TV shows like Arrow or The Flash have always been superpowered soap operas – and there’s nothing wrong with that

arrow the flash soap opera the cw marc guggenheim wendy mericle keeping up with the smoaks felicity oliver queen olicity

Arrow, from the beginning, was always about the personal lives of its characters. Yes, there’s the obvious angle of the love triangle between Oliver, Tommy and Laurel – but it’s not as though Oliver’s mission wasn’t deeply personally motivated, or inextricably tied to the affairs of his father. That’s demonstrably a soap opera plot, right from the beginning!

Superheroes keep secrets, living double lives, and hiding parts of themselves from those around them that they love. That can surely be considered a soap opera story, no? And surely no one would ever argue that these superhero TV programmes don’t rely on sensationalised and exaggerated plotting – lest you forget, the Flash fought a race of sentient gorillas just a few weeks ago. Besides, everyone loves a good scenery chewing villain, and that’s the epitome of melodrama.

I always thought it was pretty ridiculous when people complained that Arrow was like a soap opera – as if they’d only just noticed? So here’s a post explaning how Arrow has always been a soap opera, but there’s nothing wrong with that.

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The Flash will need to break with formula to survive

the flash dc cw grant gustin hd wallpaper clifford devoe season 5 arrowverse greg berlanti andrew kreisberg harrison wells tom cavanagh

In a way, the shows that operate alongside The Flash are becoming its greatest threat; Arrow, Supergirl and Legends of Tomorrow – and likely eventually Black Lightning – all work from fairly similar formulas to The Flash. (This was particularly evident in Supergirl season one, which mimicked the structure of The Flash season one fairly closely.) While it’s undeniable that each show executes the formula well, when four programmes are executing the same formula in the same way each week, it does start to get a little tired.

And so The Flash needs to evolve – it has to grow beyond the formula it adheres to so closely, and stop sticking to the same structure with every episode. After all, there’s surely only so many times that Barry running faster to beat someone who is also fast can be considered a satisfying payoff to a year of television, no?

A few thoughts on The Flash, and the changes it’ll need to make to continue to grow and develop and stay of a high level of quality. I am fond of the show, of course, but there’s a frustrating feeling that I’ve simply seen it all before – sometimes even four nights a week – and that needs to change. (I didn’t even begin to get into the whole “mentor is secretly evil” thing they’ve done each year!)

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Supergirl and the question of refugees, immigrants, and illegal aliens

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The show is exploring the theme of immigration through their various dispossessed alien characters – an entirely understandable choice. It’s attempting to convey the message, basically, that there’s no need to be suspicious of refugees, and to treat them with acceptance and tolerance – an entirely admirable decision. It’s not, however, conveyed particularly effectively, because many of these same dispossessed aliens end up being the ‘threat of the week’ – while the episode is saying one thing about refugees, while demonstrating another through its plot. This paradox was painfully evident in the aforementioned episode Welcome to Earth, wherein one of the alien refugees does turn out to be evil, despite frequent insistence that this wouldn’t be the case – it’s a frustrating lapse that undercuts the message that Supergirl is reaching for.

What makes this particularly frustrating, though, is that there are several other avenues open to the writers from which to explore this concept – many of them more effective than the direction they opted for.

Here’s an article I’ve been meaning to write for a little while, about how Supergirl has been handling the themes of immigration. There’s a chance it might form something of a broader series of articles – alongside, I suspect, “Legends of Tomorrow and historical racism”, “Arrow and capitalism” and then something else about The Flash just to cover all four – but I wouldn’t hold your breath there.

(Yeah, I never did do those other ones. Would’ve been interesting to see what I came up with. Ah well. If I remember correctly, actually, I wrote the above post in school during a free period. Those were the days. Anyway, I’ve not re-read the above; I suspect the basic point I was going for still works, but forgive me any lapses borne from ignorance.)

