The Flash proved that even the superpowered and superpowered-adjacent can’t escape the holidays unscathed by family and friend drama. There just happens to also be some life-or-death drama surrounding it during “Running to Stand Still.”
It’s the dichotomy between the two that demonstrates just how strong The Flash’s character work can be when it isn’t about the heightened stakes of a world full of metahumans. No, much of the most affecting turmoil in “Running” is of a much more human variety, as Joe is confronted with the truth of why Francine actually came to town, Patty finally finds the chance to exact revenge on her dead father’s behalf, and Harry grapples with a dark secret in an effort to save his daughter. Barry is, knowingly in some cases and completely oblivious in others, wrapped up in all of them, but the emotional struggles of those around him make his actual battle with the returning Weather Wizard and the Trickster look like any average brawl.
But it’s a welcome return for two of Barry’s most memorable foes, as well as a third who opts not to take part on his path to legendary status. Mark Mardon the Weather Wizard is back on the scene, and he has an offer for both Captain Cold and the Trickster (Mark Hamill at his most gleeful).
Breaking the two out of jail, Mardon asks if they’ll join his crusade to finally, finally kill the Flash. James Jesse is in, of course, because if the multitude of Flash drawings on his cell are any indication, he hasn’t thought of much else since his last battle with Barry. Lenny Snart, however, is less enthused by the idea in his slow transition to, if not a hero, at least someone with a conscious.
That conscious leads Snart to tell Barry just what Mardon and Jesse have in store, breaking into his home to do so. By this point, Barry’s already had a bit of a day, though. Iris has revealed to him the secret of her previously unknown brother, sitting alongside Iris as she finally breaks the news to Joe. (Cue the first of many times Jesse L. Martin broke my heart in this episode. That man knows how to do a “fighting back the tears” face like few others.) The name is what really gets Joe — Wally is short for Wallace, which is what they would have named Iris had she been a boy.
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He needs time to process the news, and he’s not the only one frazzled by the day’s events. Before the revelation, he fills in Barry on the reason Patty may be working a little more fast and furious on this case. Knowing that Mardon killed her father, Barry tries to be there for her, not wanting her to be reckless, but she believes zeroing in on Mardon isn’t being reckless. It’s doing her job.
Barry is going to try to do his job, too, even if Patty thinks he’s so far behind on the Central City gossip that he doesn’t even know about Harrison Wells. He has Cisco work on the wand he used to previously defeat the Weather Wizard. Well, previously meaning in another timeline, before Barry set back the clock last season to prevent Mardon’s tidal wave from killing everyone. Jay is there to help, when he isn’t flirting with Caitlin (“Just kiss already. Oh dear lord the thirst is real,” as Cisco puts it, sums up that flirtmance perfectly), so it seems feasible that another wand can be built as an early Christmas present for Barry.
NEXT: Christmas with the Trickster