It's the holiday season but Cisco is in a funk, seeing visions of his brother as he remembers the one time they truly bonded on a Christmas Eve past. Barry is in a similarly dark mood, unable to relax enough to enjoy his and Iris' first Christmas together as a couple with Savitar and Alchemy on the loose. It doesn't help when he and Joe learns about HR training Wally to use his newfound speed powers. A trip to Earth Three to ask Jay Garrick for his help may be just the thing to clear Barry's head, assuming he can survive an encounter with The Trickster of Earth Three. .
A Christmas Carol (the reoccurring theme of ghostly visitors mixed with visions of the past and future), the film Raiders Of The Lost Ark (The general pulp vibe of the opening, the box holding The Philosopher's Stone resembles The Ark Of The Covenant, Cisco name drops Indiana Jones), the Harry Potter books (the idea of The Philosopher's Stone being used to bring the dead back to life mirrors The Resurrection Stone) and The Flash comics of Mark Waid (character of Savitar, description of how Savitar was defeated in the future matches how he was defeated in the comics.) and Geoff Johns (mention of the villain Plunder).
While the effort to tie The Philosopher's Stone into Hindu mythology is admirable, The Brahmastra is probably the worst artifact to parallel to The Philosopher's Stone. While being the signature weapon of Brahma - the god of creation - the Barahmastra could only be used to destroy and was meant to be used only as a last resort as it would completely annihilate the enemy it was used against. Worse yet, it was said that the use of the Barahmastra would blight the land in which it was used and cause infertility in the people and plants of the surrounding region.
How can there be Speed Force myths, legends and rumors about Savitar if Barry is the first speedster to encounter him, as Jay Garrick claims?
For that matter, how can Jay know that Savitar travels around and sends a herald to prepare the way for him to challenge other speedsters he sees as a threat to his power if no other speedster has seen Savitar before Barry?
It seems a bit odd that Joe's girlfriend's daughter isn't spending Christmas with her mom.
Mark Hamill's brief cameo as The Trickster of Earth Three is a delight.
The chemistry between Danielle Panabaker and Carlos Valdes is particular fine in this episode, as Caitlin and Cisco bond over their mutual losses and Caitlin talks Cisco down off an emotional ledge.
The special effects during the fight between Jay Garrick and Savitar.
It is revealed in this episode that Julian Albert's real name is J. Albert Desmond. In the original comics, Albert Desmond was the name of the first Doctor Alchemy.
Like Julian Albert, Albert Desmond in the comics was not responsible for his actions as Doctor Alchemy. The difference is that Albert Desmond suffered from disassociative identity disorder and had an evil alternate personality who became Doctor Alchemy. Julian Albert, it is revealed, has been possessed by Savitar.
Cisco discover's Julian Albert's old college paper tying the legends of The Philosopher's Stone into the Hindu legends of The Brahmastra. In Hindu mythology, The Brahmastra is the signature weapon of the god of creation, Brahma. Described as a single projectile charged with all the power in the universe, The Brahmastra was meant only to be used as a last resort as it could utterly destroy an enemy, body and soul.
The Earth 3 version of The Trickster resembles a combination of two other comedic DC Comics super-villains - Batman baddie The Joker and Superman villain The Prankster. Like The Joker, he resembles a clown and has a primarily purple color scheme. Like The Prankster, he is an overweight older gentleman in a garish suit and a comically over-sized flower on his coat lapel.. The Prankster in the comics favored green checks, however, while The Earth Three Tricksters favors purple pinstripes. Both should be arrested for crimes of fashion.
It should be noted, because someone will complain if we don't, that Trickster actor Mark Hamill is considered the definitive voice-actor for The Joker.
Savitar manipulated both Julian and Cisco with images of dead loved ones and promises that The Philosopher's Stone could raise to dead. This is similar to a magical item from The Harry Potter books called The Resurrection Stone, which could summon back the spirits of the deceased albeit in a limited and temporary fashion.
