“I’m assuming you didn’t come all the way to Earth-3 to stop my Trickster,” states Jay Garrick (John Wesley Shipp), oh no Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) comes bearing, self-proclaimed deities, and West family stakes; both make a rogue Trickster seem harmless. “The Present” (3×09) is a seamless midseason finale that contains a Christmas ghost, a Philosopher’s stone, and a twist on Barry’s time travel gift. Since The Flash season three began a lot of time has been spent dwelling on past mistakes, trying to control future outcomes, and not focusing on the choices made in present day. This episode illustrates how our characters could defeat their new foe not stuck in the past or obsessing about a future unknown, but in the present day. The writers blend Savitar exposition with an expansion of the speed force mythology, neither overpowering each other like the rum in Grandma Esther’s egg nog. I didn’t even mind the special effects used during all of the Savitar fight sequences!
“You did this to me. Your future self, you did this to me, you trapped me in eternity,” explains Savitar and then drops the mic. Suddenly I am much more interested in learning more about Savitar, than just a few episodes ago. Since “Killer Frost” (3×07) a lot of viewers have drawn comparisons to between the god of motion and Zoom’s convoluted villainy last year. Not after this scene, because this isn’t about being the fastest speedster of them all anymore, but its about a past wrong. The episode begins with a flashback to Julian Albert (Tom Felton) discovering the philosopher’s stone on an expedition in India; can we please see some flash-forwards to Savitar becoming locked in eternity. Did anyone else randomly recall how Eddie Thawne’s body got swept up into the speed force in the season one finale, during this scene? Just me? Anyways, the writers reinforce the fact that Savitar is a self-proclaimed god, once a man simply blessed with the power of speed. Seems like this myth is a brief overview and there is more story to be told. We understand that all power corrupts, but can the same be said for speed? After all, “To be a god, you just have to make others believe you are one.”
Wally West (Keiynan Lonsdale) certainly will need more than H.R. (Tom Cavanagh) believing in him to become a speedster. “Joe the one thing I do know is the longer you deny someone their potential the more they’re going to look for it elsewhere,” well it seems like Joe (Jesse L Martin) just encountered a dad-cop. I am still on the fence about the “fake H.R.” because both Harry and Harrison Wells left lasting such impressions on the series. The writers are maintaining his elusiveness this season, all wrapped in the conundrum that is Earth-19. This is the first episode in a while when his character offered some nog-induced humor and an third-party observer perspective on The Flash family dynamics. H.R.’s encounter with Joe leads to one of the many gifts scattered throughout the episode as the West family decide to support Wally on becoming Kid Flash and give him a costume. This is a nice gift, but I suspect it won’t prevent Wally from going down a darker path later this season. The Flash writers may still have plans for our Wally to head down the Dark Flash route with H.R. inexplicably refers to him as Walter in “Monster” (3×05). After all Wally received his powers the same way Savitar with the Philosopher’s stone; not during a particle accelerator explosion like Barry Allen or Jesse Quick.
“It’s nothing…it’s like the box doesn’t even exist,” explains Cisco (Carlos Valdes) to his fellow team members after testing the box containing Dr. Alchemy’s Philosopher’s Stone. There are more than one illusion appearing in Central City this holiday season, but Dante Ramon’s (Nicholas Gonzalez) ghost is haunting Star Labs. Surprisingly, it’s not manifestation of Cisco’s grief, but the same manipulation tactic Savitar used on Julian to initially release him from the box. Caitlin (Danielle Panabaker) returns to the fold as a voice of understanding, after her brief lapse as Killer Frost. She finds herself being the voice of reason for both Cisco and Julian whom are found to be susceptible to Savitar’s manipulation. This god certainly doesn’t play fair, using dead siblings to get unleashed. At the same time we all can’t help but suspect her as the team flash member likely to betray the others in Savitar’s prophecy.
“I’ve never run to the future, I’ve traveled back to the past, but I’ve always traveled back to the present,” explains Barry to Jay Garrick after witnessing Iris’ death in the near future. Even the gift of speed could be viewed as a curse. You only possess power over present action, not the future consequences that follow. Shout out the writers for tying this realization back to “Invasion!” (3×08) when Barry informs Oliver that this future newspaper article used to be written by Iris West-Allen; it changed after Flashpoint. Not only dose the reference plot progression spread across multiple episodes, but serves as an eerie reminder that Barry is mirroring behavior from a rogue speedster, the Reverse Flash. Both speedsters change the same past event only to obsess with keeping a known future in tact. Thankfully, Barry has a good speedster from Earth-3 to guide him through this precarious situation, “The future is not yet written and it might not even be what you saw. You need to focus on the here and now.” Too bad Barry Allen usually needs to learn his lesson the hard way and I doubt he’ll be able to un-see Iris’ fate. WestAllen fans do not fear the inevitable relationship angst and feels in your future, they always seem to find each other, on any Earth, and somewhere in time.
The Flash midseason finale is a great bookending to the premiere episode “Flashpoint” (3×01), and I appreciate the subtly in moving characters arc forward. Both episodes highlight how much our Team Flash members have changed over the season and due to Barry’s decision in the second season finale. Both feature Barry facing off against a rival speedster (pun intended), whom feels threaten by our hero’s speed. Eobard Thawne’s (Matt Letscher) words “Now who’s the villain” will continue to haunt Barry during the back half. Both episodes ending remind viewers that the Flashpoint consequence Barry fears the most is one that will prevent his happily ever after with Iris West. The Flash will return with “Borrowing Problems from the Future” (3×10) on January 17th, 2017; some of this story is not yet written and there’s much to be seen.