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TV

The Flash: Season 2, Episode 9 - "Running to Stand Still"

Gregory L. Reece

Mark Hamill returns as the Trickster; he's both frightening and hilarious, as any good Joker or Joker-wannabe should be.


The Flash

Airtime: Tuesdays, 8 pm
Cast: Grant Gustin, Mark Hamill, Jesse L. Martin, Keiynan Lonsdale, Liam McIntyre, Wentworth Miller
Subtitle: Season 2, Episode 9 - "Running to Stand Still"
Network: CW
Air date: 2015-12-08
Amazon

Here's what you need to know about this week's episode of The Flash: Mark Hamill returns as the Trickster.

As usual, there's a lot of other stuff going on here as well.

For starters, everybody -- and I mean everybody -- is having daddy issues. That's to be expected, of course. After all, this is the holiday episode of a superhero series, so daddy issues are unavoidable. They're mostly well played, especially Joe's (Jesse L. Martin) discovery of the son that he never knew he had. This daddy/son story comes with the bonus of giving us the first glimpse of Keiynan Lonsdale as Wally West. This might not mean much to you non-comic book types out there, but all of us true believes know that in the comic books Wally is the Flash's teen sidekick, Kid Flash. Kid Flash was first introduced back in 1959, a creation of writer John Broome and iconic Flash artist Carmine Infantino. We also know that after 1986, and the DC Comics crossover event Crisis on Infinite Earths, Wally took up the mantle of the fallen Barry Allen becoming the true Flash for a whole generation of readers. Trust me when I say that seeing him standing at Joe's front door is a really big deal.

In addition to the daddy issues, this episode is chock-full of supervillains. The Weather Wizard (Liam McIntyre) returns to break Captain Cold (Wentworth Miller) and the Trickster out of prison for the purpose of putting an end to the Flash (Grant Gustin) once and for all. Cold isn’t too menacing these days, what with his new role as a member of the new super team in CW's newest DC series, Legends of Tomorrow. The Weather Wizard has some new tricks, however, and is an awfully good foil to the Flash. Their in-air battle over Central City is one of the best bits of the episode, highlighting the stylized action sequences -- full of slow motion and lots of lightning flashes -- that really help to make this series sparkle. Zoom (Tony Todd) is also back, as scary as ever, and sets the tone right at the start with as menacing a "Merry Christmas" as you're likely to hear this season.

There's also a truly ridiculous technological deus ex machina thrown into the mix -- something that The Flash uses just often enough that they can get by with it. It has something to do with reversing the polarity of a bomb in order to magnetically attract all the other bombs in the city to it. I'm sure that this wouldn’t work. The fact that they send all of these bombs hurtling through one of the city's 52 breaches to Earth-2 is equally inexplicable. How exactly did they know that those bombs wouldn't come out the other side and leave death and destruction in their wake? It's all really stupid, I suppose. But this show is just comic book-y enough to allow me to accept it for what it is.

It doesn’t matter anyway. The only thing that matters is that Mark Hamill is back as the Trickster.

The Trickster, like Wally West, was created by Broome and Infantino, and made his first comic book appearance in 1960. Like so many DC Comics villains, the Trickster was always a bit of a second-rate Joker. He originally dressed in a colorful Harlequin costume, and looked like a circus clown gone bad. His distinguishing gimmick was that he liked to design deadly traps and weapons that looked like harmless toys.

Back in 1991, in an earlier television series called The Flash, Mark Hamill dressed in the ridiculously colorful costume for the first time and matched wits with John Wesley Shipp's version of the Scarlet Speedster. (Shipp now plays the part of Barry's dad in the current series. Comic books, and the TV shows they influence, have always had a thing for legacy and tradition.) That earlier version of The Flash wasn't bad, even if Shipp's costume seemed to be molded out of Styrofoam. Hamill's Trickster has always been everybody's favorite thing about the series, however. His bad guy had more energy than even the "Fastest Man in the World”.

Since then, Hamill moved up in the supervillain hierarchy, voicing the Joker himself in Batman: The Animated Series, and in a ton of other animation that followed. He also portrayed the Joker in a host of video games. Hamill’s the voice of the Joker, his performance arguably as iconic as that of Jack Nicholson or Heath Ledger.

That voice, and a performance to match, is on display in this episode of The Flash.

Hamill’s in full command, becomes the absolute center of attention, every single moment that he’s on the screen. He is at once both frightening and hilarious, as any good Joker or Joker-wannabe should be.

"Flashy the Red-Nosed Speedster”, he sings, "had a very shiny suit. And if you ever saw him, you might even want to puke”.

Then, in my favorite line of the night, he cackles from his Santa throne: "Time for a real war on Christmas!"

I have no more insight than any other regular person about what's going to happen with Luke Skywalker in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I don't know why he wasn’t featured on the movie poster along with Han and Leia and all the rest. I'm hoping he's gonna be there, hoping he's got something big and important to do.

But until December 18 this episode of The Flash will do. Mark Hamill returns as the Trickster. He dresses like Santa Claus; he's scary and he's funny. He's the Joker without the green hair and pasty skin.

Some other stuff happens, too.

9
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