How do you follow last week’s epic, ridiculous, wonderfully fun Flash/Arrow crossover? You don’t even try to match it. You just make a Christmas episode, throw in a couple of major emotional revelations for a few characters, bring back three great villains, and then add a metric ton of silliness.
“Running to Stand Still,” as its title inadvertently implies, is mostly an inconsequential Flash episode, despite the fact that it begins with Weather Wizard breaking Captain Cold and Mark Hamill’s elder Trickster out of Iron Heights to kill the Flash. But this Rogues team-up isn’t nearly as major as you might hope; Cold immediately abandons them to warn Barry about their vague plan. But how can you be disappointed when the episode provides us not just with Cold rolling his eyes at the Trickster’s over-theatrical villainy, but the sight of him calmly drinking cocoa from an adorable reindeer mug after breaking into Barry’s pad?
I sure couldn’t. But that’s what this episode delivers in spades—a pretty ho-hum story, made up time after time by those bursts of fun The Flash does so well. Here’s how basic the plot is: Once the SuperSTARS discover Weather Wizard and Trickster are on the loose, Cisco comes up with the same weather wand device he created for the season finale that didn’t happen (i.e. when the WW created that tidal wave and Flash stopped it before he went back in time and stopped it even earlier). The Trickster, who Mark Hamill is basically playing as a less clever, less classy version of the Joker from Batman: The Animated Series, highjacks the airwaves for a very Joker-esque message threatening the Flash. Both Patty and the SuperSTARS use the reflection of a “Mr. Jigglewiggle” doll in the Trickster’s eye to deduce his location, which exists solely so the Flash and Patty can meet at the abandoned Mr. Jigglewiggle warehouse, be surrounded by exploding dreidels courtesy of the Trickster, and for the Flash to use his spinny arms to fly them out of there.
Eventually the Weather Wizard uses his powers again, and Barry tracks him down where he discovers that the Trickster, disguised as a mall Santa, has given out hundreds of bombs hidden in presents he’s been giving away to random families. If the Flash doesn’t stand there and let the villains kill him, the Trickster will detonate them all. It’s up to the SuperSTARS to save the day in what I’m pretty sure is the most bullshit science ever featured on The Flash, which I know is saying something. They track down one present, Wells attaches it into a drone and flies it into an interdimensional breach that’s hanging out above Central City, and somehow the present is so magnetized it sucks all the other presents out of people’s homes across the city into the sky, where they detonate harmlessly, allowing the Flash to wrap up the villains and save the day.
It’s super, super dumb. And yet, I don’t care, because the episode still features things like Joe saying “It’s official. Santa hates us” when he discovers the three villains have escaped prison. And Jay Garrick trolling Caitlin by continually asking things like, “What’s Christmas?” and pretending they don’t exist on Earth-2. Or Wells-2 knocking on the door of some random home, having a kid answer, and Wells declaring with total gravity, “Your toys. Give them to me.”
The humor works a lot better than the emotional beat of this storyline, which stems from Patty, since the Weather Wizard (pre-weather powers) killed her dad. Patty goes from bright and cheerful to willing to murder with no apparent emotional shift. After the Flash captures the Weather Wizard, Patty bursts onto the scene to murder the criminal in cold-blood, but a 45-second pep talk from the Flash talks her down off a ledge that she never appeared to be standing anywhere near before tonight. So yeah.
But as I mentioned earlier, the episode still had a few major reveals in store, they just didn’t really have anything to do with the week’s story. The first is that we learn that Zoom has cornered Wells-2 inside STAR Labs (someone probably should have been keeping an eye on that breach in the basement) and demanded his help—but not to kill the Flash. No, Zoom is sending all the semetahumans after Barry to make him faster and stronger, or “fattening him up like a Christmas turkey,” as Wells puts it. Zoom is going to steal all of Barry’s Speed Force and he wants Barry to be as jam-packed with it as possible when he does it.
The bigger reveal, however, is that Iris finally fesses up to Joe that he has a son. Honestly, this storyline is the lynchpin of the episode, as Iris agonizes whether to tell her father, Barry helps her tell him, Joe freaks out, and then Joe accepts this strange twist of fate—and becomes incredibly happy about it. It’s a pretty quick turnaround (not as quick Patty’s brief dalliance into cold-blooded murder) but as usual, Jesse L. Martin sells it effectively. It’s actually hard not to be happy for him at the end of the episode, as he’s so looking forward to meeting his son Wally for the first time… only for Wally to suddenly show up out of nowhere at their West family holiday party.
Flash fans know that Wally West plays a major role in Flash lore, far beyond that of Iris’ half-brother (or, in the case of the comics, her nephew). Given how well the TV team has brought all the other aspects of The Flash to live-action, I’m really excited to see what they have planned now that they have Wally to play with. Alas, we’ll have to wait until next year to find out, my friends. Happy holidays to you all, and if you remember nothing else, remember this: Every Earth has The Godfather, Vito.
• The Trickster’s crayon Flash drawings were adorable. I want them available as computer wallpaper.
• Flash running on that helicopter blade was hella sweet.
• I love the idea of Wells-2 being forced to betray Barry in the exact same way as the original Wells/Thawne—that’s some good thematic resonance—but I would imagine Wells-2 will be secretly working with the SuperSTARS to betray Zoom, and thus Wells is effectively redeemed. I’m down with that.
• Next episode (which appears to be on January 19)—Barry finally tells Patty about being the Flash. Given how great everyone feels after they reveal secrets, it’s shocking it’s taken this long to get her in on the loop.
• Seriously, this episode could have been nothing but The Flash cast flipping me the bird and as long as it included the scene where Captain Cold passive-aggressively complained Barry was out of mini-marshmallows it would still get an A-, minimum.
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