Tuesday, March 31, 2015

REVIEW: 'The Flash' - The Trickster's Reign of Terror Continues & More Eobard Thawne Secrets Are Revealed in 'Tricksters'

The CW's The Flash - Episode 1.17 "Tricksters"

A copycat killer who goes by the name "The Trickster" starts setting off bombs in Central City. Barry and Joe meet with the original Trickster, a criminal mastermind named James Jesse, who has been imprisoned for 20 years. Things quickly go from bad to worse when the Tricksters unite and take Henry prisoner. Iris asks Eddie for help with a case. Flashbacks show how Harrison Wells came up with the idea for the particle accelerator.

It was so frustrating a week ago to watch The Flash basically undo every big move it made when Barry took his first brief trip back in time. Every big move the show had made was quickly replaced with one that didn't have the same amount of emotional resonance. The show took some major creative steps forward in "Out of Time" and then back-peddled in such a big way in "Rogue Time" that took a lot of the fun out of the show. That was the present day storyline that was going to continue moving forward as the show entered the home stretch of its first season. And it gave my excitement for the series some pause.

All my concerns about this narrative deliberately keeping things hidden and elusive were basically thrown away by "Tricksters." This episode was crazy amounts of fun. It didn't quite reach the highs set in "Out of Time." But it came close to being the fun yet still deeply emotional show that it has built towards being so effortlessly again. A lot of that is because of the amount of scenery chewing that guest star Mark Hamill does throughout the episode. It is a great performance that serves as an homage and sequel to the role he played on the '90s version of the show. Even though that series didn't last that long, The CW version has a lot of respect for it. The former Flash himself, John Wesley Shipp, is playing Barry's father in this show. He has been terrific in that role too. He gets to pop up again in this episode and the show, of course, needs to put him in a scene again with Hamill.

Hamill is playing a new version of The Trickster, a crazy sociopathic mad men - whose real name is James Jesse - who terrorized Central City 20 years ago and has been locked up ever since. In present day, a new copycat terrorist, Axel (Devon Graye), has started tormenting the city. It's a very fun story - with James essentially putting on a performance for Joe and Barry. It's a quite entertaining performance too. James is angry that someone is trying to copy off his success and his name and isn't even living up to his incredibly high standards. It's all a ruse of course, with the two Tricksters working together to break James out of jail so that he can terrorize Central City once more.

The situation with the Tricksters is allowed to escalate because Barry is struggling with how he feels about Harrison Wells and what he's truly up to in his mission to help him. Barry is starting to suspect Wells of being connected to his mother's murder. He doesn't have the full scope of knowledge that the audience does - and we get much more of it in this episode as well. However, he's not just blindly trusting of everything that Harrison has to say anymore. Sure, he's not very subtle at all that he suspects Wells of something. He's able to play it off as this case getting to him because of the connection to Iron Heights and his father. Without that excuse, Barry almost could have blown everything. And yet, he does figure out how to adapt to the situation - at the exact point in time when he figures out how to run fast enough to walk through objects. It's a cool new skill for him to have that may come in handy again in the future. It allows him to beat the Trickster's latest trick and save everyone at the party he attacked as well as save Henry just in time. It's because of the ongoing situation that Barry has such a personal attachment to this case. He's realizing the truth about a man who has grown so close to him just as his real father is put into harm's ways. Everything works out in the end but there's so much more Barry has to do in order to figure out what happened all those years ago.

And the show continues to make big moves when it comes to unraveling Wells true identity. Undoing everything from the time jump didn't eliminate the reveal that Wells is actually Eobard Thawne from the distant future. He traveled back in time to do battle with The Flash the night Barry's mom was murdered and wound up not having the necessary power to travel back to where he came from. He was stuck in the past. And yet, the man in the Reverse Flash outfit who the Flash battled with at the start of this episode wasn't Tom Cavanagh. Instead, it was Matt Letscher. Harrison Wells was an actual person in this universe who was an accomplished scientist and had a deep love for a woman named Tess Morgan. Eobard and Harrison were separate people. That's why the blood on the walls of Barry's old house didn't match Harrison Wells. Through some fancy future technology, Eobard was able to transfer Harrison's DNA into his body so that he could live in this new world. It's not just a story of Eobard inhabiting Harrison's body either - so that there's the potential to keep Harrison around and on the side of good for future seasons. The body is Eobard's but with Harrison's DNA transferred to it. It's a crafty reveal that helps explain the logistics of things while making us feel sympathy for Harrison - the real Harrison - again.

And then, Barry is still frustratingly revealing his secret identity as the Flash to everyone but Iris. How can Joe and Barry continue justifying keeping this secret from her when she's still being thrown into perilous situations every single week? She's not being protected because she doesn't know The Flash's true identity. That story has been frustrating all season long. And now, Henry and Eddie are let in on the big secret. Henry already basically knew the truth about his son. But the moment in which the Flash unmasked himself in front of Henry was an emotionally earned moment. When the same occurs in front of Eddie, it's perplexing. Joe and Barry are bringing him into the fold to help with the investigation into Harrison Wells. But it seems more like a plot necessity than what is deeply grounded in the emotional lives of these characters. And yet, I'm hopeful it will bear some much more interesting story for Eddie as well. He seems to be more upset than Joe or Barry are about keeping this from Iris. He doesn't want to be controlling over her and determining what she can or can't know. But he still goes along with it though. I'm just hoping for a way out of this story as soon as possible.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Tricksters" was written by Andrew Kreisberg and directed by Ralph Hemecker.
  • Of course, The Flash also did some major pandering to Star Wars fans by getting Hamill to say to Graye, "I am your father!" It was nothing more than pandering and yet I still enjoyed it very much.
  • Iris is trying to get anyone who will listen to her to look into Mason Bridge's disappearance. No one seems to be taking her very serious though - even though she has cause to be concerned. And yet, Mason was such a non-character that her concern for his well-being doesn't have a whole lot of merit.
  • That opening fight sequence was very cool.
  • It was also a very nice gesture that Henry got to see the inside of STAR Labs and the team/friends who are helping Barry in his life as The Flash.