The Dominion invasion is over. The heroes have gone home to their home cities and/or home dimensions. The Flash has had a brief intermission from both Savitar and Doctor Alchemy, but that’s about to change with this episode. A visit to Earth-Two to see Jay Garrick is probably the best present I can think of for the holiday break, but there’s more, good and bad on its way. Meet me after the super-speed extra-dimensional jump, for my thoughts on “The Present.”
TV vs. Comics
I said Jay Garrick was from Earth-Two in the intro, but regular viewers know that that is just not true. Originally, in the comics, pre-Crisis, Jay was from Earth-Two, but here on television, he’s from Earth-Three. When I think Earth-Three, I think about the evil Justice League, the Crime Syndicate, and their evil speedster, powered by a speed drug, Johnny Quick – not Jesse‘s father, another Johnny Quick.
In the Arrowverse, these Earths are different. For instance, Jay Garrick’s teammates, the Justice Society of America, most frequently associated with Earth-Two in the comics, made their Arrowverse Earth-One debut in the first few episodes of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow this season. Like Alchemy being a servant of Savitar, or the Wests being African-American, or the Top being female – sometimes the television versions are different from the comics. It’s worth noting such differences, especially in this episode, as you’ll soon see.
The Philosopher’s Stone
We open on Julian Albert (whose name, when you think about it is a nice homage to the comics Doctor Alchemy, Albert Desmond), four years ago in the Indus Valley. He finds a box containing a Hindu weapon called the Brahmastra – the Philosopher’s Stone. Insert Harry Potter reference and/or joke here. As we learn later, this was the first time Julian experienced a blackout, and other members of his team turned up dead. Julian fled to the United States.
Like his comics counterpart, Doctor Alchemy on TV appears to be a split personality, as Julian has no memory of his actions as Alchemy. Later when he’s captured by the Flash and locked in the Pipeline, Julian wants his phone call and his civil rights (I keep telling y’all the Pipeline is bad business). He doesn’t trust the Flash, so in a mad demonstration of Barry-ism, the superhero unmasks. Sigh. It works though, and Julian opens up about his blackouts, and how a vision of his dead sister led him to the Stone.
A Visit to Earth-Three
I suppose we could take the title of this episode literally, because any time we get to see John Wesley Shipp as any Flash and Mark Hamill as any Trickster, it’s a gift, but this time it’s a little different. Shipp is the Jay Garrick Flash, and Hamill is a decidedly different Earth-Two version of the Trickster, notably a character that does not exist in the comics. Hamill is more Joker-esque as this Trickster, with purple hair and a gangster, but still dangerously punny, vibe. As I said, this cameo is a wonderful present.
Barry shows up and helps finish off the Trickster, but he’s there for advice, about Savitar. Surprisingly, Jay knows quite a bit about Savitar, almost suspiciously too much. According to Speed Force legends and mythology, he says, Savitar is the first meta with speed. When he first comes to an Earth, Savitar sends an emissary to pave the way for him. Then he challenges that Earth’s speedster. Why? Because he threatens Savitar’s power. I don’t know about anyone else out there, but to me, it sounds like Jay has first hand knowledge of this dude.
Wally West and Earth-19
Meanwhile as indicated in the Heroes V Aliens crossover, H.R. Wells begins training Wally as Kid Flash. The truth is however, the kid doesn’t need as much training as Barry did. He seems to have this speed thing down. In the comics, when Wally finally did ascend to the mantle of the Flash, he was better, due to his training in the comics beginning when he was a teen. He had years to perfect his powers, and had Barry training him all that time. Here, on television however, his ability might just be suspect. This overprotectiveness though has just got to stop. Wally is an adult, let him decide for himself, and thankfully, eventually, they do.
Wells is also decorating S.T.A.R. Labs for Christmas, making the assumption that the holidays here are the same as they are on his home Earh-19. The super speed rumor mill indicates that we may actually see Earth-19 at some point this season. Wells has talked about the various heroes of that world, and its talking gorillas, but one wonders how closely it will mirror the Victorian Earth-19 of the comics? I’m pretty sure we won’t see Gotham by Gaslight, but might we see that world’s Flash – the Accelerated Man?
Alchemy and Savitar and The Box
Alchemy plans his endgame in the middle of the episode, summoning all of the metas from Flashpoint, but it seems more of a feint than an actual threat, as nothing comes of it other than talk and defeat. The box Julian found the Philosopher’s Stone in seems to be the lamp from which Savitar is imprisoned. Perhaps the box itself is more dangerous than the Stone? Barry takes on Alchemy, while Jay races for his life with Savitar. When Barry unmasks Alchemy – shocker, it’s Julian – and secures the Stone in the box, Savitar vanishes.
