A review of tonight's “The Flash” coming up just as soon as I'm overdressed for trivia night…
“Going Rogue” did certain things spectacularly well – and, no, I am not just talking about Felicity's dress – and frustrated at others, particularly in the way it clung to the formula of the Berlanti super-verse (and of superhero comics in general).
First, the good, starting with how Wentworth Miller made an excellent Captain Cold. The episode didn't do a great job of showing his transition from violence-averse master thief to casually homicidal supervillain, but Miller was charismatic, he made most of the corny lines about keeping things cool and avoiding heat sound a bit less corny, and he came across as every bit the recurring headache that Cold ought to be to the Flash.
Second to the good: this one looked great. As I hoped after seeing the pilot, the VFX team is only growing more confident with what they can do, and all the action scenes were gorgeous, none more than Barry getting extra-motivated and saving every single person on the derailed train. That sequence was also a great example of marrying the pyrotechnics with character work: it's an exciting moment because it's an exciting moment, but it feels like even more because Barry's been feeling so helpless and guilt-ridden over the death he couldn't prevent earlier. (And it played well off the initial armored car robbery fight, where Barry wasn't moving as fast or as smart as we know he can, and the driver got shot as a result.) It's a learning curve for a rookie superhero, but these moments when he figures things out have been great.
And third to the good – but also starting towards the bad – we have Felicity Smoak. I wondered how she would fit in on this show, because so much of what makes her interesting on “Arrow” is that she injects lightness and joy into what's so often a dark and angst-ridden series. “Flash” already has pieces of the energy that Emily Bett Rickards brings – even if we don't know Caitlin and Cisco and the others remotely as well yet – and I thought she might seem a bit redundant. But she worked very well here, whether being awed to realize Harrison knew her resume or being embarrassed when she hurt herself cracking her knuckles trying to seem badass.
On the other hand, we have the Iris problem – which is starting to be a big one. After last week's episode, I had a lot of people telling me they thought Barry had much more chemistry with Caitlin than with Iris, and his lack of connection with his supposed soulmate was even more glaring once Felicity came to town.
This is a problem “Smallville” ran into as well in its early days with Lana (the comics-mandated love interest who didn't spark as much with the hero) and Chloe (the show's creation whom the fans preferred), and one that's popped up on other shows over the years(*). I don't know that it's a thing Candice Patton is or isn't doing so much as a writing issue – starting with the fact that Iris understandably views Barry as a sibling, given their history – but I rolled my eyes every time Barry ignored the way Felicity was throwing herself at him because he was too busy moping over Iris and Eddie kissing. There's obviously the larger issue that Felicity is on another show, and that Team “Arrow” still has plans for Felicity and Oliver, but I watched that train scene at the end and thought, “These two are young, attractive, single and temperamentally suited for each other. Even if they think somebody else is their soulmate, why can't they have some fun together?”
(*) Anybody remember when the main source of romantic tension on “The West Wing” was supposed to be between Josh and Mandy? Aaron Sorkin is really hoping you don't.
It's not about 'shipping another couple, but about a concern that the creative team is too married to an idea that doesn't seem to be working, and that makes their hero look like a sap when in fact they want it to make him seem noble and simply unlucky. Of course, many of these people also worked on “Arrow,” a show that was able to pivot away from Oliver and Laurel once it became clear the audience much preferred the young lady with the glasses, so it may be that Berlanti, Kreisberg and Johns may recognize in time that their versions of Barry and Iris don't need to couple up simply because the comic book characters with the same names did.
But I was very pleased to realize that Felicity would be coming to town in the same episode that introduced Captain Cold, and instead that part of the episode mainly made me want to smack our hero upside the head.
Some other thoughts:
* Captain Cold has a spare heat gun to offer to his buddy, which means the Captain Cold/Heatwave partnership should be coming up soon, based on that scene at the end.
* This is two episodes in a row where Cisco has had a death on his conscience, and I'm not sure that's entirely working. You can't use a character was wisecracking comic relief 98% of the time, then ask him to furrow his brow and look guilty before immediately having him go back to being the joker.
* Back in the summer, Kreisberg was asking fans on Twitter if they'd rather see Captain Cold be a villain with super powers, or have his usual freeze gun. I'm pleased they stuck with tradition in this case, though a part of me wishes the gun had nothing to do with Star Labs. I understand the desire to explain how a normal world is suddenly overrun with super-beings (in the same way most of the early “Smallville” baddies were the result of Kryptonite exposure), but I don't think the show needs to tie every single villain to Harrison, Cisco and Caitlin.
* Amusing wink to Jesse Martin's resume when one of the inappropriate songs on the radio after the awkward conversation with Eddie was “Let's Get It On.” Martin was cast to play Marvin Gaye in a film that eventually got stuck in development hell.
* I also liked how Felicity's usual excuses for Oliver's absences don't really apply to Barry.
What did everybody else think?
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org