In a recent episode of Limitless, while learning how to become a computer hacker the hero of the show mocked genre conventions by pointing out how film and TV make liberal usage of montage and music to make the act of computer hacking look interesting. To his great dismay, he learns actual computer hacking is super boring, and when the episode reaches the point where there would normally be a montage of his hacking he points out that we’d probably rather watch Vines of things blowing up. So that’s exactly what the episode shows us, as the hero narrates and explains how much cooler the explosions are than the hacking he’s doing at that very moment. Later in the episode, when the hero has to explain to a fellow hacker how exactly he pulled off what everyone thought was impossible the screen flashes big yellow text reading “TECHNOLOGY! TECHNOLOGY!” as emergency sounds blare through the speakers. The show, again, was making a joke about genre conventions, pointing out how little the actual techno-babble actually matters in TV shows. In this particular scene, all you really need to know is that the hero tells the computer hacking expert something which really, really impresses him, as evident in his facial expressions as he’s listening to the techno-babble the show isn’t forcing us to listen to.
Drop the mic, Limitless, because you completely nailed it, or at least you did for me. To try and bring this a little more on point, I could not care less about the actual science or computer expertise behind anything Cisco and Caitlin say on Flash. A lifetime of Star Trek fandom has taught me that there will always be someone in these scenarios who asks, “Huh?” in response to the technobabble thus forcing a simplified explanation which will get the point across.
On The Flash, that’s what Joe is for, and, also, somewhat surprisingly since he’s supposed to be so smart, Barry fulfills that function a lot of the time. We will always get the gist of the story, and notice how it’s almost always an attempt to mirror whatever is going on in the character’s individual arcs at that moment. For example, in “Running to Stand Still” Weather Wizard and Trickster break out of prison and combine forces to attack The Flash, but it’s all just an excuse on the show’s part to get Barry to realize how much he has in common with his new girlfriend Patty.
She also has “dead parent” drama, and it has translated into a lifelong obsession with seeking vengeance. There’s even a Spider-Man element to it where her dad was only ever killed by the Weather Wizard all those years ago because something she didn’t do (but should have) ultimately placed him in the line of fire. However, because of that drama she’s apparently holding back from opening up to Barry completely, and he’s similarly reluctant with her because of that video Harrison Wells left for him promising that he’d never be happy. This episode is about them both getting over those emotional roadblocks and growing closer together. By episode’s end, she’s had a really rough day, but she wants to tell Barry about it and will. Ahhh. Those two crazy kids just might make this work.
She almost straight-up murdered a man in cold blood. You remember that, right? – Yeah, I know. Still, ahhh.
But in the comics, Barry marries Iris. Patty is just his girlfriend, and …… – Just stop right there. Let’s not go down the “comic book canon” black hole. So, I repeat, those two crazy kids just might make this work. Ahhh.
Perhaps because I am so not invested in the actual problem-solving component of Flash’s weekly mysteries, I rarely question the logic or plausibility of anything that Cisco and the fellow STAR Labs crew pull off. What I wanted from “Running to Stand Still” (beyond maybe the actual usage of the U2 song of the same name) was fun action scenes, goofy hero-villain banter and some resolution to the various story arcs build up throughout the season. Plus, come on, give us a cliffhanger.
I got all of that. Caitlin and Jay finally kissed, after he kept bluffing her into explaining Christmas traditions to him even though Earth-2 has all of the same traditions. Barry and Patty are officially boyfriend and girlfriend, though I didn’t realize that wasn’t totally official yet. Barry will not be haunted by Harrison Wells’ video message any more. He can be happy, dammit! Iris told Joe about his son, Wally, who actually showed up out of the blue to join the West family Christmas celebration at episode’s end.
For the cliffhanger, we learned that Zoom is actually sending so many villains at Flash to make him faster. Speed force, yada, yada, Zoom is going to steal Barry’s power, yada, yada. Simplify it for us here: Zoom is fattening him up like a calf before the slaughter. Ah, thank you very much. Harry is going to help Zoom do that because it’s the only way to save his daughter.