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What does Kid Flash mean for The Flash?

the flash tv show kid flash wally west keiynan lonsdale flashpoint greg berlanti cw legends of tomorrow suit dc cw

Right now, one of the chief complaints levelled at the show is that it can be quite formulaic; though they managed to move past it somewhat in the second season, there was often a basic recurring set up across each episode. Barry would investigate the villain, and fight them; he’s incapacitated during this first fight, for reasons essentially linked to his own incompetence, and by the end of the episode has learned how to get around the problem previously posed to him – usually the solution is, of course, some variation on “go faster”.

It’d be difficult to take Barry and Wally seriously if, between the two of them, they’re consistently beaten by the same formula. The show would need to shake things up, possibly dramatically, to present scenarios that retain a level of dramatic weight – after all, both of these two individuals are exceptionally fast. That between two of them they’d struggle to take down petty thieves is, to be honest, somewhat unlikely.

An article I wrote for Yahoo; it’s all about Kid Flash, and how his inclusion as a character might change or influence The Flash.

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Why Supergirl merging universes with Arrow & The Flash would be a mistake

supergirl arrow the flash lefends of tomorrow heatwave firestorm the atom melissa benoist stephen amell grant gustin all shows the cw dc tv

The DC comics that these television shows draw on as source material has a history of “Crisis” events, wherein different universes are split apart from one another or merged together; typically, it’s an attempt to streamline continuity, although it’s debatable as to whether or not it really does make things simpler. As such, then, there are a vocal group who are clamouring for a similar such event to occur now, moving Supergirl into the same reality as The Flash and Arrow, positing that the slated crossover special should be used to reset Supergirl, and essentially reboot it to better fit with the other superhero programmes currently airing on the CW.

To my mind, though, this would be quite the mistake – both in terms of the story, but also from a business point of view.

Despite now being in a position where it has to move networks, Supergirl’s viewership on CBS did in fact far outstrip the ratings that The Flash maintains on the CW; this is, of course, because CBS itself has a far wider reach than the CW, but it’s also a certainty that the CW is hoping that a large number of these viewers follow the show to the CW. It makes little sense, then, to try and change what is essentially the more popular show to ‘fit’ the more niche one – why would the CW consciously alienate the fans they’re trying to attract?

A new Yahoo article from me, all about why I think a Supergirl reboot to fit in with Arrow and The Flash is, essentially, a terrible idea.

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What will a DC TV Flashpoint look like?

the flash flashpoint paradox barry allen grant gustin the cw tv comics arrow arrowverse tommy merlyn wally west greg berlanti

A lot of people online seem to expect that Green Arrow would fill the role of Batman in this story, with Robert Queen rather than Oliver; that’s possible, perhaps, particularly given that it wouldn’t require Stephen Amell to stop filming Arrow. Personally, however, I’d prefer it if Colin Donnell was brought in to guest star as an alternate Tommy Merlyn who took up the mantle of the Green Arrow. It’d have a far greater emotional resonance for the audience, I believe, given that we already know and have a connection with Tommy – one we don’t have with Robert Queen, who never really featured in particular depth before. 

Another Yahoo article; I’ve been writing a lot of them for the past few weeks. This time it’s all about the upcoming Flashpoint arc over on The Flash; my thoughts, my expectations, and indeed to an extent my reservations.

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The Flash Season 2 Review

the flash season 2 review grant gustin barry allen zoom greg berlanti hd review image

So, I have some thoughts, and I want to work through them here. You can find my reviews of the first 9 episodes of the season here; I never managed to review the subsequent episodes, sadly. Hopefully, I’ll get around to that at some point, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was quite a while away.

Last year, the first season of The Flash was my favourite television show that was on at the time. It was genuinely fantastic – possibly one of the best superhero programmes on television, a wonderful blend of exciting action and moving emotional arcs, which all came together to create something truly compelling. The season finale, Fast Enough, is one of the best hours of television I’ve ever seen.

I don’t feel like Season 2 managed to hit the same highs.

That’s understandable, of course; it was a very high standard to meet, and a high bar to cross. Certainly, the series started well, and there were lots of fantastic elements throughout. To be entirely honest, my issues with the show were entirely idiosyncratic; I know for a lot of people, it still worked really well. But we’ll get to that in a minute, because first I do want to highlight the parts I enjoyed and think worked really well.

