The Flash Zoom-In: Running to Stand Still (2×09)
“To think this city worships you… but when I kill The Flash, they’ll realize… I’m the man who saved Central City,” says Jesse James (AKA The Trickster); a nice callback line to the season two premiere episode titled, The Man Who Saved Central City. The Flash midseason finale is a rogue filled episode, with great character moments, even more setup for future plotlines; but little payoff. I understand the producers’ desire to gain viewership by having Mark Hamill reprise his role as The Trickster in an episode airing so close to Star Wars: The Force Awakens; but since when did The Flash have rating issues? The show is set to take a month hiatus, so shouldn’t they leave us on a note that’s more epic, like Enter Zoom (2×6). Instead the writers opt for a rogue-centric episode, as Mark Mardon (AKA Weather Wizard) breaks both Captain Cold and The Trickster out of prison. Well, with Legends of Tomorrow debuting next month, Captain Cold had to make his quasi-hero exit at some point. He ends up surprising both Barry and Iris at the West family home, with a secret Santa present, “Mardon wants revenge, Jesse wants chaos… I’m just not invested like they are.” Pause right there. I really love Barry’s anger in this scene, as he goes into protector-mode (very Oliver Queen-esque). Also, Iris is shown standing beside Barry; up against a super-villain. Well that’s got to score the writers brownie points with the West-Allen shippers. Resume action, “Sorry I’m not really interested in being a hero,” now we’re back to obvious spin-off set up, but I think Barry’s retort is superb, “Well, you’ve done a pretty lousy job being a villain this week.”
Now the writers do take this rogue-revenge plot towards drawing some very intriguing parallels between our villains, our hero, and surprisingly… the love interest. Mardon wants to kill The Flash, because he killed his brother; Patty wants to kill Mardon, because he killed her father; a rogue’s action is selfish in nature and there’s nothing more venal than revenge. Okay, back to the action, where viewers continue to be reminded that Team Flash, needs to put Patty on their team. Seriously, she discovers the same clue from The Trickster video, that leads them to the abandon toy-factory warehouse. The Flash ends up saving them both from a death trap, which brings us to the final point of this self-retribution triangle; Barry Allen. “It will be legal when I kill Martin, I have made my whole life about getting justice for my father… even if it meant I didn’t have a life,” explains Patty Spivot, unknowingly to her boyfriend; another great callback line, this time to Barry Allen’s season one opening monologue. This parallel drawn between Patty and Barry could have been stronger, had it not been for the faulty premise surrounding this scene. There’s no reason for Patty to divulge her life story to a complete stranger, even if, “sometimes, it’s just easier to say things to someone with no face.” They go their separate ways, only to be reunited once again by the rogues.
“Who me? Kill 100 families? No… I’m happy just to take your life,” explains Mardon to The Flash, “You are going to stand there and let me end you… very publicly and very painfully, and I’ll let everybody live.” Now I understand why this episode is called, Running to Stand Still. On another note, it’s interesting that Mardon places an emphasis on ‘publicly’, meaning it’s not just enough to kill The Flash, but to be known as the one who did it. While Barry takes a beating the team figures out a way to locate all one hundred presents and how to send them all through a wormhole. Okay, I understand the basic laws of magnetism, but I still don’t understand the science behind this plot construct. After Team Flash saves the day, Barry quickly (pun intended) takes down both The Trickster and Weather Wizard, only to have Patty drive into the scene and neutralize the Flash… wait, what just happened? For about a split second, I actually thought those conspiracy theories about her being evil were right… wrong. “You pull that trigger, your life ends too… you will go to prison, everyone and everything that you could have had in your life will be taken from you again… Martin can’t take anything else away from you, unless you let him.” Patty decides to lawfully get justice for her father and arrests Mardon at the scene. The Flash saves the day and Patty makes peace with her past… too neat and tidy for my taste.
After defeating the rogues, Barry has a very heart-felt moment with Joe, whose grappling with the revelation that he has a son. After Iris tells him the truth about why Francine came to town (all those episodes ago), he then breaks down in front of Barry, “I knew my kid needed me… so if I have that feeling as a parent, why didn’t I feel that for my son.” Note: Grant Gustin does an excellent job reacting in these moments with Joe and Iris, because they’re his family and he supports them… but will this revelation displace him in the West household? Maybe not, as the writers include a small plot construct within this episode to reaffirm Barry as Joe’s son; with the passing down of an old family heirloom. More importantly it’s Joe’s words to Barry about forgiveness that illustrate their paternal bond “I spent so long lying about her being dead that I started to believe it myself. But the truth is those feelings were always there, that anger, that regret, the guilt… I just didn’t realize how much I need to just forgive her.” This bring us to the best scene in the episode, all messy and complicated, “I realized that you are still in my heart, how much I hate you, for what you’ve done. I don’t want to hate you anymore, I can’t. I can’t hate you anymore. I forgive you.” Barry makes peace with the very thing he’s been running to try and catch, since the premiere… Harrison Wells. He may have forgiven Harrison Wells, but does this mean he’ll stop seeking out revenge against Eobard Thawne? I think not. The midseason finale concludes with a West family Christmas party, and an unexpected visitor… Wally West. This is not a drill. I repeat, Wally West is in Central City, he will be featured in the back half of this season; Epic! In addition, the writers leave us with a little Zoom tease, “You want Barry to become more powerful… more full of speed force, you’re fattening him up for the slaughter.” Another super-villain wants to help Barry get faster, because he needs the speed force. Suddenly, I am getting a strange sense of plot-line deja vu. I wonder if beneath Zoom’s mask will be Earth-2, Eobard Thawne. How screwed up would that be? The Flash will return with new episodes on January 19th.