The Flash has pulled off many good tricks since arriving on screens last autumn. It’s sucker punched us with several brilliant plot twists and gifted us many amazing characters, but the biggest trick of all happened before the show even started. This was when the casting of John Wesley Shipp was announced as Daddy Allen senior following his Allen junior role in 1990s incarnation. It was labeled as gimmick casting, as cheap fanboy-pandering. Then very quickly, people realised that it wasn’t just his decades old work experience that earned him the role, but his own skill and talent, with the prior association just becoming a cool extra. As the series has progressed it’s become less a case of “meta-casting” and closer to a form of “justice casting”. The same actor is being given the chance to show what he could have archived the first time, if many other factors had been different. It’s been so successful that the upcoming Supergirl series has even followed suit, casting 90s Superman Dean Cain and 1984 film Supergirl Helen Slater in as yet undisclosed roles. This week’s Flash sees the 3rd 90s series callback and a long awaited brother of Shipp’s brother-in-arms joining the party. Mark “the force is with him always” Hamill reprises his 1990s series role of The Trickster. Can you teach an old villain new tricks? Clearly you can as he’s incredible, but that is merely part of the awesome this week delivers! Sit back, feel the lightning, and keep a spare pair of pants on standby.
Tricksters – When a new masked viral terrorist called The trickster turns out to be a copycat from 20 years past, Barry and Joe reluctantly seek the original 90s Trickster, James Jessie, to help catch his unwelcome imitator. Meanwhile though a series of flashbacks we learn the shocking truth about Harrison Wells and the Reverse Flash; all while Barry’s present day suspicions deepen.
The episode is one of those magical hours of television when a show can seemingly do no wrong. All stories and elements from the big to small deliver, but in particular the two main story focuses here smash it out of the park. These are the Mark Hamill Trickster villain of the week escapades and the Reverse Flash flashback reveals. Starting with the Jedi master himself; it immediately becomes very clear that Hamill is only here because he really wanted to be (quoted as saying he really wanted to work with JWS again). Even given his humorous character, in every scene he feels like he’s having more fun than even he imagined he would at re-donning the black mask and twizzlers. His character reprisal displays the clear and immensely positive influence of his vast Joker voice work (which began in 92 after his 91 Flash appearances) as he balances the comical with the statistical like it’s the prophecy of the force. You really can’t take your eyes from him from his Silence of the Lambs riffing introduction, to his repulsion and disgust and someone tarnishing his legacy to everything beyond as the episode plays out. Episode writer & showrunner Andrew Kreisberg must have enjoyed himself equally in coming up with all Hamill’s killer dialogue. He’s gets some incredible lines like “It’s going to be my masterpiece, my Mona Lisa, my Breaking Bad season 5.... they gave me cable so I’d stop killing the guards” and one monolithic geekgasmic moment that threatens to break the Internet in a way Kim’s junk in the trunk will only dream. The Trickster story itself is also a brilliant play on many expectations from its comic source material comparison while still throwing in plenty of classic gems like glimpses of retro costumes and a good old fashion secret lair. Let’s also not forget Devon Graye’s (Dexter) Axel Walker Trickster who still makes a good appearance despite being heavily upstaged. He accepts he’s not the main attraction but takes his own glory when permitted.
Next there’s the big yellow suited reveal as we see, via flashbacks, the murder of Barry’s mother and events immediately beyond from his perspective. It provides several spoiler heavy and magnificently delivered twists that few would have seen coming. Without spoiling these tricks, we do witness many details explained by Wells to Cisco in episode’s 15 big reveal. Such as seeing the Reverse Flash becoming stranded with his powers depleted (for the first time referred to as “Speed Force”) before initializing his long con plan to return. As ever, Tom Cavanagh electrifies the screen but these may be some of his best scenes yet as we meet the more unknown side of his character. The opening fight sequence of Nora Allen’s death from a speedster perspective boasts some epic effects as the pair smash seven shades of stuffing out of each other within the red & yellow blur previously glimpsed. The conclusion places the character of Harrison Wells in a fascinating new light as many of our ideas about his motives, morals, and intentions have been completely flipped. This will make one hell of a play out over the remaining six episodes. Following on from last episode’s conclusion, Barry and Joe’s deepened suspicions play excellently against the flashback scenes. It sends the Barry/Harrison relationship into whole new levels of complexity as Barry reluctant accepts that despite whatever they may be to each other in their past or future, he still needs him as a friend and mentor in the present. Harrison’s incredible Speed Force pep talk just amplifies the connection between them as it inspires Barry to reach a new level of his powers, “You’re no longer you, you’re part of something greater... part of a Speed Force”.
The JWS emotional trump card also comes to hand again this week as the Iron Heights based story puts father and son together again once more. Their “If The Flash was my son” exchange goes one step further to some really heartfelt results as Daddy Allen gets unofficially inducted into the team. He really becomes the audience as he calls them all heroes. Team Flash also gets another surprising recruit when Eddie gets his full initiation. Even more crucially he’s also told of their Harrison suspicions. It’s a safe bet we’ll see one Thawne reaching out to another in weeks to come and this episode positions that perfectly; leaving Eddie in a potentially game changing position. There are even no gripes with Iris this week. She’s a minor focus at best and more often just a plot tool so the pressure is off her to perform.
Screw Episodes VIII, IX, and every the damn spinoff they’re making. We don’t care if Mark Hamill skywalks through any more of that franchise so long as he graces Central (or even Starling) City again. He’s the best guest star the Flarrow-verse has produced yet and must be given the chance to trick us twice. Yet even without him, this would still have been a great episode on its own which only goes to show incredible the show has become. It can dazzle and wow with such crowd pleasing props but it’s perfectly capable of standing up without them..... and that ladies and gentlemen is no trick. That is talent.