The Flash – Season 2 Episode 9
“Running to Stand Still”
The Flash caps off 2015 with a midseason finale featuring a villain team-up of Weather Wizard and the Trickster who unite with one simple goal, kill the Flash.
It was a pretty simple villain story but no less effective for being one. The long and short of it is that Weather Wizard decides he’s going to break Captain Cold and the Trickster out of prison to help him kill the Flash. There’s no more to it than that and there doesn’t have to be. The Flash has built up the relationships between Barry and these villains so effectively since it began that they can return with that simple goal in mind. Some would say that it counts as filler but I don’t think that’s the case.
Any scene featuring the villains bouncing off each other was a lot of fun to watch. Captain Cold’s appearance barely counts as a cameo but his demotivated interactions with the other two were amusing. Wentworth Miller has Cold’s sardonic nature completely nailed so he is always on point. It is a shame that he didn’t stick around for longer as his cool head -pun definitely intended- serves as a natural counter to the Trickster’s unpredictable personality.
Snart’s exit did make sense from a character perspective. He owed Barry a favour for helping him out when his Dad came to town so he repays that by not getting involved in the conflict and giving Barry some information to help him out. He stops short of telling Barry where they’re hiding but gives him enough to go on before he leaves. When I mentioned that the setup for Legends of Tomorrow is complete in my review of the second part of the crossover I guess I was wrong but this groundwork doesn’t derail the episode any and makes sense from a character and narrative perspective. No matter how successful Legends of Tomorrow is, Snart will still have to be an enduring presence on this show given the relationship he has with Barry.
The villain team-up is definitely a lot of fun but Weather Wizard is the least interesting part of it. Liam McIntyre does a fine job with the material he’s given but there isn’t very much to the character. In fairness I don’t think there’s supposed to be. He’s simply an uncomplicated criminal who gets superpowers and remains a criminal. Not everyone needs to have a convoluted backstory or extra motivation. Weather Wizard in this show is just a bad guy with powers who hates the Flash. I quite like the simplicity of it as it allows the show to focus on other things while still having a fun villain to play with.
Weather Wizard does have a bit of a backstory but it affects Patty more than it affects him. There’s been so much going on this season that I had forgotten about Patty’s motivation to join the police being connected to Weather Wizard -before he had powers- murdering her father. This is expanded on here as she tells a heartbreaking story involving her blaming herself for his murder. She chose to shirk her responsibilities in helping her father run his shop to spend time with her friends and as such she wasn’t there when he was murdered. It’s definitely not her fault and nobody can blame her for what happened but it’s enough that she blames herself and gives Shantal VanSanten plenty of strong material to work with. It’s interesting that she opens up to the Flash but not Barry about it. I know that they’re the same person but she doesn’t know that yet and it’s clear that she’s afraid to offload that baggage on Barry when their relationship is so new. Talking to the Flash somewhat anonymises it for her makes it a bit easier.
Her history with Weather Wizard has some payoff when she finally gets him where she wants him and is determined to pull the trigger to get her revenge. Barry -as the Flash- manages to appeal to her better nature and get her to see that nothing good will come of her killing him. It’s enough for him to go back to prison and for justice to be achieved that way. I half expected Barry to unmask to help convince her but I’m glad that he didn’t. It wouldn’t have felt right for him to do so as the words were important and the scene was very powerful as it was.
Mark Hamill’s return as the Trickster was more than welcome. His appearance last season seemed to be a passing of the torch to his younger counterpart but I’m glad that the producers have seen that the original is best and brought him back. Hamill is great in this role and is clearly having a blast with it. He plays it a lot like his famous Joker portrayal from various animated projects and video games so it basically gives The Flash the Joker without actually having the Joker. Hamill hams it up to a wonderful degree and manages to make sadism funny at every turn. His natural charisma helps distract from all the horrible things he’s doing though him posing as Santa and giving bombs to children is a bit creepy. Of course, Hamill’s appearance is timely since it’s just over a week until a certain tiny film called Star Wars: The Force Awakens is released in cinemas. Good job The Flash producers for getting Mark Hamill on board at this particular time.
The villain team-up allowed for some really cool visuals. Weather Wizard’s various conjurings looked great and Barry chasing him across the city inclusive of running over a helicopter was really impressive. Their plan made a lot of sense to diffuse the Flash by preying on the fact that he cares for others. Randomly placed bombs is something that even his speed can’t deal with so he had no choice but to basically surrender and let them attack him. Since Barry’s powers are getting stronger it’s going to get harder to come up with ways for the villains to seem like a threat so this particular plan is really creative.