Savitar says that he is seeking revenge on Barry now because of how Barry's future self trapped Savitar in eternity. This sounds similar to how Savitar was defeated in the original Flash Comics, where Wally West tricked Savitar into running so quickly that he was absorbed into The Speed Force.
Jay Garrick suggests that Barry can use his powers to siphon off Jay's speed to accelerate himself fast enough to throw The Philosopher's Stone into The Speed Force. Draining speed from other speedsters to act as a turbo boost to his own velocity is a common trick used by The Wally West version of The Flash in Mark Waid's comics.
In the future, Barry Allen overhears a TV report on the trial of a villain named Plunder a.k.a. Jared Morillo coming to a close. In the original comics, Plunder was an assassin whose real name was Jared Morillo. Strangely enough, Plunder was an alternate Earth doppelganger of a friend of Wally West's, who was an honest cop in the Central City Police Department during Geoff Johns' run on The Flash. Plunder had no powers, but was an expert marksman and tracker.
In the future, Barry finds himself standing on Infantino Street. This is a nod to artist Carmine Infantino, who co-created Barry Allen and drew a number of classic Flash comics, including The Flash Of Two Worlds story where Jay Garrick and Barry Allen first teamed up. He also co-created the character of Doctor Alchemy.
Stylistically, the story of this episode has a lot in common with Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. There's the Christmas-time setting of course, and several characters in need of Christmas cheer (Barry, Cisco and Caitlin). There's the appearances of ghosts spurring the characters to action. Cisco dismisses the vision of his brother as a hallucination in much the same way Scrooge dismissed Jacob Marley. And Barry's speech at the end with Jay Garrick where he tearfully asks if the future he saw can be changed mirror Scrooge's plea to The Ghost of Christmas Future, "Are these the shadows of the things that Will be, or are they shadows of things that May be, only?"
Cisco describes the Brahmastra as "a legendary ancient Hindu weapon." He also says it was capable of creating metahumans.
Dr. Alchemy attempts to use The Schults Building as a refractor to restore all the metahumans created in The Flashpoint Reality at once.
Cisco says the box holding The Philosopher's Stone is nothing and does not scientifically exist. He says that he ran it through an MRI, x-ray scanner, mass spectrometer and photon shifter and did not get a single reading off of it.
Barry theorizes that there is no alchemy based on the idea that Savitar and Alchemy had the same voice. Based on the idea that Julian is being used as a mouthpiece in much the same way that poltergeist requires a medium to manifest. Cisco comes up with a way to synch Julian's brain to The Philosopher's Stone so they can speak to Savitar directly.
Jay Garrick describes The Speed Force as "eternity itself... an endless void of time and energy."
Cisco says The Philosopher's Stone is full of gravimetric force.
Jay Garrick says that Barry can siphon off his speed and combine it with his own to throw The Philosopher's Stone into The Speed Force. The feedback from the explosion this causes knocks Barry five months into his own future.
Jay Garrick says that just as there are infinite Earths in the multiverse, there are infinite possibilities to the future.
(Caitlin enters Cisco's lab to find him holding the open box. Blue light pours from it.)
Caitlin: Cisco?! Cisco, you have to close the box.
(Cisco turns around to look at "Dante". He sees him, smiles vacantly and turns back to Caitlin.)
Cisco: I'm going to save Dante.
Caitlin: That's not Dante! It's Savitar! Please! He's using your memories against you!
"Dante": You're a good brother, Cisco.
Caitlin: Cisco, we're running out of time. Please, just hand me the box...
(Cisco holds the box in his left hand and raises his right, like he's aiming a Vibe blast.)
Cisco: I can't lose him again.... I will NOT lose my brother again!
Caitlin: Cisco... Dante is gone. I'm so sorry but there is nothing you can do about it. But there are people that you can save right now. If you don't close that box, Barry and Wally will die!
