I haven’t tempered my enthusiasm for “The Flash” in these recaps. Other than some quibbles about Iris West, I’ve shouted my love for the series from the proverbial rooftops. I mention this so you realize that, when I say “Tricksters” might be the best episode so far, you’ll believe it.
We begin with the sheer awesomeness of Mark Hamill. Later in the year, he’ll reprise a role he hasn’t played in a very long time, that of Luke Skywalker. However, this week fans witnessed the return to another character played many years ago, James Jesse -- the Trickster. Hamill’s return to the Trickster was glorious, as he chewed scenery with as much manic glee as he gnawed Twizzlers. He channeled some of his Joker, added a bit of Hannibal Lecter, and created the modern Trickster.
It can be said the Trickster is perhaps too much like the Joker, but that this master villain is a madman past his prime seeking a return to glory sets this motley-clad fiend apart from the Clown Prince of Crime, and creates a different kind of adversary for The Flash. So far the series has done a great job crafting a balance between the freak-of-the-week metahumans empowered by Harrison Wells’ failed experiment and the super weapon-wielding traditional Rogues. This Trickster falls into the latter category, and I look forward to his return.
In fact, both Tricksters neatly fit into that category, as this episode also marks the debut of Axel Walker, the second-generation villain who makes off wth Jesse’s weapons stash and embarks on his own crime spree. Jesse is initially horrified that someone would steal his legacy. However, it turns out the stunt is merely a trick to free him from Iron Heights, leaving The Flash with two Tricksters to contend with. And Walker isn’t simply a Trickster copycat – he is, in fact, Jesse’s son. Yes, Hamill utters the line, “I am your father!” Well played.
The Tricksters rampage isn’t a run-of-the-mill crime spree, either: While escaping Iron Heights, Jesse takes Henry Allen as a hostage, marking a reunion between John Wesley Shipp and Mark Hamill. Until the end of the episode, Barry seemed to be one step behind the Tricksters. In one fantastic sequence, Walker and Jesse gimmick a bomb that puts Barry in a “Speed”-like scenario in which he can’t stop running or he’ll die.
Barry is so easily outsmarted because he doesn’t trust Harrison Wells – and, really, who can blame him? Last week, Barry began to suspect Wells is the Reverse Flash, something we know to be true because of the time-erased revelation that led to the (now-undone) murder of Cisco Ramon. This week’s episode brilliantly demonstrates just how deeply Barry needs Wells, however. Without his advice, Barry is easy pickings for the scheming Tricksters, but with Wells, there isn’t a problem The Flash can’t solve. When the “Speed” bomb is strapped to Barry, it’s Wells who instructs Barry how to vibrate through solid objects. This new speed trick helps Barry escape the death trap, but it also leads him to realize that only someone who has experienced super-speed would know how to do that.
The true shock of the episode is the truth about Harrison Wells. Most of us thought he murdered Barry’s mother; we were certain we’d recognize the face of the killer when it was finally shown. That’s not the case, however, as the yellow mask comes off this week to reveal Eobard Thawne, who stalked Wells in the past, murdered his fiancé and used a device to steal Wells’ identity. The true villain behind everything is Eobard Thawne, and Eobard Thawne is not Harrison Wells. This revelation creates an air of tragedy around Wells and marks Thawne as one of the most horrific villains currently on TV.
It also raises the question of whether there’s something of Harrison Wells still inside of Eobard Thawne. Wells has selflessly helped people in the past, even risking his own life. Does he have some sort of control over Thawne’s psyche at times? Is the battle against the Reverse Flash not only to avenge, or possibly save, Barry’s mother but also to save the soul of Harrison Wells?
The war against Thawne will have to wait, but the battle with the Tricksters ends this week with Barry stopping both foes and rescuing his father. In a moving moment, Barry reveals his secret to his father, who couldn’t have been more proud. Barry also confides his identity to Eddie Thawne so he will try to convince Iris to stop looking for the killer of her journalist mentor. Now Iris is pretty much the only character on “The Flash” and on “Arrow” who doesn’t know Barry’s secret, and that includes Captain Cold!
But Eddie’s last name, Thawne, tells me that this is one revelation Barry may regret.