In the DC TV universe that Greg Berlanti and Marc Guggenheim have created with Arrow and The Flash, we’ve all been waiting for two events: For Oliver and Felicity to finally do it, and for Harrison Wells to be reveal his true identity to the Flash and his friends. It’s been a very good week for fans.
Oliver and Felicity made their long-awaited trip to Bonetown in last week’s episode of Arrow, and last night Wells’ deception finally ended in the most exciting way possible. But even without three full seasons of ‘shipping, and even though we’ve known Wells’ identity as the evil Reverse-Flash for quite some time, it was still The Flash that felt like it had the biggest gamechanger.
The episode is titled “The Trap,” and most of it centers around getting Eobard/Wells to admit he’s the Reverse-Flash, but also confess he killed Barry’s mother 15 years ago so Barry’s dad can finally get out of prison. After a lengthy, kind-of-goofy-even-for-the-Flash sequence where they hook up Cisco to a lucid dream machine so he can relive his dream-memories from the other timeline, which admittedly has the benefit of allowing Barry and the SuperSTARS to know exactly what went down there, including Eobard’s name. So in order to get Wells to confess in this timeline, they decide to recreate Cisco’s “discovery” of the Yellow-Flash hologram from a few weeks ago, with the minor change that Cisco will be inside the cage, preventing speedsters from getting in.
It actually goes off pretty well, minus the fact that Wells doesn’t directly confess to killing Barry’s mom. The Flash writers do a good job at restaging the confession/Cisco murder scene from several episodes ago, but with Cisco more accusatory than emotionally devastated, and Wells is more smug and supercilious than sad and resolute. But that’s not the real twist here.
I don’t want to blow your mind, but given that Eobard/Wells is very, very smart, and the SuperSTARS are often very, very dumb, but as it turns out the Reverse-Flash has set a trap for them. They only realize when Wells saunters right through the shield that was supposed to protect Cisco; Joe, who was hiding in the corner with Barry (enh, sure, why not) tries to shoot wells to protect Cisco; Barry, in a fit of selfishness the show doesn’t comment on at all, uses his speed to catch the bullets so that Wells can still confess to Nora’s murder — he misses one, and Wells falls to the ground, dead.
And then he transforms back into Hannibal Bates, the Everyman.
So not only did Eobard/Wells anticipate that the SuperSTARS were trying to trap him, but he sent a back-up in his place (with promises of freedom from the STAR Labs prison, whose sinister undertones suddenly make a lot more sense). Wells, in true super-villain fashion, calls Barry and the STARS to confess to his identity and his crimes, his desire to kill Barry, and the fact that despite all of this, he truly enjoyed working with all of them.
We’ve already seen a version of this scene before, when Wells confesses to Cisco in the erased timeline. But this do-over is possibly even more effective, and that’s because “The Trap” does a fantastic job at reminding us how much Barry and Wells complement each other. Sure, Wells murdered Barry mom and wants nothing more than to kill Barry, at least after he arrives back in his own time. But he doesn’t just teach Barry to use his powers, he inspires him to be a hero. When a building is on fire and Barry freaks out, it’s Wells who calms him down, reminds him he can do it, then patiently explains he needs to move his arms in really fast circles to create a vacuum to suck the air out of the room (a Flash comics staple). Wells may not mean to, and he may not even care, but it’s this guidance that helps turn Barry Allen into the Flash at least as much as the particle accelerator accident.
It’s this paradox that makes Wells and his relationship with Barry so fascinating. Barry even comments upon it to Joe, later, echoing the feelings of the audience — yes, we’re supposed to hate Wells for what he’s done, but he’s still so damn kind to Barry and the others that its hard to remember he wants to murder our hero. And when Eobard/Wells calls Barry and the STARS after their failed trap, he’s smug and gloating, but he can’t resist telling them that he genuinely enjoyed working alongside them, even as he planned to eventually kill Barry. Good stuff.
