The Holiday season descends on STAR Labs but there's little time for celebration, even with Iris and Barry newly-married. The Thinker traps Barry in a speedster-proof prison at the same time Blacksmith abducts Caitlin in order to force her to perform some delicate surgery. With only enough time and resources to save one of them, who will Iris West choose to rescue?
Countless superhero comics built around the idea of having to choose which of two people to be saved. Doctor Who (Katie Sackhoff's performance as Blacksmith seems inspired by Michelle Gomez's Missy.) and Spider-Man 2 (the design of the tentacles on The Thinker's chair looks a lot like Doctor Octopus' tentacles)
Barry says DeVoe sent The Samuroid after him but Barry was still in The Speed Force when the Samuroid first attacked.
As nice as the scene between Harry and Caitlin is, why is it Harry who goes after Caitlin to check on her and not the more emphatic Cisco?
The Sophie's Choice set up by this episode is incredibly contrived and ignores that Team Flash has access to resources other than STAR Labs. There's a whole other super-computer in The Bunker in Star City and two hackers capable of hijacking their own satellite to run whichever search the STAR Labs computer can't. If nothing else, Iris could call her speedster brother from Cambodia (side note: why is Wally spending Christmas there?) and ask him to check the whole city at super-speed for Caitlin.
This is made even stupider by Iris' logic in making the decision she eventually does - save Caitlin because Barry can take care of himself. Never mind that Killer Frost could also take care of herself or that if The Thinker wanted to kill Barry, he wouldn't have bothered abducting him.
Why don't Ralph and Cisco try to take down Blacksmith then and now? They already know her metal-throwing powers can't hurt Ralph and they have plenty of time for Cisco to vibe her into a cell in The Pipeline.
Why is Cecile out of town for the holidays? Her daughter is going to school in Central City.
The scene between Tom Cavanagh and Danielle Panabaker at C.C. Jitters is a nice one for all the subtle character touches, from Caitlin stiring her coffee with a candy cane to Harry's nervously looking around and trying to keep his face hidden so nobody recognizes the "supposed to be dead' Harrison Wells of Earth One.
Grant Gustin gets one nice bit of silent acting as Barry slows down time to savor looking at the picture of himself and Iris as the police storm his loft while he stands over DeVoe's body. His expression speaks volumes.
The set design for this episode is fantastic.
The final sequence, in which the police storm Barry's apartment, is well-shot and directed.
The Thinker says that Jesus of Nazareth was born in the spring - not on December 25 - and that constellation patterns will verify that after The Mechanic notes that he'll soon share a birthday with The Messiah. One team of astronomers has speculated that Jesus's birth was on June 17th - a night in which Jupiter and Venus would have aligned and appeared to have been one large star in the western sky above Bethlehem.
Ignoring astronomy, most modern theologians agree that Jesus was born in late spring or the summer. This belief is based on a passage in The Bible which says that the shepherds were in the fields with their flocks on the night Jesus was born, suggesting sometime when the nights were warm and the weather fair.
There are two DC Comics villains who have used the name Brainstorm. Apart from the shared name, they have completely different true names, origins and powers.
The first Brainstorm first appeared in Justice League of America (Vol. 1) #32 (December 1964). Axel Storm was a scientist who theorized that peak human mental stimulation coincided with periods of increased radioactive emission from certain stars. Axel made a helmet of a metal that seemed to react to this emissions and found that the helmet gave him increased intelligence as well as a variety of mental powers. These powers included mind control, telekinesis and teleportation
The first Brainstorm came to stand against the Justice League after he abducted Green Lantern, whom he blamed for the death of his criminal brother. Brainstorm plotted to have The League watch his execution of Hal Jordan. It turned out that Brainstorm had accidentally teleported his brother to France.
It's worth mentioning that the original Brainstorm had a similar origin and powers to The Thinker, with both men having acquired increased intelligence and psychic powers from a special helmet. One key difference is that Brainstorm flew around on a special golden hover-chair, similar to the one used by The DCTVU Thinker, but The Thinker in the comics did not use such a chair.
