written by Conrad Wrobel (@conradwrobel)
#SPOILERS (and not the kind you see on those lame-ass wannabe street-racers)
In this episode of Curious George (sorry, the title threw me off)... Ahem, The Flash-- our hero reins in the holidays with a visit from Saint Psycho, the (formerly) one and only Professor Zoom, whom they lovingly introduce with his alternative title Reverse-Flash. As is the case with all holiday specials, this mid-season finale is stuffed like a stocking with emotionally charged inter-character moments and conflicts. We see it all: friendship, enemyship, romance, grief, reckonings, honesty, deception, resurrection, eggnog, and even pyrotechnics! However, to be completely honest, all of that was just frosting in comparison to the gooey center of this family fruitcake, the Flash's first contact with our Unmellow Yellow Antagonist. #CaptainCustard
Christmas comes early as Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) and Iris West (Candice Patton) open each other's overly-thoughtful presents early-- a microscope for our Crime Scene Investigator, and a replica of Iris' mother's lost wedding band for our Barista. Ignoring the fact that neither of them could have afforded these gifts, Barry clearly won this round but still lost to Eddie Thawne (Rick Cosnett), who brought Iris the gifts of sexy stubble and a key to his apartment. However, Barry is never one to accept defeat, and following holiday advice from his father he is finally pushed to take his true feelings to the girl he's loved since before he knew what the word meant. Unfortunately, just like a trip to Chuck E. Cheese's, it was doomed to end in tears and confusion.
However, Barry momentarily sets aside his pining love-life as the Yellow Blur makes his seemingly first appearance in 14 years, invading S.T.A.R. Labs' rival Mercury Labs in search of "prototypes for the technology of the future." Apparently, this information-laden phrase means worlds to Dr. Wheels (Tom Cavanagh), as he is able to immediately deduct that rival scientist Dr. Christina McGee (Amanda Pays) is "messing with Tachyons... superluminal particles." Since Joe West (Jesse L. Martin) is the dumb one in the group, the task of asking everyone to explain the pseudoscience babble for the audience once again falls on his shoulders. According to Dr. Wheels, these tachyons are the key to "become invincible... If you could devise a matrix stable enough to harness their power, you could travel faster than light." Bringing the concept of faster-than-light (FTL) travel into the show is a huge step forward towards the ever-looming time-travel plotline, although I wish they avoided Star Trek physics to get there. Yes, Tachyons are trendy, and we all know how negative squared mass fields are the key to violating causality, which is a consistent theme in the Flash universe; but could you get ANY MORE CRYPTIC about the Mercury Labs prototype? I mean, the Smoke-Monster from Lost was more detailed!!!
Meanwhile, what's-her-face finally becomes relevant again! By that I mean Caitlin Snow (Danielle Panabaker) says more than five lines thanks to Ronnie Raymond (Robbie Amell) making his first official appearance as Firestorm. We know it was his official entrance as the character because he said, "Call me Firestorm." #Subtle
Anyhoo, our flaming friend finds Caitlin in a stalkingly sweet sort of way, by following her into a parking garage and lighting his head on fire. I may not be a ladies' man, but even I know that route leads you into an emergency room faster than into a woman's heart. However, the poor guy didn't know any better, his newly founded case of amnesia made him forget his manners... and how to shave! Luckily for our heroes, he apparently remembered where S.T.A.R. Labs is, and the importance of Dues ex Machina-esque timing, as we see at the end of the episode. Albeit incredibly convenient, at least he has taken on the role of a heroic metahuman, instead of as another villain to bolster the rapidly approaching Rogues Gallery. Perhaps he will be pushed fully into the team once Caitlin dons her own metahuman visage of Killer Frost. Wait, what?! Or did you forget her sly comment in Episode 3 foreshadowing this eventuality, "[Ronnie] used to say we were like fire and ice..." If that is not enough to clue you in on her fated villainy, consider the icy demeanor she displays while confiding in Cisco Ramon (Carlos Valdes), "Seeing him like that, what he's become. Dear God, I wish he had just died that day." ...Ouch! After hearing that Stone Cold Creamery blurt from her self-centered lips, even the Ghost of Christmas Past would dodge showing Ronnie her involvement in his past. #FrostBurn
The best/worst part was the scheme to trap Reverse Flash with a force field and no contingency plan. First of all, remember when Barry got "whammied" and went on a ragefest in the previous episode, "Flash vs. Arrow"? How at one point Cisco Ramon (Carlos Valdes) said, "A cold gun would come in really handy right now. I'm just saying..."? Well, I'm just saying!!! I'm pretty sure Cisco remembers, and is screaming that sentiment inanely into the void by now. #YouHadOneJob
Apparently learning from the past is just like the team's metahuman prison... it's beneath them. Instead they decided to borrow the hugely expensive and important "Tachyon Prototype" to use as a lure for their untested hypothetical force-field trap, placed precariously in a wide-open unsealed room at S.T.A.R. Labs... 'Cause that's the best idea, EVER! Did they NOT consider trapping the Reverse Flash in one of the many proven holding cells in the facility? Or after trapping their prey, filling the room with sleeping gas? Or even using a fake prototype, JUST IN CASE it gets stolen after all?! I can believe that Dr. Wheels obviously manipulated the force field to fail, but I have a hard time swallowing how he manipulated everyone else involved in the ploy to become complete morons. #DrankTheKoolAid
As you saw in the final scene, it would seem that only Dr. Wheels and I have a takeaway from this train wreck. For him, it is the biggest red herring since the suitcase from Pulp Fiction. For me, it's another hint at the time-travel plotline!!! Cisco gave us all a present by pointing out that when the Flashes were going "full-on bumper-cars", the Man in Yellow only produced red electricity in his wake, whereas Barry reported seeing both red AND yellow lightning 14 years ago. This leads Joe to conclude there are now two speedster villains responsible for the murder of Barry's mother, Nora Allen (Michelle Harrison). #DoubleTrouble
Although this is bad news for Barry and the team, this installment opens the table to all manner of speculation on whom these villains are. Previously, I had theorized it was Eddie who was secretly Barry's archrival, but he was in the same room as the Reverse Flash when they had him trapped. Also, although he took a whooping, we now know that Dr. Wheels is a speedster because he can do the voice-modulation thingy... oh, and he has THE RING!!! In the comics, the Flash has always stored his speed-suit in a ring. Somehow the scarlet spandex outfit compresses into the tiny space and can be released when Barry needs to ditch his alter ego. It was a great callback to see Dr. Wheels reveal he has something of similar design, except instead of it incorporating super-compression, the suit seemed to be projected, materialized, or uncloaked... but I digress. #Nerdgasm
I had hoped Dr. Wheels was working separate from the Man in the Yellow Suit, as someone trying to maintain a specific future event by guiding Barry along a certain path, regardless of the cost. However, it is apparent that he has (even more) ulterior motives, and is one of two who operate as an opposing speedster antagonist. Albeit the naming game in CW-TV's series has been on-and-off canon, I believe they chose to introduce the villain in this episode by the moniker of Reverse Flash because Professor Zoom will be an entirely separate entity in this universe, and the showrunners wanted to introduce both. At this point, we have not yet seen Dr. Wheels speed around or what color lightning doing so would create, so it is still a possibility he could be leading us on. Perhaps Dr. Wheels is actually Barry from the future? I am still mulling over what he said in Episode 3 when he started the particle accelerator, "It feels like I've been waiting for this moment for centuries." Perhaps Reverse Flash is also from the future, and did not kill Eddie when he had the chance because they are somehow related? Perhaps we'll just have to wait until January 20th for our next hint... ;)