It turns out that “Rogue Time” isn’t quite the episode I expected at the close of “Out of Time” last week. Barry’s jaunt back in time seemed like the perfect way to undo some of the bigger moments that episode indulged in during its final scenes while digging deeper into some of the characters and conflicts that the episode hadn’t managed to fully develop. At first, it seems like this is exactly what “Rogue Time” is planning as Barry experiences a whole bunch of déjà vu and speeds along the investigation into Mark Mardon. Once Barry levels with Dr. Wells about his trip through time Harrison even advises him to simply reenact the events which wound up sending him back so as to not upset the timeline. It all looks like we’re going to watch as Barry subtly rearranges his world and heads towards a similar yet different conclusion in his fight with Mardon.
Suddenly though, Barry throws out Dr. Wells’ advice and simply rushes off to Mardon’s hideout. Quickly nabbing him and throwing him into the makeshift holding cells beneath S.T.A.R. Labs. It’s a surprising moment but it’s ultimately a great one because it sends the episode spinning off into unexpected territory that is nonetheless informed by the events of the previous week. Rather than simply playing a minor variation on what we’ve seen, the episode dives into entirely new material while still utilizing the major developments of the previous episode to inform the action.
It’s an ambitious plan, primarily because it requires the episode to not only rhyme with its predecessor but also to build another entirely new storyline to follow. To help combat this challenge the writers return to some previous villains, or Rogues to be more specific. Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell return as Captain Cold and Heat Wave while also introducing Snart’s sister, Lisa. It’s a clever decision in that it adds a new twist to the characters we’ve seen before thanks to Lisa while still allowing the show to dispense with any excessive exposition as the viewer is already familiar with the characters and their motivations. Peyton List is a fine addition to the growing list of Rogues, fitting in right alongside Miller and Purcell’s delightfully campy performances.
The Rogue’s plan is mostly secondary to the actual enjoyment that is to be had from unleashing them once more on Central City, they’re all big presences and simply bouncing them off our heroes is proving to be more than enough fun. “Rogue Time” takes things just a step further than their previous appearances though by doubling down on the perfunctory nature of Snart’s plan, focusing instead on allowing Snart and his compatriots to evolve beyond simple criminals. Their plan to rob one of the mob families in Central City flames out rather quickly, but that’s not really the point. Snart’s managed to torture Barry’s identity out of Cisco which in turn leads to a détente of sorts between the good and bad guys as Barry lays down new rules for the engagements that Snart refuses to give up. It’s a great scene, built around Snart’s endless ego and self-confidence while allowing Barry to come out ahead thanks to an agreement that has Snart eschewing any civilian casualties in future conflicts. It’s both a satisfying conclusion to the plot and a fine promise for what is to come.
While the main plot augers well for the future, some of the best portions of the episode take their cues from key scenes last week. Most important of which is the scene in “Rogue Time” featuring Dr. Wells and Cisco returning to the makeshift prison that failed to hold the Reverse-Flash earlier this season. Cisco’s death last week was obviously never going to stick, it was just too big a move for that moment, but the sequence between Wells and Cisco here beautifully pays off its predecessor.
Sure, Cisco doesn’t uncover Wells’ true identity like he did last week, but the episode beautifully structures the scene to show just how complex and intriguing a character Dr. Wells has become. Last week he killed Cisco all while expressing regret over having to murder a man he had begun to think of as a son. This week he’s playing the straight ahead father figure, reassuring a distressed Cisco that his place is at S.T.A.R. Labs and that he is loved. The beauty of the sequence is that since Wells has been revealed to the audience the viewer understands just how sincere Harrison, or Eobard more accurately, is being. He truly means every word he is saying and has no underlying motive other than seeing Cisco through a tough time.
To the viewer though the scene and Wells’ true menace remains due to just how similar his speech is here to his speech last time. It’s a chilling realization and it speaks to just how wonderfully Tom Cavanagh and the writers have built the character that all this comes through crystal clear. Eobard’s a villain, killing to protect himself both this week and last as he murders Iris’ mentor in place of Cisco here, but he’s not a sociopath, he’s simply self-interested. “Rogue Time” draws out this complexity with seeming ease and uses the opportunity afforded thanks to Barry’s trip back in time to hit subtle, exciting moments like this that wouldn’t have been possible without the ambitious two-part structure of the pair of episodes.
“Rogue Time” isn’t the conclusion of “Out of Time” that I would have guessed, functioning almost like a stand-alone episode of The Flash in many ways. Despite that surprise it still builds elegantly on the previous installment to both resolve lingering plot threads and focus on character relationships that are immensely intriguing. It’s a stand out episode and indicative of everything The Flash has become capable of over the course of its first season.