The Flash mid-season finale, an overall underwhelming but sentimental hour of superhero television, inadvertently capitalized on the popular fan theory that Luke Skywalker has gone to the Dark Side in The Force Awakens.
In “Running to Stand Still,” Star Wars star Mark Hamill reprises his role as the supervillain Trickster who participates in a legit fucked-up plan with Weather Wizard (a returning Liam McIntyre) to blow up children and families on Christmas. Do you hear what I hear? You mean urban terrorism?
The dominating theme in “Running to Stand Still” is the protection of children — appropriate for a Christmas episode — and the severity of failing to uphold that responsibility. We shouldn’t coddle them lest we want them rotten (there’s a grossly hilarious moment when a kid tells Trickster disguised as Santa he wants “an iPhone, an iPad, and an iTouch”), but The Flash argues good parents should see their children grow. Jesse L. Martin puts on a rich, heartbreaking performance as Joe West after Iris revealed he has a son, Wally (destined to become a speedster himself). “Who taught him to be a man?” he says to Barry in tears, feeling regretful he failed as a parent. Elsewhere Barry’s girlfriend Patty Spivot’s heart has gone black with revenge when she sees an opportunity to kill her father’s murderer, Weather Wizard. It takes The Flash to convince her that what she wants is never the answer.
Even Harrison Wells (of Earth-2) gets his part. Grant Gustin also lends gravity as Barry, delivering a quiet soliloquy where he finally forgives Wells for murdering his mother. He’ll regret that: Wells’ daughter is still a prisoner of Zoom, and as a Christmas “gift” Zoom will let her go if Wells hands over Flash on a silver platter. Wells ends 2015 with a hesitant, but resounding “Yes.”
The Trickster laughs at all of this. While Hamill in The Flash comes off like a cover band version of his iconic Joker from Batman: The Animated Series, the ploy crafted by him and Weather Wizard to massacre Central City’s children is something even Gotham’s clown prince could never fathom (though that’s likely due to daytime censors).
The severity of Trickster’s plan put him way above other baddies like Grodd and Captain Cold — the latter cementing his path to Legends of Tomorrow by alerting Barry — and just a few notches above greedy big pharma CEOs and fear-mongering Presidential candidates on the totem pole of evil. While the episode’s climax ends limp, The Flash should consider Trickster a bigger threat than he poses if he’s willing to, again, kill children. And that puts him rather close in spirit to a particular totalitarian regime from a galaxy far, far away.
Is Luke evil in The Force Awakens? I doubt it. It’d be an amazing twist to subvert over 30 years’ worth of mythology, but without any context I fear it could be empty, a left-field throw whose sole function is to shock. But should the theory pan out to be true, at least we who watched The Flash will have our mouths less agape in the movie theater.