When we’re getting down this close to the wire, it’s a real bummer when an hour of tv just doesn’t seem to work. And this was one of them. Coming off of Grodd last week, not to mention the high stakes of Arrow’s penultimate episode last week, Rogue Air ended up being a bit of a let down. The second to last episode should really feed into the stakes of the finale. There should be some buildup of expectations and anticipation. Instead, I found this episode severely lacking in buildup, and in fact mostly out of place in the story we’ve been telling and the climax we’ve been working towards.
It certainly wasn’t all bad. There were moments that were great. Certain things got addressed that I have been wanting addressed for most of the season, so that’s good. But I just didn’t get a good set up for the finale. But let’s break it down.
1. The Pipeline
You really have no idea how glad I am to see a real discussion of the morality of the Pipeline Meta Prison. This is something – as someone who works in corrections – I’ve has a major problem with from the beginning (read more about that here). The metas have not been tried and convicted by a jury of their peers. Barry, Caitlin, Cisco, and Joe have absolutely no authority to imprison them. Their actions have a justification – these particular metas are dangerous – but they are still illegal. There’s no regulation over the Pipeline. Joe mentions that the original plan was to rehabilitate and release the metas, but Caitlin just shrugs and says they’ve been too busy to actually follow through with this plan. So some of these people have been rotting in here for months with nothing being done to them. Do they even have basic human necessities? How are Caitlin and Cisco and Barry even qualified to “rehabilitate” the metas? Sorry. I know I’ve already gone over this. But the Pipeline makes me crazy.
It was good for the DA to put it in such blunt terms for us. Holding them captive is a crime: unlawful imprisonment. Transporting them to Lian Yu is a crime: human smuggling. Not only are these crimes, they are serious crimes. Serious federal crimes. And as Joe pointed out, at what point does Barry breaking the law become too much? At what point does he become no better than them. Barry’s defense, “We only break the rules to help people,” can only go so far.
This conversation was certainly the highlight of the episode for me. And in fact, I appreciate that the metas were able to escape. Not only does it set up a possibility for the revolving return of the Rogues just like the actual comics, but it gives Team Flash an opportunity to do something better with them from now on. The police and the city are becoming more and more aware of the metas. It’s time to create some kind of holding cell that is legal.
All that being said, I wish the story line of the metas escaping took a lot less time in the episode. Yes, their escape sets up those things mentioned in the paragraph above, but it does nothing to further the story we’re telling regarding Reverse Flash.
2. Eddie vs. Iris
This was another part of the episode that I thought was well done.
Eobard Thawne – at least so far – did not turn Eddie evil. Thank God. I like Eddie. I was not ready for him to turn dark just because he doesn’t end up with Iris. That’s a blow, certainly, but it just makes you a dick if that’s your reasoning for becoming evil.
As for their actual breakup, I appreciate that both sides make sense. Iris has feelings for Barry. Barry knows it, Joes knows it, even Eddie knows it. And it’s weighing on Eddie and his love for Iris. That’s fine. It’s fine that he doesn’t want to compete with Barry. It’s fine that Eobard showed him the future, a future where Iris and Barry get married, and so he’s decided not to fight for her. That’s his choice.
But Iris isn’t wrong either. Sure, that’s the future that Eobard knows, but – at least we, the audience know – it’s not set in stone. We’ve seen Barry change the immediate future during the Weather Wizard’s first episode. We know Eobard went back in time and sped up the process of the particle accelerator. We saw an episode where Barry did something that changed Eobard’s newspaper (even though Eobard eventually righted it). So the future is definitely malleable.
And so that newspaper from ten years from now means absolutely nothing to Iris right now. Iris has feelings for Barry, yes, but they don’t negate her love for Eddie. Nor do they negate the life she has been building with him. She chose Eddie. Being someone firmly against the idea of soulmates or couples who are “meant to be,” I loved her declaration that she gets to make her own destiny. Relationships are choices and they are hard work. They aren’t just something that happens to you. Of course, it didn’t matter in the end because Eddie broke up with her anyway, but I feel it was an important sentiment.
Though does anyone else wonder if breaking Eddie and Iris up was important to keeping the timeline intact? Would The Flash’s disappearance still happen if Eddie had decided to go for it? Is it just me thinking those things?
3. Captain Cold vs. Barry
I’ve already established the Pipline as a morality nightmare, but at least Barry made it clear that he wasn’t willing to let the metas die for no reason. It’s always good to know that a hero still recognizes his foes as human beings, no matter their crimes.
Barry choosing to approach Captain Cold ties into the theme presented by the Pipline discussion: morality vs. the law. Barry is on the side of morality (or at least his morals). He keeps the metas in the Pipeline and thinks it’s okay because they’re dangerous. And here he’s willing to reach out to known criminal Leonard Snart and erase his criminal record in order to transport the metas to safety. Joe on the other hand, is against the Pipeline. He’s against the illegality of it. Just as he’s against aligning themselves with Snart.
What makes this instance different though, is that Barry only went to Snart because the law failed him. Joe went to the DA for assistance and was denied. But when it comes to the metas and their imprisonment, they haven’t tried to keep things legal.
4. Taking Down Wells
And this is where the episode kind of fell apart for me. For one thing, this episode was touted as the epic showdown of Reverse Flash vs. Barry and Company. And while yes, that is what happened at the end, this sequence was so far removed from the rest of the episode that it felt like an after thought. There was no lead up to it. Barry’s story line with the Rogues really had nothing to do with Eobard Thawne other than that his decision to restart the Particle Accelerator put them in danger. He even said as much, that their release was never part of his plan. So for me, these two story lines didn’t mesh together well within the episode.
And then because so much of the episode was spent with the Rogues, the showdown with RF just seemed so quick. We’ve been building up all season to this and it was barely five minutes of the episode. There were good elements to it: Barry and Eobard chasing each other around the rooftop (reminiscent of them chasing each other around Barry’s mom) and Oliver being the one to actually fight hand to hand with Eobard, seeing as he’s the one with the actual combat training. And I appreciate a good story line about teamwork. But it wasn’t enough. Especially if that was Eobard being fully defeated.
Plus, really? Why is Oliver there? Did Ra’s al Ghul really say “Sure, Oliver. No big deal. You’ve sworn to me you’ve left your life behind, but please take some time off immediately after your wedding to go help out this old friend. Impregnating my daughter can totally wait. And nope, I absolutely won’t check in on your friends to make sure they’re actually dead while you’re gone. Nope nope nope.” Yeah, I don’t think so. I know some people are speculating that the time line has been screwed up slightly and this takes place during Oliver’s trip to Starling City to take down Nyssa, but I don’t find that any more believable. Oliver’s going to blow his cover with the League of Assassins just to help Barry with a little revenge? Really?
Look, I’m all for these crossovers. I like the dynamic between the teams. But they need to make sense in both timelines. If the crossovers don’t elevate the story and instead just make things confusing, they’re not worth it.
I am still looking forward to next week. I don’t feel like we got a good lead in with this episode, but the season’s been good so far. Let’s see if Barry can save his mom.