TV REVIEW: The Flash “Tricksters”
By Justin Carter
In hindsight, most people would agree that The Flash’s reveal of Harrison Wells as the Reverse Flash in the winter finale was probably not quite the surprise the show creators intended. With not so subtle hints all season long, coupled with the fact the excellent Tom Cavanaugh always looks like someone who’s always hiding something, the grand reveal felt more like a catch up than actual new information.
But it turns out tonight, in a really well done and genuinely surprising reveal, Wells isn’t the Wells we know. He is indeed time traveler Eobard Thawne, stranded in our current time because he used up the rest of his speed fighting the Flash and accidentally murdering Nora Allen. As it turns out, Thawne tracked down the real Harrison Wells, killed his previously mentioned wife Tess Morgan, and used a device from the future to swap his and Wells’ minds and body so he could accelerate the creation of STAR Labs by about half a decade. It’s a genuinely interesting and surprising reveal and definitely puts things into a new context, although it deserves more time than it received this episode. Joe and Barry start investigating Wells minutes before they’re swept up in the plot of the villain of the week. And what a villain, or rather villains, this week gives us.
Prior to making his debut last year, The Flash had a TV show in the 90s. John Wesley Shipp played Barry, and Mark Hamill played recurring villain the Trickster two years before he played the Joker in the animated Batman series and anyone was able to wonder if that career move was intentional on Hammill’s part or just a weird bit of cosmic timing. The original Flash series even had the Trickster wind up in prison in a high-restriction cell isolated from the other inmates. If you watched the original series, you could justifiably think that this week’s episode of The Flash, cleverly titled “Tricksters,” serves as a continuation of that plotline, along with an official passing of the torch from Shipp to Grant Gustin.
Bringing Mark Hamill’s James Jesse into the episode is the rise of a new Trickster, a kid named Axel Walker who’s taken his old gear. Naturally, Jesse isn’t too keen on some upstart punk stealing his bit, but not enough to really help Joe and Barry catch the kid. Turns out, both Tricksters are playing them; Axel stole Jesse’s gear to break him out of prison and send the cops on a wild goose chase, and Jesse personally groomed the kid because he’s Axel’s father. And yes, the music does swell when Hamill utters “I am your father,” in a nod that’s both ridiculously on the nose and hilariously cool.
Hamill returns to his classic “Joker voice” for the episode, and it makes him nothing short of terrifying. From the way the camera works hard to conceal his face in his first appearance to his cell, it’s clear that the main thing to focus on here is his raspy voice and energetic sadism. The new Trickster sadly doesn’t live up to Hamill’s standards, though it’s less through fault of the actor Devon Graye and more of the fact that the show wants to let Hamill do his thing. Even when Jesse kidnaps Barry’s father Henry and Hamill and Shipp are trading barbs, it feels less like old generation hero and villains bantering and more Hamill getting one final comic book performance in him before he gives his (presumably) final time in as Luke Skywalker. But don’t take this as a complaint, more of an observation.
One genuine complaint I do have concerns Joe and Barry’s reveal of the latter’s identity to Eddie, of all people, as they bring him into the fold to investigate Wells. Why not Iris, the partner of the guy who went missing the night after he told Barry there was something fishy about Wells? At this point, it feels like the series is intentionally sidelining Iris so she’ll have something to be good and angry about when she learns Barry’s secret.
Honestly, I would have even taken Eddie and Iris getting told the secret together, and it’s not like there’s any reason for her not to be in the loop at this point. The show seems to think the stretching out of this secret identity romance game between Iris and Barry is the greatest trick up its sleeve. Problem is, this trick isn’t particularly funny.
James Jesse: “My masterpiece, my Mona Lisa. My Breaking Bad season five…they gave me cable in prison so I’d stop killing the guards.”
Most Comic Book Line of the Week: “I am your father” gets this, no question.
“Whoa, someone was rocking the unitard.”
- “Even the Flash wakes up on the wrong side of the bed some mornings.”
- The sizzle reel for the rest of the season showed after the end of the episode looked all sorts of crazy. I’m excited.
- New episodes return April 14. See you in two weeks!