If all of that collectively seems entertaining, if a bit underwhelming, it’s probably because Flash didn’t have as much time to build up its story arcs this season due to all of that Legends of Tomorrow-set-up. The LoT set-up isn’t completely over yet, not with Captain Cold doing something vaguely noble in this episode and then chafing when Barry apparently insults him by pointing out his noble side. Beyond that, “Running to Stand Still” addressed the arcs which needed to be addressed. I even thought Cisco’s slightly bitter edge throughout the episode was possibly meant to acknowledge that in the timeline of the show he’s still fresh off his break-up with Kendra.
However, this is the rare Flash episode which sort of lost me with its technobabble. Well, that’s not true. I had a lot of fun with this episode, and Jesse L. Martin looking sad and having heart-to-hearts with iris and Barry is like catnip to me. It’s just that the actual problem-solving deployed seemed…well, here’s how io9 put it, beginning with a summation of the plot:
Eventually the Weather Wizard uses his powers again, and Barry tracks him down where he discovers that the Trickster, disguised as a mall Santa, has given out hundreds of bombs hidden in presents he’s been giving away to random families. If the Flash doesn’t stand there and let the villains kill him, the Trickster will detonate them all. It’s up to the SuperSTARS to save the day in what I’m pretty sure is the most bullshit science ever featured on The Flash, which I know is saying something. They track down one present, Wells attaches it into a drone and flies it into an interdimensional breach that’s hanging out above Central City, and somehow the present is so magnetized it sucks all the other presents out of people’s homes across the city into the sky, where they detonate harmlessly, allowing the Flash to wrap up the villains and save the day.
It’s super, super dumb.
Before we even reached that point, though, there was the whole thing where Barry and Caitlin tried to track the Trickster down based upon a reflection of a toy they saw in his eye when he delivered a video threat to Central City. Oh, that was Mr. Jigglewiggle in his eye. Anyone could see that, and everyone knows Mr. Jigglewiggle. Patty had one of those has a little girl. It’s Mr. Jigglewiggle! What aren’t you getting?
Maybe it’s not that outlandish. Maybe it’s just the name of the toy. Either way, it caused me to briefly pause and sort of laugh at the show. However, no worries. I laughed at the show after Harry explained his “magnet” plan, but I was laughing right along with it when he rang a doorbell and commanded of the cherubic little kid who opened the door, “Your toys. Give them to me.” It’s a moment like that which signals to me that, yes, this is super, super dumb, but the show knows it is. The writers seem to reserve those storylines for whenever Mark Hamill is around to do his pseudo-Joker act as The Trickster. From what I understand, these type of storylines are par for the course for Trickster in the comics.
As always, the heart of The Flash is its strong point, and while this mid-season finale might have feel excessively silly it also reminded me of a Doctor Who Christmas Special, which are always sort of graded on a curve and allowed to be a little goofier than normal (thought they don’t always choose to go that route). Heck, Christmas presents being sucked into the sky would be right at home in Doctor Who.
And, with that, The Flash‘s second season has reached its mid-season break, consigned to re-runs until its return in late January. It feels like this half of the season inevitably peaked with Zoom’s epic beatdown of Barry. I can’t wait to see more of that. Plus, Jesse L. Martin tears. Lots of tears.
What did you think of the episode? And of the second season as a whole?
1. Since we haven’t seen Luke Skywalker in any of the Force Awakens trailer,s It’s almost like the Trickster is is the biggest thing to happen to Mark Hamill’s on-screen career this year. Almost.
2. Who expected Captain Cold to actually come back and help out in some way? You didn’t? Yeah, me neither. They’re not quite there yet. [Cracks under the pressure] Okay, I’m lying. I thought we’d see him at some point during the final confrontation with Trickster and Weather Wizard.
3. Had to remind myself why exactly Weather Wizard hated Flash so much. Oh, yeah, it’s vengeance for his dead brother. Patty actually has something in common with them – they’re both obsessed with revenge because of a death in their family.
4. Hey, someone referenced Eddie this episode. Look at that – you’re not completely forgotten, my friend.
5. Theories on Zoom’s Identity –
- 1. Earth 2-Henry Allen
- 2. Earth 2-Barry Allen
- 3. Earth 2-Eddie
NOT THE “RUNNING TO STAND STILL” THEY HAD IN MIND