TV Review: The Flash - Season 1 Episode 17 "Tricksters"
EPISODE 17: "Tricksters"
SYNOPSIS: While Barry's relationship with Dr. Wells is at an all-time low, he has to suppress his feelings of distrust as Team Flash comes together to battle two villainous tricksters. Much is also revealed about Dr. Wells' interesting back-story.
RECAP (Beware of spoilers!):
Tomorrow may be April Fools' Day, but tonight’s episode of THE FLASH showed the tricks don’t have to wait for April 1. Team Flash was faced with two villains who use lethal tricks to wreak havoc on Central City. And not only that, it appears the writers have been tricking us this entire time regarding the true identity of “Dr. Wells”. Once again, we were given a fantastic episode, featuring a guest appearance from Mark Hamill, a new super power for Barry, secret identity reveals, and new information about Dr. Wells! Phew! I also enjoyed the references to some of my favorite films/books: THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS scenes in the prison; the parachuting bombs (disguised as presents) like in THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY; and the speedometer/bomb bit from SPEED. Even though last week’s episode was a bit of a re-do, tonight showed that the writers aren’t afraid to make big reveals outside of a season finale.
Mark Hamill’s scenery-chewing, over-the-top performance, reprising his role as Trickster, was so. much. fun. I especially loved that a lot of his Hannibal Lecter-esque scenes were shot in shadow, which focused on the vocal acting we have come to know and love from his voice-over work, especially his turn as The Joker in various BATMAN projects. And to top off the fun nerdiness, we even got a STAR WARS joke/Easter egg thrown in (see below)! My one complaint is that his (and his protégé’s) capture/apprehension was wrapped-up too quickly at the end of the episode, in order to make way for the new background information on Dr. Wells. Would this notoriously manipulative villain really go down that easily? But if the rumors are true, perhaps we will see Trickster in future episodes of THE FLASH and/or in the upcoming spinoff series.
“Tricksters” started off with a shocking revelation. In a flashback scene we know all too well, the two speedsters are battling it out in Barry’s childhood home. But while we know what happens from Barry’s point-of-view, we are given a glimpse at what happens directly afterward for the Reverse Flash. After Barry saves his younger self, the Reverse Flash starts to chase after him but collapses. A quick chat with Gideon reveals that the time travel has drained his power; his cells no longer show signs of the speed force. This means, Dr. Wells is stuck in this time period. But wait a minute, when the Reverse Flash unmasks it’s not Dr. Wells. This Eobard Thawne (played by Matt Letscher) is a different man! What?!
Flashbacks throughout the episode reveal the back-story of the actual Dr. Wells. As it turns out, Dr. Wells and his wife, Morgan, were scientists, destined to create a successful particle accelerator in 2020. But because Thawne is now stuck in time and wants to get home, he needs Dr. Wells to create the accelerator on a quicker timeframe. So, he causes Dr. Wells and his wife to get in a terrible car accident; Dr. Wells survives, but Morgan dies. Taking advantage of Dr. Wells’ weakened state, Thawne uses a device to take over his body, which explains why the blood at the Nora Allen crime scene didn’t match up. I guess Eobard was a scientific genius like Dr. Wells, and making the particle accelerator wasn’t too difficult for him to figure out?
Back in the present day, Barry and Joe are busy trying to figure out what is really going on with Dr. Wells. Barry wonders why his former mentor would want to dedicate time to saving him and helping him getting faster if he really is the person that killed his mom. Joe doesn’t have any answers, but says Dr. Wells has been “scary patient” with his overall plan, and they need to be “scary patient” also, not letting him know anything is awry.
Meanwhile, a new copycat villain named Axel Walker, who calls himself Trickster, is wreaking havoc on Central City. Following in the footsteps of the original Trickster, who is in jail for his crimes, this new Trickster first deploys bombs, disguised as parachuting presents, to explode around a playground. Thankfully, Barry arrives in time to save the children. But even though his plan was thwarted, that doesn’t stop Walker from releasing a video online about his sinister plan for “the new disorder”.
Back at S.T.A.R. Labs, Barry is having a hard time reconciling his new suspicions about Dr. Wells with their close working relationship. How could he not have seen Dr. Wells for who he really was? As Joe says, Barry sees the good in people. And while Barry sees this as a flaw, Joe believes this is Barry’s real super power. However, now that Barry believes Dr. Wells had a role in his mother’s death, he is having a hard time playing it cool. When Barry makes an uncharacteristic, passive-aggressive dig about the harm created by the particle accelerator explosion, Dr. Wells can sense something is up, but Joe smoothes everything over… for now.
