‘The Flash’ Post-Show Analysis, Season 3, Episode 9: ‘The Present’
Welcome back to Up To Speed, in which Flash TV show recappers Dylan Todd and Ziah Grace break down the latest episode of The Flash and talk about what works, what doesn’t, and where the series might be headed.
This week, the Flashes of two worlds take on Savitar, everyone gets their nog on, and Draco Malfoy gets his hands on a Philosopher's Stone. 'The Present' was directed by Rachel Talalay, from a story by Aaron Helbing and Todd Helbing, and a teleplay by Lauren Certo.
Dylan: Ziah! Welcome back! While you were gone, earth got invaded by aliens, the President got turned into goo, and all the heroes of Flash, Supergirl, Arrow, and Legends of Tomorrow fought the aliens on a rooftop. It was very... crossover-y. But now we’re back to regular old Flash episodes and guess what? It’s a Christmas episode!
Ziah: And happy Flashday to you too, Dylan! I thought this episode was pretty darn great, even if I had some compunctions.
Dylan: Oh man, I thought it was the biggest bummer, while still managing to get some good times in there.
Ziah: Well, if we’re being exact here, I thought the first and last parts were rad as hell, and then just some real boring/bummer of a middle. Kind of like eating a hot dog.
But seriously, did you not love that goofy-ass opening with Indiana Jones Tom Felton finding “The Philosopher’s Stone?” That’s just straight-up early 2000s-schlock TV and I loved it. I was half expecting Tia Carrere to show up and yell at him for stealing her relics.
Dylan: Julian-a Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Super-Rock. Okay, I’ll give you that as being a fun bit, even though it made no sense in the actual timeline of what we know about Julian and Savitar/Alchemy, but I’m not watching these shows to see something that makes sense. But yeah, this episode is very Savitar-heavy, what did you think of the Big Bad stuff this week, Z?
Ziah: Oh, the Big Bad stuff was terrible, no one cares about Mega Man X As Drawn By Todd McFarlane, but there were so many other fun details to focus on! Barry just jumping over to Zeppelin-town to fight actual DCAU Joker and recruit a (mercifully) Slugger-free Jay Garrick, not to mention some good stuff with Joe trying to get his Nog on at a nog-off with… the… DA? Is she a DA?
Or we could talk about Thrells trying to reinvent himself as a cool mentor for talented youths; you think they have The Social Network on Earth-19? “Remove the “The” from Booster Gold. It’s cleaner.”
Dylan: Oh man, it thrilled me to see the return of Grandma Esther’s egg nog.
Ziah: Wait, do they get wasted on it every year? Because I got chills and thrills when Thrells started drunk complementing people, it was delightful.
Dylan: I can’t remember last year, but the year before definitely had a lot of nog talk.
Ziah: Well, let’s not get nogged down in small talk.
So, this episode: Barry recruits Old Man Flash to help take down Savitar and Dr. Alchemy, Cisco starts to see his D-bag older brother’s Flashpoint ghost, and Wally’s gotta save Barry from Barrying it all up again. Plus, we get weird Speedforce mythology, spooky prophecies, and Iris getting future-stabbed by Savitar in the quickest bait-and-switch of beating the season Big Bad I’ve ever seen.
I felt like this episode had some good character beats, Dylan! Especially at the end with that Christmas party. It’s really nice to see everyone just hanging out, and even ol’ stick-in-the-mud Julian joining in. Although, I did come to a realization about why Speedster Big Bads have been bothering me this season.
Dylan: I’m listening…
Ziah: Well, it basically removes the number of storytelling possibilities that they can actually use them for; Savitar is just ridiculously faster than Barry. He’s not stronger, or smarter, or anything Barry could conceivably work on and overcome through training. That and the flash-forward to the future shows that they can’t just throw him in a stone jail box forever, so that means that Barry either has to get faster, or they slow Savitar down.
It’s basically putting the whole season on a straight line, which means we don’t get anything more interesting like Mirror Master doing mirror stuff, or Captain Cold freezing stuff. It’s a one-trick story, right? They’ve already done it twice so far, and both times it’s just required a speed upgrade, and with the Speed Force established, all they have to do is make Barry “tap farther into the Speed Force,” which has always been a boring fix in Flash stories. I dunno Dylan, am I just too up my butt here?
Dylan: No, I get what you’re saying. It’s the same reason why I’m not going to really try all that hard to guess the “real” identity of Savitar --- and I’m pretty sure it’ll turn out to be somebody we know --- even though our job recapping the show sort of demands we engage the “mystery,” such as it is, every now and then.
Ziah: Was there even a mystery? Wow, I totally missed that. I thought he was some sort of dumb speed demon or something. Oh! Is Speed Demon owned by Marvel? Maybe he’s Speed Demon.
Dylan: Well, just the familiarity with which he approached Team Flash, coupled with Caitlin’s line about how the evil speedsters usually wind up being somebody they’ve worked with for a while. And, well, the fact that they’ve pulled the same trick the last two seasons. I already saw a theory online that said that he was Barry Allen From the Future, but that seems real dumb. Wally, maybe? Jay? Some other schmuck?
