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The Flash – Running to Stand Still Review

"Merry Christmas, Zoom?"

I want to start off this review by apologizing for at least occasionally simplifying the role that everyone else on a project can play in changing the script. I realize I’ve placed blame at the feet of the writers of series before, and while they aren’t completely innocent in most cases, in the similar way that Victor Garber can make poor dialogue enjoyable on The Flash, a poor actor can make excellent dialogue garbage. As Max Landis said on the subject of reading critiques of his movies (and his own criticisms of projects he’s been a part of), “you can’t write a movie, you can only write a script.”

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk Flash.

The Flash has had a pretty uneven season so far. Sure, there’s been the excitement of Barry discovering a new ability, Iris moving on from her limited role in the previous season, and moments of great humor courtesy of some unlikely characters. But I can’t help thinking the series has taken a noticeable step backwards. Season 1 wasn’t perfect by any means, but by the time Barry ran up into the wormhole in the season finale, I felt like the series had improved beyond the need for the largely terrible storylines and characters we’ve seen in Season 2. Perhaps it’s the lack of a central conflict, a la Season 1’s focus on the conflict with Reverse-Flash? In any case, I was incredibly interested to see what note The Flash would leave us on with its midseason finale, “Running to Stand Still.”

Wally West, Joe West, Iris West - The Flash
Pictured (L-R): Candice Patton as Iris West, Jesse L. Martin as Detective Joe West and Keiynan Lonsdale as Wally West — Photo: Katie Yu/The CW — © 2015 The CW Network, LLC. All rights reserved.

From the get-go, I had a feeling the episode wouldn’t do too much to reverse my (and my Arrow counterpart, Jean Henegan’s) negative feelings about the Flash/Arrow crossover event. The weird, non-canon-y opening where Zoom wishes Harry a “merry Christmas” just felt like a waste of real estate. But it was our first look at Patty Spivot that was really telling of the episode’s quality. If you recall, in “Legends of Today” Patty got a little trigger happy with Harry, and instead of telling her what was going on, since it’s not like he can do anything anyway, Joe basically played the role of a production assistant blocking the street so a film can be shot there. As a result, I was more than a little disappointed to see that there was no mention of this to Barry in her first scene. And it was kind of all downhill for the character from there.

From Patty viewing Mardon’s handiwork and saying “I should have expected this” to herself like she’s Batman, to her briefly incapacitating Barry and holding a gun up to Mardon, the episode was clearly overcompensating for the fact that Patty’s inner turmoil has not been made very clear to us. This doesn’t have to be the case to make it interesting (it could be the best part of a similar storyline in another work), but it felt like they temporarily messed with the character to give her an arc for the episode, which is unfortunately common practice with superhero shows these days. Also, I cannot believe they still haven’t let her in on Barry’s secret. I keep saying it’s just around the corner because there doesn’t seem to be any good reason not to, but with the midseason finale continuing to exclude her from the fun, I don’t see it happening any time soon.

Patty Spivot, The Flash - The Flash
Pictured (L-R): Shantel VanSanten as Patty Spivot and Grant Gustin as The Flash — Photo: Cate Cameron/The CW — © 2015 The CW Network, LLC. All rights reserved.

Patty’s characterization speaks to a larger issue that has been carried over from Season 1: the story is almost always better suited to levity and excitement rather than being dark and grim. When Cisco gets caught up in the question of whether his powers are a blessing or a curse, it’s not the engaging turn of a normally comical character becoming more hardened and brooding. For a series like the Flash, there is no such intentionality. Similarly, whenever Barry Allen threatens someone, it doesn’t come across as, “oh snap, you probably shouldn’t have messed with a guy who could end you.” Instead, it feels like an annoying way of making Barry seem like he leads with his fists rather than his brain. These moments of over the top drama are rarely adequately set up or earned, but I also find the performances in these situations simultaneously over the top and lacking.

