What more could Flash fans want for Christmas than Captain Cold, Weather Wizard, and the Trickster teaming up to take on Scarlet Speedster? (Sure, Mirror Master is still on my wish list, but no need to be greedy. Someday…) As holiday celebrations go, “Running To Stand Still” has a little something for everyone. Zoom is still the looming big bad of the season, putting in a few brief appearances to torment Wells-2 into helping him build Barry’s speed up to its highest limits before snatching it away from him, but the big, scary speedster from another world doesn’t exactly embody the Christmas spirt. For that, we turn to some old favorites who bring a certain joie de vivre to their evildoing.
When Mark Hamill was brought on to reprise his Trickster role from the 1990 Flash series last season, it was ostensibly to serve as a mentor to a younger replacement Trickster. Fortunately, the powers that be have come to their senses and realized there’s no need for an inferior imitation when the real thing is still around. Thus, when the weather-wizarding Mark Mardon springs a couple of his fellow Rogues from Iron Height, he chooses not only Leonard Snart (who he owes a favor for busting him out at the end of last season) but James Jesse, the original Trickster. The plan is nothing elaborate: simply to kill the Flash.
Snart doesn’t stick around very long, which is a pity since Wentworth Miller’s sardonic cool makes an ideal counterpoint to Hamill’s Joker-esque hamming. Cold isn’t into the idea of killing Barry, however, especially since there’s no money in it, so he lets himself into the West house to tip off the Flash. Barry is hoping for a little more help than that, but in this week’s one nod to Legends Of Tomorrow, Snart says he’s not interested in being a hero—a nearly identical line to one he has in the promos for that show. With that, Snart heads out the door and onto his spinoff, but hopefully not for good. Even if Legends has a long run on the CW, Captain Cold has to remain an important bench player for The Flash.
With all due respect to Liam McIntyre, the Weather Wizard is the least interesting of the roguish trio, but most important to this week’s episode due to his role in Patty’s backstory. It’s been a while since we learned this, and this season has been so overloaded at times, I’d pretty much forgotten that Mardon killing her father was what spurred Patty to join the force (and, eventually, Joe’s metahuman task force). The moment when the Flash talks her down from murdering her father’s killer in cold blood looked like the perfect opening for Barry to reveal his secret to her, but alas, that’s going to have to wait until at least 2016.
Patty blames herself for her father’s death, which parallels with Joe blaming himself for not being around for the son he never had. (What better theme for a Christmas episode than exploring the guilt we feel for inadvertently causing our families pain?) This season has been so busy with introducing new characters, a new series, and whole new universes, it was inevitable that certain storylines would get lost in the shuffle along the way. Season two hasn’t done a great job of servicing Iris (nothing new there) and her burden of carrying around the secret of Joe’s unknown son, but “Running To Stand Still” does its best to make up for this. The result of Iris informing Joe about Wally is, naturally, another heartrending waterworks display by Jesse L. Martin. That an hour of The Flash can encompass both Martin’ naked emotionalism and Hamill’s gleeful comic-book cackling is one of the keys to the show’s success.
With The Flash set to take a month or so off (I refuse to dignify the term “midseason finale”), it’s probably a good time to evaluate the season so far. As a whole, it’s been a little clunkier than season one. The Zoom/Earth-Two arc has proceeded in fits and starts, with a lot of interruptions along the way for reasons we all know very well by now. At its heart, though, this is the same show that came as such a pleasant surprise from the day it debuted, with at least half of the second season episodes to this point ranking with the best the show has to offer. It wouldn’t be The Flash if there weren’t a few speed bumps along the way.
- It was good to see the lighter side of Jay Garrick this week, joking with Caitlin about not knowing what Christmas is and sneaking a kiss under the mistletoe.
- Was Barry even using his voice modulator when he was in the warehouse with Patty surrounded by explosive dreidels? Come on, detective, surely you can figure this out on your own. (In fact, I’m hoping that’s how it goes down. “Patty, I’m -” “The Flash? Yeah, I know. Duh.”)
- Wally West makes his first appearance at the end of the episode. If this is the future Kid Flash…well, he looks maybe two years younger than regular Flash.
- Mr. Jiggle Wiggle.
- Tom Cavanagh saying “Your toys. Give them to me.”: Priceless.