‘Running to Stand Still’
“It’s official, Santa hates us,” says Joe West (Jesse L. Martin) during The Flash’s mid-season finale. This lovely bit of meta comedy — everything tends to go to crazy at this point in the season on shows of this ilk — is indicative of the slither of smart, character comedy this show excels at, even if it can’t resist the opportunity to get Mark Hamill to ham it up to 11 with an array of Christmas puns.
As Christmas approaches The Flash’s writers have somehow woven all the seemingly scattered story threads together: the West family drama, Patty Spivot’s (Shantel VanSanten) backstory and the Zoom storyline. Sadly, the major revelations involving the evil man in blue feel contrived, bringing up memories of last seasons stellar mid-season finale when Reverse-Flash came out to play. Zoom is still sadistic and his plan to make Barry (Grant Gustin) faster, “fattening him up like a Christmas goose” is an interesting one, it’s just that the players involved are too obvious. Elsewhere, Iris (Candice Patton) tells Joe he has a son. These scenes are filled with sucker-punch performances designed to boost tissue sales. The hidden child storyline is one of The Flash’s more soapy elements, but the way the show handles it stops it from being nauseating.
Every week, give or take, Jesse L. Martin is the MVP and putting Joe through these emotional scenes is a sure fire way of him keeping his crown, but not so, as Candice Patton arrives and conquers. Throughout much of The Flash, Iris is just sort of there, but with ‘Running to Stand Still’ she shows initiative, emotion and sass, pointing out to a sardonic Captain Cold (Wentworth Miller) that in superhero mythology “everyone in this room had a rough childhood, deal with it”. This episode serves as a reminder of how good Candice Patton can be and how much fun Iris is.
Speaking of Cold, the villains of the week are just general nuisances. After being sprung out of prison by The Weather Wizard (Liam McIntyre), Cold can’t be bothered to kill Barry and so quickly leaves. It’s a shame because Miller has always been a super substitute with his droll putdowns and observations, but the show has written his character into a corner and it would be weird to see him being openly evil again.Not to fear, Mark Hamill’s The Trickster is back, armed to the brim with awful Christmas puns. Hamill’s having a little moment, with the release of the new Star Wars, and it’s a pleasure to see a live action version of his Joker. Unfortunately, his wielding of the aforementioned awful puns makes his presence more annoying than anything of substance. McIntyre is fine but isn’t required to do much except serve as Patty’s emotional springboard.
VanSanten hasn’t had to deal with much emotion this season, but when Patty is faced with her father’s killer she brings it. Whilst her backstory has been taken from the bag titled ‘Superhero Clichés’, Patty is now a rounded character instead of an enigma. Hopefully the show won’t keep Barry’s secret identity secret from Patty for too long because that will be a betrayal of the character seen so far.
As The Flash begins its Christmas break, it leaves the audience with a stellar episode that is filled to the brim with everything that makes the show great. The Christmas jokes may be annoying but like a crappy gift from a lovely grandma, they can be forgiven because it’s their company that counts.
The Flash will return soon after the New Year.