Captain Cold, Barry Allen - The Flash
Pictured (L-R): Wentworth Miller as Leonard Snart and Grant Gustin as Barry Allen — Photo: Katie Yu/The CW — © 2015 The CW Network, LLC. All rights reserved.

I don’t think there’s been a single romance on the show this season that has been entirely fun to watch. Jay and Caitlin finally kissed in this episode, but because of my immense dislike of Jay’s un-character and the fact that the series has given me no reason to care about the two of them together, both this and the build up to it were just tiring. I know making Jay younger than his comic book counterpart was kind of necessary due to Barry being a younger Flash, but I feel like de-aging him took away what was so interesting about the character. At this stage, he could almost be called Good Guy 1. Meanwhile, Barry and Patty’s relationship suffered for them trying to portray her as a more revenge-driven character than she should be, as they went straight to her isolating herself from the people who care about her. I know I’ve vacillated in my opinions of her and them together, but the show is just so inconsistent with their treatment of her and their relationship.

Jay Garrick, Caitlin Snow - The Flash
Pictured (L-R): Teddy Sears as Jay Garrick and Danielle Panabaker as Caitlin Snow — Photo: Katie Yu/The CW — © 2015 The CW Network, LLC. All rights reserved.

Mark Hamill’s return to the series was a welcome one, as he was having a visibly good time playing the Trickster again. However, the whole storyline he was involved in was repetitive and insubstantial. I liked that they didn’t forget what they were doing with Captain Cold’s character (probably because it ties into Legends of Tomorrow), but having Weather Wizard and Trickster rehash the same old grudge without much more to it then “kill the Flash” was pretty weak. I also can’t believe Barry was going to explain what the wand did to Weather Wizard before Mardon fell off the building. Not that holding a metal rod is very inconspicuous, but at least try to hold on to the unnecessary advantage given to you almost every time you face an enemy. My only consolation with this episode is the fact that they didn’t have a ridiculously stupid fight scene, although perhaps they looked at the C4 dreidels in the script and decided to stop there.

Captain Cold, The Trickster, Weather Wizard - The Flash
Pictured (L-R): Wentworth Miller as Leonard Snart, Mark Hamill as James Jesse/Trickster and Liam McIntyre as Mark Mardon– Photo: Cate Cameron/The CW — © 2015 The CW Network, LLC. All rights reserved.

On top of me being wrong about Patty learning Barry’s secret in this episode, I was also wrong about Harry not hiding a betrayal up his sleeve. Surprise, surprise, he has agreed to help Barry get faster so Zoom can take more Speed Force from him. I feel like this was a major structural misstep, as we knew about Zoom holding onto his daughter a while back. If Flash was going to reveal a betrayal, why not do it then, at the moment we realize Zoom has collateral? In place of that, we got a rather strange period of time where Zoom was borderline courteous and allowed Harry to think things over, which took away from the danger he should present every time he’s on-screen.

Captain Cold - The Flash
Pictured: Wentworth Miller as Leonard Snart — Photo: Cate Cameron/The CW — © 2015 The CW Network, LLC. All rights reserved.

While I was still reviewing Supergirl, I used to think The Flash was far superior. Like, I didn’t want them to touch for fear that Supergirl‘s mediocrity would be contagious. But more and more I’m seeing insubstantial episodes like this one, where no one is really given anything particularly interesting to do. As I’ve mentioned before, it might be a case of them saving a tighter narrative for the second half of the season (as they’re certainly doing with a sick shot of Barry, Jay, Wally, and maybe even Jesse Quick speeding towards an enemy), but it’s just disappointing to see characters seem continuously off week after week. I’m glad the midseason break is upon us, as harping on the same issues on such a long term basis makes me feel way too nitpicky. After introducing all of the major new cast members that we know of, I hope the show is able to come back with a clear idea of what it wants to do with the rest of the season.

Joe West, Wally West - The Flash
Pictured: Jesse L. Martin as Detective Joe West — Photo: Katie Yu/The CW — © 2015 The CW Network, LLC. All rights reserved.

