This week’s episode is a bit of a rogue one. Grab your teddy bear and come in from the storm, because it’s time to take a look at CW’s The Flash.
How far would you go to protect your family?
This is a question that comes up in nearly every story, sooner or later. It is, like many other themes, deeply rooted in our own fears and insecurities. Often the true horror of a situation isn’t the ghosts or monsters or evil speedsters from another world, but the loss of a parent, child, or other loved one.
Stephen King made a career out of supernatural horror that was never about the supernatural at all, but rather how terrible people could be to each other, and also there were murderous alien clown spiders and vampires and possessed cars and unu elektroroller scooters but that’s not the point here.
TV Tropes refers to it as the Adult Fear, and it can evoke a far more visceral reaction from the viewer than any jump scare or xenomorph from hell.
…gosh, this is a depressing opening for a super fun Christmas episode.
Though this episode is old, spoiler warnings are in effect after the cut.
You have no idea how tempting it is to just let that be my half of the review.
This episode has a couple of different plot threads, each of which interweave with the others before coming together all the way at the end. This is usually the case with well-written television, and The Flash has attempted it before, but I really do think this is the first episode where they get it right.
Joe learns about his son Wally and struggles with the idea that he abandoned his child. His foster son, Barry, insists that he did everything he could with the information he had, and he was an excellent father to his adopted kid, his son in name if not by blood. By the end of this episode he has taken this advice to heart and not only gives Barry a West family heirloom, one that he always wanted to grant to his own son, but when Wally shows up to the door for Christmas, he finally has the chance he thought he had lost forever.
Meanwhile, Patty Spivot finally has the chance to confront her father’s murderer. Mark Mardon, the Weather Wizard, was the reason Patty went into law enforcement in the first place. I’ve mentioned before that Season Two is a series of parallels, and Patty’s parallel to Barry is especially pronounced here – and we also see where their paths diverged. Where Barry went into forensics to be able to study and learn and eventually prove his father’s innocence, Patty became a street officer in order to avenge her father’s death.
It’s very easy to imagine that their roles would have swapped almost perfectly had their circumstances also done so. Patty has a gift for forensics, with a scientist’s mind and an eye for detail. And, let’s give credit here, she is a really good detective. She reached the same conclusion about the Rogues’ broadcasting location by herself, in less time than it took the entire Team Flash crew to work it out together.
I mean, she beats the Flash to the scene. Eddie has never done that. Joe has only done that when he was already there in the first place.
Patty tells the Flash about her father, and then eventually works up the courage to tell Barry. They’re far more alike than he realized: she’s smart and driven and scarily competent, and she would be an excellent addition to Team Flash.
And then, of course, we have the Rogues.
The glorious, glorious Rogues.
Mark Hamill is a delight, as always, and I treasure each and every one of his returns to form. This episode is no different – he sings, he puns, he creates exploding dreidels because holy shit, of course there are fucking exploding dreidels.
That said, his performance was almost the weakest of the Rogues, because when Hamill’s on set, everyone brings their A-game. Mardon is smarmy and charismatic, and Snart is…well, I already used the image up top but fuck it, it’s my review and I’m going to use it again.
Len has father issues of his own, which we’ve covered before and which Legends Of Tomorrow will go into more detail about, but one thing in particular that he shares with his comic-book counterpart: Captain Cold Does Not Mess Up Christmas For Children.
There’s not much left for me to talk about – it really does stand on its own and must be experienced in order to fully appreciate its glory. So let’s go to the Scattered Thoughts Bullet Points.
- “Every Earth has The Godfather, Vito.”
- I like the concept of certain Multiversal Constants here.
- Over on Supergirl we get confirmation that Mariah Carey is also a Multiversal Constant.
- “Everyone in this room had a rough childhood, get over it.” Iris West, I love you so much.
- They show Barry running so fast that he can run on helicopter rotary blades as he parkours across Central City. How fucking badass is that?
- Yes, I know I’m usually the one that goes ~Silver Age Science~ but THAT’S NOT HOW MAGNETS WORK
One of the reasons this show works, more often than not, is that Barry is…almost an avatar of compassion. He sees something honorable and good in Leonard Snart, and tries to reach out to that. He wants people to be good and happy and kind. He will let himself come to harm to save others. And this is one of those episodes which showcases his kindness and his heart very well.
It’s part of what makes this show fun to watch. He would rather be harmed than harm. (This is why those episodes in which they casually kill metahumans are so frustrating and weird, because it seems very unlike the Barry Allen we see.)
It’s really his compassion which carries the weight of this episode, the emotional throughline. It’s what the Trickster and the Weather Wizard use to try to take him down. It helps guide Iris and Joe through a very emotional reveal. In the guise of the Flash, it’s what keeps Patty Spivot from crossing the line. It’s his compassion that lifts him up, as well as those around him. When Barry’s at his best, he’s a genuinely good person, full of open love and warmth for everyone. That’s what makes this show light, and Arrow so dark and grim.
I think with that being the emotional throughline of the show, the thing which carries weight in so many different plots, is what helped this episode come together so well.
I don’t have much else to say, because my illustrious colleague has covered it, so we’ll have a nice little list to end things with:
- The theatricality of Snart getting into Barry’s house and finding the perfect dumb cocoa mug to use to set up his “waiting by the fireplace” moment is so great? Like, he could have just read a book waiting for someone to drop in, but no, he had to be drinking cocoa out of the silliest cocoa mug he could find in the house.
- Also the expression on his face when he realizes who else Mardon is breaking out of prison is Not To Be Missed. There’s a great combination of “really?” and “holy shit this is such a bad idea”.
- I don’t really think it’s about owing Barry one, honestly. Or about being the only game in town, necessarily. Snart has said before that this is His City, and I think the more he thinks about it the more he wants whatever Jesse and Mardon are planning to be stopped.
- I mean, he’s also definitely not interested in killing the Flash, that must be said.
- I don’t know what he goes on to do on Legends, but it seems like they’re setting him up to walk close to the line between villain and criminal, and I think that’s neat.
- Magnets really, really don’t work that way. I mean, I know it’s already been said, but.. yeah. No. I would have more easily bought some kind of portal technobabble foolishness. I can ~SiLvEr AgE~ that, but….wow.
- (Okay, I mean, I’d still probably go “hmm, yeah no” but still.)
- Seriously, I just want you to think about Snart rummaging through the cabinets until he comes across that gem and then goes “this, this is the mug I want them to see me drinking out of when they come home”. Just, I don’t know, it makes me happy.