Finally, finally, finally.
After weeks of sub-par metahumans and their freak of the week cases, The Flash finally (finally, finally!) delivers on its promise for some excellent storytelling. Following up weeks later with the episode that broke everything, fate intervenes to give Team Flash (and even Iris) the answers to the season-long mysteries. The Reverse Flash is Eobard Thawne, who traveled from the future to kill his nemesis, Barry Allen, but killed the boy’s mother instead and took the identity of the esteemed scientist Dr. Harrison Wells. And Iris finally learns that Barry Allen is the Flash.
It’s a lot to take in, but “The Trap” masterfully balances its season-long arcs by playing on what we know happened in the alternate timeline. It could have been boring to see the same beats repeat from the time reset episode, but it’s because we’ve seen them that the episode is so interesting. The episode’s strength lies in echoing the relationships, beats and even plot of its previous 19 episodes to create an awesome, riveting turn.
Barry, Caitlin and Cisco have discovered Dr. Wells’ secret lair. There’s some massive confusion about what this could all mean, but luckily the trio can just ask Gideon for the answers. Gideon doesn’t tell us much that we already can’t guess before Wells returns to the lab, but we do learn that not only is Barry the future Director of Central City’s CSI division in the future, he’s also a founding member of … something. And, naturally, everyone’s a bit more freaked-out by who wrote the article from the future, and for good reason: it’s none other than Ms. Iris West-Allen.
In case it’s not clear, The Flash is bringing back all of its storylines to the center so it can explore a lot of interesting issues, mainly fate. These events are unfolding, regardless of the fact that Barry reset the timeline. As Team Flash relives the events of Dr. Wells’ big reveal, Iris is also integral to The Flash‘s idea of fate. And it makes for one of the show’s best episodes yet.
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While You Were Sleeping, Inception-Style
Team Flash decides to turn to “science” to have Cisco remember his dreams, using an Inception-like contraption to enter into his dream space. Look, I know The Flash is a sci-fi-like comic book show, but let’s just call this what it is: a plot function. As cool as it is for Cisco to be aware during his “dream state” so he can regurgitate what happened in the alternate timeline, it’s literally there so that Team Flash can concoct a crazy plan.
Every time the show decides to go sci-fi, it forgets the logic that sci-fi needs in order to exist. After Barry accidentally travels back in time, shouldn’t there be two Barrys? Otherwise, how are there two Barrys 15 years ago when Nora Allen is killed. Likewise, if Cisco is having dreams of remembering his own murder, shouldn’t everyone else? Most likely Dr. Wells?
Logic also seems to escape even Barry in this episode. In the previous episode, everyone took stupid pills when a shapeshifter was around, and this time, Barry decides that the biggest course of action is to get Harrison Wells to confess to killing his mother. Of all things, this lines up with Barry’s character: I must save my father. But it also makes no sense in the long-term because what exactly are they going to do with Wells after he confesses?
It’s that logic — or lack thereof — that makes for the weakest parts of this episode. Team Flash’s plan to capture Wells is well-planned, but poorly executed. Caitlin lures Wells to meet with Cisco in a speedster-rigged bunker to play out Cisco’s almost-murder; only this time, Joe and Barry wait in the wings to grab him. Joe fires his gun, Barry uses his super speed and Wells drops dead before Barry can get an official, lawful confession.
And then the Flash pulls a brilliant twist: Wells isn’t really Wells. It’s our shapeshifter from the episode before! Wells planted Hannibal Bates, aka decoy-Wells, because he’s been secretly monitoring Team Flash the whole time. Never underestimate someone as creepy as a man who has been stalking Barry Allen from the time he was a little boy.
Despite how illogical this whole plotline is, it’s executed in a way that makes you forget about these details. Really, I’m nitpicking here because The Flash is working on some kind of The Americans level of dread. Because we know that the Team knows, it’s suspenseful waiting for the show to drop the bomb that Wells knows that the Team knows and that we know, you know?
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Let’s switch gears to the parts of The Flash that always work best: the melodrama. Diehard comic book fans would love to reject this and maybe have the show be more like Marvel’s Daredevil, but melodrama is the perfect hybrid genre for this show. Maybe it’s because of the CW-ness of the show built in its DNA or just Barry’s honest, open nature, but The Flash thrives on those little and big emotional moments. Whether it’s Barry bumping into Iris after he learns that one day those crazy kids get married or even Singh and his fiance, I’d argue that the reason why we love The Flash so much is because we really care about their emotional journeys.
The best melodramatic bits in this episode come from flashbacks to the time Barry was in a coma. It’s such a good decision for the writers to include flashbacks of Barry’s time in a coma because it seems so glossed-over, so to speak. It has to be, in order for The Flash to function, but reminding us of the strong bonds between Barry and his father-figure Joe and his not-so-sisterly figure Iris is a smart move. Flashing back to Harrison’s time with Barry in a coma is even smarter, but seeing Barry so helpless reminds us of the episode’s emotional stakes.
Which brings me to Iris. Iris, the one left out of the loop, fights for her agency and her strength as a complex, motivated strong female character. Iris, who figures out all by her lonesome that the particle accelerator created metahumans. Iris, the one who also realizes Barry is the Flash literally because of the electricity between them. Obstacles may get in their way, i.e. Eddie Thawne trying to propose in this episode, but these two are inevitable. Iris almost admits as such in her tearful confession by Barry’s bedside, and no matter how ugly the blowup is in the next two episodes, I’ll hold onto the fact that it will work out in the end.
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— I’m still not sure what the writers are doing with Eddie, but Wells — or should I say Eobard — comes clean to him after a quick kidnapping. I expect that Iris will reject Eddie’s proposal once he’s rescued and that will trigger him into becoming a Reverse Flash, but who knows?
— Grodd? Grodd. It’s happening and it’s going to be amazing, regardless of how well the CGI is done.
— So Barry Allen created Gideon. Interesting. I wanted to shake Barry when he didn’t sneak back into the lair to ask her more questions. It’s a shame, really.
— If Iris isn’t the MVP in this episode, Cisco would easily be MVP for his careful balance of comedy and drama.
— Can The Flash abandon metahumans more often? Seriously, I love the serialized feel.
The Flash airs Tuesdays at 8pm on The CW.
(Image courtesy of The CW)