Barry and the others rush into what they’ve dubbed Wells’ Time Vault, and realize he’s been spying on them EVERYWHERE. Given that Iris has just figured out that all the metahumans appeared after the particle accelerator incident, Barry realizes she’s in trouble and rushes off. As it turns out, Eddie is proposing to Iris — a proposal Wells in his Reverse-Flash costume stops by grabbing the ring and tossing Eddie aside. Eddie is ready to fight the Yellow Speedster and fail in order to protect Iris, but that’s when the Flash shows up! The Reverse-Flash runs off — with Eddie — and the Flash gives chase, but not before Iris suddenly realizes that it may be Barry in the red suit.
“The Trap” effectively ends there, and but we get two the series’ trademark Wells Moments to wrap it up. The first is a scene where Eobard Thawne reveals his name and identity to his great-great-great-(whatever-)grandfather Eddie. Eddie turns from furious to completely baffled, and it seems a pretty valid discovery to be baffled at. But then we get Wells flashback to Barry in a coma, where he delivers a truly great monologue to this younger incarnation of the hero who will become his most hated adversary.
You know, I haven’t talked a lot about how awesome Tom Cavanaugh has been as Wells, because basically we all know Tom Cavanaugh is awesome. That’s just understood, and it’s seemed redundant to mention it in these recaps. Of course he’s great. He’s Tom Cavanaugh. But in last night’s episode, more than any other this season, Cavanaugh elevated what would be a pleasant, goofy, but fun superhero show into some damned fine entertainment. He’s not only made the Wells character work all season, but made him fascinating, likable, mysterious and immensely charismatic. Hearing him address his hated foe, while he lies helpless in a coma, is some of the finest acting you’ll see in any modern superhero show. The conflict in Wells is so clear, so palpable, that Cavanaugh sells it completely — no minor task when he’s playing a character a resolutely comic book-y as the Reverse Flash.
So let’s all take a moment to appreciate how much Tom Cavanaugh has done for The Flash. Because not only am I sad that the character will no longer be part of the SuperSTARS team, I’m also worried that this means that Cavanaugh might not be returning as a full-time castmember for season 2 — and all this despite the fact I’ve known this was coming since at least the ninth episode! If that doesn’t prove how good The Flash has become over its inaugural season, I don’t know what does.
• For some reason, the CW channel kept occasionally giving me snippets of NCIS from CBS while I was trying to watch The Flash. I don’t know that I missed anything — at least more than usual — but if I did that might be the reason.
• So Barry created the Gideon AI In the future? Interesting.
• Cisco Being Genuinely Funny, #28: Barry asks Cisco if he can hack into Gideon’s database to erase their little chit-chat, and Cisco asks Gideon to show him her database, revealing some insanely scifi-looking nonsense. Cisco just laughs and says “NOPE.”
• Eddie asks Joe’s blessing to marry Iris, because he’s that kind of dude. Joe says “NO” and gives zero explanation. Joe is the guy who has always been suspicious of Wells, but it seems like Joe’s horrible interpersonal relationships are causing more problems than they’re helping.
• Related: Joe eventually tells Barry the reason he won’t give Eddie his blessing to marry Iris — Iris really loves Barry, even if she hasn’t figured it out yet. Is it just me, or does that seem incredibly messed up to other people as well?
• Of course the SuperSTARS have to wear ridiculous VR glasses to see into Cisco’s dream, but Barry’s look exactly like Captain Cold’s unique shades from the comic. It’s pretty sweet.
• I feel the need to point that when Iris had her flashback to Barry in his coma, actress Candice Patton gave an excellent performance. Her lines were hokey, but her anguish at possibly losing her adopted brother/love interest seemed really genuine. I’m pretty sure Iris’ problems are based solely in the writers room.
• Speaking of good acting, when Wells arrives at STAR Labs for the trap, Caitlin does not seem like she’s obviously hiding a major secret, which is something Barry still hasn’t achieved.
• Iris finally realizes Barry may be the Flash when he gives her a small electric shock, just like Barry’s body did when he was in a coma. It’s a more subtle clue than the Flash sounding 100% like Barry whenever he talked, but I’m glad she figured it out either way.
• Next week: Grodd! Looks like the giant evil telepathic gorilla has been the Reverse-Flash’s contingency plan all along. CAN’T. WAIT.