I haven’t been the biggest fan of the Flash recently. Flashpoint was a not so rare example of the writers giving the fans what they want regardless of whether it actually works. It led to a season of sloppy exposition, rushed character arcs, and foreshadowing via sledgehammer.
But boy, was this different.
Everyone deserves some credit, but really Present benefited from some good ol fashioned fundamentals. A tight story with some twists and turns. Friends become enemies. Enemies become friends. Who knew it was that simple?
Let’s start here.
I have seen Barry carried through the Speedforce by the neck more than a couple times and felt nothing. Seeing that same thing happen to Jay was traumatizing. It reminded me how sudden every other death on the show was. Neither of Barry’s parents had more than a second or two to judge the situation in front of them. And even though the villains were evil, the deaths were also pretty painless. A vibrating hand through your chest isn’t the worst way to go.
Compare that to the beating Jay took. He was dragged up and down buildings, thrown onto a dumpster, and chokeslammed like someone who owed the Undertaker money. And all throughout the “fight” there was this very real threat that if Barry didn’t stop Alchemy fast enough, Jay was done. It was nerve wracking.
Losing a member of Barry’s family is one thing, but this was Jay Garrick. Earth-3 was about to lose their Flash without any notice all because Barry asked for help and Jay answered. It’s that ride or die Fast and Furious mindset that really tugs at your heart rings. A+
We were also lucky enough to be introduced to something the Flash has been desperately in need of, a bad guy mechanism. Up until now, the speedster conflicts have all been resolved with some sort of race. The only way Barry can prevail is by becoming faster than his rival. But now we have something new. We have a box.
Arrow’s Season 2 finale did this very well. There is a moment I can remember perfectly in which Sebastian Blood steals the Mirikuru cure from Slade and gets onto an elevator. It is THE signal to the audience that the tides are about to turn and Arrow will get what he needs to win the fight. You need physical objects that spell the difference between victory and defeat that a character can just pick up. A race between super speedsters is complicated. A suitcase changing hands is simple.
Flash fans have been wary of a new speedster villain, not because there is something wrong with chase action sequences but because the rules of speedsters are so random. Sometimes they can just run really fast. Sometimes they can time travel. Sometimes they can create an infinite amount of duplicates. It is hard to follow and when Barry exploits a very confusing time paradox at the end of the season, we aren’t really on board.
Present presented us with not only Julian’s ridiculous back story but the method by which Savitar can be defeated. We saw this mechanism in action twice; once when Savitar was about to kill Jay and later when Savitar was about to kill Barry and Wally. Both were well structured action sequences with not only clear consequences, but a clear challenge. Close the box.
Present really benefitted from the inclusion of Jay Garrick. We are at a turning point in the series. Barry has to go from apprentice to master, so that he can train Jessie and Wally. At the same time, there need to be problems that are over Barry’s head, otherwise the stakes will be too low. Having JWS come in as Jay every once in a while will be the perfect way to balance those two needs. Also, the scene with Hamill and Shipp was a nice nod to those actors being costars twenty years ago. At this point, can we all just pretend that the original Flash show takes place on Earth-3 and Pollux is going to be Jay’s problem next time Barry shows up?
Then there was the vision of things that have not yet come to be.
The death of Iris West scene brings up a couple of questions. The obvious one is “How is Savitar going to come back from the Speedforce?” but the one on my mind is “Where was Wally West?” Iris and Wally have grown very close and now that he is a speedster, you assume he would also be in the park helping Barry rescue Iris. Maybe he was KO’d. That’s a possibility. Another possibility is that Wally is one of the Savitar “Hot Takes”. He could either be the traitor or the fallen. Kid Flash has died in the comics/shows on more than one occasion. He has also proven to be morally compromised by Alchemy and Savitar earlier this season. It has to be one or the other.
Lastly, I am fully on the “HR is Abra Kadabra” train. I don’t like the idea that every Wells is hiding some deep dark secret from the group but I will accept the idea that this Wells is less of a sinister force and more of a pathological idiot. The theory is supported mostly by the observation that HR loves to hold his drumstick which functions as a proxy magic wand. He also has a face changer device, which could be used in the future for some dramatic reveal. Fingers crossed.