THE FLASH Review 1.16 “Rogue Time”

Barry deals with the repercussions of last week in another big episode of this impossibly swell show.

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"Whatever tragedy you think you've just averted, time will find a way to replace it. And trust me, Barry, the next one? Could be much worse."

On the timeline of The Flash, we've made very little forward progress, as the episode opens where it ended (and nearly where it began) last week, with Barry back outside the morgue and reeling from the discovery that he has traveled in time. It's a delight to watch Barry realize that he's lived this sequence of events before, and he uses his knowledge to scoop up the Weather Wizard and imprison him before he can cause any real damage. Although we all know what happens when you mess with time travel, The Flash presents its spacetime consequences with a little bit of very enjoyable cheek along with all of the pathos.

Wells, who obviously has some experience in this department, quickly surmises that Barry has messed with the continuum, but it's mind-boggling that Wells has no idea what Barry has at least delayed, if not circumvented: Cisco's discovery that Wells is the Reverse-Flash, Eobard Thawne. Wells' interactions with the STAR Labs team are rife with meaning and tension this week; he's as warm and charismatic as ever, but we know that his affection for our favorite characters doesn't preclude his own malevolence. The stakes couldn't be higher when it comes to Harrison Wells/Eobard Thawne: now that we've seen him kill a character he confessed (twice now) to thinking of as a son, no one is safe. Only Barry, whose speed Wells requires (and who happens to be the central character of this show), is safe from the Reverse-Flash.

I have trouble concurring with Dr. Wells that the tragedy Barry averted will restore itself tenfold, because seriously - what could be worse than Cisco dying? (Joe dying, but perish the thought.) But the results of Barry's time travel do affect Team Flash in ways of varying significance: Cisco, Caitlin, Wells, Joe, Iris and Eddie are all living life a little (or vastly) differently than they would if Barry hadn't sped well past the point of preventing a tsunami and raced himself into last week. 

Cisco is alive, thank god, and the continuum change led him to attend his brother's birthday party and resolve some long-simmering resentment between the two - while also keeping him away from an investigation into Wells, a mantle Barry himself has now taken on with hopefully less dire results. Most of the Captain Cold arc in this episode fell flat for me - Smallville and Mad Men's Peyton List failed to resonate as Lisa Snart/Golden Glider, and Captain Cold's villainy is resolved far too easily with a perky little pep talk from Barry, clearly in an effort to turn this bad guy into an anti-hero in time for his team-up with The Atom. But what did work about this storyline is that it ends with Cisco's gaining a little self-worth. He realizes the brother he has always envied envies him in turn, and when he attempts to quit STAR Labs out of guilt for revealing Barry's identity, no one - least of all Wells, his surrogate father - will hear of it, because Cisco is vital to the cause. Cisco has some hard truths coming his way when he learns about Wells, a revelation we can only assume is nearing now that Barry and Joe are on the case together, but in the meantime, he's growing a little stronger and more confident, a journey that is quickly becoming my favorite part of The Flash

The other big change this week is that Barry now knows that Iris has feelings for him - something Iris herself evidently doesn't know, as it takes a near-tsunami for her to acknowledge those feelings, even to herself. Every part of the romantic prospect between Barry and Iris irritates - he breaks up with the overwhelmingly cool and mature Linda only to be rejected once again by Iris and then punched by Eddie, and now we're back to square one with Barry silently pining over his almost-sister - but it's all worth it for Caitlin's hilarious "lightning psychosis" story. It's a great, easy way to resolve all of the tension, but it's also one more terrific character moment in an episode - a show - full of them. Caitlin is more than a sidekick. She doesn't just watch out for Barry's physical well-being and heroic growth. She watches out for him as a friend. Just like Barry drops everything to meet Cisco at a bar when he's sad, or Caitlin attends Cisco's brother's birthday party because he needs a wingman. These guys are friends, real friends, and the writers make that friendship a priority every single week, amid all of the tsunamis and meta-humans and death and destruction. 

Joe is now safe from the reckoning of Mark Mardon, but I don't feel particularly comfy watching him follow Wells' tracks, especially after the doctor murdered Mason Bridge with so little ceremony this week, a mistake that will surely cost him his identity. Barry tears up as he tells Joe, "I think you were right about Wells," and it's one more reminder after Cisco's tears last week that the STAR Labs team is going to be unspeakably devastated when it's revealed that their mentor and hero has been living a life of profound deception as long as they've known him. But in the wake of this discovery, at least they will have each other.

Coolest moments this week: 

"Rogues. Cute." The Captain Cold stuff may have felt lukewarm in this episode, but hearing Barry say "Rogues Gallery" brought a smile to my lips just as it did Snart's.

"Make me proud." Of course the hot, obviously bewigged woman at the bar is going to raise suspicions, but it was fun seeing Cisco enjoy her attentions, if only briefly, and seeing Barry encourage his friend so heartily. Next time a woman hits on Cisco, let's make it for real.

"You were really onto the story of the century. Well, this century, anyway." Eobard Thawne says the word "century" with so much sinister aplomb.

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