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THE FLASH Recap “The Present”

By on December 7, 2016

Pictured: Grant Gustin as The Flash -- Photo: Katie Yu/The CW

By Justin Carter

After last week’s mega-crossover event, The Flash decided to use its winter finale to wind things down and take a beat in order to let everything settle in until its return in January. And that meant going back to the big bad for the season, Savitar, and his trusty lil’ henchman, Alchemy.

As it turns out, Julian’s more of an unwilling participant in the Speed God’s actions than he realized; having first accidentally opened what contains a Philosopher’s Stone that can create metahumans in India year prior, Savitar has been taking control of him during blackouts, not dissimilar to Magenta from earlier in the season, to bring Metahumans into the world. Being the first speed meta to exist, our villain of the season eventually became the God of Motion, using Alchemy to prep for his arrival to different Earths across the multiverse.

Joining Barry for the ride in his speedster adventures this week is John Wesley Shipp as Earth-3 Jay Garrick. Having heard stories through the Speed Force about Savitar, and I have no clue how that works, he decides to help Barry steal the Philosopher’s Stone from Alchemy so they can get rid of it. Given how much potential there was for the show to use this to highlight Barry’s selfishness and how he misses his parents, it’s surprising that instead, Jay is used to tell Barry to basically stop living in the past and live here in the now. After all that’s happened in the season, it’s a welcome statement that was needed, but it’s a shame that Cisco isn’t in the room when it happens. This makes it his first Christmas without his brother Dante, and Savitar uses this to his advantage by getting Cisco to open the container holding the Philosopher’s Stone. My feelings on Dante haven’t changed since last week, but the holidays are a good way for those old memories of a dead loved one to come back to the surface.

Thankfully, Caitlin is able to get Cisco to close it, but the team decides to contact Savitar and figure out just what exactly he wants. Turns out the answer is he simply wants to kill Barry as payback for something his future self did. And it’s there where I feel myself sighing as, yet again, our villain for the season is someone with an incredibly vague ax to grind against Barry for things he hasn’t yet done.

It isn’t that revenge stories from the villain’s perspective are necessarily bad; Reverse Flash’s hatred of Barry in season one was pretty compelling, last week’s elaborate reveal of the Dominators’ grand purpose for invading Earth worked, and in a weird way, that’s what we’re getting in Legends of Tomorrow this season with the addition of a Damien Dahrk pre-Arrow season four. But this is a routine that Flash seems to abuse more than anyone else, boosted by the main villain being either a speedster who hates Barry for something he did in the future (Reverse, Savitar), or  just wanting to prove that they’re the fastest (Rival, Zoom). With that in consideration, when Savitar (speaking through Julian, in a scene that goes on just long enough to cross over into camp territory) ominously tells the assembled Team Flash three incredibly vague fates that await some of them — one’s gonna die, another’s gonna betray them, and the third will “suffer a fate worse than death,” whatever that means — it doesn’t land with the oomph that it should. Not long after, the show decides to have Barry run forward in time and show that Iris is the one who’ll die five months from now at the hands of the Speed God, which will apparently create our hook for the spring stretch of episodes.

As Jay tells Barry, the future’s constantly in flux, so Barry saw one of many possible futures that could occur in May. That being said, it doesn’t exactly feel outlandish to say that the show won’t reverse that come season’s end; they’ve spent too much time working to get Barry and Iris together to make their romance a one-season affair, And fridging her just to hurt Barry doesn’t feel like something the show would do without immediately going back on it to avoid backlash. But until that happens, we’ll see Barry get nervous and flustered as he keeps this fairly big secret from the girlfriend he asked to move in with him at the end of the episode.

Although it may sound like I’m giving The Flash a harsh review this week, I did actually enjoy the episode. I like that the show has decided to put the relationships of the characters at the forefront this week; Barry finally comes clean to Julian about his double life, who meets his kindness in turn by offering him his old job back as a CSI. Wally finally gets his Kid Flash costume after Joe and Iris find out about his secret training with HR, something that honestly should’ve happened much sooner in the season. If the episode had more of these moments of Team Flash getting into the holiday spirit, like the now yearly Christmas gathering at the West household, it’d be right in line with the ultimate theme of friendship and family in last week’s crossover. “The Present” isn’t the gift that it thinks it is, but also not the lump of coal that it could’ve been. All in all, it’s a good enough mellow note for the first run of The Flash this season that I’m willing to overlook it.

Additional Notes

  • Okay, for anyone not entirely getting the thing about Damien Darhk: Reverse-Flash recruited him a few weeks ago on Legends of Tomorrow in the 1980s after Sara Lance basically decided to spoil how season four of Arrow would work out for him. Reverse and Darhk are primed to get help from Captain Cold and Malcolm Merlyn in Legends later on in the season of that show, where they’ll all form the Legion of Doom.
  • Either HR’s a lightweight, or that eggnog has a lot of something extra in it. Drunk HR is something that I didn’t know I needed until I saw it.
  • At this point, I honestly can’t tell if the writers have snuck in extra Harry Potter references because they got Tom Felton in the show. Not just the Philosopher’s Stone, but also Julian’s dead sister being named Emma.
  • Iris’ dejected “I got you a wallet” after Barry completely upstaged her in gift giving was funnier than it should’ve been.
  • Mark Hamill gets an all too-brief turn at Earth-3 Trickster, and I would love to hang around in that world for an episode or two.
  • See you in a month!

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