The Trap – After tapping into Cisco’s alternative timeline dreams, Barry and the team devise a plan to trap Harrison Wells and make him confess to the murder of Nora Allen. Has Harrison finally been thwarted or is a man from the future wise to such old tricks? Meanwhile, Eddie shows that timing is not his strong suit as decides to propose to Iris.
The episode picks up immediately form last week’s awesome ending of Team Flash, discovering the Harrison Cave/”Time Vault” but more importantly his fabled future newspaper. We even finally get to read some of the small print as Barry gets curious, learning big future events play nicely on this episode (like a certain hyphenated surname) to tantalising Easter Eggs (Green Arrow, The Atom and the spin off confirmed Hawk Girl all mentioned by name as being part of the fight), but crucially of all, that this key future events revolve around battling The Reverse Flash. As well as delivering some great Cisco, Back to the Future riffing, humour this does a great job of bringing the team up to audience speed while setting up the main events with a little help Cisco’s extra trippy dream walking session, guest directed by JJ Abrams (for all the lens flare). The way the seemingly throwaway alternative timeline events have come to be so relevant is a testament to how great this season’s writing has been. This is reinforced further with the ever present double meaning dialogue centred on the duality of the Flash/Reverse Flash character creation; “I couldn’t have done any of this without you..... I feel the same way about you”. Even as the jaws of suspicion close around Harrison, the minimal heroic ventures of the episode (for only the second time this season, there’s no villain/metahuman of the week) showcase that he’s still a vital part of Team Flash as it stands. The fire rescue does a great job of reinforcing the mentor and student bond between the pair that we’ve seen develop over the season, and even in the full knowledge of each other, we witness mutual empathy. Barry confesses to still having moments of liking Harrison for the help he gives him in the good they do. Then by contrast in the flashbacks to a pre-Flash coma Barry, we get an incredible scene of Harrison/Eobard admitting that this young Barry is not the same enemy he has known, “No trace of the man you will be one day for whom I have nothing but hate... but to be clear, nothing is forgiven”. The depth and complexity of the relationship between these two is just outstanding. No act of kindness or rage from either could possibly feel out of character.
As for the Admiral Akbar title, this is handled very well. Of course, there’s the inescapable feeling that events are more than they seem, but this is seldom avoidable. Instead, Flash focuses on making the play out both surprising and rewarding, which it definitely is as the past/future/”oh look I’ve gone cross eyed” appears to repeat itself. Shock revelation follows shock revelation to leave us going into these least three (presumably extended story finale) episodes with all cards on the table and in Harrison’s own words, a big showdown is coming very soon. The ensuing build-up also packs some good tension as roles towards Cisco and containment field discovery. Once all traps are sprung and both sides converse both Grant Gustin and Tom Cavanagh are on superb form as Barry finally gets to scream out his repressed frustrations and Harrison with a cool cockiness reminds them all how much better he’s made their lives.
The surprise good turn this week is from Iris. Just when we think the Eddie proposal story arc will see her acting as a mere plot tool this episode, she surprises us all by getting her Lois Lane on. One of the big criticisms of her character is that she doesn’t come to enough decisions and discoveries by her own conclusions, that she’s more told what to do and think rather than being the stronger and independent-thinking female character we want her to be. Yet here we see her putting many key puzzle pieces together without help or prompting. This knowledge (particularly the biggest discovery that she’s not yet let on) should help her feel a more relevant participant not only of the remaining episodes but into next season as well.
It’s an episode that slows a bit in its first half due to the absence action and a more traditional weekly villain but delivers huge payoffs for your patience. It focuses on being the launching platform for the final episodes and catapults them into the stratosphere for a jaw-dropping end to the season (and it’s even got a big gorilla!). Of Gideon and the newspaper’s many future Easter Eggs, the most curious is when she’s cut off naming Barry as the founding member of something, with The Justice League being the odds on favourite. Even if we never see that team forming in the DC Universe, it’s still great to see it acknowledged. As for how the finale will play out, that now seems more uncertain. For a long time, it’s looked like we’d be travelling back to the night of Nora Allen’s murder for the big speedster showdown. That still feels the most likely outcome, but what if that’s the wrong direction? What if we’ll in fact see Barry and Harrison travelling forward to newspaper date of 2024 to change those future events? Either way, we can certain of three things. It will involve Harrison/Eobard transferring/siphoning some of Barry’s speed force energy to himself; things will definitely get timey whimey and whatever happens we will not be disappointed (this show has earned our faith). Let’s speed towards next week and find out.