In The Flash’s episode this week, titled Fury Rogue, there was a lot of good stuff going on for our good guys. There was some interesting stuff going on with our bad guys. And then…then there was some stuff that was neither good nor interesting. In fact, it was just plain ugly. Let’s jump right in, shall we?
First thing’s first. Every time I forget how much I enjoyed Wentworth Miller as Leonard Snart, they bring him back for an episode and my heart breaks at losing him all over again. Hands down, he was the highlight of this episode for me. Wentworth has always been able to convey the perfect mixture of snark and charm and, yes, bad boy.
His position in this episode was an interesting one. With all the reminders of Ralph and his “heroic journey” it was impossible not to compare the two stories. Granted, this isn’t the same Snart we once knew. Regardless, Snart had the trajectory that I think they were going for with Ralph. From villain (or schmuck, in Ralph’s case) who begrudgingly joins a team to the antihero willing to sacrifice it all for the people he can’t necessarily admit he loves. However, it was impossible this week not to see how these similar stories were not managed with similar levels of success.
I know Wentworth is done with DCTV, at least for now. However, I’ll never give up hope that we get to see him again. I loved every second of his screen time this week – from his irrepressible snark and teasing to his determination to get back to his fiancé in time for his wedding. One hopes theirs is a wedding that remains uninterrupted.
Which brings us to the rest of the team. I’ve felt for a few weeks that the show has been struggling to correct some issues inherited from the previous showrunner. While Ralph’s entire character was a big problem, he wasn’t the only one. For too long, the show has neglected to give Cisco a character arc outside of the lab. While he’s had some snippets of romance with Cynthia this season, those glimpses have been few and far between. They have also struggled to find a purpose for Harry, ever since Harribard left at the end of the first season. I don’t know where this story with Harry’s decreasing intelligence is going, but I dearly hope it’s headed to a solid character arc for both of them in the next season.
As for Caitlin/Killer Frost…If anyone needs a soft reboot to course correct, it’s her. To be quite blunt, Killer Frost’s story has been a hot mess from the very beginning. She’s bad, but they don’t address why. She’s part of Caitlin, she’s not part of Caitlin, she’s kind of part of Caitlin again. Killer Frost is good, she’s bad, she’s got motives but we don’t address what they are because even the writers don’t bother to think of them.
I think Killer Frost has some potential as a character, but they need to clean up the mess they made by poor (or nonexistent) planning. I think this current arc is intended to do just that. This week, Caitlin found out that her powers aren’t a product of the dark matter in her cells but are due to something else. If this is true, then there’s a chance that she wasn’t a product of Flashpoint – though the dark matter might have brought her out a little sooner than she otherwise would have otherwise appeared. There are a few directions they could take this story, any one of which could help clean up the confusion and contradiction that have been defining hallmarks of her story so far.
DeVoe, DeVoe, DeVoe. What are we going to do with you?
I still am not entirely clear on what his plan even is. I still don’t get why he’s been dragging Barry and the rest of the team to get it. Yes, he wanted the bus metas, but he’s also been pretty insistent about getting Barry involved, as well. There are still a number of questions and not that much time in which to answer them.
And, yes, there is something a bit repetitious about a villain who is always a step ahead of Barry and the rest of the team. Who always knows what he’s going to do and just how to thwart it. Harribard and Savitar had time travel. DeVoe has a big brain. I know they have to drag out the story over the course of a season. There has to be aa reason Barry doesn’t bring the bad guys down until the final hour. But this “he fell right into my plans, muahahahahaaaaa” trend is getting a bit old. Here’s hoping they avoid going back to this well next year.
All that said, I still do quite like DeVoe. Or perhaps it’s Marlize that I really like. She broke my heart again this week, trying desperately to reconnect with the husband she had loved so much and done so much to help. His casual dismissal of her intelligence – upon which he had once so relied – was infuriating. His disinterest in the very emotion that they had once both shared was just sad.
I still am hoping Marlize gets one good punch in before the end.
And speaking of characters that need to get a good punch in. It was good to see Laurel on the show this week, though I was disappointed that they resurrected the Nazi storyline from earlier this season. I was a little disgusted that they went out of their way to say that this alternate version of Laurel had also wanted Oliver but he hadn’t returned her affection. Look, Laurel isn’t my favorite character, and Lauriver is definitely not my ship. I think they made some fundamental errors with how they handled that entire story in the beginning of Arrow, and she paid the price for them. I also think their treatment of her character was so egregious at times that it bordered on intentional sabotage.
But they bring her in to Flash to be the villain for an episode. In doing so, they go out of their way to say that even in a world of Nazis, she wanted a man who didn’t want her back? (Which, by the way, hadn’t really been a problem for her until her death.) Why? What was the possible purpose of that line? Seriously. It would have been nice to see her as a hero from Earth X. Particularly since they killed off this world’s version. Oh, and because “we need more Nazis” is not something anyone has said ever. But I certainly could have done without that moment of kicking sand in her face for no reason. It was unnecessary and inexplicable.
Speaking of unnecessary and inexplicable…Ralph. Of course I knew that the characters wouldn’t put him behind them as quickly as the audience would like them to. It was entirely expected that they would grieve his passing. That said, they were Team Too Much this episode when it came to grieving Ralph. Barry’s emotional withdrawal and denial about his grief caused me to roll my eyes a bit. Cisco’s sad look at a whoopee cushion caused me to laugh out loud at the absurdity. But when Barry froze in battle because thoughts of Ralph were too much for him to handle, it became almost too much to bear.
The Flash has always excelled at selling emotional moments in the past because we felt the emotion that the characters felt. When Barry cried over losing his mom or watching his dad et murdered, we cried along with him. We had seen the love the characters had for each other. We felt his loss, his helplessness, his regret, his grief. When Barry spoke about the impact their deaths had on him we believed it. We had seen it.
That’s simply not true of Ralph. Barry professing that Ralph taught him more than he’d ever taught in return was downright laughable. What, exactly, did Ralph ever teach Barry? That sometimes crooked cops aren’t so bad (well, they are, but sometimes they stumble into doing the right thing too, on occasion)? That changing heroic motivation can be as easy as changing pants? That fart jokes stop being funny at a certain age? What?
It is a credit to Barry’s character that he cares about people. That he cares about everybody. I expected him to grieve, and I love him for it. But there’s a serious problem in that – as has been the case too often this season – we are told to grieve for the person Ralph was said to be. Not the person he was shown to be.
Barry grieving a man he felt he failed is understandable and sympathetic. My heart breaks for him. Him grieving for a man who “taught him so much” and was the true hero all along? Come on, now Barry. I know grief isn’t always rational. Still, if the audience is going to connect emotionally to the hero’s turmoil and grief, it does have to be grounded in some semblance of reality.
If my theory is correct and the show is trying to course correct so that they might start off on the right foot next season, we might be in for some rough waters ahead. I have faith that we’ll be all the better for it when we make it to the other side. I just hope that as the season winds down, my faith is justified.
The Flash airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on the CW.