Saturday, 29 October 2016

Review - 'The Flash', S03E04 - 'The New Rogues'





Setting aside the 'Dr Alchemy' plot-line, for the moment, this season's fourth episode instead chooses to dip back into the familiar well of the particle accelerator explosion – resulting in an episode which, at this point, feels like something of a deliberately throw-back to the first season. There doesn't seem to be any real reason for this sudden change in focus, though – other than the fact that it allows new villains, Mirror Master (Grey Damon) and Top (Ashley Rickards), to exist independently of whatever Dr Alchemy might have planned.

Of course, Mirror Master isn't just any regular villain. As a member of that loosely affiliated collection of villains known, in the comic-books, as 'The Rogues', Mirror Master exists on roughly the same level as Wentworth Miller's 'Captain Cold' and Mark Hamill's 'Trickster'. So, with that in mind, it's probably fair to say that Mirror Master's eventual appearance on the series was something that fans have been anticipating since the beginning. It seems that the same can't really be said for Top, though – especially given that the version of the character to appear, here, feature a change in both powers and gender.

But, anyway – finding ourselves once more witnessing events which took place during the night of the particle accelerator explosion, this episode opens with something of a falling out between partners-in-crime, Sam Scudder and Rosalind Dillon, and Leonard Snart. The pair, it seems, had broken one of Snart's rules – and, being the sort of criminal who has no patience for sloppiness, Snart comes to the conclusion that they can no longer be trusted.

Their disagreement soon escalates into a, brief though very well-done, fight – which is just as quickly interrupted by the particle accelerator explosion. While Snart and his men flee, Scudder and Rosalind are both hit by the blast. As a result, Scudder finds himself, somehow, trapped inside a mirror.

Jump to three years later, and Scudder is finally able to free himself – learning how to control is strange new ability to form portals between reflective surfaces, and emerging into a world that has moved on without him. His first thoughts are, of course, of revenge on Leonard Snart – but, with Snart long gone, he soon turns his attention toward taking over Central City. Traking down his old partner, Rosalind (who has, of course, gained abilities of her own – in her case, the ability to induce extreme feelings of vertigo in anyone she makes eye-contact with), the two make the most of their new abilities – embarking on a lucrative crime-spree that eventually attracts the attention of the Flash, and his own new partner, Jesse Quick.

It's an entertaining enough set-up for a 'one-off' episode, of course – and, there is a definite appeal in seeing the two Speedster working together, and in some fun displays of the new villain's outlandish abilities. The point at which Barry found himself momentarily trapped inside a mirror was a clear high-light, here – though, even Top (who had the more mundane power) was still able to put hers to good use against the more inexperienced Speedster.

Unfortunately, though, while they may pose an entertaining enough challenge for the two Speedsters, Mirror Master and Top make for somewhat underwhelming villains. Honestly, if not for the fact that we know how important these characters are (and, how likely it is that they are going to return), it would be impossible to truly set them apart from any of the other disappointingly underdeveloped 'one-off' villains that have plagued the series. There is, quite simply, nothing overly memorable about either the character, themselves, or in the performances given by Grey Damon and Ashley Rickards. We aren't, for example, given any real insight into who these people actually are, or in what motivates them

Of course, the true high-light of this situation was in simply seeing Barry and Jesse working together – with Barry's efforts to act as a suitable mentor to Jesse even resulting in him surprising himself by repeating advice originally given to him by Oliver Queen.

While all of this is going on, the episode also treats us to a truly bizarre sub-plot involving a plan to reach out into the multiverse and recruit a new Harrison Wells. With 'Harry' and Jesse set to return to Earth-2, once Jesse's training is complete, it seems as though the team have come to the conclusion that they need a Harrison Wells – and, as a result, it is decided that they should make use of Cisco's 'Vibe' abilities to send out a an open invitation, along with a puzzle to solve.

I think my main issue, here, is that the whole situation feels much more like a bizarre meta-joke than it does a legitimate plot-line. It seems too clearly intended to play on the fact that Tom Cavanagh has played different characters in both previous seasons – with the 'punch-line' being the sudden introduction of not just one, but a handful of new characters, here. Admittedly, the brief glimpses of alternate Harrison Wells's that we saw was fun, and an entertaining test of Tom Cavanagh's acting abilities (with 'French Mime' Wells being an especially amusing addition). But, it still feels like an incredibly odd way to introduce a new character. It's done now, though – so, I suppose we just have to wait and see what this new Harrison Wells has to offer.

Elsewhere, the episode also found the time for two romantic sub-plots – with Barry and Iris encountering some unexpected difficulties just as Jesse and Wally (who seems to be entirely over his jealousy) face some uncertainty with regard to whether to even pursue the relationship that they both clearly want. Honestly, at this point, I can't say that I feel overly invested in either one of these romantic sub-plots – though, there was definitely some fun to be found in the sudden awkwardness that has cropped up between Barry and Joe. It does feel fairly obvious that the writers are bending over backwards to avoid acknowledging the vaguely incestuous creepiness of Barry and Iris's relationship, though – which, I suppose, is why we are expected to believe Barry's sudden discomfit stems from some contrived nonsense about being afraid to lose what he now has, and not simply the awkwardness of his foster-father seeing him kissing his foster-sister.

In the end, the season's fourth episode was a perfectly entertaining one – but, it was also somewhat forgettable. With the season's over-arching plot-line being suddenly set aside, this was an episode that felt like 'filler', in the truest sense of the word. Neither Mirror Master or Top were quite able to make the impression that they needed to – but, they were still entertaining enough as 'one-off' villains. I suppose we'll just have to hope that they will have the opportunity to evolve into something a little more interesting on their next appearance.

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