Savitar gives Jay a savage CGI beatdown as they race, thrashing him like a rag doll. But it’s notable that Savitar knows Jay by name. Speed Force legends, my ass. They know each other. When all is said and done, and the villain and the box are secured, Dante appears to Cisco, just as Julian said his dead sister did to him. Dante gets Cisco to open the box, releasing Savitar. The god of speed pounds on Barry and Wally mercilessly until finally Caitlin convinces Cisco to close the box. Finally, Caitlin has something to do that doesn’t have to do with Killer Frost!
Through some super-scientific hoodoo, Team Flash figures a way to speak with Savitar by using Julian as a conduit, almost like a medium. Savitar’s first words to Barry in this weird séance are “it’s been a while.” He knows them all because he’s from their future, the future Barry trapped him in for eternity. From within Julian, Savitar gives them a horrific prophecy… “One shall betray you, one shall fall, one will suffer a fate far worse than death.”
The first thing that occurs to me is that that’s a nasty paradox, almost like Eddie and the Reverse-Flash in the first season. If Savitar kills this Barry, how can future Barry capture and trap him? But on to this prophecy, of course always taking into account that villains lie, so grain of salt, folks. The one who falls may be Iris, and we’ll talk about that in a second or two. Who betrays? Perhaps Cisco, whose faith and friendship in Barry have been so tested of late, maybe Caitlin becoming Killer Frost for good, or maybe it’s H.R., who was referred to by Savitar as “the fake Wells” – now what does that mean?
The Death of Iris West
A plan is concocted for Jay and Barry to generate enough speed to hurl the Philosopher’s Stone into the Speed Force, but as a side effect, Barry is himself sent to the future. First he sees a news broadcast talking about the Plunder trial (which perhaps indicates a return of Mirror Master), a villain supposedly captured by the Flash ‘earlier in the year.’ Then he watches as Savitar murders Iris in front of his helpless future self. Before Barry can do anything, Jay pulls him back to the present. Jay tries to talk Barry down, telling him there are alternate futures and endless possibilities, he needs to live his life now, in the present. Wow, based on some of the advice Jay has given Barry this season, the old man has seen some shit, and doesn’t want his new younger friend to see it as well.
Of course, we comics readers know that Iris does in fact die, at the hands of the Reverse-Flash, before being rescued by her real parents in the future. Don’t I keep telling y’all that Barry and Iris’ love is one stronger than life and death and time and space – this is part of it. Of course, as I pointed out earlier, television is not comics, and Iris’s death by Savitar may have different causes, circumstances, and consequences. Hell, I’ll ride along, as long as Barry doesn’t get back with Patty…
Christmas with the Wests
After that traumatic vision of a possible future, we close on a quiet Christmas with the Wests. Even Julian is invited, but declines, ultimately showing up late, with Joe’s new girlfriend Cecile being the odd (wo)man out who doesn’t know the Flash’s secret. Haven’t we proven that the whole secret identity thing is old school and just out and out lying yet? Seriously, folks, it gets old, and if there’s one thing the CW DCTV shows have taught us, it’s not that important. If Cecile is a keeper, let her in on it.
When it comes to exchanging gifts, I was sure, that no matter what would happen, Barry would forget. He doesn’t, he overcompensates. And not just because he’s seen a vision of a possible tragic future, and been warned by Jay to live in the moment. Barry makes a fatal relationship mistake that even us normal humans make – he’s going too fast. Pun unintended. He gets a place for them both to live together, intending to spend all the time possible with her. I wonder how Iris really feels about all this, and surely she knows he’s hiding something, right?
This mid-season finale had a lot in it, so much happened, with so much yet to happen. I loved seeing Barry and Jay team up, as well as Barry and Wally too. I am looking forward to seeing Barry and Jay and Wally all costumed up to go up against Savitar, and hope the showrunners deliver. I’m not happy to see Iris, and Barry and Iris’ relationship, on the chopping block. I mean, jeez, Barry isn’t Green Arrow, let the guy be happy, okay?
Was anyone else expecting a stinger at the end in the vein of maybe an announcement about Plunder? He’ll be in the next episode, so don’t worry. Also on the way will be Gorilla Grodd, the aforementioned Earth-19, and Gypsy, Vibe’s fellow Justice League Detroit member, making her live-action debut. The Flash returns January 24, 2017, with “Borrowing Problems from the Future,” hmmm, sounds like Barry isn’t going to let this go…