This review contains spoilers.
1.16 Rogue Time
Time-travel episodes are fun; retcon episodes not so much.
That’s the problem The Flash faced with this week’s follow-up to an episode that had fans, general audience and even curious bystanders were falling over themselves to praise. The Flash introduced time-travel in its first season, a random non-finale episode in its first season no less, and it was always going to be harder for the following episode to sweep up the mess than it was to create it.
Rogue Time is indeed a weaker episode that its predecessor, but not to the extent it easily could have been given the circumstances. Fundamentally, the audience needs to be as frustrated with some of the backtracking as Barry is, especially with the Iris stuff, but the introduction and rule-setting of time travel in this universe is exciting enough by itself to carry us through an otherwise awkward hour.
We also saw the return of Captain Cold, Heat Wave and new character Lisa, for those of us who enjoy some over-the-top villainy to go along with our relationship drama.
The Barry/Iris relationship (bye Linda), though I’m aware it has its fans, still doesn’t work after sixteen weeks of trying, and that’s a major problem. The irony is that, like Laurel Lance before her, Iris might not actually be as bad if she was just set free from the awful, forced romance plot, and so The Flash’s insistence that they be some kind of epic endgame romance is all the more irritating knowing what we could have without it.
Though I do like it when Barry acts terribly, because one of the best things the show did was to include blatant imperfections in its hero’s characterisation, and his naive, creepy optimism when talking to Iris about her feelings was one of those occasions when the cracks in his noble hero persona start to show through. I love that Barry’s a little bit immature and overconfident at times, but I wish this storyline didn’t exist.
Potentially the most irksome revision would have been Cisco’s discovery of Wells, and Cisco’s subsequent death. Now, the latter probably has more value in not having happened, since we now know that Wells would be capable of killing Cisco without us actually losing the character, but the show needed its heroes to find out about Wells soon or risk the audience losing patience completely.
That’s happening gradually, rather than the exposition-dump that occurred last week, and it really did lend a lot of tension to their follow-up scene here. The danger of Wells lies in his apparent affection for those he works with, because his passion for protecting Barry could easily turn into a misguided murder spree. He’s more than willing to kill anyone who poses a threat, proven by his attack on Iris’ boss.
Cisco continues to be The Flash’s secret weapon, the guy we care about getting kidnapped but also the guy we trust to solve the big conspiracy, and Rogue Time was the second week in a row in which he dominated. I’d like to see Caitlin more, and possibly even Barry more, as I’ve stated in previous weeks, but I love that the ‘comic-relief guy’ is getting this kind of focus in more than one dedicated episode.
So this episode had a lot to do, including but not limited to failing to drop the ball on viewer expectations while also saving the really, really good stuff for the finale in a few weeks. It more or less did all of that while also functioning as a standard episode of The Flash but, at the same time, it highlighted a lot of the problems the show has yet to stamp out.
The show had a lot of responsibility to use its new time-travel device well, without tricking the viewers or bending its own rules, but it might also do well to use it to push things forward instead of simply pulling them back to the status quo.
Read Caroline’s review of the previous episode, Out Of Time, here.
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