The wait for The Flash to dig into its Harrison Wells/Reverse-Flash storyline since, arguably, the midseason finale has been long and, at times, excruciating. While the show was able to fill the void with a bevy of strong episodes, and a handful of mediocre ones, it was always apparent that time was being killed. After The Flash raced out of the gate this fall, I quickly developed confidence in Greg Berlanti and his staff. The control the writers displayed over their stories early on was excellent, and it was the story of Barry Allen, his mother and the man who killed her that needed most to be expertly steered. In “The Trap,” we finally get a glimpse at the cards the writers have been tightly clutching to their chest for 19 episodes, and the early returns are outstanding.
One of my main issues with “The Man in the Yellow Suit,” the show’s midseason finale and first episode to tackle the Reverse-Flash storyline head on, was its scatterbrained quality. Overstuffing was not a burden for “The Trap,” as the hour showed Barry’s time in a coma (Candice Patton pleading with Barry to wake up was heartbreaking, and the best thing she’s done as Iris West). It was also the most stressful episode to date. The stakes have been significantly raised in recent weeks, and the realm of possibility continues to grow. At this point, it’s safe to safe that anything could happen, and few are safe. That is due primarily to the well-crafted characterization of Harrison Wells. Throughout the season, the writers have shown us the unlimited acts Wells is willing to commit to see his plan succeed. As Barry and Co. come closer to thwarting Wells, the likelihood that he will commit a heinous deed grows. Thus, watching the team put together a clever, but vulnerable, plan to deceive him into admitting he murdered Nora Allen was nerve wracking. Up until the moment Harrison (who was actually Hannibal Bates, the shape shifting metahuman from last week) crossed Cisco’s speedster-impenetrable force field, the possibilities of how it would all play out were boundless. The choice to replicate the sequence from “Out of Time” was particularly shrewd. Recalling the original scene reminded viewers of the death of Cisco (later undone when Barry reset the timeline), giving added tension to an already tense moment.
“The Trap” also did a nice job of delving into Harrison’s complicated psyche. Though we know he has a deep-seeded hatred for Barry, until last night we had no idea why he hasn’t killed Barry when he’s had the chance. While the full answer still remains a mystery, both the fire sequence and the flashback with Harrison and Barry last night shed some light onto the villain’s complex thinking. He still plans to kill Barry, that much is clear, but there is a dichotomy between the Barry he loathes, the future Barry, and the one he saw grow up and has shepherded into becoming the Scarlet Speedster. That separation is intriguing, and though I doubt it will change Harrison’s ultimate goal, it could stave off his achieving that goal for some time. Harrison doesn’t want to kill Barry until Barry is ready for it, as odd as that sounds, and that time may not come in the next few weeks.
The only real issue I had with “The Trap,” save for the occasional poor delivery or awkward line, was the manner in which Iris learned Barry is The Flash. During the flashback scene I mentioned above, Iris reached to grasp Barry’s hand, only to be shocked (like a static electric shock, but far more powerful). Then, near the end of the episode after the Reverse-Flash had interrupted Eddie’s attempted proposal and kidnapped Detective Pretty Boy, The Flash rushes to Iris’ aid and vows to save Eddie. The two touch, and there’s a spark. And now Iris knows. Not a completely ludicrous idea, I suppose, but one that is certainly thin. There are numerous ways to explain how Iris would have been able to deduce Barry is The Flash from a shock, and that’s not the issue I take umbrage with. Barry has told many his secret identity at this point, nearly everyone he cares for except Iris. A shock isn’t the proper way for her to discover he is The Fastest Man Alive.
?“The Trap” was one of The Flash’s strongest hours, a tense episode that could have ended anywhere, and seemed lucky to have shed only the blood of Everyman. Primarily a primer for the weeks to come, but one handled deftly by the writing staff, giving us an emotionally taxing and exciting hour. After months of waiting, my faith in the writers paid off, and the final stretch of episodes is more enticing than ever. The Reverse-Flash storyline has been building all season, and last night’s episode was part one of, what appears to be, a successful culmination. We’ve seen super speed, time travel, shape shifting, two men in a single, flaming body. Next week, we’ll see Grodd released on Central City. After that? Anything is possible.
Eric Walters is a Detroit-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. For more of his TV musings, follow him on Twitter.