Flash: The Present

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Earth-3: Flash fights Trickster… wait. whose show is this again?

Flash returns from the big alien invasion/crossover for the winter finale episode, “The Present.” It’s a clever title, since this is their Christmas episode, where presents are sure to be found, and they’ve been dealing a lot with time travel, so it could also be the “this point in time” kind of present. They do work in a lot of stuff for a one hour episode, although the usual cliffhanger aspect is a bit lacking.

Giving us an Indiana Jones vibe, the episode starts off in the Indus Valley in India, some four years ago. Julian is in charge of a dig, complete with khaki outfit and hat. They find something in an old temple, a curiously carved old stone box. Julian, of course, opens it and there’s a strange energy effect.

Skipping back to the present, HR has gone all out decorating STAR for the holidays. Apparently some traditions are multiversal. They have found no good clues about Savitar. While Barry and Iris discuss Christmas plans, Cisco is trying to run down information on Alchemy’s stone, which seems to fit in with Hindu mythology. Cisco gets distracted when he glimpses Dante, his deceased brother. Before that, the team discovered that the stone apparently has a long history of creating metas. They also find a published paper about the stone… by Julian Albert.

Barry returns to the lab to talk to Julian, who is his usual smirking self. He reminds Barry of their deal, that Barry shouldn’t be there. Barry, in turn, presses him about the paper and the “Vermasara stone,” as they are calling it. Julian tells them the story from the opening, and says he never found anything. When Barry asks about Savitar, Julian freezes up, then tells Barry not to waste time on the stone. After Barry leaves, Julian starts hearing Savitar’s voice again, and goes to get his hidden Alchemy gear. As this happens, elsewhere in the building Joe and Camille discuss the recent alien invasion (another great bit of continuity), holiday parties, and eggnog recipes.

Over on Earth 3, Mark Hamill reprises his role as the Trickster, looking and sounding a bit more like Joker than Trickster. He goes up against his Flash, Jay Garrick, who gets some help from Barry. After the team-up ends, Barry asks for information about Savitar, who Jay has heard of but not fought. According to rumor, Savitar was the first man granted superspeed, and he’s always preceded by Alchemy. I’m a bit curious about this, since Alchemy seems so focused on Flashpoint. Do all speedsters give in to the temptation to change history, and that’s what summons Alchemy/Savitar?

HR and Wally are off for more secret training, because secrets always go so well in the CW-verse. Wally is faster than Barry was at this point in his career, which both of them find exciting. Wally wants to tell the others, but HR pleads self-preservation. Much as I don’t think the secrets are a good idea, I see HR’s point.

Barry speed-reads everything he can get his hands on from Hindu mythology, and finds nothing of use. Jay is taking a more zen-like approach. He’s acting a bit like one of the few DC speedsters we haven’t seen or heard of on the show, Max Mercury. Maybe Max will turn up eventually.

Caitlin walks in on Cisco just after he’s had another vision of Dante. Thankfully, he doesn’t go the secret route, and actually tells her what’s going on. They have a nice talk about Christmas stories with family.

At the West home, Barry walks in to see it’s all decorated. He and Iris talk about the holiday and how busy Barry is. He also says he hasn’t wrapped her gift yet, but it sounds like he hasn’t gotten one yet, which Iris seems to know, but is very understanding about. She also apparently got bored, and has been digging in to Julian’s ill-fated expedition. Apparently, Julian lost four people on the dig, which he didn’t tell Barry about.

After speeding back to STAR, most of the team have a meeting about Savitar. Wally wants to help, and everyone thinks this is a bad idea. A frustrated Wally tells them about his training with HR, which doesn’t really do anyone any good. The two Flashes run off to confront Alchemy, who has turned up again. This turns into a fight that gets ugly when Savitar arrives, too. At least Jay can see him.

They split up, with Barry going after Alchemy and Jay taking Savitar. Barry ends up using his lightning trick to defeat Alchemy, and unmasks him, revealing Julian’s secret. Jay and Savitar duke it out and Jay gets a savage beating. Savitar continues his annoying habit of seeming to know everything, telling Jay, “This isn’t your fight, Garick.” In a bit I don’t quite understand, Alchemy is carrying around the stone box from the temple. When Barry puts the stone back in it, Savitar disappears as he looms over Jay. If that makes Savitar disappear, why would he tell his right hand man to keep the stone and the box together? Or even allow it?

