This The Flash review contains spoilers.
I hate to sound like a shill. I really do. And if you read enough of my stuff around here, you know that I’m stingy when it comes to hyperbolic praise. Even when I really like something, I try and temper it with a little realism.
But in the case of “Tricksters” and the previous two episodes of The Flash…holy moley. I’ve been chronicling every little piece of news about this show since it was first announced nearly two years ago. I waited impatiently for the casting, the Arrow episodes, the first look at Grant Gustin in the red suit, you name it.
Aside from the heaps of fan-service this week (which, as usual, I’ll get to), The Flash once again did what occasionally feels impossible during a long network season: it pulled off an episode that was both a perfect “villain of the week” scenario and it absolutely killed it with the season long arc. Some of this just goes to show how awesome Flash’s core rogues’ gallery is. But mostly, it’s just smart writing, and a cast that, top to bottom, just never sleeps on it.
We just had another week with no mustache-twirling from Harrison Wells, despite the fact that his secret is out (and he suspects that it is). We got another heart-rendingly beautiful scene between Joe and Barry, possibly the best scene that Jesse L. Martin and Grant Gustin have played together. And we got more insight into the Harrison Wells/Eobard Thawne mystery, which remains just mysterious enough to keep everyone, whether they’re hardcore comic book fans or Flash newbies, on their toes.
I can say with absolute certainty that no superhero show has ever delivered on so many of its early season promises the way that The Flash has over the last few weeks. For two weeks they quite literally played with time and continuity. But this week they played with our entire perception of how the show’s timeline works.
Of all the Reverse-Flash surprises, I’m pretty sure that the idea that Eobard got stuck here when he killed Barry’s mother might be the biggest. I’ve been waiting for the moment when Harrison Wells decides he has to go back in time to kill Nora Allen in an attempt to inspire Barry to be a hero or something like that. This is something else entirely. It’s not just the past in terms of the timeline, it’s actually the past in Harrison/Eobard’s consciousness.
Now, you didn’t think I’d not talk about the titular Tricksters of this week’s outing, did you? Mark Hamill was great as James Jesse. That was to be expected. But I also have to give it up for Devon Graye as the Axel Walker version of the character, too. Look…you don’t underplay the Trickster. You’ve probably heard me moan a little when I feel someone takes the notion of playing a supervillain as an excuse to play things too broadly. But the Trickster, well, that’s how you do it. Graye, then, did a fine job…and his younger, more brash Trickster was somehow still more restrained than that irritating first Count Vertigo we got on Arrow.
I’m not sure that any show could have done the “pair of evil laughs” the way both Tricksters did in unison this week and not have it come off like some Snidely Whiplash nonsense, yet here we are.
Plenty of John Wesley Shipp time this week, which, of course, warms my heart. Putting Shipp and Hamill in the same scene together was a bonus. Having Barry unmask in front of his Dad like that was another bonus. But I’ll be honest, as wonderful as that moment was, it didn’t blow my mind the way that the unmasking in front of Eddie did. We knew we’d get that moment with the Allens eventually, but did anyone think we’d see it here?
I am now left not knowing what to believe about Eddie. I’ve spent all season assuming that he’s headed for villainy, but then they just keep making him a nice guy. And now Barry tells him everything. I’m not totally sure I buy the reasoning behind the unmasking, but whatever…I don’t care. This episode doesn’t deserve to be nitpicked.
Okay, so…because of the sheer amount of coolness in this episode, it’s time to just head directly into…
– That was Vito D’Ambrosio as Mayor Anthony Bellows. Fans of the original Flash series may know him as Officer Tony Bellows, half of a pair of bumbling cops who provided some comic relief on that show.
– okay, as I’m sure you’re tired of hearing everyone make a big deal about, Mark Hamill has played the Trickster before on the original The Flash TV series. You can spot his old costumes on display in the warehouse, as well as actual stills from the show in his file.
But he also played him on Justice League Unlimited, in the absolutely perfect Flash-centric episode “Flash and Substance.” His Trickster this week was slightly “off” those models, neither as spritely as his original TV appearance nor as maniacally menacing as his time voicing the Joker on Batman: The Animated Series. Hamill really did a fine job distinguishing all this stuff.
Fun note! When Mark Hamill played the Trickster on The Flash in 1990, the thought of more Star Wars movies was nothing but the fondest dream…
– “That wasn’t very sanitary!” Cute line. But since the show went all out with embracing a full-blown Silver Age Flash power set this week, I’m totally willing to buy that Barry was changing out needles at super speed there.
– So, if Harrison Wells was supposed to open the particle accelerator in 2020 instead of 2013, did Eobard’s actions here create a branching timeline or…an alernate earth, perhaps? I’ve long suspected that the particle accelerator accident will eventually figure into some kind of exploration of the multiverse on this show, and that The Flash could even be the thing that ties the Warner Bros. multimedia DC multiverse together. We’ll see, but right now…wow.
– “I am your father.” He probably isn’t. But you know damn well why that line was in there. Even Harrison’s zen-like speed force soliloquy seemed appropriate given this week’s guest star. I would call this unnecessary fan-service if it wasn’t for the fact that it would be perfectly in the Trickster’s nature to, y’know, put one over on somebody like that. I approve.
– So, this one puts to rest once and for all the idea that Harrison Wells looks like “an older version of Barry,” and even fries one of my own theories about ol’ Eobard/Harrison. But the comic book Reverse-Flash did have a penchant for plastic surgery, and the way Eobard USB’d Harrison’s soul this week is a sideways nod to that.
But did he absorb more than Wells’ DNA there? Is there a spark of the real Harrison Wells still alive inside Eobard Thawne? Is that why he’s just so damn good at hiding his evil-ness?
Did I miss anything? You know what to do!