THE FLASH Mid-Season Finale Leaves Barry “Running to Stand Still”
By Justin Carter
Christmas in the DC universe never goes well. Last year, while Oliver had to take the rap for Thea’s brainwashing and ended up with a sword through the stomach courtesy of Ra’s al Ghul, Team Flash had to deal with the Reverse Flash showing up and kicking the snot out of the lead character and the idea of time travel. This year, the Weather Wizard (remember him?) has come back around to bust Captain Cold and Mark Hamill’s Trickster out of jail so they can work together to kill the Flash. Happy holidays!
This should feel like a much bigger deal than it actually is. To the show’s credit, it at least tries to make it fun with Hamill; having played Batman: Arkham Knight this past summer, Trickster feels like he’s got more or less of the same amount of energy Hamill had as Joker, which is to say a lot. He’s clearly having a blast dressing as a diabolical Santa and delivering corny Christmas jokes, and the show’s more than game to just let him do his thing. For the others, that isn’t the case. Captain Cold shows up for a few minutes deliver his trademark snark, then tips Barry off to Wizard and Trickster’s antics then leaves to do his own thing before Legends of Tomorrow. Given how well the show’s used him in the past, I was honestly expecting more.
Wizard once again continues to be largely a non-entity, though the show reminds us that he did kill Patty’s dad, so she’s naturally up for revenge once he’s back in town. There’s some good stuff here with this story. I like that she up and vents about her survivor’s guilt to Flash. It’s a nice moment between the two, even if the show doesn’t really build up to this beforehand for us to really care as much as it clearly wants us to. Patty and Mardon don’t interact until the final battle, which makes her “dilemma” over whether or not to kill him not really land the way it should.
Also something else that doesn’t land the way it should? Harry working with Zoom. Tony Todd continues to kill it as the twisted version of the Flash, but now we’ve learned his big plan is to basically keep tossing Earth-2 baddies at Barry until he’s got enough speed in him for Zoom to suck out. On one hand, that’s a more inventive way to handle the “villain of the week” format, but on the other, my immediate thought was ‘didn’t we just do this last year?’ There’s a chance that there’s more to this than Zoom’s willing to reveal, but this plan so far feels like “second verse, same as the first.” I guess the big hook for Harry’s duplicity is supposed to be that Zoom is holding his daughter hostage, but it’s a bit hard to connect with that since she’s only made very sparse appearances thus far. Perhaps more problematically, we still don’t know exactly what Zoom’s deal is. Given how last season’s winter finale went and small hints that Harry “created” Zoom, I was expecting the show to pull the twisted cowl off so we can see who’s in the black and blue suit.
Where the action misses the mark, the emotional core certainly succeeds. Remember Iris’ mom from a few weeks back? Joe’s got a son, and Iris finally drops the name of his kid: Wally West, here played by Keiynan Lonsdale. He, for non-comics fans, is the second Flash after Barry who started out as his sidekick, Kid Flash, thanks to repeating Barry’s accident. Odds are most people are aware of him thanks to either the Justice League cartoon (where he was the Flash) from about a decade ago or, maybe more recently, the Young Justice cartoon, where he was the teen sidekick.
With the New 52 resetting every DC character back to square one (more or less), Wally was one of the casualties during the reboot. He only fairly recently made his debut to this new universe, and it was a given that the show would bring Wally in as well at some point. The elation in the show acknowledging his name is drowned out by how emotional the scene where Iris confesses her knowledge of Wally to Joe is. Naturally, The Flash isn’t content with that one scene, offering up an even more heart wrenching moment where Joe breaks down about shame in not being there for Wally growing up. When Wally finally shows up, the entire Christmas party at the West house comes to a grinding halt, and it feels actually emotional. And keep in mind that Wally’s only got about a minute of screen-time here. Since he’s included in the main cast now, that can only mean more emotional pain to come when the series comes back in January.
This Flash winter finale is much more low-key and lacking on the thrills compared to last year’s, but that’s not entirely a bad thing. The action sometimes needs to take a backseat for the characters to live their lives, and that aspect, “Running to Stand Still” does the smart thing by just letting our speedy hero slow down.
- Oh thank god, Jay and Caitlin finally kissed. Cisco had the right idea just telling them to get it over with.
- “Sorry, not interested in being a hero.” Oh, Captain Cold, if you only knew…
- Cold was a fan of Iris’ piece on middle class citizens, which is…something you can brag about someday, maybe?
- “Give me all your toys.” Harry Wells, history’s worst Santa Claus.
- For the Young Justice fans, it really helps (read: hurts your heart) to imagine Wally’s arrival at the West house as his return from the events in YJ’s series finale.
- The Flash returns January 19th, where Barry will probably (hopefully) tell Patty that he’s the Flash!…but only after she gets kidnapped by Zoom. Can’t win em all.