After the Harrison Wells reveal in the last two episodes, I assumed The Flash was going to slow down the plot (pun intended) for a bit, take some time, pad it out, postpone the new reveal for closer to the season finale.. This did not happen. At all.
Admittedly, I was kind of annoyed that The Flash would likely postpone the Wells reveal Take 2 for a few episodes, but when I learned that last night's "Tricksters" would be bringing back Mark Hamill as the classic '90s Flash TV show villain the Trickster, well, I honestly couldn't think of a better way for the series to waste my time until the end game starts. So imagine my surprise — my pleasant surprise — when "Tricksters" not only included Hamill, but a Wells reveal I hadn't been expecting at all.
The episode begins with the fight between the Flash and the Reverse-flash 15 years ago, which killed Barry's mom. But these flashbacks (pun not intended, actually) continue throughout the episode, but from the Reverse-Flash's point of view. I assume it's what you all mostly want to talk about anyways, so let's go ahead and do it. When R-F fails to kill Barry, he escapes, only to immediately run out of the Speed Force. He pulls his mask off to reveal Eobard Thawne… but not actor Tom Cavanaugh.
No, it's actor Matt Letscher, who you might recognize from Her, Boardwalk Empire, The Mask of Zorro, or about a zillion other things. Seeing a new face underneath the mask was a shock to all of us, especially since the show had gone out of its way to present pre-15 years ago Wells as a complete mystery. But as the flashbacks reveal, Thawne uses his AI Gideon to track down the real Harrison Wells, cause the car wreck that kills his wife, and use a futuristic doohickey that transforms his body into a perfect double of Wells, while killing the original Wells. All in order to help build — and presumably sabotage — the particle accelerator in 2015, five years earlier than it did in Thawne's original timeline. An accelerator which, it would be mentioned, was successful.
So this begs some big questions, ones I'm not even sure the show will get to. If, in the original timeline, Wells successfully made the particle accelerator in 2020, how did Barry Allen get his powers — and when? It's obvious the Flash was around to fight the Reverse-Flash at some point in the original timeline, or Thawne would have never needed to think of the idea of killing Barry as a kid. Does this mean, as Oliver Queen said back in the premiere, that the lightning was always going to choose Barry in one way or another?
These are questions for another day (if the show even wants to get into the messiness of an original timeline, which is not at all certain). The main part of the episode is about a new criminal calling himself the Trickster — which just so happens to be the name of another criminal who terrorized Central City over 20 years ago, but was captured and put in prison.
If you never saw the original 1990 Flash TV series, I could theoretically see how the portion of the episode was kind of ho-hum — not bad, but not anything special. But for older nerds like me, it was a goddamn delight. Remember how I got all excited that actor John Wesley Shipp was playing Barry's dad because he starred as the original Barry Allen on the 1990 show? Well, the second most memorable character was undoubtedly Mark Hamill as the Trickster.
The new Flash TV series brings Hamill back as the Trickster, but a Trickster who did operate 20-plus years ago, and was caught despite there being no Flash running around (pun in—you get it). As we learn, he's been in prison since then, held in a special cell because he's so dangerous. But when a new copycat takes the Trickster's name and starts raining umbrella-bombs on playground, Joe and Barry are forced to talk with the original to track down the new Trickster.
The Trickster seems utterly enraged that someone young whippersnapper would have the audacity to steal his mask and name, but it should surprise only two of you that the criminal mastermind who calls himself the Trickster is being deceitful, those two being Joe and Barry, obviously. When the new Trickster says he has a massive bomb hidden at a very specific location in Central City, Barry fruitlessly spends his time looking for it while the new Trickster is freeing the old Trickster from prison! They'd been prison pen pals! Sad trombone noise!
It's a scene that requires Barry to be willfully dumb, which has happened on more than a few occasions on the show, but I'm willing to forgive it this time because it not only allows Hamill to rampage as the Trickster once again. Maybe I'm biased, but I thought Hsmill nailed it in this episode. And I don't just mean because he's the living embodiment of the Joker's voice, of whom the Trickster is a pale comparison. No, while Hamill's voice was inevitably familiar, it was older, wiser — more clever, less psychotic — a little lamer, but all in all, unique. Hamill didn't just retread the Joker, or even his original Trickster performance — he really comes across as what a dude who used to dress up in Van Halen-esque spandex to commit robberies in 1990 would be after having 20-plus years to plot and stew in jail. If Hamill can bring that sort of forethought and clarity when he returns as Luke Skywalker in Episode VII, honestly, we may be in for something amazing.
