[This is a review of The Flash Season 1, Episode 10 – There Will Be SPOILERS!!]
After a brief hiatus, The Flash has returned to usher in a new age of villainous teamwork, metahuman-proof police officers, experimental science and government conspiracies. The life of Central City's metahuman hero - and now, most famous citizen - keeps growing more complicated by the day.
In "Revenge of The Rogues", written by executive producer Geoff Johns and Kai Wu, Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) has taken the recent scare at the hands of the Reverse-Flash to heart, accelerating his training in case the villain returns to make good on his threat towards Iris West (Candice Patton). Meanwhile, Captain Cold (Wentworth Miller) returns alongside new villain Heat Wave (Dominic Purcell) to put down The Flash, as Caitlin (Danielle Panabaker) digs deeper into the mystery of her resurrected fiance, and experimental project F.I.R.E.S.T.O.R.M..
When the show headed into its winter break, it did so without the startling cliffhanger of, say, its CW sibling, Arrow. Barry had revealed his true feelings for Iris, committed to becoming an even greater hero, and setting out to prove his desire to protect the innocent to any who would doubt his motives. Despite the many weeks off, that's exactly where the writers begin.
This week's episode manages to check the same boxes that The Flash has already established as its procedural DNA; the tension between Barry and Iris is moved slightly forward without dwelling on angst or a standard 'love triangle,' his relationship with Joe (Jesse L. Martin) is used to lighten the drama, and metahumans arrive to mandate some special effects-laden action. But more than any specific plot beat, the real achievement of the winter premiere is just how much footwork is accomplished, with fans unlikely to even notice.
To date, the writers' understanding of the show's strengths has proven to be The Flash's most promising aspect (namely, it's honest sentimentality). To that point, Iris and Barry manage to brush aside the awkward fallout of his finale confession, and return to more stable ground. Eddie (Rick Cosnett) realizes he was wrong about the scarlet speedster, risking his own life to protect him. And to leave absolutely no doubt that the showrunners know just what fans are craving, the episode concludes with Barry moving back in to his adopted home as Joe's new roommate.
On the superhero side, Leonard Snart and Mick Rory show that in Central City's unique brand of crime, two heads are better than one (at least, in theory). Both Miller and Purcell are guilty of overplaying their respective attitudes at times, but if the goal is to differentiate them from their previous partnership on Fox's Prison Break, it's a success. Their gadget-gun fuelled showdown doesn't disappoint, with the cool customer and his hothead partner set to return in the future (thanks to Leonard's sister, Lisa).
"Revenge of the Rogues" may not have a standout moment or scene that viewers will all be talking about until the next episode, but Geoff Johns' skills as a comic writer (making every word in a monthly issue count) are on full display here. After the show flirted with some predictable plot lines and conflicts in its midseason finale, the premiere offered each member of the cast a story beat all their own, without distracting from the central story.
Caitlin's investigation into F.I.R.E.S.T.O.R.M. laid out the incoming hero's powers of transmutation, introduced his other half, Dr. Martin Stein (Victor Garber), and alluded to a larger government interest. Cisco and Dr. Wells forged a new relationship between S.T.A.R. Labs and the CCPD in their work against metahumans, and viewers were even reminded of smaller subplots, like Joe and Dr. Wells' competing hopes for Barry, just to cover all the bases.
Some may have hoped for the premiere to bring with a more unforgettable fight sequence or a larger-scale debut to the people of Central City, but handling so many plot threads without the episode collapsing under its own weight is an accomplishment in itself. At this point the showrunners are clearly moving at full stride, so the premiere's competence at keeping the momentum going - weeks-long vacation or no - really shouldn't surprise anyone.
The Flash returns next Tuesday with "The Sound and The Fury" @8pm on The CW. Check out a preview of the episode below: