The best Flash episode so far aired last night, and you can thank Emily Bett Richards for that. The guest appearance of Arrow's Felicity Smoak was so great it actually may be problematic for the show — because it reveals exactly what The Flash needs to be great. Namely, more Felicity Smoak.
But let's recap first, shall we? While the SuperSTARS have game night — ostensibly a test to see how fast Barry's mind can work, in addition to his body — a crook named Leonard Snart tries to rob an armored car carrying a comically large diamond. DC fans will recognize the name as the real identity of Captain Cold, one of the Flash's fiercest foes and the leader of his Rogues, but for now he's just a guy who has his heist interrupted by the Flash, and gets away when one of his goons shoots a guard, forcing Flash to save him instead of catching the crooks.
But Barry gets a pick-me-up when Felicity Smoak walks in on a visit from Arrow/Starling City! Felicity already knows about his powers (she was listening when Barry visited Oliver in his premiere) and gets a demonstration when he rushes to the top of a building in about three seconds to take a picture of her from here. Then she gets a tour of the STAR Labs; unsurprisingly, Harrison Wells knows all about her — he likes to keep track of promising young talent (it's a shame he had to settle for Caitlin and Cisco. Zing!). Awesomely, Felicity almost immediately starts asking hard questions that the SuperSTARS seemingly haven't thought of yet, like, can he go too fast for his body to survive? Wells assures her, not a little ominously, that everything in STAR Labs was made to help the Flash. Ahem.
But Cisco's "promising young talent" comes into question when Wells discovers not only has Cisco created two powerful weapons, apparently without Wells' approval, but lost them. It's of course a pair of cold and heat guns, and an extremely angry Wells comes dangerously close to revealing his true, less-than-kindly nature. Tellingly, Wells seems more upset about the fact the weapon can hurt Barry — the cold robbing him of his speed energy, because it slows his molecules or something — than anything else. The two energy guns were stolen by a STAR Labs janitor who sells them to Snart… or at least tries to before Snart tests out the cold gun on him.
Somehow, Iris manages to talk Barry, Felicity and Eddie into going to a trivia night at a coffee house named Jitters (why not a bar?). Iris immediately thinks there's chemistry between the similarly brainy/charming Barry and Felicity, and she's pushing them together without a hint of subtlety. Of course, Felicity isn't being especially subtle about it either, wearing potentially the sexiest dress that has ever been worn into a coffee shop. Alas, Barry only has eyes for Iris, even though she shares none of his interests and is dating someone else, and we know from Arrow that Felicity is hung up on Oliver even though SHE AND BARRY ARE PERFECT FOR EACH OTHER AAAUUUGGGH. Seriously, the amount of chemistry Barry and Felicity have only highlights the lack of chemistry between Barry and Iris.
When Snart is reported casing the museum that's showing off the diamond, both Barry and Eddie have to leave. It probably won't shock you to learn that Barry gets there first, but quickly gets shot with Snart's cold gun in surprise. Despite his healing factor, it clearly hurts him badly — as Caitlin explains later, the only reason his blood vessels didn't freeze, killing him, is because of his healing factor. At any rate, Cold starts firing at civilians, forcing the Flash to try to rescue them — but, wounded as he is, he can't quite manage to reach a guard from the cold ray, and the Flash watches the first civilian he fails to save die.
Barry does not take this well, and the fact that Cisco built the weapon upsets him even more. Had the show left it there, it would have been fine. Instead, Barry asks why Cisco made the cold gun, and the aggravating STAR tech reveals he did it to stop Barry, just in case… and Barry gets Super-Upset. And thus we get more ridiculous Drama for the episode, when the show was building up a bit of genuine drama already. Barry, ignoring the common sense that hey, given his powers are still a big mystery, so it might not be bad to have a back-up plan, acts like he's Caesar and Cisco is the world's doofiest Brutus. He's so completely devastated that he feels he can no longer trust the entire SuperSTARS team, to the point where he turns off his communicator when he heads out to meet Snart again, even though that's the straight-up dumbest thing ever. Barry even says "I don't feel like talking to you right now," because he's a 5-year-old.
In round two, Snart is already leaving the museum with the diamond, and it's worth taking a moment to discuss how awesome Wentworth Miller is in the role. Please, please forgive the pun, but Miller's Snart is a cool customer — he's smart, methodical, and amoral, but when he does some awful he does it for a reason, and never without some sort of angle. Miller makes Captain Cold stand out among The Flash's TV rogues — admittedly, not hard to do at this point — but he's a bad guy that I can easily see turning into a fantastic archenemy for the Flash. Here's hoping Miller is game and free for many, many more episodes to come, because even in just this episode, he clearly shows why Captain Cold may not be the Flash's most powerful foe, but he may be his greatest.
