Wentworth Miller/The CW

Time travel is a dangerous thing, Harrison Wells warns Barry, who apparently wasn’t paying much attention when Cisco explained the difference between The Terminator and Back To The Future. Time travel is also a crucial part of the Flash mythos from the DC comics, as well as a tricky thing to pull off in any narrative. There are always rules, and we have to know what set of rules the story is using in order to make any sense of what we’re seeing.

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“Rogue Time” doesn’t do a great job of laying down the rules, so we’re forced to figure them out as we go along. For example, when Barry hits the wormhole, travels back one day and appears beside his former self…shouldn’t there be two Flashes running around from that point on? What happened to the other Barry? I think we have to assume that the two timelines crossed over only briefly (causing the mirroring effect) and that the former timeline—that is to say, just about everything that happened last week—simply vanished into the space-time continuum. Or maybe it continued in another dimension, creating a parallel Earth that might be revisited at some future point.

It’s probably best not to put too much thought into this, but it’s frustrating either way, simply because it renders last week’s episode, particularly all the twists and turns of the last 10 minutes, into what DC comics used to call an Imaginary Story. The question at the end of “Out Of Time” was “How much of this will be undone by Barry’s trip back in time?” And the answer turns out to be: “All of it.” Please understand that I’m not against time travel as an element of this show, because I think it can be an awful lot of fun, but in this instance it mostly results in a case of narrative blueballs. Cisco’s discovery of Harrison Wells’ secret? Wells’ subsequent murder of Cisco? Iris confessing her feelings for Barry? Barry revealing his Flash identity to Iris? All wiped off the board.

To its credit, “Rogue Time” does come up with some clever variations on these incidents, as Wells turns his murderous intent instead on reporter Mason Bridge, while Barry’s secret identity is revealed not to the woman he loves but to arch-enemy Leonard Snart. But before we get there, we’re forced to endure some of the most cringeworthy Barry/Iris scenes yet. First Barry dumps Linda Park, convinced that he’s about to finally hook up with Iris per their conversation in the alternate reality. (To his credit, Lisa tells him “your heart should ache for me,” which…hey, no pressure there, Linda!) Then he meets Iris for coffee and babbles about his feelings, convinced history is going to repeat itself. Well, sure, it’s easy to say “I love you” when a tsunami is about to destroy you and everyone you know, but Jitters doesn’t really evoke the same sense of urgency. My notes from this scene boil down to “Barry! You idiot!” In this case, Iris is right to say he’s making her into the bad guy.

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The week’s other major development is the return of Captain Cold and Heat Wave, this time with Cold’s sister Lisa (who Cisco doesn’t have time to nickname Golden Glider). Cisco is once again the patsy, as the Rogues kidnap his asshole brother in order to get Cisco to reconstruct their weapons. (This didn’t make much sense, since in their last appearance, Heat Wave made a point of mentioning that he knew his flamethrower inside and out, implying that they’d be able to reconstruct the guns on their own. In fact, Cold even calls back to that in this episode, but for some reason they still need Cisco. Maybe there are power sources only STAR Labs has access to, but if so, shouldn’t they have mentioned that?) While it’s always fun to see the Rogues, their appearance here also raises questions from a time travel perspective. Why wouldn’t they have also been around in last week’s episode? What part of the timeline changed that would affect their plan to rob the casino?

Maybe these time-travel questions are nit-picky, but they all speak to the larger point. The Flash made some daring storytelling choices at the end of last week’s episode, only to pull the rug out from under us this week. I can’t say I didn’t see it coming, but the end result was a much more glum, Arrow-like hour than usual. If this is the darkest timeline, I’d just as soon turn back the clock one more time.

Stray observations:

  • Nothing against Peyton List, but I was sort of hoping Snart’s sister would be played by Sarah Wayne Callies, just to continue the Rogues’ Prison Break reunion.
  • Next week should lighten the mood a bit with Mark Hamill reprising his role as the Trickster from the early ‘90s Flash series.
  • Captain Cold and Heat Wave are both ticketed for the proposed DC spinoff that will also include Firestorm and the Atom. Cold in particular is such a crucial part of the Rogues Gallery (especially now that he knows Barry’s identity) that I’d hate to see him depart Central City for good.

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