“Family of Rogues” wastes no time getting to the action. It opens with Iris being shot at in a vacant floor of an apartment complex, calling Barry for help. She got a hot tip about a real-estate scam kicking out tenants, and maybe bit off more than she could handle. But having the Flash as a best friend definitely has its advantages. So, how does Barry plan to save her? He asks her to jump out the window. Pretty intense trust exercise. “Iris, do you trust me?” Barry asks. “Yes,” Iris says before she jumps. Barry catches her and subdues the bad guys upstairs. It’s a clever and cute opening. We don’t get to see Iris and Barry interact meaningfully enough, but this proves their chemistry. This cold open seems to be an introduction for a great episode showing The Flash at its best: lots of fun, a little danger, and worthwhile emotional stakes. But something still feels a bit off.
The main plot this week involves the reappearance of Leonard Snart, a.k.a. Captain Cold, and his sister Lisa, a.k.a. Golden Glider, and they’ve brought along a lot of daddy issues with them. Lisa asks for Cisco’s (and the Flash’s) help to save her brother, who's been kidnapped. When Barry tracks down Leonard, he finds him pulling off a job, definitely not kidnapped in any sort of traditional sense. Barry’s interruption gets him reacquainted with Leonard’s cold gun. But, thankfully, his suit hasn’t only been altered for aesthetics, and Cisco activates the very convenient upgrade that heats his suit, melting the ice around him. Leonard may not be kidnapped, but whom he’s pulling off the job with does spell trouble of a different sort: his father, Lewis Snart.
Learning that Leonard isn’t actually kidnapped means Team Flash no longer trusts Lisa’s intentions. She gains their trust by revealing a deep scar on her shoulder. “I didn’t get this scar being a criminal, I got it being a daughter,” Lisa says. Pretty dark, especially for this show. Lewis isn’t like his criminal offspring. He has no code. He’s physically and emotionally abusive, which is why Lisa knows Leonard would never work with him unless forced to.
Barry approaches Leonard a second time, not as a superhero but just as a man, which again doesn’t work. At least we get a great line from Leonard: “Don’t waste your time trying to save people who don’t want to be saved.” Which is a good lesson for superheroes that they never learn.
Lisa ends up being right, but not for reasons she’d like. We realize just how ruthless Lewis is when he blows up his partner’s head thanks to a remote-control bomb he planted. (Nice Scanners reference.) How is Leonard supposed to uphold his promise not to kill on jobs if his father is willing to do that? Oh, wait, it gets worse.
The reason why Leonard is working with Lewis is because he planted a bomb in Lisa. (What’s up with all the L names, by the way?) Now, that’s bad parenting. After Cisco learns this, Lisa rightly panics. I really like the interaction between Lisa and Cisco, although I buy them more as confidantes than potential romantic partners. The episode pivots around the idea of family and loyalty on different levels. The writers try to parallel what’s happening with the Snarts with the revelation that Iris’s mother is alive, and the truth behind that. Unfortunately, despite some good character moments, that plotline isn’t developed enough for the parallel to work.
When Iris’s surprisingly not-dead mother, Francine, and Joe meet again, he offers her money to leave Central City. But she has no intention of doing that — she wants to be in Iris’s life again. There’s a question hanging over the episode’s emotional moments: What could Francine have done that would be bad enough that Joe has pretended to be a widow for over 20 years, even going so far to lie to his own daughter about it? Francine falls into the black-deadbeat-mom-turned-drug-addict character type I had hoped died off years ago.
Joe tries to first tell Iris while she’s at work, but that’s cut short when she finds out her article on the real-estate scam makes it to the front page. This also gives us a chance to see Linda, whom Barry dated briefly in season one.
When that doesn’t work, Joe reveals everything to Barry, making the case that he was protecting Iris for her own good. Well, the road to hell is paved with good intentions, Joe. And keeping Iris in the dark about Barry being the Flash didn’t work out so well, did it? Thankfully, this isn’t drawn out, and Joe sits Iris down to tell her the truth about her mother.
Joe explains that when he was a beat cop, a call came in from a kid saying her mother had passed out. When he heard the address, he realized it was his own. He comes home to find Francine unconscious on the couch after a pill overdose and a young Iris next the open flame on the stove. He got Francine into rehab and she disappeared soon after. Instead of telling Iris the truth, he created a pleasant fiction for her: that Francine was a good mother who tragically died. Iris cries and wonders aloud why he would lie. Ultimately, she places her hand on his and forgives him, understanding his reasoning to protect her.
