Isn’t it convenient how this season’s diabolical supervillains, Savitar and Alchemy, stepped aside for a while to give Barry time to participate in last week’s (largely pointless) multi-show crossover? With that now done, ‘The Flash’ gets back to business dealing with more pertinent threats.
The mid-season finale episode opens with a flashback to four years earlier. (Yes, things really did happen in the world prior to the S.T.A.R. Labs reactor meltdown!) Before he became a police CSI, Julian ran around India playing Indiana Jones. He has the hat and everything. On an archaeological expedition, he finds an ancient box and pries it open on the spot with his bare hands (as any reputable archaeologist would). The box emits a scary glowing light from within. That seems bad, doesn’t it?
In the present day, Barry gets an idea about researching the magical crystal that Alchemy wielded in their last conflict. Cisco Googles “magic crystal that turns people into meta-humans” and gets a result in 0.22 seconds. It’s an ancient Hindu weapon with a name I have no idea how to spell. It’s colloquially also known as the “Philosopher’s Stone.” (I guess it makes sense that a guy called Doctor Alchemy would use something called a Philosopher’s Stone, even if the show’s writers have really mixed up a bunch of historical myths.) This leads Cisco to a news article about Julian leading a doomed archaeological team in India. Barry immediately suspects that Julian may be working with Doctor Alchemy, but somehow it never occurs to him that Julian could be Doctor Alchemy.
Barry goes to the police crime lab to question Julian about this Philosopher’s Stone thing. Julian admits that he spent time in India searching for it, but claims that he never found it. He also insists that he doesn’t know anything about Savitar. Well, I guess that’s a dead end, then…
Cut to Earth-3. Even without the chyron on the bottom of the screen to tell us, we can tell it’s an alternate universe by the dirigibles flying over the city. Alternate Earths all love dirigibles. Apparently, our Earth was the only one where the Hindenburg exploded. Jay Garrick (John Wesley Shipp), in his full Flash get-up, foils a bank robbery by his nemesis, The Trickster (Mark Hamill, wearing a lot of crazy makeup and a very different yet equally ridiculous costume than his Earth-1 counterpart did). The scene is very goofy with very broad humor. Even though Jay almost certainly has the situation in hand, Barry zips in and ties up the Trickster for him. He needs to talk to Jay.
The two Flashes return to Earth-1. Barry asks Jay what he knows about Savitar. Jay has heard stories but never actually seen him. Savitar is like a bogeyman for speedsters. According to legend, he was the first man ever granted speed. If he’s shown himself to Barry, that must mean he feels Barry is a threat and is preparing for battle. Jay agrees to stick around and help, but he also encourages Barry to live his life and spend time with his loved ones.
When Cisco’s meta-human alarms detect activity from Doctor Alchemy, Barry and Jay race out to confront him. As soon as they get there, Savitar appears and grabs Jay. Barry tries to save his friend, but Jay tells him to get the crystal from Alchemy. Savitar tosses Jay around and kicks the crap out of him. Just as he’s about to finish Jay off, Barry knocks Alchemy out and puts the crystal back in its special box. Savitar disappears in a blink. Barry pulls the mask off Alchemy and discovers that… shocker!… it’s Julian!
Barry tosses Julian in the Pipeline. Julian pleads ignorance and believes The Flash has wrongfully imprisoned him. Jay rests up to recover from his beating. Cisco attempts to analyze the box but his equipment can’t detect it at all – as if it didn’t exist. Wally tells everyone that he’s been training with H.R., which makes his father very mad at the both of them.
Despite Barry knowing conclusively that Julian is Alchemy, Julian is pretty convincing in protesting that he’s not. Barry suspects that he may black out and lose time when he’s possessed. In order to get Julian to talk, Barry removes his own mask and reveals himself. Julian breaks down and confesses that, indeed, he suffers blackouts. He says that they started around the same time he first saw visions of his dead sister beckoning him to search for the box, which he believed would bring her back to life.
Coincidentally, Cisco has been having visions of his dead brother, Dante, all over the lab. What are the odds? Dante finally talks to Cisco and implores him to open the Philosopher’s Stone box. Dumbass Cisco, acting completely out of character, actually does so.
As soon as the box is open, Savitar appears in the lab and fights Barry. Because Jay is still recuperating, H.R. sends Wally in to help. Wally does precisely nothing except get his ass kicked, but it’s enough of a distraction to buy time while Caitlin talks some sense into Cisco and convinces him that his brother’s not real. Cisco closes the box and Savitar disappears again.
Barry believes that Savitar speaks through Alchemy while Julian is passed out. Cisco whips up a device that will sync Julian’s brainwaves with the stone box so that they can talk to Savitar and ask him what his beef is. Savitar manifests through Julian. He knows everyone in the room and claims to know their destinies. He says that one of them will betray the rest, one will fall, and one will suffer a fate worse than death. When they ask him why he’s such a dick, Savitar blames Barry for trapping him in the stone box in the first place. Of course, Barry didn’t do that… at least, not yet. But he will in the future.
After they cut off communication, Jay suggests that the only way to contain Savitar and get rid of the box is to chuck it into the Speed Force. Doing so will require that he and Barry work together running around the reactor core. It works and a portal opens. Barry throws the box into it, but in the process he gets tossed five months forward into the future, where he witnesses himself facing off against Savitar again. Savitar murders Iris right before his eyes. Jay reaches through and pulls Barry back to the present day.
Barry freaks out about what he saw. Jay warns him that it’s never a good idea to see your own future, and tries to assure him that it’s just one possible outcome. Barry does not feel reassured.
As far as everyone else is concerned, they just defeated the baddie and had a great victory. Barry doesn’t tell them what happened. Joe throws a Christmas party at his house, H.R. gets very drunk on eggnog, and Julian makes peace with Barry by getting him reinstated to his job. Joe tells Wally that he’s proud of him (for once again failing to do anything heroic?) and gives him an official Kid Flash costume. Caitlin uses her power to make snow.
For her Christmas present, Barry rents an apartment that he and Iris can move into together. All the while, the gloom of what he knows about her impending death hangs over the holiday. Merry Christmas to all.
For a mid-season finale, I’m fairly surprised that this episode didn’t end on a cliffhanger. Instead, it offers some small amount of closure in that Barry defeats Savitar… for now. On the other hand, it also clearly states that Savitar will be back, but probably not before the season finale. I just hope that the back half of the season isn’t dominated by Barry being mopey the way that Cisco was during the first half. The most appealing part of ‘The Flash’ is that it’s supposed to be a fun and upbeat show.
I’m annoyed by Cisco’s behavior in this episode. I’ll try to excuse it by assuming that he must have been under some magical form of brainwashing, but that’s never explicitly stated. The script also fails to explain why Cisco would start seeing visions of his brother long before Barry trapped Savitar. Did Savitar pre-emptively try to woo Cisco, knowing that Julian would fail him?
Wally is the worst and most useless wannabe hero that Barry has ever worked with, and I don’t know why the show’s writers keep trying to convince us that he’s a great asset who just needs a chance to show Barry what he’s got. Every time he tries to help, he accomplishes nothing. Perhaps this is setting us up for Wally (not Iris) being the team member who dies. Frankly, I wouldn’t mind either one of them being written off the show at this point.
The mid-season finale is a decent enough episode overall, but I wish it left us with more of a hook to make us eager for the show’s return. As it stands, I’m kind of grateful to take a break. After this, ‘The Flash’ takes a couple months off and will return on January 24th.