In order to get more information about Walker, Barry and Joe decide to visit the original Trickster, James Jesse (Mark Hamill), at Iron Heights Penitentiary. Apparently the prison has to treat him like Magneto/Hannibal Lecter because he once convinced his therapist to commit suicide. Why this equates to needing a specialized, plastic cell, I have no idea. Anyway, Jesse is disgusted that this copycat imposter is wearing his mask and stole explosives from his “secret” lair. In retaliation, he tells Joe and Barry the location of his hideout so they can hopefully capture Walker. But, as it turns out, the facility is booby trapped with explosives, and Barry is barely able to save Joe in time. As the smoke clears, the pair realize the lair was already cleaned out; all of Jesse’s items were stolen, including a huge bomb that could level the city.
Now it’s up to Barry to comb through an area of the city to try to find the bomb before it goes off. Dr. Wells, however, tells Barry this has to be a “trick”, or a setup, and he shouldn’t bother trying to find the bomb. However, because Barry is so distrustful of his former mentor, he ignores the advice and goes after the bomb anyway. This sets up a new dynamic, which is sure to span the rest of the season (or at least until Dr. Wells and Barry finally confront each other). Barry will no longer blindly follow directions from Dr. Wells. Of course, Dr. Wells was correct and the bomb was just a diversion for Walker to free James from prison and take Barry’s father hostage. Apparently the two villains were working together the whole time.
With the Tricksters now working as a team, Jesse (in true STAR WARS form) reveals to Walker that he is his father. Surprise, surprise. The next “trick” that the two attempt to pull off occurs at the Mayor’s party. The men pose as waiters, handing out champagne to all of the guests, including Iris. As it turns out, the drinks were laced with poison and the rich guests have only an hour before they will succumb to the toxin. However, if they empty their money into Jesse’s bank account, they will receive an antidote. Thanks to Iris’ phone, Team Flash is able to tell what’s going on at the party and Barry speeds over to save the day. However, the Tricksters were ready for him and attach a bomb to his arm. Like the plot of SPEED, Barry now has to maintain a speed of at least 600 mph in order to prevent himself from exploding.
To disengage the bomb, Dr. Wells comes up with a plan for Barry to “phase”, or vibrate at the frequency of air, which will allow him to pass through a solid object and leave the bomb behind. This time, Barry trusts Dr. Wells and with some guidance, is able to pass through an 18-wheeler, leaving the bomb to explode on the other side. Barry then rushes back to the party and injects all of the guests with the antidote. Unsanitary is right, Mark Hamill! We can assume the Tricksters are also apprehended.
But this whole experience doesn’t help Barry start to trust Dr. Wells again. In fact, it does the opposite. Based on the things Dr. Wells said to him about phasing, Barry is even more convinced that his former mentor has a personal experience with super speed. Not only does Dr. Wells know about his mother’s death, Barry now definitively believes he was the other speedster.
By the end of the episode, loose-lipped Barry has also revealed his identity to two more people, meaning Iris is the only main character to still be in the dark about his alter ego. First, Barry reveals his identity to his father, after rescuing him from Trickster’s hideout. But then Barry reveals himself to Eddie, as part of a plan to keep Iris safe. She was investigating Mason Bridge’s disappearance and Barry and Joe were worried that would get her into trouble. Eddie, who promised to investigate what happened to Bridge, is forced to lie to Iris about her boss’s whereabouts, claiming he moved to Brazil for a girl. And for some reason, Iris believes him. But did all of this really require Barry to reveal his identity? I think there are tons of other ways this could have been handled, without revealing Barry as The Flash... especially since Eddie already respects Joe enough to do whatever he asks regarding Iris' safety. But, I will say I am interested to see how this shifts Barry and Eddie’s relationship. Maybe now Eddie will be less-inclined to punch a superhero.
STINGER: The police arrive at the scene of Dr. Wells’ accident, where Eobard Thawne has already switched bodies. When the police ask him for his name he replies that he is “Dr. Harrison Wells”, thus completing his identity-stealing plan.
DC UNIVERSE EASTER EGGS: "Tricksters" marks the return of Mark Hamill in THE FLASH universe, as he reprises his role as the villainous Trickster. Fans may remember him and Vito D’Ambrosia, who played the mayor of Central City, as cast members from the original 1990s series. And leave it to THE FLASH to get some great scenes of Hamill’s Trickster interacting with the original “Flash” (and the man playing Barry’s dad), John Wesley Shipp.
COOL ALTERNATE USE OF "THE FLASH" POWERS: Barry gains his “phase” powers for the first time, which enables him to pass through a solid object. And in less exciting news, Barry used his super-speed to jiggle open a locked door in Trickster’s lair.
FAVORITE QUOTE: Of course I had to choose the STAR WARS Easter egg. This time, Luke Skywalker himself, Mark Hamill, gets to utter the famous quote, “I am your father”.