The second Brainstorm was introduced in The New 52 comics universe as an enemy of Michael Holt a.k.a. Mister Terrific. This Brainstorm was Dominic Lanse - a Silicon Valley scientist, who first appeared in Mister Terrific #2 (December 2011). Lanse was working on a project to copy human brains into a digital format, preserving the greatest minds in history after their deaths. A lab accident reversed the process, causing the intellects of these great thinkers to imprint upon Lanse's mind. He became obsessed with becoming smarter and absorbing Michael Holt's mind into his own.
The DCTVU version of Brainstorm is a man named Dominic Lanse. This Dominic Lanse was a TSA agent who worked at the Central City Airport. He was a passenger on the bus hit by the Dark Matter wave when Barry left The Speed Force. His transformation into a metahuman gave him line-of-sight telepathic abilities.
The trick Barry uses here to escape his cell - vibrating so quickly while standing still that he becomes invisible - is a classic gambit from the comics. The Flash has used it a few times to escape from cells he could not otherwise escape from. So did Green Lantern, in one episode of The Superfriends - Invasion of The Fearions - where he used his ring to bend the light around himself and his teammates so that it looked like their cell was empty. When their alien captors opened the cell to investigate what happened, they sprang into action and attacked.
Cisco's Christmas gift for Gypsy is a Gulga-class mech knife, forged in the unholy blood-fires of Earth-22.
The STAR Labs satellite can be used to track Caitlin by her cryokinetic energy signature or Barry by his Speed Force signature. Unfortunately, the bandwith limiters overheat trying to accomplish both tasks at once.
The injury to Dominic Lanse's head is, at best, an intricate cranial foreign body retraction. The worst case scenario, though Caitlin is not allowed to finish naming it, will require an endoscopy (i.e. using special tools to view and operate on internal organs).
If the shard in Dominic Lanse's head were to shatter, it would cause permanent motor skills impairment and brain deficits.
Harry's weapon of choice when he doesn't have to worry about blending in is an ionic sub-repeating pulse firearm.
Caitlin is able to jerry-rig an MRI.
(Iris asks Barry why he doesn't use his powers to clean their apartment at super speed anymore.)
Barry: When I first got my powers, I would use any excuse to use them. It would just be me and the road and everything around me would disappear. But .. it's like the first time in my life I felt like I was really at peace. I just feel like that all the time. I don't have to run when I'm with you.
(The Thinker is struggling to button his cardigan. The Mechanic hears him sigh in frustration and enters the room.)
The Mechanic: Let me.
(She kneels by his side and takes his hands comfortingly.)
The Thinker: The atrophy of my fine motor skills is accelerating.
The Mechanic: I'm so sorry, my love
The Thinker: (smiling) Oh, the pain is but fleeting. After all, today is the day.
The Mechanic: (returning the smile) How fitting. You'll share a birthday with The Messiah.
The Thinker: (laughs) The Nazarene wasn't born until spring. You can check your constellation patterns to verify that. (pauses) Oh. You've heard this lecture before, haven't you?
The Mechanic: Maybe. But I will never grow tired of hearing your voice.
The Thinker: The words are still mine. Even if the voice isn't.
(Caitlin is sitting alone in C.C. Jitters. She is trying to avoid looking at a sign promoting a new iced coffee drink called The Killer Frost. Harry enters and sits down at her table.)
Harry: Well, it's the dark roast? The light roast? What are you having? The self-pity roast?
Caitlin: I wish.
Harry: (sees the sign and chuckles) Oh! The Killer Frost!
Caitlin: (dead-pan) Finally got a drink. Woo-hoo. (sighs) I'm thrilled that she helped everyone fight the Reichsmen, but now it's like I can't escape her. Everybody keeps saying "Killer Frost is so funny." "Killer Frost is so bad ass!" I spent so long worried that she was going to hurt people, but now... turns out people would rather hang out with my villainous alter-ego.
Harry: Look, I - I get it. I know what it's like to have the evil doppelganger. But you're not like me anyway, Snow. You're different. You're.. special. And your friends would much rather be with you than with her.
Caitlin: Thanks Harry.
