Season Three, Episode Nine — “The Present”
By Jarrod Jones. It’s Christmas time again, and you know what that means — hiatus. (What? What did you think I was going to say?) It’s also time for The Flash to wrap its cute-as-a-button cast in big, comfy ugly sweaters, get them slightly turnt on spiked eggnog, and (in keeping with the traditions of this series) have Barry Allen get his scarlet-hued ass knocked around in terrifying fashion by an evil speedster with a grudge.
“The Present” meets the standards set by the previous two midseason finales of The Flash, the sorta-halfway point in the season where we get a heaping pile of information about the year’s big heavy, a tremendous development from one of the show’s core characters, and at least one moment of devastating heartache. Savitar stands revealed as the true enemy of Team Flash, a metal-plated speedster whose origins have a slight resemblance to the villain of DC Films’ Suicide Squad (not the strongest start, but hey), an all-seeing, all-knowing, self-described “God of Speed” who may or may not be manipulating Barry and the S.T.A.R. Kids from within. (Dr. Alchemy, one can presume, has been reduced into a rather ornate red herring.)
The red flags are everywhere. Barry and Jay Garrick do fast work of Savitar by trapping him in the legendary Philosopher’s Stone (the source of his power? probably?), but even before the Stone is brought to S.T.A.R. Labs, Cisco Ramon begins to have visions of his deceased brother Dante, Wally is more driven than ever to become a speedster, and Harrison Wells of Earth-19 is really into the Christmas spirit, even though there’s a giant death god from the future out there running around looking to start a war. Savitar appears to have the power of mind control, and from what we can glean from this episode, there are few who are immune to his powers. (Paging Lt. Data.)
Once the Philosopher’s Stone enters S.T.A.R. — along with Julian Albert, now reveled to Team Flash as Dr. Alchemy — shenanigans begin to occur. What kind of shenanigans, you say? Oh, like Cisco having full conversations with his dead brother, for starters: Dante creeps into Cisco’s mind to encourage his little brother to open the Philosopher’s Stone — it’s Savitar, manipulating Cisco just as he manipulated Julian years back (Savitar took the form of Julian’s dead sister, the jerk) — and Barry decides to reveal his true identity to Julian, who then decides to cooperate fully with Team Flash. (Maybe Barry should super-glue his cowl to that dome of his.)
Ever since the Harrison Wells of Earth-2 went back to his world, The Flash has been woefully absent of a morbid genius, and since it appears we’re kinda stuck with the drumstick-twirling Wells-19 for the foreseeable future, Tom Felton’s Julian Albert appears to fit the bill. Does Team Flash have a new member on its hands? Julian’s sipping eggnog with everybody by the end of the episode, so who can say.
Julian may be there to fill a more substantive void sooner than later. With Savitar’s eerie prophecy (“One of you will fall”) and Barry’s unscheduled trip into the future, where he witnesses the death of Iris West at the hands of his chromium villain, it would seem that Team Flash will be minus one major character before the end of this season. Of course, there’s no way that Candace Patton will leave The Flash, but then again… this is The Flash we’re talking about here.
“I want my phone call!” – Julian, who has obviously never watched this show, to Barry.
“I don’t know about you guys, but being mind-punked by a speed god that we piss off in the future… it’s enough to kill your Christmas spirit.” – Cisco.
“JOE! I saw you kiss her, good job!” – Wells-19, drunkenly, to Det. Joe.
BEST MOMENT: Savitar has Julian. Strapped to a chair, Julian agrees to channel Savitar via the Philosopher’s Stone. The purpose? Well, turns out everyone on Team Flash would like to know that too. Plugged in, Savitar takes a moment to threaten everyone in the room, throw some shade Barry’s way, and generally be an apocalyptic pain in the ass. It’s the alchemy (jokes!) of Tobin Bell’s vocal work and Tom Felton’s menacing performance that sells this moment. If The Flash has been missing a serious villain since the days of Eobard Thawne, let’s cross our fingers and hope that Savitar meets the challenge. This scene set the bar pretty high.
EPISODE’S MVP: It could go to Tom Felton or Grant Gustin, though Mr. Grant didn’t have to give a creepy monologue filled with prophecies for the rest of the season. Hm… let’s give it to Mark Hamill’s prosthetic teeth.
– We are aware that a former Harry Potter cast member is on The Flash talking about Philosopher’s Stones, right? And we’re equally aware of how funny that is, right?
– Oh, Julian. Didn’t you see Suicide Squad? Never try to break the ancient artifact.
– The Philosopher’s Stone is an old chestnut of a concept: In legend it’s a tool for alchemists, but it has since popped up in other popular media, like the Harry Potter series and (perhaps more importantly, for this series anyway) Grant Morrison’s JLA run.
– Julian’s paper on Artifacts and Mysticism of the Indus Valley is credited to J. Albert Desmond. “Albert Desmond” is the comic book identity of Dr. Alchemy.
– So, the muscly actor playing the human Savitar from way back? That’s Daniel Cudmore, Colossus in Bryan Singer’s X2. (And, um, Brett Ratner’s X-Men: The Last Stand).
– Leave it to the cop to point out S.T.A.R.’s lack of due process.
– What. Is up. With the Trickster. On Earth-3.
– Wally’s Joe impersonation is. Spot. On.
– “Infantino St.” is a nice hat-tip to longtime Flash artist Carmine Infantino. (One of the greats, really.)
– Speaking of Wally, he’s officially the Kid Flash of Earth-1! Will he be the member of Team Flash that betrays everyone else? Certainly would seem that way, considering Alchemy already got into Wally’s brain earlier in the season, and that the camera was pointed right up his nostrils when Savitar said that somebody in Team Flash is gonna betray everybody else.
– If Wally is really gonna become a superhero, he needs more face time with Jay. Could we have a Wally/Jay stand-alone episode on Earth-3?
– No more Tube Rocket recaps of The Flash until January 25! Have a Happy Holidays, group! I’ll see you next year.
8.5 out of 10
Next: The Midseason Premiere, soon.
Before: “Invasion!”, here.