(Cut to Wally and Barry, being thrown around like ragdolls by Savitar.)
(Cut back to Cisco and Caitlin. Cisco is turned to face "Dante".)
"Dante": If you do, then we can't be together.
Caitlin: Cisco, listen to me!
(Cisco looks at Caitlin as she gives him a pleading look only to glance back at the box.)
(Cut to Wally and Barry, both on the ground, as Savitar extends his wrist-daggers and drags them along the stone walls of the room, shooting out sparks as he does so.)
Cisco: (whispering) Lo siento, hermano.
(Cisco closes the box. In the other room, Savitar disappears.)
Wally: Are you kidding? That was awesome!
Joe: Hey. You put my son's life in danger. Again.
HR: And he saved Barry's life!
(Wally shakes his head and leaves the room.)
HR: Joe, why... why do you think I help Wally? Because I'm selfish? I get something? I don't get anything out of it. I help Wally 'cause the kid is special! He's extraordinary! His powers are extraordinary! I get it, I.. I'm not his dad and I don't have the same safety concerns as you, of course not... but one thing I do know- the longer you deny someone their potential, the more they're going to look for it elsewhere.
Savitar: None of you are on your knees. It's a smart move to bow before a deity.
Barry: You're not God.
Savitar: To be a god, you just have to make people believe you are.
Iris: No one believes in you.
Savitar: You should, Iris. I hold the power of life and death over all of you.
Caitlin: How do you know so much about us?
Savitar: I know you, Caitlin. Cisco. Joe. Wally.The fake Wells. I know your fears and I know your weaknesses. I know you better than you know yourselves. I know your destinies. One shall betray you. One shall fall. One will suffer a fate far worse than death. This is the knowledge I have for you about your everlasting damnation.
Barry: Who are you?
Savitar: I am the future, Flash.
Barry: What do you want from us?
Savitar: Everything! Everything you took from me, I'm want it back! And I'm going to take it back! Then, I will destroy you!
Barry: Then why haven't you, already? If you're all-powerful, then why don't you just go ahead and kill us all now and be done with it? Because you can't.
Savitar: You did this to me! You trapped me in eternity. Your future self. You did this to me, Barry! And now the age of my revenge rises. My freedom is at hand. You will feel my wrath! The wrath of Savtiar!
Barry: I've never run to the future. I've traveled to the past but I always came back to the present. I saw myself. And Iris. And Savitar... he killed her. That's five months from now. Is that actually going to happen?
Jay: ... I don't know.
Barry: You don't -
Jay: You shouldn't have seen that.
Barry: This - this doesn't make sense, we - we just got rid of The Philosopher's Stone! I mean, Savitar shouldn't have even been there! Oh my God...this is where the newspaper in the time vault changed. The byline... this is why it's not Iris. This... Iris didn't write that story anymore eight years from now because... she's dead.
Barry: I just watched her die! I saw myself try to save her, but I wasn't fast enough. Jay, tell me that this isn't my destiny.
Jay: What you saw was one possibility of the future. What may be or what may not.
Barry: Okay. Then I can stop this from happening. I can run back there-
Jay: You can't go back there! Not again! Not ever!
Barry: All right. Then I'll figure out exactly how it happened. How we wind up on that street. And I'll just make sure that we don't go there. I mean, if we don't go there-
Jay: Barry! This is why speedsters don't travel to the future. Nobody should know this much about their own. Just as there are infinite Earths in the multiverse, there are infinite possibilities to the future. It's always bending. Always changing. Every decision you make creates another alternative.
Barry: I won't let Iris die.
Jay: The future isn't written yet. And it might not even turn out to be what you saw. You need to focus on the here and now. You have to live your life.
(Everyone stops to listen to the carolers, who are singing in the rain.)
HR: (chuckling drunkenly) Caroling in the rain... that sucks!