The Slowpokes

  • I don’t really have much to say about the introduction of Wally West. I like that his appearance means we’ll be getting another superhero origin story, but the lead up to it didn’t do anything for me.
  • It’s so weird that Iris mourning the loss of Eddie is a footnote. I mean, it has been this entire season, but their desire to avoid melodrama with Iris is starting to become obvious and questionable.
  • Whenever anyone that wasn’t Mark Hamill delivered a Christmas reference, it was just awful.
  • It’s crazy to think that this is the last time I’ll see Mark Hamill before I rewatch the original Star Wars movies in anticipation of The Force Awakens.
  • “It means a lot to me that you like [Patty],” Barry says to Iris, but I still don’t think the two have had a conversation? Regarding that whole scene, though, I was worried for a moment that Iris was going to confess her love for Barry, as there’s been a surprising lack of development on that front and I’m starting to lose faith in the show making smart choices. In any case, good job, Flash.
  • Caitlin struggling to put up mistletoe that she very clearly could not so that Jay could come to her rescue was one of the most annoying things I’ve seen this season.
  • “I’m going to be no help without my speed.” – Thanks for the reminder that you’re useless, Jay,
  • Leonart Snart looked so content and comfortable drinking his hot chocolate.
  • Barry saying “you’re doing a pretty lousy job of being a villain this week” felt slightly meta. Why say “this week” at all?
  • I like how Joe’s rhetorical question of “Who taught [Wally] how to be a man, Barry?” is actually answered by Barry shrugging his shoulders.
  • I really want superhero movies and shows to stop taking off the hero’s mask so we can see their reaction to whatever has just transpired. I understand it slightly more in Spider-Man’s case, but we can see Barry’s eyes and mouth when he’s in the Flash costume. We get it!
  • There was never any hope of Barry talking to Harry as if he’s Wells ever being emotional.
  • I like the transparency of Patty at the end of the episode, but it was a little bit too neat.
  • In hindsight, I realize I’ve been way too generous with the show this season.

All images via ComicBook.com.

  • Mark Hamill's Trickster
  • The Dark Knight, Patty Spivot
  • Patty not being told Barry's secret
  • Harry's eventual betrayal
  • Weak episode to temporarily end on

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  • Irish Jim

    I thought this was a pretty good episode. I don’t like when the hero stands there to be killed because the bad guys might do something bad. Trickster might set off the bombs anyway.
    I was ok with the Captain Cold exchange with Barry. It shows he has some redeeming qualities which is a good thing if he is joining a team to try to save the world.
    The thing I liked least about the episode is not reading Patty into Barry’s identity. Barry told his ex-girl friend when she was bait for Zoom. Patty is hunting meta humans and needs to know what is going on.
    Jay was actually helpful this episode. He still is being wasted. Kaitlin was less annoying and I don’t them getting together, but she acts like a school girl around Jay.
    Wally will be an interesting addition, but of course he is to close in age to Barry. Barry should be Jay’s age and Jay should be Joe’s age.
    At least as it was initially written in the 1960’s Earth 2 was very different from Earth 1. Earth 2 started as being the home to the Justice Society without Superman, Batman or Wonder Woman (the heroes that were still around in the Silver Age from the Golden Age)
    The Justice Society had Starman, Dr. Fate Jay Garrick/Flash, Allan Scott/Green Lantern, Dr. Mid Night, Wildcat, Black Canary and Johnny Thunder. Eventually they had Superman and Batman on Earth 2 but they wee older than their counterparts on Earth 1 – as if they were in their 30’s during the 1940’s and their Earth 1 counterparts were in their 30’s during the 1960’s.
    I don’t know if that changed later, but most people on Earth 1 having a counterpart the same age on Earth 2 is kind of creepy.
    I am wondering who Zoom is. I suppose he could be Barry or even Barry’s Dad from Earth 2. I am not sure I would like something that odd.

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