A few months before the season began, I wrote an article about the five things I’d like to see in the coming year. One of the most important, for me, was further development of Iris’ character; I’d always liked her across the first season, but I felt that she was a bit under utilised at times. Thankfully, this was remedied this year; I think Iris was quite well served as a character across this season. She’s really grown and developed, and I appreciate that a lot – it’s great to see Iris in STAR Labs, fitting in and helping out. Part of what I enjoyed, actually, was the fact that she gives a different perspective to the other characters; dramatically speaking, I think this works really well with the dynamic of the show. So, that was great.

And, you know, that’s generally true of all the characters, not just Iris. Something I mentioned in one of my earlier reviews (I think it was Enter Zoom, perhaps) was how much I loved the fact that The Flash still made the effort to include emotional scenes, and to develop their characters each week. It would have been very easy for them to drop the ball on that, and just focus on the action, but they never did; The Flash was always a program that was really grounded in making sure the characters would progress and move forward and change across the season.

Initially, I’d been quite sceptical of Zoom, because I wasn’t sure that featuring a speedster villain as the Big Bad again was the right idea. It felt a little too much like they’d be boxing themselves in, and setting a precedent that would only limit and constrain them in the future. It felt, to me, quite important that we had a villain who wasn’t a speedster as the Big Bad, not just to stop it from being repetitive, but also to demonstrate that there were still a variety of different tricks that the program could deploy.

But – at the start of the season, at least – Zoom worked really well! His first proper episode, Enter Zoom, set him up as a really powerful antagonist; it made great use of a narrative collapse to demonstrate quite how heavyweight a threat he was, and how significant he was as an individual. I was really impressed at quite how imposing they’d made him, and I had high hopes for the rest of the season.

the flash series 2 enter zoom hunter zolomon jay garrick teddy sears eddie thawne fight hd image

However.

Zoom, as an antagonist, ceased to work the moment they revealed him to be Jay Garrick, or Hunter Zolomon, or whoever. Immediately, there’s the fact that this twist was needlessly over complicated to the point that it was evident it was only for shock value, and the fact they could surprise us with “Jay Garrick is evil”. The explanation involving time remnants never quite worked, and the fact that Harry never recognised Jay as the extremely famous serial killer Hunter Zolomon despite his not wearing a mask is certainly something that stretches belief. Worse, this reveal also makes Zoom even more derivative of last year’s villain – not only was he a speedster, he was also Barry’s trusted mentor. It worked the first time; with Zoom, they hit a point of diminishing returns.

Further, though, it became readily apparent that he was just an extremely weak villain. A psychopath who’s obsessed with being the fastest is a starting point, yes, but it’s far from a particularly nuanced one. The writers tried to bring in that “we’re not so different, you and I” aspect to develop him somewhat, but does anyone really buy that anymore? The villain trying to convince the hero that they’re the same is not only a cliché, it’s also evidently untrue of Barry. What’s the point? Little was achieved with that.

(I am quite firmly of the mind that Zoom should, in fact, have been revealed to be Eddie Thawne. In fact, I’d begun typing up something of an explanation for that in this post, before realising that it would start to get a little too long winded. So, look forward to a separate post about that soon.)

Similarly, I was unimpressed at the relationship between Hunter and Caitlin – even when we all thought he was just Jay included. It was a little disappointing to me that the only character arc the writers seemed able to conceive of for Caitlin was to put her into a relationship again, and then to repeat the same grief plot once more. That was a shame, really, and the fact that Caitlin was sidelined generally didn’t help either. I know that in part this was because of Danielle Panabaker’s injury disrupting shooting schedules, but even in the latter half of the season, it felt like her involvement was being minimised. So, yeah, that wasn’t so great.

Towards the end of the season, it did start to become abundantly clear that they were lacking plot, and having to stretch it out to fit the full 23 episode order. It became evident as each story was increasingly dependent on the characters making bad choices for no apparent reason. That’s not mistakes, of course; I’ve no problem with something like that. But it was almost an example of the “idiot ball” trope – the characters ended up beginning to make choices that were completely ignorant of information already established in the program. (Why are you trying to send Zoom back to Earth 2, when you know he can open breaches of his own? Why are you giving up your speed to save Wally, if you’re already far faster than Zoom and can just grab Wally there and then?) There’s not even really the excuse that the characters weren’t aware, because of course they were the ones who had given us that exposition in the first place. Certainly, that was lacking in oversight, and needed a rewrite or to.

