Christmas just isn’t Christmas without a surprise or two, now is it? And the final ‘The Flash’ of 2015 gives us more than one surprise to whet our appetites for the Central City’s speedster’s return after a month-long hiatus.

The show doesn’t waste time, either, giving us frightened Wells running from Zoom. The camera-work is particularly brilliant here as it frames the off-balance and jarring frame of mind the professor must be in running from the living nightmare. When Zoom catches him, Wells asks nothing more than for Zoom to let Jesse go. The simple response from the villain? “Merry Christmas.”

Mardon breaks Snart and the Trickster out for an all-villain team-up to take down the Flash

Meanwhile, the giving season is in full effect as Joe and Iris talk about what they should get Barry. Iris’s jovial mood is sobered when Joe mentions how he’d always wanted to give his watch—a gift from his own dad—to his son. Unable to keep such a large secret to herself anymore, Iris comes clean about her brother to Barry. He stands with her and promises to be by her side when she tells Joe the truth. Before they get to that part, though, Mark Mardon—aka the Weather Wizard—breaks out Captain Cold and the Trickster out of Iron Heights for the sole purpose of taken down their mutual enemy: the Flash.

News of the escape brings Patty’s emotions to the surface. After all, Mardon was the man who killed her father. In addition, when Cisco devises a way to locate Mardon by creating a “wand” that will temporarily de-power him, the gang gets a peek into Barry’s previous travels in time.

Speaking of time, Iris and Barry finally approach Joe and tell him about he and Francine’s son. Of course the news crushes Joe, who blames himself for not trying to track down Francine once he kicked her to the curb. “Who taught him to be a man, Barry?” he tells his adopted son during a moment of emotional turmoil. But while Barry is trying to be there for Joe, he has a bigger issue: Mardon and the Trickster out plotting goodness knows though, thanks to a head’s up from Snart, Barry realizes the two villains have painted the Flash as their target.

The first attack occurs after the Trickster’s broadcast to the city. Cisco points Barry in the right direction while, on her own, Patty comes to the same location. It’s a trap no doubt, one that Barry’s able to save himself and Patty from and, post-escape, the obviously distraught detective shares her own form of guilt at Mardon’s murder of her father. Despite Barry’s attempts at reasoning with her, Patty only has eyes for getting vengeance on Mardon.

The second attack comes in a most evil genius way. After Barry momentarily takes Mardon down, the Trickster drops Barry in the grinder: if he defends himself against the villainous duo’s attacks, there will be dozens, maybe hundreds, of deaths around the city thanks to Trickster Santa giving away quite the explosive of presents. While Barry takes it on the chin, Wells, Cisco and Jay come up with a plan: if they can find at least one of the bombs, they can reverse the magnetic pull on it, send it through a breach and, if all goes right, the remaining bombs will be drawn into the breach, ending the threat. It’s a novel concept, one that works and, once Barry gets the okay, he takes down both the Trickster and Mardon…

And that’s when Patty arrives. She uses an Anti-Flash tether, trapping the speedster in place while she takes aim at Mardon.  Everything in her wants to pull the trigger but Barry’s able to talk her down, allowing Patty to maybe accept that she’s not to blame for her father’s death after all.

As it turns out, there’s a lot of forgiveness to be had. After finding out about his son, Joe talks to Francine and, afterwards, admits to Barry “I just didn’t realize how much I needed to forgive her.” His admission touches something in Barry and the young scientist watches the Earth-2 Wells work. “I know that you’re not him,” he says to the unaware Wells, “but he’s not here and I have to say this for me.” Barry airs his grievances aloud and finally comes to the biggest of conclusions…

“I don’t want to hate you anymore,” he says. “I forgive you.” With such a massive weight off his chest, Barry invites Wells to the West Christmas shindig but the professor declines. “I can’t celebrate without my daughter.”

The battle—both external and internal—being won by all involved, we get a few moments of levity where Jay and Caitlin finally kiss, Patty’s ready to open up to Barry and, the biggest of all, Wally West arrives on the porch.

Despite such surprises though, they save the best for last. Wells meets up with Zoom for the third time and reveals

Welcome to Central City, Wally West

that he knows exactly what Zoom has been up to with sending metas from Earth-2 to attack Barry; he wants the Flash to gain as much power as possible. “The more power he has, the more I can take.” With Jesse’s life on the line, Harrison Wells of Earth-2 acquiesces to Zoom’s demand.

“I will help you steal the Flash’s speed…”

Flash Facts

  • On the surface, “Running to Stand Still” seemed like a decent if not uneventful Fall finale but, after going back over it, so many things happen in such a small amount of time. Not only do we get Zoom back, we find Harrison Wells in the untenable position of betraying those that have befriended him. In a way, he has taken on the role of Eobard Thawne in the original Wells’ body; helping Barry get stronger for his own selfish gain. But this particular selfishness is something in which we can all empathize. Of course he must know it probably won’t end well for him but with his daughter on the line, Wells isn’t seeing things too clearly.
  • On the subject of being blinded by circumstance, the Anti-meta task force partners—Joe and Patty—are both having their own crises. Patty’s guit-riddled past and hatred for Mark Mardon, her father’s murderer, puts her in danger of losing her life and freedom, finally realizes she can still have a good life despite what fate dealt her. Similarly, Joe West accepts his own guilt and comes to terms with the anger he’d carried for Francine throughout the years and unburdened himself of it by forgiving his ex-wife. Barry eventually follows Joe’s example, forgiving the man who betrayed him via the Earth-2 Wells as a proxy.  It’s quite ironic that, as Barry forgives, Wells enter into a covenant that will once again betray Barry…
  • Two more future developments are given as we get our first glimpse of Wally West as he shows up on Joe’s doorstep and Leonard Snart shuffling a bit closer to the white hats, despite telling Barry that “I’m not interested in being a hero.” We know a bit more definitively where Snart’s headed (‘Legends of Tomorrow’will be premiering in a month) but just how Wally fits into this new world is a surprise that will have to wait for the new year…
  • Quick hitters: Wells shows that he’s not without some humor, even in dire situations. “Every Earth has a Godfather, Vito,” he tells Cisco after the gangster-ish “sleeping with the fishes” line in mentioned. Also, after locating one of the Trickster’s bombs, he tells the boy answering the door “Your toys: give them to me.” It was delivered with a deadpanned, Terminatorish seriousness that provided a pretty good chuckle.