Anyways! Despite his cleverness, the Trickster is mainly a robber at heart, and he infiltrates the mayor's re-election rally (Iris is there, as all junior news bloggers on their first month on the job are also asked to cover major political events, too, obviously). He and his young ward serve all the guests poisoned champagne with a bank account number on it, and then announces they all have an hour to transfer very large sums of money into said account before they die. If he gets enough money, he'll give them the antidote.
Of course, the Flash arrives in short order, but Barry — who is very much not on the top of his game this episode — allows Trickster Jr. to put a bomb on his arm which will explode if he stops running under 600 miles per hour (Hamill even explains this be directly referencing the movie Seed, which makes at least this particular silliness utterly delightful). Barry runs, and calls to the Super STARS for help. Only Wells has the answer, even though Barry is loathe to trust him — but if Barry can vinrate his atoms at the natural frequency of air (which is almost certainly not a thing, right?) he can run into a wall, phase through it, and leave the bomb behind. Wells talks him through it — describing the Speed Force with such accuracy that Barry instantly realizes he's speaking from experience, and must be the Reverse-Flash. At any rate, Barry manages to run through the truck, the bomb explodes harmlessly behind him, and all it takes is a quick trip to STAR Labs to pick up the antidote, administer it to the guests, and grab both Tricksters. The end. Well, except for the aforementioned scene of the new/original Eobard Thawne taking the form of and murdering young Harrison Wells some 15 years ago.
So let's break this down, shall we? Here's a condensed list of this episode's awesomeness: 1) Mark Hamill, 2) the real secret of Harrison Wells, 3) bringing back a classic '90s Flash character in the best, cleverest way possible 4) Barry learning how to phase, and 5) the realization that the timeline the Flash is in has already been altered.
That's not bad! In fact, although I'm not thrilled with Barry again being so immature he can barely hide his scorn for Wells — especially since this is before Barry realizes that Wells is the Man in Yellow — there's only one truly bad moment in this episode, and it's when Joe and the Flash meet up with Eddie Thawne about Iris investigating the disappearance of reporter Mason Bridge. They want him to tell her he left the country for some girl, but is safe — and in order to impress upon him the importance of this, Barry takes off his mask. Again. And yet another person is told the Flash's secret identity in the increasingly labyrinthine, moronic "must keep it the Flash's secret identity from Iris" plot line. It's getting borderline insulting, and maybe even kind of sexist.
Honestly, at this point, I expect everyone in Central City to know Barry Allen is the Flash by the end of season, and they're all involved in a giant conspiracy to keep it from Iris. And this inexplicable plot decision isn't just weird and distracting, but it marred what was an otherwise incredibly enjoyable episode. I love the Trickster's return, and I love how well they've played the Reverse-Flash reveal. Now if they'd just give me a reason to even vaguely have affection for the love interest, then The Flash might finally run into first place as the best superhero show on TV.
• I really appreciated the fact that the giant bomb box had a giant bomb illustration painted on the side.
• Oh, the Trickster took a hostage, who of course was Barry's dad. This is superfluous and almost certainly included solely so the original Flash and Trickster actors could share another scene with each other, 25 years later. As such, I am 110% fine with it.
• The best line of the night, by the Trickster: "They gave me cable so I'd stop killing the guards."
• The worst line of the night, delivered by Iris (sigh) to Barry: "You seem like you have a heavy heart." Ugh.
• For the record, even Eddie thinks not telling Iris is absurd. He's such a good, reasonable dude. I'm so curious as to what sets the Thawne family against Barry Allen.
• On the other hand, this eventually leads to a scene where Barry saves his dad from the Trickster trap in his Flash uniform, and gets to take off his mask. It's touching, but it would be more touching if the Iris shit wasn't completely absurd.
• Obviously, the original Trickster's "I am your father" to young Axel is a silly nod to Star Wars, but was anyone else expecting a scene where Hamill followed that up with "What? No, I'm not your dad. Don't be an idiot." It seems weird for it to be authentic, not least because, of course, it's coming from a dude who calls himself the Trickster.
• Holy shit, that trailer for the rest of the season.
• The Trickster likes red licorice, not black licorce. Because while he may be an insane murderer, he's not a total monster.
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