Following the end of the crossover event, the mid-season finale of The Flash returns back to its season arc (which we would have liked to see them deal with in the crossover which might have been better, to be honest), with the team on the hunt for Alchemy.
We’re going to get it out of the way first, and then get on with everything else. Our main problem with the episode is that it was simply too easy. It didn’t seem to take any time or effort for them to figure out that it was Julian (Tom Felton) behind the Alchemy mask. We would have much preferred for the reveal to have been eked out over time, for him to struggle with his secret identity for a while. Alas, that’s not what we we given, but if we ignore what we would have preferred, what we’ve been given in terms of performances wasn’t actually bad at all.
The episode opens with Earth-3’s Flash (John Wesley Shipp) taking down their version of the Trickster (a sneaky guest spot from a purple-haired Mark Hamill). Just as he’s about to get blown up from the funster, Barry (Grant Gustin) appears to save the day (or, well, Henry) and hijack him to take him back to Earth-1 to help them in their current speedster problem (seriously, if the rest of the season is based around speedster issues we might ram our heads repeatedly against our desks, a bit of originality might not go amiss!)
Their hunt leads them to Julian’s door. As we said, it’s too easy, but fine. To be honest, at this point we know the Arrowverse don’t really go for all too complicated that often. Taken into the pipeline, Flash and Julian argue relentlessly, Julian adamant that he isn’t who he is being accused of. But when Barry reveals himself in order to gain his trust, it works. He confirms that yes he has been having black outs, things happen he cannot explain. Julian is one of those characters you’re meant to dislike, but Felton is likeable, he’s playing his part brilliantly and the chemistry he has against Gustin works, to the point where you forget he hasn’t actually been around for the last two years.
What this reveal does give us though are some brilliant scenes that we cannot wait to see the blooper reel for. It feels a lot like Felton was given a lot of free reign to actually have some fun, which we really think would have resulted in a lot of laughs. Julian, channelling Salvitar gives us some spooky insight into his world, what he’s capable of, and how he has come into being. This stone that they need to lock away in order to defeat him.
Of course, it doesn’t go that simply. Henry helps Barry to run fast enough to dispose of the stone, but instead he travels into the future and sees something that shakes him. Salvitar has Iris (Candice Patton) and he watches himself be too slow to save her as Salvitar runs her through. This would explain why the Flash missing article from the future that we’ve seen since Season One was no longer written by Iris ‘West-Allen’. It, of course, drives Barry into a slight pit of despair, which his Earth-3 father has to talk him out of, the future is never set in stone, there are multiple futures and outcomes and it can be stopped. That’s how the multiverse theory works after all.
But it’s Christmas, so even though there’s clearly something wrong with Barry, only so much time can pass before he has to get into the spirit. Which is kind of impossible when HR (Tom Cavanagh) is drunk on egg nog and Joe (Jesse L Martin) finally actually gets the girl with Cecile (Danielle Nicolet) joining their cheer. Julian actually turns up to join in the festive fun rather than being alone. He also tells Barry he withdrew Barry’s resignation from the pile. Wally, having helped with the world saving, is finally gifted his supersuit. Barry’s gift to Iris though is one for the WestAllen fans, as – after making you assume he hasn’t actually gotten her anything at the start of the episode – he presents her with a key to an apartment, and it’s damned nice at that. As long as Barry heeds his not-father’s words and doesn’t try anything stupid in order to save Iris (which we assume would be fairly easy in reality, just tell her the truth and when the day comes, don’t let her leave the pipeline…).
Quibbles about the quick reveal of Alchemy aside, this episode was enjoyable, and the set up for what is to come leaves us ready for The Flash to return in the New Year.