It’s no coincidence that the season’s best episode yet has absolutely nothing to do with Doctor Alchemy. “The New Rogues” isn’t merely bolstered by the lack of elements that weighed down recent episodes — Julian, I’m looking at you — it also returns The Flash to top form. Every major character gets a great moment, all of which feel seamlessly interwoven into the plot. It’s emotional without being dour, fun without sacrificing character development, all while pushing the story in bold new directions.
But “The New Rogues” isn’t perfect. I don’t expect adaptations to faithfully copy the details I’ve enjoyed for years in comic-book form, if only because that level of fidelity would put a stranglehold on any story. Superheroes require constant reevaluation for the era they’re in and the medium in which their stories take shape. Considering how comic-book canon is always in flux to a degree, reinvention is to be expected. If you ask any comic fan, though, they’ll come up with an itemized list of ideas most precious to them — the characters and events that should be adapted in a particular way. If I had to make such a list, Mirror Master would be on it.
I’ve been waiting for Sam Scudder a.k.a. Mirror Master (Grey Damon) to appear ever since I learned The Flash was going to be a show. He’s one of the most fascinating and long-running of the Flash’s rogues with an interesting skill set that wouldn’t be out of place in a Twilight Zone episode. The show has had trouble crafting great villains, so “The New Rogues” presents a great opportunity to do something we hadn’t seen before. Instead, Mirror Master is remarkably lackluster.
Making Scudder a metahuman is the first sign that maybe he won’t be as memorable as he should be. It’s an easier way to introduce the character, I suppose, but it also makes him prosaic. If you never heard of Mirror Master before, you’d think he doesn’t figure into the mythos all that much. He just seems like another metahuman of the week. That’s not to say I’m against change: Just take a look at Leonard Snart, who appears as a pivotal aspect of Mirror Master’s past. Leonard is a villain with complicated morality who chews scenery like he’s sharing the screen with Bette Davis, but putting these two villains in the same scenes only highlights the weaknesses of Mirror Master. The Flash wants to make him a metahuman? Fine. But he shouldn’t be so toothless, so interchangeable, like so many of the one-off metahumans we’ve seen before. It’s time for The Flash to start fleshing out the antagonists beyond speedsters and other versions of Harrison Wells. The writers did it with Captain Cold and Heatwave. They can do it again.
Mirror Master’s abilities are visually interesting, but he seems oddly depowered. The narrative twists in his story line are easy to predict. He breaks out Rosalind to wreak havoc across Central City. His ambitions aren’t grand; he just wants to steal some money and live it up. The resolution feels far too easy as well, though I’ll admit that setting the final showdown at a carnival (with some clever use of mirrors trapping him in an infinite loop) is a nice touch. The choice to use a hologram of Leonard to lure Mirror Master only makes me wish Wentworth Miller was back. It’s only a matter of time before he returns, right? At least Harry mentions that another Mirror Master exists on Earth-2. This other version of the villain sounds more like the comic counterpart, which gives me hope for the character’s future. I almost don’t care about this weak rendition, especially since the rest of the episode is so great.
I loved seeing Barry and Iris being a couple. The last scene between Joe, Iris, and Barry in which our titular hero finally decides to move out is heartwarming and hilarious. “I thought you’d never leave,” Joe says, half-jokingly. They actually feel like a real family.
What’s especially great about Barry is that he doesn’t act like a complete idiot in this episode. That hasn’t been the case for an awfully long time. For someone as smart as Barry is, he can be quite short-sighted. “The New Rogues” is free of those character blind spots. Instead, we get gems like the monologue Barry delivers to Iris when he’s trapped in the mirror after his first run-in with Mirror Master. “I have everything I have ever wanted right now,” he says. “I’ve never had that in my life. In a lot of ways it’s scarier than having nothing because it’s easier to fail than succeed.”
This quote casts Barry’s past bad decisions in a different light. Perhaps his stupidity is rooted in self-sabotage more than I thought.
We also get to see Barry train Jesse in her new costume. She’s almost as fast as Barry (which reminds me, I want to see Barry’s powers continue to develop). She’s still unsure of herself, though, and she has trouble seeing her own potential. Thankfully, Wally is there for a pep talk. The chemistry between the two is undeniable, but when Jesse tries to kiss Wally, he backs off. It’s an understandable reaction. After all, they live in different universes. How would a long-distance relationship like that work? Wally decides to give it a chance later on, even though Jesse returns to Earth-2 at episode’s end.
Jesse and Harry’s decision to return to Earth-2 opens up the episode’s most hilarious subplot: Team Flash needs to find a replacement for Harry. Thanks to some science, a complicated math equation, and Cisco’s powers, they’re able to send what amounts to an multi-universal help wanted ad to the Harrison Wells on different Earths. They get replies pretty quickly in the form of hologram messages. These various versions of the character let Tom Cavanagh stretch himself even more as an actor, highlighting how The Flash should play around with the multiverse more often.
We get to see a hillbilly Harrison Wells, who is an automatic no. On Earth-17, he has a British accent and vaguely steampunk styling. Another one is French and appears to moonlight as a mime. Finally, they find Harrison Wells of Earth-19. He’s a somewhat hipster-esque version of the character and he wears a vest with a short-sleeve shirt. (That’s probably a sign he’s up to no good.) Harry isn’t happy with any of the choices, which reveals itself to be a fear that he’s easily replaced. The episode ends with his Earth-19 counterpart — who goes by H.R. — joining the team just as Harry and Jesse leave. As excited as I am to see how he shifts the dynamic, I don’t understand why they trust him so quickly. Considering how many underhanded people they’ve met, you’d think they’d question this guy a bit more. We’ll find out soon enough.