(Caitlin walks off to one side and slips off her power-blocking bracelet. Cisco turns around and notices.)
Cisco: Hey! What are you doing?
Caitlin: It's okay - I've got this. We may not be able to have a perfect Christmas but we can have a white one.
(Caitlin sticks a hand toward the partially cracked window and the rain slowly turns into snow.)
It is revealed that Julian Albert used his family fortune to lead an expedition to search for The Philosopher's Stone in India in the summer of 2012. In December 2012, he found it and fell under the influence of Savitar, though he had no memory of this and suffered black-outs for the next few years.
Earth 19 celebrates Christmas in the same fashion as Earth One, according to HR.
Julian Albert attended Oxford University and wrote a dissertation on The Philosopher's Stone.
According to Julian, The Philosopher's Stone was the first object in recorded history that bestowed super powers on people. He also notes that Savitar was said to be the first metahuman to gain speed powers.
Earth Three apparently has blimps as a commonplace means of transportation.
There's a Trickster on Earth Three. Though not identified by name, he resembles James Jesse from Earth One.
Jay Garrick has heard stories about Savitar on Earth Three. He claims Barry is the first speedster to have seen him.
The stories say that Savitar was the first man given speed powers. Over time, he became the god of motion. Before Savitar visits an Earth, he sends a predecessor to prepare the way for his arrival. Upon arrival, he battles any speedster he sees as a threat to his power. Jay learned this through "Speed Force myths, legends and rumors."
HR says "Run, Wallace, Run!' while training Wally, in the same way other Wells have said "Run, Barry, Run!"
While no exact speed is given, Wally is confirmed to be faster at this point in his time as a speedster than Barry was.
Cisco recalls one Christmas Eve he spent with his brother sharing a bottle of whiskey. He says it was the only time they ever really felt like brothers.
Caitlin recalls the last Christmas she spent with her father - they sat inside and watched old movies during a blizzard.
According to Iris, four colleagues of Julian's died on his expedition to find The Philosopher's Stone.
Jay Garrick never had a sidekick in all his years as The Flash on Earth Three.
Barry reveals his secret identity to Julian Albert.
Julian Albert had a sister named Emma who died when he was 20. Visions of her telling him about The Philosopher's Stone having the power to bring her back from the dead inspired his quest to locate it.
Wally West is able to see Savitar.
Savitar apparently has powers of telepathy and illusion projection, even when The Philosopher's Stone is contained within its box. This is how he was able to send Julian an image of his dead sister and Cisco an image of his dead brother.
It is clear, based on Caitlin's reaction when Cisco opens the box, that she does not see the ghostly Dante that Cisco does.
Savitar delivers three prophecies about the people assembled in the room. "One shall betray you. One shall fall. One will suffer a fate far worse than death."
The camera focuses on Wally when betrayal is mentioned. Cisco is shown when it is said one will fall. Caitlin is shown when Savitar says one will suffer a fate worse than death.
Five months in the future, Barry hears a news report about a criminal named Plunder a.k.a. Jared Morillo - whose trial on charges of theft and assault just ended.
Five months in the future, Barry sees Savitar kill Iris West.
Jay Garrick returns to Earth Three before the Christmas party starts.
Caitlin invites Julian Albert to the West family Christmas gathering. He says he prefers to spend Christmas alone, but does eventually show up for the party.
Joe West and Cecile Horton finally kiss.
Wally is given a gift of a yellow Kid Flash costume like what he wore in The Flashpoint universe.
Julian Albert gets Barry his job with the CCPD back.
Caitlin uses her powers to turn the rain over The West House into snow.
Barry signs the lease on a house for himself and Iris as her Christmas present.
The Indus Valley - December 2012.
Central City on Earth Three - December 2016.
Central City on Earth One - May 2017.
The Bottom Line
A solid and satisfying mid-season finale that - for once - answers more questions than it raises and doesn't leave our heroes looking like complete idiots.