What an incredibly fun, mostly good episode of The Flash. A Trickster copycat comes to Central City to wreak some havoc while Barry and Joe must turn to the original Trickster — Luke Skywalker! — for help. Meanwhile, Barry becomes suspicious of Wells and we flash back to the night Nora Allen died. The Flash is back in form for a tightly packed and awesome episode, titled “Tricksters.”
After the previous episode’s disappointing clunker, The Flash returns in tip-top shape to execute a super ambitious episode. So. Much. Happens.
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Bringing on Mark Hamill — The Trickster on the 1990 TV show of The Flash — is obviously perfect casting. Hamill lets go as a complete loony, B-movie version of the Joker (whom he also voiced in Batman: The Animated Series) for a big “trick” that us experienced story watchers see coming a mile ahead. Regardless, Hamill captures that raw lunacy, throwing in a dash of Hannibal Lecter, for the show to have a super compelling Adam West-esque villain. So many meta references, so little time.
While Barry and Joe deal with the workings of a madman — one with cable, so he’s up on the latest current pop culture — the show lets us flash back to the night of Nora Allen’s murder. The Flash and the Reverse Flash tangle back and forth, and the Reverse Flash removes his mask to reveal that he’s not Harrison Wells.
There are so many great moments in this episode, but what strikes me as most impressive is how much fun it’s having. The performances are always there to have a good time — even though Barry’s pretty broody — but the writing elevates them to a new level, where it can finally balance the levity and lightness of a great comic book show. Keep this up and The Flash is on its way to becoming a great comic book show.
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Wells is Not the Reverse Flash, Technically
The episode may rely on the spectacle of the Trickster, but the heart (and meat) of the episode belongs to the dynamic between Barry and his arch nemesis, the Reverse Flash. Barry and Joe’s investigation into Wells consists mainly of suspicions, and Barry does a terrible of giving anything but cold shoulder to Wells. Not being an idiot, Wells picks up on this as Barry ignores all of his advice for the first time ever. And we flash back to Wells of the past.
It’s typical flashback fodder: Wells and his wife Tess Morgan are in love with each other and science. They plan to change the world of science. But they drive home one night and crash their car. Morgan dies almost instantly. Wells lives enough to meet the real Eobard Thawne (Carrie’s dad from The Carrie Diaries!), who had just killed Nora Allen only hours (or days, it’s unclear) before. This is the Reverse Flash who traveled back in time to kill the Flash, only to be stuck in a distant time. So what does he do?
He steals the real face of Dr. Harrison Wells and assumes his identity. An epic twist that explains the different DNA, but a demented one.
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Tricks are for Kids
A beautiful scene out of a Dr. Seuss book occurs. Children playing in the local playground, watched by their parents. And then little parachute packages fall from the sky. What a beautiful wonder. Until they explode on impact. There’s panic, freak-outs and one very dumb kid trying to touch one of these magical bombs who is only saved thanks to the Flash. A broadcasting masked maniac reveals his intentions: he’s there to play a few tricks.
Back at S.T.A.R. Labs, the Flash crew learns that this maniac is a copycat of the original Trickster, one who bombed Central City 20 years ago. He’s currently locked up at Iron Heights, where Barry and Joe go to visit (with a quick stop to see Papa Allen), and he’s downright pissed at Axel Walker, the copycat. And then suddenly the episode’s intentions are clear: The Flash writers and producers are just big nerds who want to ham it up with Hamill.
They’ve definitely seen Silence of the Lambs a few times. And Speed. They’ve probably seen Star Wars a few hundred times. And most important, they are huge fans of the original Flash TV show! Hence the casting. The Trickster, of course, is not offended by the copycat, but merely encouraging him to carry out his comeback plan. And with that, he kidnaps Papa Allen, since the security is pretty lax at Iron Heights. They even have cable.
Of course, everything’s a trick for the Trickster. After crashing an important fundraising event for the worst campaign poster in the history of art departments, the Trickster and his copycat/son poison the drinks with champagne to encourage the patrons to give all of their money over or die. One of them, naturally, is Iris — because otherwise I think we’d all be okay with a bunch of rich people with limitless checkbooks losing their money (not their lives though; we’re not monsters). But he’s ready for the Flash this time, who is absolutely furious about his father’s disappearance. So he puts a kinetic-triggered bomb on the Flash, who must run, run, run.
Enter my favorite portion of Barry’s new abilities: phasing. It’s only with Wells’ expertise on running in the wind that Barry can drop his new bomb (and literally move between matter) that can trigger Barry to run that fast. He inoculates the room of donors (and Iris), captures the Trickster and rescues his dad — all while being able to tell his dad his secret and showing him off at S.T.A.R. Labs.
Finally, Barry decides to save face and apologize to Dr. Wells, since he did teach him how to phase through matter. And save the day, whatever. All is “well” between them. Thus begins the quiet game of cat and mouse, where both parties pretend they are mice when they are really cats.
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— I love how committed the producers of The Flash are in bringing back the original Flash TV set, including John Wesley Shipp and Mark Hamill
— It’s a nice touch to put Iris in red; super easy to identify her in a crowd full of people.
— Also a nice touch: letting Eddie in on the Flash secret to throw Iris off guard for their investigation of Wells. Eddie refuses to believe it’s a good idea to keep Iris in the dark, and while that still doesn’t make him a character, it does make him kind of awesome. #JustTellIrisAlready
— I’m not saying Caitlin is the strongest character, but she’s definitely off in this episode, no? She’s compassionate enough to give hugs to the Allen men, but her lines are super expository and dull. Here’s hoping that Caitlin gets a big arc soon. I’m still holding out that she becomes a supervillain, honestly.
— I won’t lie — I don’t miss messing with metahumans at all in this episode.
— If you want other great DC animation shows, check out Batman: The Animated Series and Young Justice on Amazon Prime and Netflix, respectively. I’m working my way through them (again) and they are just fantastic showcases of storytelling.
The Flash airs Tuesdays at 8pm on The CW.
(Image courtesy of The CW)