I know this is a couple of weeks late, but I needed to talk about this. After a few weak episodes, The Flash races in with an all-but-perfect episode.
We start up 15 years ago, the night of Nora Allen’s murder, with the Flash chasing after Reverse Flash. They both smash into the Allen household and engage in a high-speed brawl, with the inevitable just moments away…
We then cut to today, with Joe and Barry investigating the mysterious Harrison Wells. Barry’s confused, as Wells has been manipulating and grooming Barry from the very beginning, even going so far as to demand more speed from Barry. Why?
Meanwhile, a peaceful park scene is suddenly overcast by a swarm of red parachutes, each holding a tiny box. However, once each of the boxes touches on the ground, they explode, sending the park goers fleeing in terror. The Flash arrives on the scene, saving an incredibly dumb kid from catching one of the bomb-boxes in his outstretched hands (way to halt natural selection, Barry).
A video released online confirms that the bombs were dropped by a villain calling himself the Trickster. The S.T.A.R. Labs team’s confused, but Joe fills them in: the Trickster was a terrorist who bombed the city 20 year ago, and has been locked up in Iron Heights Prison since then. Joe and Barry go to the prison to see this original Trickster, a man named James Jesse, to try and get a lead on this new villain.
We flash back again (ha!) to Reverse Flash and Flash spilling out of the Allen household, and Reverse Flash manages to outrun Flash, only to stumble and fall. He pulls up Gideon, his wrist-mounted computer, and asks her what happened. She informs him that his time travel and battle with the Flash has depleted his cells of the Speed Force, and he will be unable to return to the future from where he came. Furious, Reverse Flash falls to his knees, lets out a scream, and tears off his hood revealing – wait, who the hell is that blonde guy?
Back in the present, Barry and Joe arrive at Iron Heights, where they’re escorted to a special wing of the prison that was built specifically for James Jesse after he convinced his psychologist to commit suicide. The guard hands Barry a fistful of Twizzlers, telling him that he’ll need them.
Joe and Barry enter and face the plastic cell where Jesse is being held, and…holy smokes, Mark Hamill! Yep, Mark Hamill reprises his role of the Trickster from the old 1990 Flash show that was on CBS, which suddenly makes this show’s timeline seem very wibbly-wobbly.
Barry and Joe ask Jesse about the bombs that were dropped on the park, but he stops them, singing “I can smell them in your pocket!” Barry hands them over and tells Jesse that the bombs were the same formula that the Trickster used years ago. Jesse explains that this new Trickster is an impostor and must have found Jesse’s secret lair.
Joe and Barry go and check out the secret lair (which is a circus-flavored nightmare), and they find a mysterious locked door. Barry uses his speed to vibrate the lock apart and the open the door, finding only a booby trap and an empty armory behind it.
They go back to the prison and confront Jesse, explaining that the armory was empty. They ask him what was in the armory, and Jesse warns them that he was storing a bomb large enough to level Central City. Serendipitously, the new Trickster posts a video threatening the city, which makes Jesse snap, leaving him wailing “take off my mask!” Holy hell, Mark Hamill is intense in this episode.
We flash back yet again (what is this, Arrow?) to Wells and his wife sitting on the beach. Wells talks to his wife about his plans to open a laboratory that he wants to name T.E.S.S. after her. She suggests S.T.A.R. Labs instead, and the two kiss. The mysterious blonde man from before is watching them from afar…
The Flash meets up with Iris, and she asks him for help in finding the “missing” Mason Bridge, not knowing that Reverse Flash killed him last week. The Flash turns to leave when the lab calls him, telling him that the Trickster has released a new video, this time threatening Central City with a bomb. Barry takes off and tries to find the bomb, ignoring Wells’ warnings that it’s only a trick. Barry finally finds the crate from the video, and finds it…empty!
