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[TV Review] ‘The Flash’ Episode 2.09 – “Running To Stand Still”

Jingle bell, jingle bell, jingle bell…schlock!  It’s Christmas time in Central City and what better way to celebrate the holidays than for Barry to have to contend with three trials!  Instead of three ghosts, however, we get three villains: Weather Wizard (Liam McIntyre), The Trickster (Mark Hamill), and Captain Cold (Wentworth Miller)!

Our episode opens with Weather Wizard dishes out powers and puns as he frees the latter two villains from their confines in Iron Heights Prison.  His goal?  A three-way team-up to put The Flash six feet under!  Captain Cold isn’t having any of it, both due to his oath of “no killing” and owing Barry one for saving his sister.  Basically, he was busted out of jail so that he’ll be free to be in “Legends of Tomorrow” when it starts up next month.  I can overlook such a stab at narrative shenanigans, however, when it’s done in a fashion as fun as it is here.  When you don’t realize such maneuvers until after watching an episode, you know that the writers know what they are doing.

Still, that leaves us with a cackling old fashioned madman and a climate-controlling foe who Barry’s current love interest has a vendetta against.  That’s more than enough for the Scarlet Speedster to contend with on the holidays.  So, naturally, things get jacked up even more as Iris finally reveals her knowledge of the existence of Joe’s long lost son, Wally West, to both Barry and (eventually) Joe!  The holidays can be so wild, crazy, and frustrating sometimes!

While the latter revelation is more of a background thing and surely something that will play out as the season goes on, especially since Wally shows up at the end, there are other personal revelations this week.  First off, after weeks of puppy dog flirting (which has driven Cisco nuts), Jay and Caitlin finally kiss.  It’s wonderful to see it happen, but we all know shit will get complicated whenever her husband Ronnie finally (and inevitably) reappears alive and well again.

Secondly, Zoom is manipulating Harry.  We all wondered if Harry might have a nefarious streak and while we were wrong, he does have a secret.  Zoom holds his daughter, Jesse, and in exchange for her freedom, he wants Harry to drive Barry to become faster and stronger.  Why?  So that Zoom can become that much more powerful whenever he finally removes the speed force from our hero.  Ouch.  This will certainly strike a blow to Team Flash when they inevitably find out, but as a father, I can’t really fault the guy.  Sorry, Barry, but I’d do the same to you.

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The real fun of this week is our dynamic dastardly duo!  McIntyre is fun as Mark Mardon (aka Weather Wizard) and gets plenty of moments to shine, but it’s hard to compete when Miller and Hamill are in the mix as well.  Miller’s role isn’t much more than an expended cameo, but he makes sure to leave his mark before he bounces.

As for Hamill?  Well, as a friend of mine put it, if you find that you are low on ham this holiday season, it’s because The Trickster used up a whole lot of it here.  That’s not a knock, mind you!  If you want someone to chew scenery like there’s no tomorrow and make you enjoy the hell out of it in the process, you’d be hard pressed to find a better actor to pull it off than Mark Hamill.

He dipped his toes into his old Joker waters during his first appearance as The Trickster last year, but he dove in headfirst this time.  I have to say, it was glorious to watch unfold.  Every single minute he is on screen is an absolute delight and I sincerely hope he makes it a point to pop up at least once every season.  We’ll be all the better for it if he does.

Naturally his appearance here is fortuitously timed, given that Star Wars: The Force Awakens arrives next week.  Hell, everything’s coming up Star Wars lately.  Even “Agents of SHIELD” had a reference in its own mid-season finale!  Still, “The Flash” wins in that regard, as it’s hard to top having Luke Skywalker camp up the joint!

This was a wonderful mid-season finale.  It was packed to the brim with thrills, laughs, and powerful dramatic beats.  Of all the superhero/comic book shows on television, this is still hands down my favorite one at the moment and has been ever since it fired up last year.  Even when it isn’t firing on all cylinders, it’s still almost always better than its competition.  I cannot wait to see what lies ahead in the coming year.

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