Tonight's midseason finale of The Flash gave fans a game-changing look at a potential future and set up what's obviously going to be the big conflict of the second half of the season.
Along the way, fans got to see Barry Allen and Jay Garrick team up for the first time -- and get their heads kicked in by the giant Speed Force monstrosity known as Savitar.
Team Flash finally figured out how to put a stop the the creature just in time to save the lives of Barry and Wally West -- and then made the strategically-questionable decision to hurl that weapon, unprotected, into the Speed Force.
Mix in a bit of holiday cheer, a bit of Mark Hamill as the Trickster, and a whole lot of closure on some fo the various plots driving the first half of the season, and you've got a recipe for a packed episode without many pauses to take a breath.
Still, of course, there are some things that were clever little winks and nods.
So...what did we see? What did we miss?
Read on, and comment below.
BARRY SEEKS HELP FROM JAY GARRICK — With Alchemy and Savitar still looming threats, Barry (Grant Gustin) is unable to focus on the Christmas holiday, and especially his relationship with Iris (Candice Patton). Determined to stop Savitar, Barry goes to Earth-3 to get advice from Jay Garrick (guest star John Wesley Shipp). Wally (Keiynan Lonsdale) wants to help Barry fight Savitar and reveals that he’s been training with H.R. (Tom Cavanagh), which doesn’t go over well with Barry. As Cisco (Carlos Valdes) faces his first Christmas without his brother Dante (guest star Nicholas Gonzalez), old wounds are reopened.
Tank Girl director Rachel Talalay directed the episode with story by Aaron Helbing & Todd Helbing and teleplay by Lauren Certo.
The Flash airs Tuesday nights at 8 p.m. ET/PT on The CW. "The Present" wil debut on December 6, 2016.
That first scene was such an obvious homage to Indiana Jones that even characters who weren't present for it, felt obliged to reference the Harrison Ford franchise.
"It's creepy," Cisco says of the box it's held in. "Like, Indiana Jones, melt-your-face creepy."
Airships seen flying around in he background of Earth-3 always feel like they're borrowing from Watchmen when we see them in comic book adaptations, but really it's likely that it's just kind of taking inpiration from an incredibly common trope in alternate-reality fiction as a whole.
...Also, here's our first real look at Earth-3.
Both Mark Hamill and John Wesley Shipp have returned to The Flash often enough now that it's really only the two of them squaring off that merits a separate mention here.
Shipp, who played Barry Allen in 1990 and 1991 and then Henry Allen in the first two seasons of The Flash, appeared briefly in the season's second episode this year as Jay Garrick, but had yet to have much time to flesh out the character and give insight into how much backstory is at play with the character.
"I figured Jay is my version of Barry, 25 years later, essentailly. So I went back and I watched a couple of episodes of the 1990/91 version to kind of remind myself what I did," Shipp told ComicBook.com. "[Jay] is much more reminiscent of my Barry Allen from 25 years ago than my Henry Allen. I went back and I was amazed how much attitude my Barry Allen had in some situations. I went back and I picked up that thread and I brought it forward 25 years, and tried to weave it in. I think that's fun for the audience, too -- that they will see elements of my Barry Allen in my Jay Garrick."
"I'd already watched The Flash because I wanted to see how they used John Wesley Shipp, who I admire so much," Hamill told ComicBook.com. "And I thought they were doing a great job! Then they called and said, 'Do you want ot be involved?' And I thought since I'm a contemporary of John's, I'll probably be the prison warden or I could be a cellmate of his -- who knows? When they said, 'No, we want you to be the Trickster,' I almost fell over. I was like, 'You can't be serious!' It was borderline danger to put on a skintight unitard 20 years ago, whenever it was, I don't think it's going to really work, you guys. Let's make it age-appropriate; it'll be goofy. But as you know, they have a very smart way of dealing with the characters and it was a much more subdued and sort of Hannibal Lecter-y version of the character."
"People keep saying 'is coming back to The Flash weird?'" Shipp admitted, when we asked him yesterday what the strangest part of putting on a superhero costume again was. "And it hasn't been [weird], as long as I was playing a very different Henry Allen. But once I suit up and Grant and I are running around, and suddenly I'm face-to-face with Mark Hamill's Trickster, it's like, who could have predicted that this would happen? It's really a trip."
This one...we missed it. Straight up missed it.
Then, as we were prepping this story, we attached the photo above to the "intro" pane of the slideshow and saw the name "Fox Bank" in the fine print.
The bank being robbed by The Trickster is named for Gardner Fox, one of the most legendary voices in the history of American superhero comics, created both the original Flash (Jay Garrick) in 1940 and the Justice League of America...before going on to create the DC multiverse, explaining the disparity between older and younger Green Lanterns, Flashes, etc.
RUN WALLACE RUN
During his training (and beyond), people kept telling Barry "Run, Barry, run" at key moments -- the first of which was Harrison Wells/Eobard Thawne during the pilot.
So H.R. Wells passing it along to Wally during his training seems pretty appropriate.
"Shults" is the name of the building The Flashes showdown with Alchemy, but it's almost certainly the name of a writer or producers or something we can't quite put our finger on at the moment.
In The Flash Season Zero, Shults was the name of a research assistant who worked with Dr. Gavin DeMarco, the man who inadvertently transformed Shay Lamden into Killer Shark when an experimental treatment came into contact with radiation from the particle accelerator explosion.
The street on which Iris is killed in the flash-forward is named for Barry Allen's late co-creator, Carmine Infantino.
Infantino, born in Brooklyn, New York on May 24,1925, was a major force in the creation of the Silver Age of comic books. His work in the '50s and '60s included the co-creation of numerous characters, most notably the Silver Age Flash, Barry Allen.
Infantino is widely regarded as one of the best comics artists of all time.
He was also key in reimagining Batman for DC, and co-created Human Target, which became a short-lived FOX television series and recently appeared on Arrow.
He was also distinguished as an editor and, later in his career, worked on projects like Star Wars for Marvel Comics.
It was under his editorial direction that DC wooed Jack Kirby, resulting in the creation of the New Gods, among many other enduring properties, for the publisher.
- The histories of both Savitar and the Philosopher's Stone have been dealt with in these Easter eggs stories before...but who didn't enjoy getting to watch a Slytherin explain the history of The Philosopher's Stone to Barry Allen?
- Yep, we got not one but TWO "52" references this week -- Area 52 or whatever it's called when they throw Julian into the Pipeline, and the News 52 logo in the flash forward.