The Trickster is then seen walking through the sewers, where he blows a hole in the ceiling, allowing him into Iron Heights Prison. He and Jesse make their escape, and they take a hostage: Henry Allen. They bring him back to a convenient empty warehouse (a staple in all of these shows. I guess the economy sucks in this universe.) where Jesse dons his old costume, telling Henry “you have to admit, that was one hell of a trick.”
Jesse and the new Trickster, who we find out is named Axel, are tinkering in the warehouse, working on making “the perfect trick.”
“It’ll be my Mona Lisa, my Breaking Bad season 5!” the Trickster declares, adding “they gave me cable in prison so I’d stop killing the guards.”
Axel asks Jesse why he picked him, and Jesse explains that it was “in his blood.” Axel looks stunned, and Jesse says…oh, what a nerdy orgasm is to be had from this…“I am your father.”
Flashback time, and Wells and Tess are driving home when they hit a spike strip. Their car flips, and Wells is trapped inside, but alive. His wife on the other hand…not so much. The Reverse Flash approaches the wreck and Wells begs him to help his wife. “This woman,” Reverse Flash says coldly, “has been dead for centuries.”
We then see Iris attending a fundraiser for the Mayor’s reelection, where she’s served a flute of champagne…by a poorly disguised Trickster.
The two Tricksters take the podium and make their demands: they’ve poisoned the champagne, and all of the wealthy investors at the gala must transfer the contents of their bank accounts over to the Trickster if they want the antidote. Iris surreptitiously calls Barry, and the S.T.A.R. Labs team tracks the call so the Flash can intervene. It’s a trap, and the Trickster straps a bomb to the Flash’s wrist, citing Speed as his inspiration. The Flash’s speed can’t drop below 600MPH, or the bomb will explode. Barry takes off running, and Wells intervenes, telling Barry that he needs to match the frequency of the air around him in order to phase through a wall and leave the bomb behind. Slowly, hypnotically, Wells talks Barry through the procedure, and Barry does it, safely phasing through a tanker truck and leaving the explosive on the ground behind him.
The Flash returns to the gala, apprehends the Tricksters, and finds and saves his father in the nick of time from a knife-filled trap. The Flash pulls off his hood to reveal his identity to his smiling father, who quips “you always did look good in red.”
We flash back yet again to Wells climbing out of the wreck, when the Reverse Flash approaches him and announces himself as Eobard Thawne. He plugs a strange device into Wells’ chest, then plugs the other end into own chest, reducing Wells to a dribbling husk and transforming him into Wells’ doppelganger.
Back in the present, Eddie meets up with Joe, who’s concerned about Iris sniffing around for Mason Bridge. Joe says that they need to keep Iris away from the truth, and the Flash enters. For the second time this episode, the Flash pulls off his hood, revealing his identity to Eddie. “Eddie, we need your help,” he pleads, as Eddie stares agape at the revelation.
Eddie and Joe tell Iris that Mason Bridge has run off to Brazil, and after she departs they discuss their next move: Barry knows that Wells is the Reverse Flash, and he needs to find out what his plan is.
Let’s get the obvious bit out of the way: Mark Hamill was fantastic. His new take on the Trickster covers a lot of ground, evoking notes of Hannibal Lecter and a lot of Hamill’s work at the Joker on the Batman cartoons of the ‘90s. He completely and utterly steals the show, and takes a pretty lame villain to some dark, exciting places. There’s also the fanservice reunion of Hamill and John Wesley Shipp (Henry Allen), as Shipp played Barry Allen on the aforementioned ‘90s Flash.
The flashbacks explaining how Eobard Thawne became Harrison Wells are a tragic change of pace, showing Wells as a good man before his life was cruelly torn apart by Thawne. It makes the story of Wells and the truth of Eobard Thawne even darker and more compelling.
The pace is definitely picking back up, with the show setting up the season for a (final?) showdown between Barry and Thawne/Wells, with all of Central City in the middle. Simply put, this is escapist entertainment at its finest: absurd, fun, and incredibly entertaining.
Catch new episodes of The Flash Tuesdays at 8/7c on The CW