The Flash, S3 Ep09 – The Present

Following the chaotic events of last week’s alien invasion, The Flash is back on track with its mid-season finale delivering a Savitar-focused story and fleshing out the character of Julian as we recently found out that he’s actually Savitar’s lackey, Dr. Alchemy. Much like the mid-season finales before it, “The Present” serves as a Christmas-themed episode and while the holiday theme does bring in a sense of hope, the episode’s conclusion brings about a potential tragedy.

Julian is Dr. Alchemy

As we find out about Julian’s secret, so do our heroes, learning that Julian wrote his dissertation on the Philosopher’s Stone: a stone which summons the speed god Savitar. “The Present” brings along a slew of information with it, revealing, in addition to Julian’s past, that Savitar is the first meta-human speedster and has a connection to this Philosopher’s Stone. I do wonder if it was discussed in the writer’s room that using this plot device would bring up memories of the Harry Potter franchise, considering former film franchise alum Tom Felton is playing Julian.

Halfway through the episode, Team Flash discovers the truth about Julian. I’ve mentioned in a previous review that I hoped Julian would not be a villain because it would be an obvious, predictable turn of events, but I do like that Julian has no control over his actions as Dr. Alchemy. As we learn more about the stone, we learn that Savitar uses the memories of deceased loved ones to lure people into opening the stone and releasing him. Julian was seduced by the promise of his deceased sister being revived. Later in the episode, we see that even Cisco is susceptible to Savitar’s temptations.

“The Present” brings along a very welcome guest character in the form of Jay Garrick, a.k.a. The Flash of Earth-3. We’re briefly treated to a fun cameo by Mark Hamill (Star Wars) as The Trickster of Earth-3 when Barry travels to said Earth to request Jay’s assistance. While Hamill’s presence didn’t bear any weight on the story, it was definitely an amusing cameo and unlike his Earth-1 counterpart, this Trickster was much more Joker-inspired, serving as a nod to Hamill’s days voicing The Joker in several Batman properties.

Wally West has some progression in “The Present” as he continues to train under the new Harrison Wells, or HR. Although Joe is furious when he finds out about this, HR brings up a great point in his and Wally’s defense, stating that if they don’t train him, Wally will just go and do it himself. It’s a relief to see that Joe finally realizes this by the episode’s end, and Wally has a great hero moment when he decides to ignore his father’s best wishes and assist Barry in fighting Savitar. Even though they didn’t beat Savitar, Wally was able to buy Caitlin enough time to get Cisco to close the Philosopher’s Stone, ridding S.T.A.R. Labs of this series’ latest evil speedster.

Mark Hamill cameo’s as Earth-3 Trickster

Being able to trap the stone within the speed force using the combined efforts of Barry and Jay seemed too good to be true. Turns out it was. While the episode does end on a hopeful and happy note involving Wally receiving the gift of a super hero costume from the rest of Team Flash, Julian joining Team Flash for the holidays, and Barry revealing that he got a place for him and Iris to live, these events were preceded by a shocking twist. While attempting to get rid of the stone, Barry is thrown into the future and witnesses Iris get killed by Savitar and his future self unable to do anything to prevent it except beg and plead.

Since its incarnation, The Flash has been a more hopeful series than its sister series Arrow. On Arrow, fans have witnessed the deaths of many leading characters. Three seasons in and The Flash has been pretty frugal with the tragic death scenes. Keeping that in mind, I don’t think the series would go and kill off Iris West and what we saw in “The Present” is only a possible future and not the real one. Call it wishful thinking, but I’m hopeful Iris will remain alive by the season’s conclusion. On the other hand, if the death of Iris West does occur, it would serve as a very shocking twist.

“The Present” was definitely a satisfying conclusion to the first half of The Flash‘s third season. It moved its characters further and into positive new territory, while also teasing a potential game changing event. While the series hasn’t matched the level it reached in its first season, Savitar is already a better villain than Zoom and a completely different type of speedster than Zoom or Reverse-Flash, which is definitely appreciated. As the second half of season three commences, we still have a lot of things we can learn, including finding out if there is a familiar face behind Savitar’s mask.