It’s The Flash midseason finale time and, as finales go—midseason or otherwise—“The Present” is somewhat of a mixed back. What it lacks insofar as a cliffhanger moment, despite a happy final shot, we’re left decidedly uneasy in the things to come…
Whereas we’re left with the final thoughts of a deadly future, it’s apropos that we begin in the past. Four years ago, to be precise and Julian’s search for the Alchemy Stone, a search powered years before by visions of his dead sister. A few weeks back we were presented with another side of Julian—not the arrogant arse but a man in pain. After Barry confronts him about his Alchemy alter ego (more on that in a bit), Julian opens up about his sister’s death and the quest for the Stone which his sister’s vision promised would reunite them. Of course, it was a lie, one Savitar used to free himself from a prison of Eternity.
Backtracking a bit, Barry takes a short trip to Earth-3, seeking out tough love mentor Jay Garrick and more answers to the Savitar equation. Turns out that the speed force in also a gossip/knowledge web and, to speedsters, Savitar is the myth of myths. Purported to be the first man to have ever gained power through the speed force, Savitar is the greatest speedster, making his presence known only when someone has gained enough power to challenge his rule. Turns out Barry is that guy and Savitar’s all about making Barry and any other speedsters recognize that he’s the man. Things heat up quickly too as Alchemy readies to unleash the Stone’s full power on Central City, imbuing all those who were metas in Flashpoint the powers they once had. Barry and Jay aren’t too keen on that and move to interrupt, only to come face-to-face (to face) with Savitar. Jay volunteers for the major beat down but the distraction gives Barry time to KO Alchemy and return the Stone to its box, temporarily shutting Savitar away.
The first half of “The Present” offers up most of the action, a bit of background on Savitar and some personal character
moments. We see HR and Wally getting along with the training, the gang preparing for Christmas and, oh yeah, Cisco seeing visions of his dead brother Dante. Based on Julian’s earlier experience, we all see where this is going, so it’s not a surprise when Cisco opens the box, unwittingly freeing Savitar. Lucky for Barry (and Wally who comes to the rescue), Caitlin talks Cisco down and he closes the box before the team’s speedsters are shish-ka-bob’d. The close call and Barry ensuing brainstorm has, the gang contacts Savitar, who speaks to them through Julian. The big bad reveals his loathing for Barry as a future version of the Flash is responsible for Savitar’s endless fate. He taunts them, spouting that “One shall betray you. One shall fall. One will a fate far worse than death.”
It may be tough talk but one thing is certain: they need to get rid of the box. What better way to do that than toss it into the speed force where it’ll be like finding a golden needle in an ocean of needles. Barry and Jay tag team the job and get it done but just as he hurls it into the speed force unknown, Barry is slapped back and…
…into the future. And this particular future—five months from now—is not full of hugs and puppies. Barry can only watch as his future self is too slow to save Iris from being skewered by Savitar.
Though Barry is thrown off kilter by what he witnessed, Jay is able to convince him to embrace the present, live for the now. And in that everyone gathers for the West Christmas party. Wally gets his suit (and the official Kid Flash moniker) while a still preoccupied Barry gives his woman the best gift and promise of a happy future when he shows her their own place. The future may be as he saw it but it may also be something different. What only matters is the now and, judging by the final images we are left with, Barry is set to try to live in the moment.
At least for now.
- The Present: there are several different ways to look at it and in this episode, we get everyone. After his glimpse of the future, Barry must force himself to live for now and not what may be. Wally, ever living in the now, receives the best Christmas present he could as for: a Kid Flash suit and his family’s acceptance of his new role on the team. Iris gets her own surprise when Barry shows off their new place. Tack on both Cisco and Julian’s lamentations for deceased siblings and how those emotions opened them up Savitar. The speed god’s apparent defeat filters out hope for the future, one that we all know will not be without pain and heartbreak.
- Continuing on that line, HR delivers the line of the night. “The longer you deny someone their potential,” he tells Joe after Wally lets the cat out of the bag regarding their training, “the more they’re gonna look for it elsewhere.” Once again HR proves his worth to the team in that he may be quirky and a bit of a handful, but he sees the things everyone in Team Flash often overlooks. Now, I’m not sure if Savitar calling him the “fake Wells” was a knock on HR not being a scientist or something a bit more duplicitous. I still can’t shake the thought that we still don’t have the full story on him.
- With Barry getting his job back (Julian’s “present” to our hero) and the Alchemy side of Julian seemingly dormant, does that mean the two meta CSI’s will become best buds? After all, Julian now knows Barry’s secret (at this point, who doesn’t?) and showing up at the West party hints at that.
- But there are two major elephants in the room. The first is Savitar’s castigation of future Barry trapping him in a prison of eternity. It sounds a lot like what Jay describes as the speed force. Or is there another plane of existence where Barry could have stranded Savitar?
- Finally, Iris’s death: similar to Arrow’s flash forward that began season four and the mystery death that was eventually revealed to be that of Laurel Lance, this time we know the victim. We know the future is not set and, let’s be honest, do we really think they’d kill Iris? The flack Arrow received for killing off the (comic) love of Oliver Queen’s life was quite strong, surely they wouldn’t do the same with Barry’s heart. In truth, I think that future shot was a reminder that bad things are coming and, in trying to avoid one possible outcome, it opens the door for others.
- A quick post script…how awesome was it seeing Mark Hamill’s Trickster (the Earth-3 version, at least) causing havoc. Speaking of E-3, I hope they explore that world a bit more. Like Earth-2, they gave E-3 its own colorful vibe. Let’s see more of that.
The Flash: “The Present” – 3/5