After significantly pushing forward numerous storylines in the last two weeks, The Flash opened last night’s episode with an admission of sorts. When Joe told Barry they have to be patient in their investigation of Harrison, it was as much for the viewer as it was for the character. A lot has happened in the past two hours of this show, and a lot more is to come, but we’ll have to be patient to find out everything we want to know. Lucky for us, the writers aren’t completely withholding. Each new episode shines another ray of light on the The Flash’s core mystery.
On a whole, “Tricksters” was an unusually hokey hour for the freshman superhero drama. Though not one to cast off its comic book roots, mostly to the show’s benefit, “Tricksters” featured a cliche-laden main story that, despite some stellar performances, felt too broad and largely out of place compared to much of The Flash’s first season. Mark Hamill guest starred as James Jesse, better known as Trickster, reprising a role he first inhabited in the 1990s Flash series. While Hamill delivered a stirring performance, illustrating the capacity for villainy he first displayed 20 years ago (and later perfected as the long-time voice actor for the Joker in various DC animated shows and films), the basic plot of the episode felt tired. It was your typical story of a madman hell-bent on taking a city hostage for financial gain. The numerous connections and references to Trickster’s appearance in the original Flash program were clever, and the writers skillfully used that angle to bring in Axel Walker, who attempts to take up the mantle of Trickster (both in the comics and here on the show), while Jesse is otherwise occupied. Still, the story lacked any sort of originality and came off as a half-developed idea. The thought of bringing back Hamill, and loosely connecting his time in the 90s show to the latest incarnation, is a solid idea, but one that was perhaps rushed out of the writers room without the proper time to gestate.
“Tricksters” wasn’t an hour entirely about Mark Hamill, though you may have forgotten that upon hearing him utter the line “I am your father” to Devon Graye (Axel Walker). The hour was also dedicated to revealing the truth behind Harrison Wells, and how he and Eobard Thawne became one and the same. Unlike its sister show Arrow, which could arguably be better served marooning its flashbacks on Lian Yu, The Flash has utilized its journeys back in time effectively this season. This was no different last night, from the initial rush of witnessing The Flash and Reverse-Flash fighting through Barry’s childhood home, to the shock of seeing Matt Letscher—and not Tom Cavanagh in the yellow suit, last night’s flashbacks were easily the most riveting aspect of the episode. In fact, I wish “Tricksters” had spent more time in the past. Tom Cavanagh has delivered perhaps the best work of his career as the devious Harrison Wells, but he was especially wonderful last night as the real Wells, before Eobard claimed his body for more nefarious use. Seeing an exuberant Wells, with his wife Tess Morgan, was utterly heartbreaking. I would have loved to see more of this Wells, more of his time before Eobard took everything. An episode set entirely in the past would even have been welcome, but The Flash is moving far too fast to devote a whole hour to a man who no longer exists.
As I mentioned, The Flash has never shied away from its comic book heritage. It’s allowed things to get a little weird this season, and thus far it has paid off. Season One has not only introduced a host of Flash villains, which was to be expected, but has also dived into the vast intricacies of The Flash’s powers, and the strangeness of the DC Comics world. Tonight, we got to see Barry phase through an oil tanker, a power that has been reserved for the Reverse-Flash until now, but it was in the flashback that I was truly impressed. Witnessing Eobard shapeshift into Harrison Wells was Fringe level sci-fi, and The Flash’s continued willingness to include the fringe elements of comic book lore, even if it might mean confusing some fans, is promising for the future.
?If this week’s tease of what’s to come is any indication, there is still much to be settled on The Flash. I’ve been saying for weeks that the final stretch is shaping up to be enormous, and now we know it’ll include not only Flash folks, but characters from Arrow as well. The simmer that this show has been at will soon reach full boil, and given that many of the first season’s finest moments have come from those that capture the simplest allure of superheroes, the sense of wonder and impossibility and hope for something greater they instill in us, that full boil should be an incredible stretch of television. Though not without its faults, this has been as good a first season as any of us could have hoped for The Flash; now it’s time to stick the landing.
Eric Walters is a Detroit-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. For more of his TV musings, follow him on Twitter.