Harry: You're welcome.
Barry: DeVoe, if you wanted to kill me, you could have just electrocuted me on the street. So... I'm here for a reason.
The Thinker: Yes, Mr. Allen. So that I may teach you. I am, after all, first and foremost, a teacher.
Barry: Oh, God. (sighs in resignation) All right. Fine. Teach me. But first I want to make sure I'm all caught up. You sent your Samuroid after me. You arranged to pull me out of The Speed Force. You made sure that we turned all those people on that bus into metahumans. Why?
The Thinker: You see, the finer points of my agenda are not part of today's syllabus.
Barry: Oh, come on. We can squeeze it in. I'm a fast learner.
The Thinker: Please. You're about as capable of seeing the breadth of my machinations as an infant mastering multi-variable physics.
Barry: (laughing sarcastically) Wow.
The Thinker: The lesson I have prepped for today is much more simple. Life 101. There are no happy endings.
(Joe is questioning DeVoe as to where Barry is.)
The Thinker: Thinly-veiled threats aside, Mr. West, I'm afraid I have not a clue as to Barry Allen's location. I do know, however, that your colleague is located behind my front porch carrying an ionic sub-repeating pulse firearm.
(The Thinker laughs as Harry steps into view.)
The Thinker: The birdbath has a much better vantage point. A smart man would have taken a position there.
Harry: A smarter man would understand that this gun has no safety and my finger is still on the trigger.
Barry: You don't have to do this. Whatever he has planned, you don't have to help him.
The Mechanic: A helper? Is that what you think I am? A mindless minion, carrying out my master's bidding. Some kind of evil secretary?
Barry: You tell me!
The Mechanic: No, Mr. Allen. I am now and forever will be my husband's partner.
(Iris has just stopped Cisco and Ralph from fighting.)
Cisco: Whatever. I'll be in my lab.
(Cisco storms from the room.)
Ralph: And I will be in... whatever room is furthest from that.
Harry: Speed lab.
Ralph: Thank you.
Harry: You're welcome.
The entire sequence of Barry falling to his apparent death and the "flotation mode" on his suit activating just in time to slow his fall and cushion his impact with the water.
Harry: Ramon, that's not a break-up cube. You should open that when you're alone.
Cisco: No, no, no. If she's gonna break up with me, I want to hear why.
Harry: No, Ramon!
(Cisco activates the cube. A hologram of Gypsy in a sexy Mrs. Claus outfit appears.)
Gypsy Hologram: Cisco? Somebody told me you've been a very naughty boy this year. Why don't you come over and jingle my bells, huh?
Cisco: Sweet Baby Jesus!
Harry: Told you. Not a break-up cube.
(Cisco tries frantically to shut the hologram off.)
Harry: Just use the same button.
Gypsy Hologram: I promise you it's not going to be a Silent Night.
(Cisco finally shuts the cube off.)
Cisco: Joe? Do you mind if I-
Joe: (in his Dad voice) Take that to your house!
Barry: If you hurt my family...
The Thinker: I have no interest in your family. Besides, you're going to need someone to miss you while you're gone.
Barry: What did you do?
The Thinker: I merely left something for you. It's a re-gift, as it were. I don't have need for it anymore.
(Barry looks to the counter and sees the box holding the lone knife from his wedding presents. He then notes the blood spatter on the floor, which leads to Clifford DeVoe's corpse, the bloody knife next to it on the floor by the window. Suddenly, there's a knock at the door.)
Captain Singh: Allen? CCPD! Open up in there!
(The Thinker, now in Dominic Lanse's body, approaches The Mechanic.)
The Thinker: I told you I would stand beside you.
(She takes his hand and slips his wedding ring onto it. The two kiss for a moment.)
The Mechanic: Always.
The Thinker: Now, let's bring about The Enlightenment.
(The two get into The Mechanic's car and drive off.)
Blacksmith: I blocked your Glock.
Gypsy is working the holiday shift on Earth-19.
Cisco's Christmas gift for Gypsy is a Gulga-class mech knife, forged in the unholy blood-fires of Earth-22 by Wells 2.0.