It’s a neat ending to a moment that should be anything but. The fact that Iris forgives Joe so quickly and the scene revolves around his emotions rather than hers is a misstep. I’m not saying she should be angry or grow distant, but there should be more to it. He lied for over 20 years about her mother being dead — I can’t imagine even the kindest people forgiving that so quickly. While I like Candice Patton’s portrayal of Iris, I can’t ignore how she feels terribly developed. Iris West is probably the greatest recent example of how diversity in front of the camera doesn’t matter if it isn’t also reflected in the writer’s room. Even with my nagging issues, I still think it’s a great scene, and I’m glad to see Iris given something to do.
While Cisco focuses on getting the bomb out of Lisa before she loses her head, Barry enacts a bright idea: infiltrating Lewis’s crew by pretending to be a criminal. Oh, my sweet summer child, why would you do this? Barry as a criminal is ridiculously unconvincing. But Leonard vouches for him instead of telling Lewis the truth. During the charade, Barry balances protecting innocent people from coming on the wrong end of Lewis’s violence and pretending to be a criminal, of course using his speed when necessary, like getting the armed guards away and opening the vault (without Lewis noticing). Things don’t go smoothly when Lewis decides to shoot him. The shot doesn’t land, since Barry catches the bullet because of course he can.
In the vault, The Flash really strains credibility by having Leonard freeze the laser field. I’m not a scientist, and I know this is a show with superheroes, but really? Lewis takes too long to get the diamonds and the alarms go off anyway. But Barry, super-suited up as the Flash, stops them from getting away. Lewis threatens to kill Lisa, bomb trigger in hand, if Leonard doesn’t freeze Barry so they can get away.
Meanwhile, Cisco is able to get the bomb out of Lisa’s neck, nullifying Lewis’s threats. Once Barry let’s them know that Lewis isn’t long for this world, Leonard turns the cold gun on his father, placing a chunk of ice right through his chest. Barry doesn’t understand why Leonard would kill Lewis. But Leonard sums it up neatly in a way only a supervillain would: “He broke my sister’s heart — only fair I break his.” I may not have enjoyed all of this episode, but I love Wentworth Miller’s line delivery and deadpan glares as Captain Cold.
Hopefully, the thought of saving his sister keeps him warm at night now that he’s locked up in Iron Heights. Although we all know Leonard won’t be behind bars for long. The rapport between Barry and Leonard is fun to watch, especially in their last scene. Barry thinks Leonard is a good guy underneath his criminal impulses.
We only get a bit of Jay Garrick throughout this episode. He still hasn’t regained his powers (or figured out how he lost them coming to Earth-1). He spends his time creating a speed canon to stabilize the wormhole at the bottom of STAR Labs in order for him to get back to Earth-2. Once it’s stabilized, Caitlin convinces him to stay a bit longer until they can figure more things out. I loved Cisco’s side-eye. It wasn’t lost on anyone that Caitlin is attracted to Jay, although I’m not sure where that story line can go. And Jay agrees to stay longer.
Does Jay have any friends or family on Earth-2? Does Joan (his comic-book girlfriend and later wife) not exist? If I got stuck in another universe and lost my superpowers, which he felt he did more good with than as a physicist, I’d be pretty eager to leave. Honestly, what’s the point of having Jay Garrick on the show if we’re not seeing him in action? Thus far, The Flash is struggling to properly incorporate its new characters, particularly Patty.
The show continues to play up the Patty and Barry dynamic, giving us not one but two run-ins at the coffee shop along with her appearance at the crime scene as part of the metahuman task force. Patty even gives Barry her number. They flirt, giggle, and stumble all over their words. It would be cute if they had chemistry and it didn't feel so forced. She feels like she came out of a CW love-interest generator.
While I enjoyed some aspects, I couldn’t help but think that this entire episode wasn’t so much furthering the plotlines for The Flash as much as setting up the midseason spinoff, Legends of Tomorrow, which is especially true when it comes to Professor Stein.
I love that Stein brings a different dynamic to Team Flash. Him screaming “Excelsior!” after proving the speed canon works was utterly adorable. I'm really going to miss him when he heads over to Legends of Tomorrow. After seemingly recovering from his previous collapse with only his blood pressure being a bit high, things dovetail at the end of the episode. Professor Stein collapses again, except this time he goes on fire, much like Firestorm (first red then blue). He’s obviously unstable and needs another half since Ronnie is dead, which neatly sets up the focus for next week.
The end once again teases us about Harrison Wells revealing his Earth-2 crossing-over using the wormhole in STAR Labs with a particularly mischievous look on his face. Anytime Wells appears, my issues with the show tend to disappear. But this end note brings up a lot of questions. Namely, who are we really looking at? Is this Earth-2 Wells or one from another universe? Is this Eobard Thawne–as-Wells? Is he Zoom? I’m eager to find out, and for the Earth-2 plotline to kick into high gear.