Julian wakes up in the Pipeline and is very confused. He not only denies everything about Alchemy, he accuses Flash of setting him up. Flash says he’s insane and walks off to talk to Jay. They talk about who is whose sidekick, which is entertaining. Jay is in the lab, still healing up after the beating from Savitar.

The rest of the team watches Julian on the monitor, and agrees something isn’t making sense. Cisco comes up with a great description of the strange stone box, and says it’s registering as nothing on every test they have. I guess this version of magic and tech isn’t blending well together.

Joe and Wally argue about Wally’s training. Wally says he went to HR because no one else was helping, which you really can’t argue with. There’s a comment about almost losing Wally to the aliens, which isn’t quite right. Wally did get hurt during the crossover, but it was from mind-controlled heroes, not the Dominators. When Joe turns his ire on HR, HR points out he got nothing personally from training Wally. HR says his big gift is seeing the potential in others and helping get there.

Barry goes back to the Pipeline and makes me wonder why he’s still wearing a mask, as he reveals his secret to Julian. They finally end up having a talk about what’s been going on with Julian, and he admits to the blackouts and lost time, which must be when he’s Alchemy. He says he was guided to the stone by visions of his dead sister. Uh oh, that sounds familiar.

Sure enough, Cisco is hard at work when the ghost of Dante interrupts him, calling his name, promising they can be together again. Well, we know how much Cisco has been missing Dante (which has never made a lot of sense to me since they didn’t get along at all any time I saw them together). So, Cisco succumbs, Dante disappears, but Savitar is back. This leads to a nasty fight between Barry, Savitar, and helping-despite-everyone Wally, who can also see Savitar. Barry and Wally keep Savitar busy long enough for Caitlin to talk Cisco into closing the box, which makes Savitar vanish again.

The STAR crew manages to get a gadget together and let Savitar talk through Julian, which gets really creepy. Savitar claims to know them all, calling HR “the fake Wells,” which was at least amusing. Savitar also says that Barry does something to imprison him in the future, which gets weird with the box being so old. Time travel is confusing. After a few predictions and threats, Savitar fades and Julian wakes up, confused and not knowing what happened, so that part of his story checks out.

They brainstorm what to do, and Jay suggests hiding the box in the Speed Force. Personally, I don’t think hiding a speed-related object in the Speed Force is a good idea, but they all do. Jay and Barry combine their speed to open a rift and hurl the box and stone inside. Barry ends up going through the rift, landing on Infantino Street. Carmine Infantino was a comic book legend who, among other things, created the Barry Allen version of the Flash. But, Barry’s not here for a history lesson. He’s in the future and sees something terrible before Jay yanks him back.

Jay tells him they were five months ahead, and that the future isn’t certain. Barry shouldn’t obsess over what he saw. Jay then skips home, and the team goes to the Wests’ for the big Christmas party. All of Team Flash are there, as well as Camile and even late arriving Julian, who was invited earlier by Caitlin. Cisco is feeling down and not at all in the Holiday mood, especially as it rains. Caitlin takes off her power-damper and makes it snow, which shouldn’t work on so many levels, but it’s a nice Christmas scene. Wally gets a very cool Christmas present, and Julian has a surprise for Barry, as well. Barry and Iris sneak off so Barry can surprise her with his Christmas present. It’s a happy ending, but distinctly lacking in immediate cliffhanger, unless we’re counting the possible future tragedy.

What I liked: Infantino Street was a great touch. I’m glad Julian’s secret is out, even though his being Alchemy felt kind of cheap and forced. I’m glad the others are finally treating Wally like a grown up who can make his own decisions. The history of Savitar is interesting. It was great seeing Jay again, and Hamill as the Trickster. And it was great seeing Jay do the “catch bullets with his helmet” trick.

What I didn’t: Joe was a bit off about Wally’s injury during the crossover, although the references to those events were good. The trip to the future was odd and I could have happily lived without it. I guess that’ll give Barry something new to freak out about for the second half of the season.

It was a good episode. I’ll give them a 3.5 out of 5, and eagerly await their return next year.

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