As for next year? I am tentatively worried. Flashpoint, to me, seems like a mistake. Primarily, there’s the fact that The Flash has been mining the Flashpoint story for a lot of imagery for a long time, taking different aspects and using them in the way that best suited the show at the time; Barry bringing Iris a video of Eddie, for example, or being electrocuted to regain his speed. That means that if they do try and use any of the more well known aspects of the Flashpoint story, then it’s going to come across as quite repetitive. (Then again, given how much of this series was just season one repackaged and repolished slightly, it’s possible that being repetitive isn’t a huge concern.)

More importantly, though, I feel like it’s moving backwards. Earlier, I mentioned how much I appreciated that The Flash was dedicated to developing each of the characters; one of the best episodes this year, The Runaway Dinosaur, was all about Barry getting past the death of his mother. It was a really poignant episode, and I think can be included as one of the best of the entire show, up there with the season one finale.

But then they threw that away just a few episodes later.

I have no doubt that next year will be an entertaining season of The Flash. And I really want to stress the fact that this was still a good season – “not as good as last year” is still pretty damn good, considering how fantastic The Flash was in its first season. Inarguably, it was better than Arrow in every conceivable way. There were lots of fantastic episodes and new concepts introduced; going to Earth-2 was giddyingly fun, seeing Tom Cavanagh create a new spin on Wells was compulsively watchable, and I really liked our new characters of Jessie and Wally this year. So, certainly, it was still really good television. That’s part of why I’m still hoping to get to do my individual episode reviews, just to provide a degree more nuance in my approach and make it clear how much I really did enjoy this season.

However, almost because of that, there’s something a little more disappointing about the areas in which this season fell down. The issues (or, issues as I saw them, from my own very idiosyncratic and personal perspective) were all ones that could have been very easily remedied. Fairly simple fixes applied throughout would have helped this year to be just as good, if not better, as last year.

Onto next season, then. I’m sure it’ll be here in a flash.

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The Flash: Is Barry Allen going to die?

the flash barry allen wally west death the death of barry allen grant gustin keiynan lonsdale

Grant Gustin plays Barry on the CW at the minute, but Ezra Miller is set to depict this iteration of the Scarlett Speedster in a big screen release slated for 2017. Judging by the precedent [of killing television characters before their cinematic counterparts debut] established on Arrow, we may well see Barry bite the bullet before the end of the third season – perhaps even as early as the midseason finale.

You’d think, of course, that this is impossible; after all, he is the main character of the show. Interestingly though, that may not be entirely the case.

In the comics that the show has spawned from, the Flash is a legacy character; a mantle inherited by many different people. Barry Allen is one of the most well-known, yes, but far from the only – and this year, we’ve been introduced to television versions of two other individuals who have been the Flash: Jay Garrick and Wally West. Notably, Barry Allen was, for quite some time, known as a character who died; in 1985, Barry was killed during the Crisis on Infinite Earths plotline, and the role of the Flash was taken on by Wally West. Barry remained dead for twenty five years – a record time for a comic book character.

It’s possible, then, that this is a storyline they’d choose to adapt for the third season of The Flash; with the movie outing being released in 2017, the midseason finale of series 3 and last episode of 2016 may well be the last time we see Grant Gustin as Barry Allen.

A theory about The Flash, and what we might see from it in future. Increasingly I think I’m finding that one of the aspects of superheroes that interests me most – or, one of the aspects we don’t see that interests me most – is that whole idea of legacy heroes, of one person taking up the mantle of another.

It seemed to me like a really interesting way of doing things on The Flash, at least for a while; kill off Barry in the midseason finale, let Wally take over as the Flash for the next 13 episodes, then in the season finale tease a possible return for Barry, then working towards that can be the arc for the first nine episodes of the next season. They never did it, of course, but it’d be interesting to see.