Ziah: Ah, I see. Yeah, well, maybe it’ll be evil Jay Garrick from last season? Professor Zoom? I dunno. I guess the betrayal line of the prophecy could’ve hinted towards Wally being Savitar, but the whole thing is such a retread.
Speaking of weird retreads, did you catch that Julian mentioned that “Dr. Alchemy’s been a terror for years?” Because that was a weird thing to retcon into the former continuity, if so. I guess Barry just couldn’t catch a bird mask guy with a laser rock in between fighting two speedsters and everyone else we’ve seen him catch in the last two seasons?
Dylan: Yeah, like, I said earlier, the “Julian is Alchemy” thing just doesn’t jibe with what we’ve seen since the post-Flashpoint reset, but it’s a losing game to try and hammer these shows into making too much sense. Forget it, Jake; it’s Flashtown.
Ziah: Fair like the Renaissance, Dylan. I feel like we’ve been negative (rightly so) on this episode, but I really want to just hammer in how nice that Christmas party scene was. Actual, relaxed character interaction and development that isn’t rushed around fighting a Liefeldian interpretation of one of the Blue Men Group! Drunk Thrells! Drunk Thrells, Dylan!
Dylan: Thrells overall was okay this episode, though my wife (/Borat voice), who halfway pays attention to these shows, was very irritated by his affectation of carrying a single drumstick around, which is still very stupid. I also sort of am questioning his motive at this point? Like, he’s really pushing Wally to develop his powers, and the last time a Wells took an interest in a Speedster developing his powers, we wound up with the Reverse Flash.
Is it just me or is this dude kind of shady? Do I have PSTD (Pretty Sure Thrells is Deceiving)?
Ziah: Nahhh, Twells did too! I think Thrells is on the up-and-up. He’s great! He’s just kind of a schmuck, like a step-dad who doesn’t really know how to relate to his kids, and also forgets their birthdays, and also their names. He’s still no Twells, but I’ll take any Cavanagh in a drought.
Dylan: I hope you’re right, Ziah. My heart can’t take another betrayal at the hands of Ed from TV’s Ed. Speaking of Wally, he finally got officially invited into the Society of Speedsters! After six episode of Joe hemming and hawing, Wally is now officially Kid Flash! Are you stoked, or what?
Ziah: Kid Flash is still a dumb, dumb name for a grown man, but these are just the details we all have to live with. It’ll be nice to not have Wally on the sidelines asking to run all the time, at least, but Joe’s worry probably means he gets maimed or goes evil at some point.
Hmmm, I guess if we’re going by “Will Joe West be right about things?”, then Thrells probably will turn out to be shady, huh? And I guess being Savitar could count as “a fate worse than death.”
Okay, fine, The Flash, we’re engaging in your dumb mystery.
Dylan: Welcome to the Upside Down, Ziah. We all float down here.
Ziah: We’ve gotta phone home! Goonies never say die!
Dylan: But seriously, this is an episode where we get to see Iris West brutally impaled while Barry is helpless to stop it; I would not put it past these monsters to mess with Wally.
Ziah: Yeahhhhh, I kind of wanted to skip over that because what else can we say about it? It’s a dumb, overused storytelling device, and the “how many women have you seen phallically impaled on a blade in superhero stories this year” counter really doesn’t need another tally. The only saving grace of it is that there’s no way it actually happens in the present timeline, but we don’t need more fantasies like this one either.
Dylan: And they just untangled the gnarled mess of Christmas lights that is the Barry/Iris love situation, too! I mean, I’m glad it spurred Barry on to moving their relationship forward, but yeesh, enough with the lady-killing, already.
Ziah: Would you say that it made him… speed things up? Put a spring in his step? Did a Hot Wheels speed-up box vroom vroom?
Dylan: In case you were wondering, this is why Santa will be leaving coal in your stocking this year.
Ziah: Coal? And here I’ve been thinking all chocolates tasted like that.
Dylan: But what else do we need to talk about? We've barely touched our fun little trip to Earth-3, with special guest star Mark Hamill reprising his Trickster role, a characterization that was less Trickster and more DC Animated Universe Joker, only with more goofy teeth. (This was not intended as a dig at John Wesley Shipp’s big white choppers, but oh, what the heck, it is now.)
Ziah: He was great! I wish the whole episode was about him, but Hamil’s got more… galactic responsibilities these days, huh? (I’m talking about Star Wars.) (Because he’s Luke Skywalker.) (The main guy in Star Wars.)
Dylan: Umactually, if you’re looking at the whole six film cycle, I’d say it’s more Anakin Skywalker’s story, but we’re gettin off-track here. What else do we need to talk about this episode?
Ziah: Oh! I need all our lovely readers to send me a GIF of Wally giving his dad the A-OK hand signal once he sees Joe get some Tonsil Time under the Mistletoe. That was such a great moment by Keiynan Lonsdale.
Dylan: I love that literally everybody was like, “Frickin’ finally, Joe.”
Ziah: It’s what we all wanted for Christmas.
Dylan: Well, that and a custom leather speed suit, apparently.
Ziah: And on that note, we’ll see you in 2017, Flashers!