The Flash episode 20 review: The Trap

This week's episode of The Flash could easily have served as the show's season one finale, that's how strong it was...

This review contains spoilers.

1.20 The Trap

The entire first season of The Flash has consisted of one long con by Eobard Thawne, and now the game is up. At the end of the episode, Thawne is really still the only guy with the upper hand, and all Barry and co. can do at this point is keep everyone alive until the inevitable time travel trip back to his mother’s death scene.

After last week’s delightful holiday from the angst, The Trap was yet another brilliant showcase of how good this show can be even in the lead-up to something big. This, like any number of episodes before it, would have easily sufficed as a season finale. But we’re not there yet, and it’s a joy to know that the set-up can be just as exciting and enjoyable as the pay-off will likely be in a few weeks.

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So the STAR Labs team (a group I’m now excluding Wells/Thawne from) have discovered their mentor’s lair, his origins from the future and his ambition to kill Barry. As much of this makes logical sense to them as it currently does to the audience, but really their encounter with Gideon was just the show’s way of info-dumping without any lengthy monologues.

Included and worthy of note: Iris’ future name is Iris West-Allen, Barry will get an updated suit, Hawkgirl will be introduced eventually, and Gideon will obey Barry’s commands because he, in fact, created her.

All of this is exciting aside from what the discovery of Iris’ hyphenated surname does to him for the rest of the episode, and in a perfect world I’d have it mean that Joe and Iris welcome Barry and Henry into the family by legally combining their names. Or they get married, because this isn’t a perfect world.

That’s clearly what Barry takes it to mean, and he spends much of the next 40 minutes being awkward around her and anyone mentioning their upcoming nuptials. It’s also an awkward excuse to weave the fact that the Police Captain and his fiancé are busy planning their wedding, right before said fiancé gets trapped in a burning building. I don’t know why those scenes are so awkward, but they are.

It’s part of a wider representation problem on The CW at the moment, but its puzzling why, of all the characters on the show, these two minor players have been put in harm’s way twice this season.

But I digress – really it’s all supposed to inject some life into the flatlining romance between our hero and HIS SISTER. It doesn’t, but we do finally have a moment in which Iris actually opens her eyes, sees HER BROTHER standing in front of her, with the mannerisms, tone of voice and body type of the boy she grew up with, and realises that Barry Allen and The Flash may actually be one in the same.

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That’s giving (the writing of) the character too much credit, though, because really it’s a random static electricity shock that alerts her to this fact, since the same thing happened when she was at Barry’s bedside following the particle accelerator explosion. Credit where it’s due, though, as the scene in which she talks to a comatose Barry was probably the most I’ve ever liked Iris.

And there’s a larger problem with her character that has absolutely nothing to do with Iris herself, but the men who deem themselves worthy of making her decisions for her. Really, if one more person says how much she’s in love with Barry, but just doesn’t know it yet, I might just convert to Team Iris. In this current timeline with these current circumstances, she’s done nothing but gracefully bat away Barry’s advances, and her only affections towards him have been extremely familial.

It’s creepy, especially since Joe – THEIR FATHER – is the one leading the charge on this one. He doesn’t want her to be trapped in a loveless relationship? That’s fine, but to forbid her boyfriend from proposing rather than just talking to her about it is not. It’s robbing an already badly written character of whatever agency she has left and, added to the issue of them not telling her about Barry’s secret identity, it’s downright offensive.

But really what the episode leaves you with is Thawne’s final magic trick – fooling the team into thinking that they’ve cornered him when really it’s just Hannibal Bates in disguise. It’s the perfect ending to this part of the story, with the audience thinking along with the characters that they’re onto Thawne when, really, he’s known what they’ve been up to all along.

And I’m so glad the show hasn’t stripped away the ambiguity of the character with its many reveals, because the notion that Thawne loves Barry, Cisco and Caitlin as much as we always thought adds a complexity to it that makes the thought of taking him down much more personal to the characters. He’s been watching over Barry as long as Joe has, yet his intentions are far more insidious.

And, as he says at the end of this episode, there will be a reckoning and, with everything to play for, now they’re all on the same page.

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