Warning: this review contains spoilers. You can find my review of the previous episode of The Flash here.
This week, a flying Weather Wizard led our hero on a chase across rooftops and helicopter blades while a villain dressed as Santa Claus gave out one hundred bombs as presents. Ladies and gentlemen, The Flash!
It was a very rogue Christmas on The Flash, as we saw some of the series’ best villains team up to chew scenery and wreak mayhem across Central City. "Running to Stand Still" was not concerned with the usual midseason finale dazzle of breathtaking reveals and epic action. Instead, it was a showcase of what The Flash does best—charismatic villains and exciting fantastical action, held together with strong character-driven stories.
When Mark Hamill made his first reappearance as the Trickster last year, the result was one of the best and most entertaining episodes of the first season, and his return this week did not disappoint. He basked in the role with a manic energy that was an utter delight to watch. It’s apparent how much fun he’s having playing this part, and his enthusiasm is infectious. I’m sure James Jesse will return, and I can’t wait for it.
Another one of my favourite Rogues is Wentworth Miller’s Captain Cold. He plays Leonard Snart with just the right amount of overacting to show us a man who’s intentionally hamming it up to fit the part of the supervillain. Unlike Mark Hamill, Snart’s scenery-chewing is in-universe. Sadly, he was only in this episode for a couple of scenes. I’m looking forward to seeing him on Legends of Tomorrow, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t going to miss him bringing a bit of grey morality to The Flash.
The third villain, and the one who brought them all together, was Mark Mardon, aka the Weather Wizard. He’s the least flamboyant of the group, but his incredibly dangerous powers and Liam McIntyre’s solid performance make him one of The Flash‘s more memorable recurring antagonists. His powers led to some great action sequences, including the aforementioned chase across the city. And his slow torture of the Flash with lightning was appropriately agonizing.
The Rogues’ plan, holding a hundred families hostage in exchange for Flash’s surrender, was actually really impressive. It put Barry in a seemingly impossible situation, and it was very compelling, if only for a short while. What I didn’t like, though, was how easily it was solved. Throwing one bomb through a portal took out the remaining ninety-nine because… magnets? I get that a show like The Flash operates on suspension of disbelief, but in this case it was a bit much. Putting the hero in seemingly inescapable danger, then saving him with a hastily written deus ex machina, feels like a cop-out.
One thing I’d forgotten before this episode was Patty Spivot’s backstory being tied to Mardon’s. The show took advantage of that relationship to shine some much-needed spotlight on Patty, who’d been sitting out a lot of the most recent episodes. The plot itself was fairly standard, but it was nice to see her get an arc of her own. I thought it would lead to Flash finally revealing his identity to her, but alas, I guess that’ll have to wait.
One payoff we did get, though, was the appearance of Wally West. The Francine story thread from earlier in the season wasn’t the best, but I was OK with it knowing what it would lead to, and this episode handled it extremely well. As always, Jesse L. Martin’s performance was deeply affecting, as Joe went through the ramifications of discovering he had a son he never knew about. Great writing, great acting, and an awesome conclusion with Wally’s arrival.
Finally, we got to learn Zoom’s apparent motivation. It was curious that he kept sending metahumans to Earth-1 in droves rather than just killing the Flash himself, but now we know why. He wants to get Barry to increase his speed as much as possible before stealing it all. It makes sense, but I can’t help feeling that it’s a bit too similar to Reverse-Flash’s plan from last season, which was to increase Barry’s speed so that he could travel to his future. Recruiting Earth-2 Wells to help just adds to the similarities. Also, it’s far too straightforward for me to believe that’s the whole story, and I think there’s more to the Zoom mystery that’s yet to be revealed.
Rating: 4/5 (Great)
Notes and Observations
- Wells saying "Your toys. Give them to me." to a child was such a perfect moment. Also a great Harry line: "Every Earth has The Godfather, Vito."
- That’s not to say Cisco, S.T.A.R. Labs’ resident one-liner machine, didn’t get to shine either. His comments about Caitlin and Jay’s "thirst" were hilarious.
- Hey, Trickster had great lines too! You know what, this episode was actually full of funny moments.
- Mark Hamill appearing on The Flash one week before Star Wars: The Force Awakens is no accident. (In other news, one week until Star Wars: The Force Awakens!)
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