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The Flash: Who is Zoom?

the flash series 2 enter zoom hunter zolomon jay garrick teddy sears eddie thawne fight hd image

Across the course of The Flash season 2 so far, a new villain has been established – Zoom. The overarching villain of this season, Zoom has already demonstrated he’s a significant threat; he stole Jay Garrick’s speed, kidnapped E2 Harrison Wells’ daughter, and completely decimated Barry in their only confrontation of the series. 

We know that Zoom is a force to be reckoned with. But we don’t know who he is.

The question of Zoom’s identity has been hotly debated, with various possibilities emerging; you’ve got E2 Harrison Wells, Jay Garrick, E2 Barry Allen, Henry Allen of either Earth, Barry Allen from the future, and Patty Spivot. (That last one is, obviously, most likely. They do both wear blue, after all.) Any possibility could be quite compelling, of course, but when it comes down to it, to me there’s only one identity for Zoom that could really, truly work.

And that’s Eddie Thawne.

Now, allow me to explain. In case you’ve forgotten, Eddie Thawne was one of the central characters throughout much of last year’s run; he was a police detective, partnered with Joe West, and in a relationship with Iris West. (That, obviously, lead to something of a love triangle between Barry, Iris and Eddie; your mileage will vary on quite how successful you considered it to have been.) Crucially, Eddie was also revealed to be an ancestor of the time travelling Reverse Flash, who was the overarching villain of that season; in the final episode, Eddie sacrificed himself, committing suicide to stop the Reverse Flash from ever having existed.

He died, saving everyone. So, how can he be the villain this season?

the flash eddie thawne zoom reverse flash eobard thawne jay garrick hunter zolomon season 2 rick cosnett

Well, in comic book television programs, death is only as permanent as the writers want it to be. You can see that on The Flash last year, with the many deaths and returns of Ronnie Raymond; the same has been true over on Arrow, with various characters returning after their presumed demise. Previously you could at least say that a character wasn’t dead unless you’d seen the body – but even that’s not true anymore, with Arrow showing us the emaciated corpse of Sara Lance before promptly returning her to life.

It follows, then, that the same could be true of Eddie. His death is in fact particularly suspicious when you realise that his corpse was pulled into a wormhole, and his body not seen since then; that’s exactly the sort of event that could give someone speed related powers, isn’t it? Notably, Zoom’s lightning has been shown in shades of blue, implicitly linking him to that same wormhole; perhaps this indicates that his powers come from the wormhole?

Interestingly, Jay Garrick described Zoom as being “a speed demon”; that, I think, is the sort of description that could be applied to someone who died, and exists in a state of temporal limbo as a result of being pulled into a wormhole. (An obvious counter response to this would be asking how Zoom found himself on Earth 2 before the wormhole opened; it’s just another case of the peculiarities of time travel, really.)

Two upcoming villains in the latter half of season 2 indicate, perhaps, that Zoom is Eddie Thawne; now, I’m only going off officially released information, but this could still constitute spoilers, so you might want to skip this paragraph. We’ve got two villains confirmed to be appearing soon: the Turtle, and the Reverse Flash. Both are important, albeit for different reasons. The Turtle’s powers are the ability to speed down time; this is something typically linked to the character Zoom in the comics. (He, notably, is not Eddie, but there are several distinct similarities that indicate Eddie could have been inspired by him.) It’s also the sort of power one might expect someone to get from a time-y wimey wormhole; the Turtle could be foreshadowing and establishing this power set for Zoom.  The relevance of the Reverse Flash is obvious; if he still exists, it indicates that perhaps his ancestor Eddie wasn’t quite so dead after all.

That covers the circumstances that could lead to how Eddie became Zoom; another, more interesting question, is why.

the flash reverse flash zoom eddie thawne jesse quick violet beane rick cosnett tom cavanagh teddy sears jay garrick hunter zolomon kidnap captive

I don’t mean why in terms of motivations, though; I’ve honestly no idea what they might be. Could be as simple as wanting revenge, or Eddie going crazy; if I were to guess, I’d figure it’s a bit of both, but perhaps with the addition of elements of Zoom’s motivations from the source material. (Essentially fighting the Flash to try and make him a better hero; arguably this was signposted with the revelation that Zoom is trying to make Barry faster.)

