Tuesday, December 8, 2015

REVIEW: 'The Flash' - Barry Battles Two Dangerous Rogues While Joe Learns a Devastating Secret in 'Running to Stand Still'

The CW's The Flash - Episode 2.09 "Running to Stand Still"

When Mark Mardon, aka The Weather Wizard, returns to break Leonard Snart, aka Captain Cold, and James Jesse, aka The Trickster, out of Iron Heights, Barry must stop these rogues from taking over Central City during Christmas. Joe and Iris meet Wally West (Keiynan Lonsdale).

The Flash's main narrative of Barry battling Zoom hasn't exactly been a smooth story this season. It starts and stops at weird points - largely to serve as buildup for the upcoming spinoff, Legends of Tomorrow. Zoom defeated Barry and dragged him around the city to show their beloved hero as not being strong or fast enough to defeat him. And yet, the consequences of that action really haven't made a difference amongst the city and its opinion of the Flash. They are still purchasing action figures. They are still hoping for the Flash to save the city from various threats. He is the hero they have. They rely on him. And yet, Zoom is playing a long game for some reason. Wells-2 suggests that it's because Zoom wants Barry to obtain more speed force so that Zoom can steal even more once he is victorious in battle. Zoom is a scary presence this season. But there's not enough actually happening with that story.

Zoom appears in "Running to Stand Still." It's the final episode of the show for 2015. It's a big one for a number of characters. But it's important for sweeping, emotional issues not because of this villainous threat that Barry and the team are dealing with this season. This hour starts with Zoom chasing Wells-2 down and forcing him to do his bidding. Throughout the hour, Wells-2 seems more off than usual. Everyone notices it but no one presses for more information. They are all on edge around Wells-2 because of the history they have with the Wells from their world. One would think that would make them more cautious around him. Instead, it's leading to a very poignant and tragic scene where Barry looks at Wells-2 behind a glass window and delivers this fantastic speech about forgiving the man who killed his mother. It's tragic because the man actually standing in front of him is plotting his demise as well. That becomes very clear in the end. Wells-2 meets with Zoom again. He gets to see his daughter, Jesse, for a second. That's his sole motivation. He will do anything to get her back. That includes teaming up with the enemy in the hopes that Zoom will actually deliver on his promise not to harm Jesse. That's unlikely to happen but it's still the only option that Wells-2 sees in front of him.

But with Zoom largely on the sidelines in this episode, the show instead goes in a different direction for its villain of the hour. Early on, it's teased that it will be a big battle that features Captain Cold, Weather Wizard and the Trickster going up against the Flash. But Captain Cold makes a rather swift exit. He tips Barry off to what his fellow criminals are up to and then leaves. That's probably for the best too. It would be hard for this show to juggle three villains. It has a ton of fun with just doing two. Plus, Captain Cold has already had a lot of focus on the show. He's a much more nuanced character than the Weather Wizard and the Trickster. That would have complicated the big beats of this story. Keeping Captain Cold out of this battle was likely for scheduling purposes due to his commitments on Legends of Tomorrow. But it was also a decision that helped this conflict for the show. It kept things on point in its focus. It still had big emotional moments but those happened naturally and without the need to keep threads dangling for the future.

The Weather Wizard wants revenge on the Flash while the Trickster wants to create chaos throughout the city. By working together, they both get exactly what they want. Sure, it seems like the Trickster is having more fun. But it's exciting to watch both. It's also a very crucial story for the Barry-Patty relationship. The Weather Wizard killed her father. That's the reason why she became a cop and wanted to become Joe's partner on the anti-metahuman task force. And now, he has returned the city. She is somewhat blinded by vengeance. She needs to get justice for her father because she blames herself for his death. She is so angry that she's even willing to kill the Weather Wizard. These are emotions Barry hasn't seen in her before. This is very personal to her. This opens up a side to the character that is important to see. She trusts the Flash. She is willing to share her whole story with the hero but not Barry. But that doesn't stop her from wanting to kill the Weather Wizard even when he is no longer a threat to the city. When the villains are attempting to blow up an abandoned factory with explosive dreidels and threatening the lives of so many families by handing out bombs as gifts, the heroes will do anything to stop them. Barry even stops fighting and gives the Weather Wizard what he wants just to protect the innocents of this city. With some smart thinking by Wells-2, Jay and Cisco, Barry doesn't have to surrender and is able to deal with these bad guys rather quickly. But the more crucial task is talking Patty off the ledge. She wants the man who killed her father dead. It's only because of the Flash that she remembers her humanity. That's very powerful especially since she still doesn't know that Barry is the Flash.

But the even more emotional story in "Running to Stand Still" is Iris finally telling Barry and Joe the truth about her brother, Wally West. It was slightly annoying when she decided to keep that news from her family earlier this year. She was personally betrayed by them when they kept the fact that Barry was the Flash from her last season. She became a much better character once she found out the truth. And now, she's keeping this huge secret from the people she loves because she wants to protect them. That's what she claims. And yet, it's slowly been eating her up. She needs to share the truth with someone. Both Barry and Joe find out in this episode and it's very devastating. Joe is stunned when he learns he has another kid out there and wasn't able to be there for him during his formative years. He has always had strong parental instincts with Iris and Barry. That has been made abundantly clear over the course of the series. And yet, he's frustrated with himself for never realizing that he has another son. He chose not to look because he was being selfish. That's the only way he can describe it. And now, he'll have to deal with the consequences. Barry and Iris are there to support him. But Wally still shows up in the end. It's unclear what he wants and how long he'll be staying around town. But in that moment, Joe invites him into his life. He doesn't know how to process this news. But he still is going to be there for his son no matter what. The rest of his family made sure he knew that. This story is so emotionally resonant with the characters. Any time Barry and Joe share a scene it's dynamic and heart-wrenching. Tonight was no exception.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Running to Stand Still" was written by Andrew Kreisberg and directed by Kevin Tancharoen.
  • Was Cisco saying "Magnets, bitch!" an homage to Jesse Pinkman on Breaking Bad?
  • Caitlin and Jay finally kiss. It's about damn time. Even Cisco was complaining about their clear sexual chemistry and not acting on it. So when they finally do it under mistletoe, it's really no big deal to any of the characters. But the two of them getting more serious means it's going to be more tragic once Ronnie shows up again - should his body even be found.
  • Jay's arc this season has been incredibly erratic. He actually helps the team this week in building the weather wand and assisting Wells-2's mission to destroy all the bombs. But he also has some good jokes too about things that are common between the two worlds.
  • Apparently, The Godfather exists in every world.
  • Wells-2: "Your toys, give them to me."