I like that Cisco came up with the exact same plan to stop Weather Wizard that he did in the deleted timeline from last season. It was amusing to watch Barry anticipate Cisco’s exact words but I have to question why people keep warning Barry against time travel. Harry mentions that he shouldn’t mess with the timeline but in both instances things have worked out better and a devastating event has been averted. We’re still waiting for these dire consequences that people keep mentioning.
Harry and Cisco’s plan to neutralise the bombs was really confusing though. I’m not sure why removing one of them from our dimension causes the others to follow it out and explode safely in or near a dimensional breach. It was a bit of a bad science ending to the problem that seemed like a cop out solution to an impossible situation. This would have been an ideal episode for Jay to go after the bombs with his speed restored but alas this isn’t what we get. At least we got to see Tom Cavanagh paraphrasing Arnie when he said “Your toys, give them to me!” in such a hilariously deadpan way.
It’s good to see the lighter side of Jay Garrick in this episode as he has been a little too serious through most of his appearances. It was amusing to see him tease Caitlin about Christmas before revealing that it also exists on Earth-2. Caitlin’s description of what Christmas is was funny as well and Cisco noticing the attraction between them is a good idea as it means there won’t be any secrets around that…hopefully.
The episode picks up the whole West family plotline that has been on the shelf for quite a while now. Iris goes to Barry to confess what she knows about her brother Wally (Keiynan Lonsdale) because the strain of keeping this secret is gnawing away at her. She finally understands the reasons people kept things from her last season but also understands how emotionally compromising it is. She’s having a really tough time with it and isn’t strong enough to keep lying to those she loves every day. There’s a certain humility to Iris when she talks to Barry and she freely acknowledges that she knows how upset she got when people kept things from her but chose to do it herself for similar reasons.
Barry is of course full of sympathy for her situation and doesn’t blame her for what she has done. He too understands the reasons for keeping secrets and wouldn’t judge anyone for arriving at the same conclusion. There haven’t been many scenes between these characters over the course of this season but this one was definitely a strong one. I like seeing them interact without the irritating emotional angst that defined their relationship in season 1.
Jesse L. Martin did a lot of emotional heavy lifting in this episode but as I’ve identified previously, he is definitely the heart of the show so it’s pretty much expected at this point. Seeing him really emote as Joe is always a pleasure as he is so good at it and this episode is no exception. Finding out he has a son is a significant bombshell for him and the episode doesn’t downplay it in any way. I’m glad that there was no blame thrown at Iris for keeping this from him just as I’m glad that she didn’t blame him for telling her that her mother was dead. There are better things to deal with than families blaming each other for things that ultimately aren’t that important.
The important thing is that Joe now has to deal with the fact that he has a son that he didn’t know about. His reaction to it is pretty much as I would have expected starting with complete shock. Jesse L. Martin’s facial expression said it all after the reveal and his feelings evolved over the course of the episode. I found it interesting that he feels worse about the fact that he didn’t instinctively know about it. He tells a story about being able to feel it when Iris needed him after her appendix burst but doesn’t have this same connection to his son and he wonders why that is. He feels guilty for not being involved in his son’s life but Barry reminds him that there’s nothing he could have done and it really isn’t his fault.
My favourite scene was the one between Barry and Joe where Joe passes on his father’s watch. He says that he always meant to give it to his son and by passing it onto Barry means that he did. It’s a nice reminder that Barry will always be an important part of Joe’s family and adds to the vast collection of great scenes between these two characters.
Joe is inspired to make an effort to reconcile with Francine in some way but it’s a shame that this happens off screen. The episode was really busy as it is but it feels like this is a significant thing that should have been given some screen time. Joe approaches the whole situation rationally, he is totally willing to ease into introducing him to Wally despite how eager he is to meet his son. His introduction in this episode was a bit of a surprise but it should be interesting to see how he is integrated into the show next year.
Surprisingly Barry was somewhat sidelined for a midseason finale. He had a lot to do as the Flash but as Barry there wasn’t an awful lot exclusive to him. It makes sense as the West family took the focus of the narrative as they should have given the story around them. The one major character beat for Barry was having Wells’ claim that he would never be happy preying on his mind. He admits that he still hates him but can’t have that dragging him down any more so finds it within himself to forgive him. Hopefully letting go of this pain and anger allows Barry to move on with his life and find the happiness that Wells claims is impossible for him.
This episode didn’t feel much like a midseason finale which is both a good and bad thing. I like that the producers don’t feel that they have to keep all the really compelling stuff for those sorts of events but also it meant that the cliffhanger was a bit limp. Zoom’s return was connected to Harry who acted suspicious throughout the episode. It turns out that he has been meeting Zoom in secret who offers him the ultimatum of helping him or losing his daughter permanently. Harry has gotten close to Team Flash since his arrival so it’s a difficult decision for him but he eventually decides that his daughter is important enough for him to betray Barry.