The Flash chases Cold into a train, where Cold again puts civilians in danger to facilitate his escape. He blasts the train car, splitting it into and launching the train off the tracks, and suddenly we're faced with another bout of awesomeness. I've been digging The Flash's special effects (for the hero, at least) so far; but watching the Flash get all the civilians off of the train, one at a time, while the train is literally crashing was fantastic. I mean, it's everything I hoped out of a Flash TV series. I have no idea how the CW is affording this, but man, I hope the ratings stay good so the show can keep it up.
Barry is exhausted after that incredible overuse of his powers, and Cold easily blasts him in the stomach with his cold gun, rendering him useless. He's about to kill the Flash when lo and behold, Cisco, Caitlin and Felicity show up, thanks to a pep talk earlier from Felicity (which I can sum up as "Hey, even if your superhero is being an asshole, you need to have his back." A lesson she obviously learned many times over while working with the Arrow). Cisco threatens Cold with some crazy gun-thing (actually a vacuum cleaner in disguise, insert sad trombone noise here), and Cold walks away. It's a little weird to see Cold just saunter off in front of four of the show's heroes, even if the one with superpowers is down and out, but again, the trains sequence was so great I'm letting it go.
All that's left is for Barry to forgive the team for the completely needless Drama, Felicity to say her goodbyes, and Wells to menacingly threaten Cisco one more time. At least Barry runs onto Felicity's train to Starling City so they can share a kiss to satisfy the countless Barrecity 'shippers out there (or whatever their pet name is). And instead of closing with another Harrison Wells scene, we get Wentworth Miller's Captain Cold giving the heat gun to a firebug named Mick Rory, who comics fans will likely know as another of the Flash's main Rogues: Heatwave.
So getting back to my earlier point: bringing Felicity into the mix was awesome, but I'm afraid it's going to be problematic next week when The Flash airs and she's not there. She was terrific, but she really highlighted the show's flaws. Barry has an infinitely better romantic connection with Felicity than Iris. Felicity is a better character that Caitlin and Cisco put together, more interesting and much more competent, in-show. Her relationship with Wells was immediately fascinating and slightly adversarial, which is also more interesting than anything the two regulars bring to the table. And my god was she infinitely more charming, more charismatic, and much, much funnier. Seriously, did they bring over an Arrow writer just for her?
Look, even if Felicity hadn't shown up, I think this probably would have been the best Flash episode, at least since the premiere, thanks completely to Wentworth Miller's Captain Cold. As always, it's still too early to be too upset or concerned, although certainly Cisco and Caitlin haven't seemed to improve since the premiere. But man, if I were running Flash, I would figure out a schedule and a budget to get Emily Bett Richards on both shows. Or at least get a clone started, stat.
• No way was Barry getting back in time to hit those ping pong balls. He spent to long talking to Caitlin. Just sayin'.
• I genuinely appreciated that Captain Cold was trying to steal a big diamond. It just felt very… classic.
• Iris is starting a Flash blog. As a professional blogger, I feel I should be somehow supportive of this, but mainly I'm just annoyed.
• My DirecTV summary said "Joe gives Iris the silent treatment" regarding her dating Eddie, which sounded awful, but was thankfully not the case. Joe just refused to talk about the relationship, which he later explained was because of his innate worry for his partner being complicated with worrying for his daughter, which messes with his focus, which he needs as a cop. I can get that. Anyways, as usual Jesse L. Martin sells it.
• That said, Joe's "WE ARE NOT FRIENDS" speech to Eddie was pretty outstanding.
• Is Bobby "Bovine" McFeely from DC Comics? Because that's absurd, even for Silver Age DC.
• The Star Wars group at the coffeehouse trivia night was easily the worst moment in the show. Because that's what nerds do, Flash. We go out and cosplay in public at completely non-convention-related events. Grr. I guarantee if Felicity hadn't been on the episode I would have been furious about this.
• Cold wears the goggles because the cold beam is kind of blinding. He also wears a blue hooded parka during the train scene, but I fully admit it looks pretty goofy. Best to just stick with the goggles, I think.
• "Speed and cold are opposites!" Well… yeah… technically...
• Smoak gets the line of the night, of course: "It took much more than watching Oliver do the salmon ladder to make me trust him." But probably not that much more, right? I mean, if you can't trust Stephen Amell's abs, what can you trust?
• Cisco habits of nicknaming the Flash's foes by their actual DC Comics name is, like everything else about Cisco, super fucking annoying.
• Mick Rory, a.k.a Heat Wave, will be played by Dominic Purcell, best known as playing Wentworth Miller's brother on Prison Break. Having them pair up as Captain Cold and Heatwave is quite clever. I approve.