You don’t have to admit it to me, but there’s a part of you that knows you don’t have to let your past define you. A part of you that really wants to be more than just a criminal.
With this episode, we see the return of Leonard and Lisa Snart – AKA Captain Cold and Golden Glider – who were amongst the best recurring characters on the show throughout the first season. It was great to see them back, and particularly in a story that added a great deal of depth to their characters.
Family of Rogues explores a bit of the backstory to the Snarts, introducing their father Lewis (Michael Ironside). The elder Snart is a well realised character, portrayed in such a way to deliberately and diametrically juxtapose him against the Snarts we’re already familiar with – though Leonard and Lisa have always been shown to be criminals, they’ve also always been fan favourite characters, and in certain ways quite likeable. There’s none of that here for Lewis, who’s clearly a violent and abusive person – possibly the most violent we’ve ever seen on The Flash, in terms of the type of punishments he deals out. He is, as Lisa put it, a “bad guy”.
The story of the abuse was handled quite sensitively, I think, and therefore quite effectively. Peyton List (Lisa Snart) carried a lot of that story really well – dialogue like “He always said he was teaching me a lesson. I must have been a slow learner, because the lessons never stopped” was very poignant, and the delivery of it was part of what made it so effective. Similarly, Wentworth Miller (Leonard Snart) and Michael Ironside also gave great performances, portraying the tension between father and son really well.
And of course, the Rogues’ interactions with the regular cast were as fun as ever. Cisco’s almost-romance with Lisa is rather entertaining, and quite sweet in many ways; they have an interesting relationship, one which is always nice to see more of. Similarly, Barry and Leonard Snart always have great interactions; I think Barry pretending to be ‘Sam’ will go down as one of the best comedic moments of the series, but the more serious moments, showing the grudging respect between Barry and Lewis, are quite compelling.
The Snarts weren’t the only family getting attention this week, though, with the return of Iris’ mother being an important plotline in this episode too. This was similarly well handled – like I’ve said before, it’s very clear that the writing team have listened to the criticisms made of last year’s series, and they’re actively trying to fix them.
We’re getting to see more of Iris’ relationship with Joe, seeing her act in a more independent fashion (how brilliant was the cold open in this episode? So brilliant) and now, when confronted with another lie, Iris is allowed to take responsibility and make her own decisions. It’s really well realised, and it’s great that Candice Patton has got this chance to show off her acting abilities.
It’s also important, actually, that this was emphasised as a complicated situation; whilst Joe’s lies are never condoned, they’re not exactly outright condemned either. It was something that I quite liked, actually; Jesse L Martin gives an excellent performance here. I was particularly impressed by the story of Iris calling 911 as a child – it was quite poignant, and worked really well within the larger context of the episode.
Family of Rogues, then. This is certainly the strongest episode of The Flash’s second series (should that be season, since it’s an American show?), with two very strong plot threads running throughout. The contrast between the different families, and the use of family as a thematic thread throughout, gave the episode a very strong basis for some genuinely compelling character interactions, alongside great scenes and excellent dialogue.