The Flash: 2.09 Running to Stand Still
It is becoming something of a grand tradition for The Flash and Arrow to follow up their big cross-over story with a mid-season cliffhanger; last year saw the introduction of Reverse Flash. This episode wasn't quite as thrilling as The Flash delivered a Christmas story that saw Barry face off against the return of the Weather Wizard and the Trickster, two of the most successful villains from his debut year.
We knew that this was going to be an episode with a festive twist as the terrifying Zoom growled "Merry Christmas" to Harrison Wells in the pre-title sequence, while the falling snow in the title added to the cheese. But then The Flash has always had a healthy dose of cheesy fun with its drama so the episode can be forgiven for embracing that.
Mark Hamill's Trickster was a great villain for the holidays, dressed up as Santa and handing out bombs in presents to children; he might not be on the samelevel as the animated version of the Joker who he voices so perfectly, buy in the slightly lighter world of The Flash he works.
And he was a nice counterpart to Liam McIntyre's Mark Mardon, AKA The Weather Wizard who was a much more serious, if no less dangerous villain. His return was set up nicely with Patty's reveal a few weeks ago that Mardon's father killed hers in an armed robbery. His return not only brought back memories of the tidal wave and havoc Mardon caused last year but gave Patty a personal revenge story that her saw her guilt manifest in her decision to kill him rather than arrest him. The timely arrival of the Flash pulled her back at the last minute. It is a testament to 's performance that in such a short space of time she has made Patty such an engaging character, so much so that I felt for her and hoped that Barry would reveal himself to her. I still have concerns that holding his secret identity back will break them up at the end.
I am also finding the development of Leonard Snark / Captain Cold makes him a much more interesting character this season, particularly now that Wentworth Miller has toned down the ham somewhat. He is still dangerous no doubt, but the greyness of hIs character, as demonstrated by his willingness to reveal Mardon's plan to Barry and stay out of the fight. That mix of villain and unwillingly hero bodes well for his bigger role in the upcoming Legends Of Tomorrow.
Admittedly, the mid-season finale wasn't quite so dramatic as last year's, though the Weather Wizard's ability to fly, Patty's take down of the villain and the evil duo of Mardon and the Trickster blackmailing the Flash from using his abilities by holding the children of the city hostage with bombs in presents were all exciting moments. Team Flash opening a portal to suck in all the presents was a great way of turning the tables on the villains, but having used the same plan with Grodd two weeks earlier, I hope it doesn't become a deus ex machina for the show moving forward. You also have to wonder if there will be any consequences of sending the exploding bombs through the portal. Because I'm expecting Grodd to return with an army of super-intelligent gorillas at some point this season.
There were some intriguing moments too that set up bigger things to come. Zoom hanging around in the shadows forcing Wells to work for him in exchange for his daughter's life is hardly going to go well. And the somewhat odd storyline with Iris's dying mother Francine is finally having a purpose with the arrival of Iris's brother Wally West.Comic fans have surely been expecting his arrival for a while now.
Running to Stand Still wasn't the strongest episode of The Flash but it had plenty of drama, fun and intriguing set ups for future episodes. The use of two of season one's best villains also helped. And while the first part of season two hadn't always been as consistently strong as I would have liked, there is still plenty of promise for the rest of year two when it returns next year...