in people’s heads – his tech guy and his own daughter, so far – he’s got plenty of leverage over his villainous son. This puts Leonard and Barry in a tough position.
Barry is eventually able to help Leonard by masquerading as “Sam the Tech Guy” in order to prevent anyone from getting killed during the heist, and to buy time for Cisco and Caitlin to figure out how to extract the bomb from Lisa’s head. (If you were wondering, this is the light-hearted comic book caper portion of tonight’s proceedings.) While Barry actually does a great job as a criminal, there is no honor among thieves; Lewis shoots him dead once Barry/Sam gets him past the security door. Good thing Barry is really, really fast.
With “Sam” dead, Leonard uses his cold gun to … freeze a laser beam security net; this bothered me until I found out that it was actually somewhat possible, though not quite the way it was shown. Back in costume as The Flash, he gets the Snart men to monologue for a few moments, during which time Cisco is about to pneumatically suck the thermite out of Lisa’s head. (Okay.) In the most cathartic moment of the episode, Leonard learns that Lisa is safe, and promptly turns the cold gun on his own father, punching an icicle shard through the old man’s chest. So long, Papa Snart!
With Leonard now (temporarily, at least) locked up in Iron Heights, Barry pays him a visit that essentially says, “Hey, man, you’d make a good hero. Have you heard of this show called Legends of Tomorrow?” I’m not sure if we’ll see Captain Cold again before the spin-off show’s crossover event, but if not, then this was a decent way to ease that transition.
Meanwhile, Cisco’s neutralization of the bomb in Lisa’s head earns him a very romantic goodbye before the villainess zips away on her golden motorcycle. Back at the lab, Caitlin and Garrick have finished the Speed (Force) Cannon which Stein tests … by throwing something through the portal. The portal is now stable, allowing Garrick to return, but Caitlin makes an impassioned plea for him to stay; Barry wants him to stick around, too, so he has easy access to speedster advice.
Then we get a couple of final moment stingers. In the first, Dr. Stein stutters a moment before bursting into flame – first red, then blue – and collapses again. (Maybe one of these doctors should get the doctor to an actual doctor.) Then, when no one is looking, the portal pops out a new arrival: Dr. Harrison Wells! What could possibly go wrong!
This hour certainly felt like an outlier episode meant to position Captain Cold to join Legends of Tomorrow in the near future. The comic caper was fun, but that effect was negated by the troubling stories of abusive parents; not exactly the lightest of material. So while it was still a good episode, it wasn’t a great one and did little to advance our protagonists’ stories until the last few minutes.
Rating: ★★★ Good
Jay Garrick: “It would serve as a kind of cannon … a speed cannon.” Cisco: “Hmm. We should hang out more.” Check out this brief mention of the Speed Force cannon from the wiki page.
OK, Cisco’s Dr. Stein impersonation was pretty funny.
Caitlin: “Does it physically pain your family not to commit crimes?”
Cisco: “I’m bringin’ the heat right now!”
Lisa: “You have to believe me, Leonard would never work with him. He’s a bad guy.” Caitlin: “You and your entire family are criminals. Why should we believe anything you say?”
Lewis: “Nobody talks to my son that way. Nobody.”
Patty: “I thought I stepped on an ear. I didn’t. If I did, I’d be hearing things.” Joe: “Oh hell no.”
Jay: “Good to know that no matter what Earth you’re on, there’s always a Big Belly Burger.”
Caitlin: “You’re going to pretend to be a criminal?” Barry: “How hard can it be?”
Barry: “Told you Draycon was my jam!” Lewis: “It’s good to go out on a high note.”
Lewis: “Okay, son. Make me proud.” Leonard: “Like I care.”
Barry: “Lisa was safe. Why did you do it?” Leonard: “He broke my sister’s heart; it was only fair I break his.”
If you happen to understand these CFL quarks, you’re probably smarter than 99.99% of the population.