No, I mean why in terms of why, thematically speaking, Eddie being Zoom gives us the richest and most compelling storylines.

Recall, if you will, how the season began: Barry felt like he wasn’t the hero of Central City, not really, because Eddie was the one who had stopped the Reverse Flash, not him. Eddie’s death was a really significant, emotional event for Barry; consider how seismic a revelation it would be for Barry to find out that his friend, whose sacrifice pushed him to be a better hero, is now the man trying to kill him. The same would be true of Iris as well, in fact; the man she loved is now a murderer to be feared.

(This, incidentally, is why Zoom shouldn’t be someone’s Earth 2 counterpart; it’d strip the revelation of any emotional significance. If Zoom was Eddie from Earth 2, none of the above is true; Zoom is simply someone who looks like a person they cared about. It really wouldn’t work in the same way. Furthermore, though, they indicated in The Darkness and the Light that Zoom knows about Barry’s personal life, which does suggest he’s from Earth 1.)

They’ve also built a few parallels with Eddie into Zoom’s story now; as you can see in the above picture, Zoom has been holding E2 Wells’ daughter captive, in much the same way that Wells last year held Eddie captive. It’s an interesting reversal, and to me it does indicate that there’s some weight to the idea that Zoom is Eddie; the writers are intelligent people, and the parallels here would be obvious to them too. It’s entirely possible I’m reading too far into this, yes, but I do think it’s worth consideration.

More telling, though, is one of Zoom’s first lines spoken to Barry: “Heroes die”. It’s a firm rejection of Eddie’s dying words – All I ever wanted was to be your hero.” Well, Eddie was a hero, and he died because of it. Whilst the connection I made between Wells imprisoning Eddie and Zoom imprisoning Jesse could, arguably, be a bit of a stretch, I doubt that the writers would include such an overt parallel without it being intended to mean something. To me, that’s one of the most significant pieces of evidence that foreshadows the revelation that Eddie is Zoom.

In any case, though, that concludes this little theory. I’d be interested to see if I’ve convinced you, or if you still disagree; let me know what you think in the comments.

Regardless of what happens, I do know one thing – it’s going to be really, really impressive.

This article was previously posted on the Yahoo TV website.

Related:

The Flash season 2 reviews

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TV Review: The Flash – Running to Stand Still (2×09)

the flash christmas special dc running to stand still the cw grant gustin lightning

Holidays can be a time for gentle reflection on the year past. Our ups and downs, our triumphs, our heartaches. But don’t forget, it can also be a time for disemboweling our enemies.

‘Tis the season, now, for the winter finale of The Flash. If you take a moment to think back to last year, with The Man in the Yellow Suit, we had some pretty seismic revelations and plot developments: Barry confronted the Reverse Flash for the first time, and we learned that Dr. Wells was in fact the man who killed Barry’s mother. The Flash was in a fundamentally different place when we returned in January.

Running to Stand Still opens in such a way that would make us think we’re in for something similar to the previous year; Zoom is seen chasing Harry through STAR Labs, with a cliffhanger before cutting to the title card. It’s a clever bit of misdirect, actually – this sequence harkens back to previous episode Enter Zoom, which opened with an in media res style flashforward. We’re lead to expect something similar here, with a speedster showdown much like last Christmas, but it’s a deliberate ruse; the Zoom plot takes something of a back seat from here, relegated to the episode’s closing scenes – it’s indicative of what’s to come, but not a concern for the present.

Right now, it’s about the Rogues – specifically the Weather Wizard, Captain Cold, and the Trickster, as played by Liam McIntyre, Wentworth Miller, and Mark Hamill. (You may have heard of Hamill; he was in a small, indie movie that came out recently, which you can read my review of here.) The plot deliberately offers something smaller scale, and more intimate, than the spectacle of last Christmas – and that works particularly well here. You don’t always need to see the man who murdered Barry’s mother for a good story – Mark Hamill chewing the scenery is often just as effective.