It’s a bit disappointing to see this version of Wells go down the same route as the original as it feels like it mirrors season 1 too heavily. Maybe he’s just buying time to find a way to stop Zoom but either way it’s not the strongest of plots so far. Zoom’s plan being pretty much the same as Reverse Flash undermines his menace somewhat. Having him simply be a speed force vampire of sorts is really underwhelming but it is consistent with what has been said before. I hope there is more to his plan as it feels like there should be. We’ll have to wait until next year to find out.
A strong episode that has some really great character development but is let down by some pretty disappointing reveals that undo some of the menace of Zoom.
The villain story was a really simple one but it was all the better for it. Having villains team up to kill the Flash simply because they hate him works within the framework of this show as the villains have all been previously established.
Any scene featuring the villains bouncing off each other was a lot of fun to watch but it’s a shame that Captain Cold didn’t feature all that heavily. His cool head was an effective counter to the Trickster’s insanity.
Snart’s exit made sense from a character perspective as it allowed him to repay that favour that he owes Barry while setting the stage for his appearance in Legends of Tomorrow. It didn’t feel like a forced setup as it made sense from both a narrative and character perspective. Barry’s relationship with Snart will hopefully continue to be important no matter how popular Legends of Tomorrow proves to be.
Weather Wizard is the least interesting villain in the episode but his simplicity works in his favour. He is simply a bad guy who gets superpowers and uses them to do bad things. There is some backstory that is more important for Patty than it is for him.
Patty confronting the man who murdered her father provides a lot of strong material for Shantal VanSanten to work with. She blames herself for her father’s death which makes her mission of vengeance more urgent for her and doesn’t feel that she can confide in Barry about it but manages to anonymise talking about it by speaking to him as the Flash. The scene where she was talked out of killing him by Barry as the Flash was really powerful.
Mark Hamill’s return as the Trickster was more than welcomed. Hamill hams up his performance to a wonderful degree and plays the role very similarly to his famous Joker portrayal. His natural charisma helps to distract from the horrible things that he’s doing though seeing him dressed as Santa was a bit creepy. Of course the appearance is timely with Star Wars: The Force Awakens so close to release so well done, The Flash producers for getting him on board. Having him basically be a speed force vampire is really underwhelming as it feels like there should be more to his plan. I suppose we’ll find out next year.
The villain team-up allowed for some really cool visuals such as Barry running across a Helicopter blades and the various weather effects. Their plan to diffuse the Flash by having bombs randomly placed around the city was a good one as it preys on his compassion. Harry’s plan to neutralise the bombs came across as nonsense but other than that it all worked really well.
I like that Cisco came up with the exact same plan to stop Weather Wizard that he did before Barry time traveled. It was amusing to watch Barry anticipate Cisco’s exact words but I have to question why people keep warning Barry against time travel. Harry mentions that he shouldn’t mess with the timeline but in both instances things have worked out better and a devastating event has been averted. We’re still waiting for these dire consequences that people keep mentioning.
After being on the shelf for a while the episode picks up the West family plotline as Iris is consumed by guilt over keeping this a secret from Joe. She finally understands what makes people decide to hide the truth and now realises that it isn’t easy to lie to those you care about every day. Her confession to Barry was a good scene that makes a refreshing change from all the angst that so defined their relationship last season.
Joe finding out about his son allowed Jesse L. Martin to really cut loose with a moving emotional performance. His reaction felt really and evolved nicely throughout the episode. His scene with Barry where he passes on his father’s watch to remind him that Barry will always be an important part of his family adds to the stacks of great scenes between these two characters.
Joe being inspired to reconcile with Francine in some way made sense but it feels like something that should have been seen. I get that the episode was busy but it’s not as strong to have him talk about it. Wally’s surprise introduction in the episode should prove interesting when it is dealt with next year.
Surprisingly Barry was somewhat sidelined for it being a midseason finale. He does have some development as he puts his hatred for Wells behind him and forgives him so that he can move on to have the happiness that Wells claimed was impossible for him.
This episode didn’t feel like a midseason finale which is both good and bad. It’s good that the producers don’t leave the best material for event episodes such as this but it’s also a fairly limp cliffhanger. Harry’s decision to help Zoom take Barry’s speed makes sense given that he either helps or lose his daughter but it’s disappointing to see this version of Wells go down much the same route as his predecessor.
Zoom’s plan being pretty much the same as Reverse Flash from last season is also very disappointing and undoes a lot of his menace.