Ralph spends every Christmas with his grandmother, who apparently has severe Alzheimer's and doesn't remember him. Ralph says it's okay because he's sure to get her inheritance.
Ralph, Harry and Cisco have apparently been hanging out with Killer Frost and have some kind of inside joke about "baking soda".
Oliver and Felicity got Barry and Iris an espresso machine. Iris notes that was not on her bridal registry and she is not at all bitter about that or the two of them getting married along with Barry and Iris.
There is one odd gift among Iris and Barry's wedding gifts - a box containing a single knife.
Barry and Iris went on honeymoon in Bali.
Barry hasn't been casually using his powers as much since getting married.
C.C. Jitters now makes a Killer Frost drink - an iced mocha.
Mick Rory gave Iris and Barry forty toasters, resulting in "a life-time supply of store credit" once they were returned. He claimed to have gotten them at a fire sale but Barry figures that he probably stole them.
Cisco has refined his powers to the point that he can Vibe people and things he is familiar with (such as his best friends) without needing to touch a relevant object.
The Thinker has found some way to block Cisco's Vibe powers.
The sixth of the bus metas is revealed to be a TSA agent named Dominic Lanse. He developed the ability to telepathically read the mind of anyone within his line of sight.
Ralph has worked a lot of missing person cases as a private investigator. One of them involved a woman who faked her death and moved to Arizona.
Blacksmith was a stewardess before The STAR Labs Particle Accelerator Explosion.
Ralph calls the STAR Labs satellite Sally. Cisco says that is not her name.
The Thinker's chair is capable of teleportation.
The "flotation mode" of Barry's new suit, first revealed in 402, is revealed to be one of the features Cisco didn't disable when Barry asked him to take all the new tech out of Barry's new costume.
Ralph decorates The West Home for the holidays.
Gypsy sends Cisco a holographic cube that he, at first, mistakes for one of the break-up cubes from 403. The message turns out to be the holographic equivalent of a sext message, with Gypsy in a sexy Mrs. Claus outfit asking Cisco to jingle her bells.
Cisco dubs Dominic "Brainstorm".
Ralph still does not have a code name.
The Mechanic was the buyer who hired The Blacksmith to retrieve Dominic Lanse.
It is revealed that The Thinker transferred his mind into Dominic Lanse's body.
Barry is framed for Clifford DeVoe's murder after DeVoe's body is found in Barry's apartment, with the lone knife that was sent to Barry and Iris as a wedding gift buried in his chest, as Barry Allen is standing over it.
The licence plate of The Mechanic's car is 6KS-257
Ralph mentions a case where he was hired to find a woman's missing husband. It turned out the woman had amnesia and didn't recognize the man who was living in her house as her husband. Ralph got paid twice for this job.
Wally is apparently spending Christmas in Cambodia and couldn't make it to Central City... for some reason Joe doesn't go into.
The Fridge Factor
Averted in the case of Caitlin, who manages to save herself on her own up until the point the story requires Ralph and Cisco to do something heroic.
Affirmed hard in the case of Iris, who has to be browbeat into acting like the leader she allegedly is by Harry.
The Bottom Line
Annoying on multiple levels up until the final ten minutes. The Caitlin subplot is played deadly serious but Katie Sackhoff's hammy performance as Blacksmith undermines the whole thing. Barry spends most of his time in captivity being smug and sarcastic. Iris completely falls apart until Wells - the only person on the team really doing anything for most of the episode - tells her to man up. Cisco, Harry and Ralph acts like jerks toward Caitlin but only Ralph is expected to apologize for upsetting her. The final ten minutes almost make-up for it all. Almost.
The problem is I don't think the show runners want me rooting for The DeVoes at this point but the sad truth is they are a much more sympathetic and believable couple than Barry and Iris, who spend most of the episode acting like jerks and idiots. Our "heroes" don't even have the excuse of moral high-ground since Barry and Iris have killed for far more selfish reasons than The DeVoes. Remember Zoom and Savitar? At least The DeVoes are trying to help the world in ways that don't involve punching bank robbers.