Weather Wizard and Trickster are, I think, uniquely suited to the Christmas special, in a way most of the Rogues aren’t, necessarily – Weather Wizard’s powers immediately present you with the possibility of a “white Christmas”, and the Trickster allows a level of seasonal whimsy you wouldn’t get elsewhere. After all, which of the other Rogues would dress up as Santa, and hide bombs in Christmas presents? Not Leonard Snart, that’s for sure; for his short appearances, Snart was a welcome source of humour, puncturing the atmosphere with more than a few sarcastic comments and eye rolls. That’s one of the great things about keeping a recurring cast of villains – The Flash has been able to develop Weather Wizard, Trickster, and Captain Cold across the past few seasons, and the show really benefits from having a group of villains that we, the audience, have come to know.

the flash review mark hamill trickster santa christmas running to stand still season 2 rogues dc arrowverse

Of course, the emotional stakes this year were significant nonetheless – we got further traction on the Wally West plot arc which was introduced a few weeks ago. Iris finally decides here that she can’t keep this secret anymore, and ultimately tells her dad the truth – the fact that he has a son he didn’t know about.

Candice Patton and Grant Gustin both do great work with their scenes here; Iris confiding in Barry, Barry being supportive, and so on and so forth. It’s nice to see the two of them being able to interact with one another free of the love triangle from last season; Iris, as a character, has really come into her own over the course of this season, which has been great to see. I’m looking forward to seeing her develop further when we return to the show in January.

Real plaudits, however, deserve to go to Jesse L Martin, who gave a really astounding performance as Joe finds out he has a son. It’s a really nuanced, emotive performance – his initial reaction conveys a lot, even where the dialogue is more closed off, and he develops it further as Joe opens up to Barry later in the episode. Andrew Kreisberg did a great job writing this episode, giving Jesse L Martin (who’s one of the best actors on the program) a lot of interesting material to work with; there’s real depth to his performance, giving us a very successful installment in this storyline.

A moment I particularly liked, actually, came towards the end, where Joe gave Barry his watch – something he’d previously discussed with Iris – and said he’d “always planned to give this watch to my son”. It was a really nice, poignant exchange, with a great performance from both the actors: it reinforces the bond between Joe and Barry, and the fact that, even though Joe now knows he has a biological son, it doesn’t diminish his relationship with Barry. That was something I really liked, in any case.

the flash review joe west running to stand still wally west dc arrowverse crying upset jesse l martin hd

Another impressive emotional sequence – immediately following the watch exchange, actually – was Barry talking to E2 Harrison Wells, to forgive the Harrison Wells who killed his mother. It builds on a more subtle arc they’ve been developing throughout the past few weeks; the idea that Barry might, in fact, be dealing with depression, and his fears that he wouldn’t ever be happy. But here Barry lets go – he’s not going to carry the weight of his mother’s death anymore.

It’s a really significant character moment, which was paralleled in a very clever way through the character of Patty, who was shown to be dealing with similar problems; she felt responsible for the death of her father at the hands of Weather Wizard, and was dealing with similar depression type feelings. It’s really impressive to me that The Flash, primarily an action-adventure programme, is putting so much thought and care into more subtle character development moments like this, because it is really, genuinely very effective.

The sad thing is, though, that it just makes the aspects that don’t work stand out more. They finally brought Jay and Caitlin together as a couple in this episode, with kisses under the mistletoe and a few jokes about different traditions on Earth 1 and Earth 2. A few good jokes came from Cisco mocking the pair of them and puncturing the romantic atmosphere, but the fact remains – this relationship has been quite poorly handled, and you get the impression that they were only brought together because the writers didn’t know what to do with Caitlin as a character. It’s a bit of a shame, but hopefully they’ll be able to make something of it soon.

In any case, though, this was a really excellent episode – one of the strongest of the season so far. Even though it didn’t have a dramatic showdown between Barry and the series villain, akin to last year, we got something with just as much significance, just as much depth of emotion, and we have just as much to look forward to next season.

9/10

This review was recently published on the Yahoo TV website.

Related:

The Flash reviews

Supergirl reviews

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