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Not even Mark Hamill could save Christmas with The Flash

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Trickster returns, but there's hardly enough room at the table for him or anyone else

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After two solid efforts from the team of CW's The Flash, it was rough seeing them back at their old tricks again last night. Not only did the show fritter away the backstory of one of its newest characters, but it actually added another member to a cast already groaning under the weight of too many parallel plotlines.

If they keep up like this, I'm going to have to write weekly recaps in a spreadsheet.

The main storyline for last night's Christmas-themed episode returned to something you might recall from way back in October. In researching her estranged mother, Francine (Vanessa Williams), Iris West (Candice Patton) uncovered the existence of a secret sibling named Wally (Keiynan Lonsdale). Iris tearfully confides in Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) early in the episode about the existence of her brother, and the two make a pact to tell her father Joe (Jesse L. Martin) as soon as possible.

That inevitably leads to Wally's introduction, when he awkwardly crashes the Christmas party at the end of the episode. When The Flash airs again on Jan. 19, you can expect he'll have a big role to play. Whether there's any room in the script to actually explore his character is another matter entirely, since week after week this show just can't seem to trim the fat.

The Flash

The main storyline for last night's Christmas-themed episode centered around a prison break. Weather Wizard (Liam McIntyre, Spartacus: War of the Damned) smashed into Central City's penitentiary with revenge on his mind, busting both Captain Cold (Wentworth Miller, Prison Break) and Trickster (Mark Hamill) from the klink. While Cold's insertion into the episode seemed to serve little purpose other than to get him out and about ahead of the January premier of Legends of Tomorrow, Hamill's performance as Trickster was a delight.

Hamill's attachment to the episode felt very much like a well-timed cameo by higher-ups at the the CW trying to cash in on the upcoming Star Wars movie. But Hamill rose to occasion, giving fans a villain who is an unabashed psychotic. It was essentially a less calculating and much more violent version of his Joker from Batman: The Animated Series, and a welcomed change from his classic do-gooder role as Luke Skywalker.

It's a shame there was so little of Hamill in the episode. Instead, Trickster's inclusion, along with Wally West, further contributed to the episode's narrative bloat.

The Flash

The main storyline for last night's Christmas-themed episode focused on Patty Spivot (Shantel VanSanten). Turns out, Weather Wizard killed her father and, in so doing, turned her toward a life as a crimefighter. That exposition, however cliched, was made all the more unbearable by the way it was delivered — directly to Flash in a dark alley, unnecessarily complicating Spivot and Allen's relationship.

To her credit, VanSanten delivers the schmaltz with genuine emotion while choking back authentic tears, but the scene belongs to Gustin's Allen who must talk down the love of his life through the facade of his alter ego not once but twice during the program. There are layers of emotion at work in those scenes, with Spivot fighting through her life-long struggle with guilt while Allen stands virtually handcuffed, unable to reveal himself publicly when it could help his girlfriend the most to know he's on her side.

The main storyline for last night's Christmas-themed episode centered on Harrison Wells, who is finally revealed to secretly be working for Zoom. With his daughter's life held as collateral, Zoom gives Wells his final ultimatum — make Allen as fast as possible so that he can kill him, stealing as much speed force as possible in the process.

"You're fattening him up like a Christmas goose," said Tom Cavanagh, before retiring to his trailer to deeply contemplate the pending renewal of the contract with his agent.

The main storyline from last night's ep ... hang on ... lemme check my notes here. ... No, I think I got 'em all. Phew.

The Flash

The highlight of last night was, for me at least, seeing Flash go vertical chasing after Weather Wizard. While the villain used a locally-centered low pressure system to float through the air, Allen used Central City's skyline to get the height he needed to bat the badnick out of the air. During a slow-motion CGI segment he even used the Channel 52 news chopper's spinning blade as a springboard. Despite the nice action sequences, last night's episode was my least favorite of the season.

Cisco wore some shirts, I think. He wasn't on screen long enough for me to actually see what they were, so I'm going to pretend it was this one in hopes that my choice inspires the writers to cut some weight — and maybe half a dozen characters — off the script in 2016.