The Flash: 120 “The Trap” Review
Reviewed by Louis Rabinowitz.
Previously on The Flash: with almost all of the show’s main gallery of characters investigating Wells, the team divided into two, with Joe and Cisco discovering the body of the real Harrison Wells in Starling City, and Barry facing a shapeshifter named Hannibal Bates back on home turf. With clear proof that Harrison Wells might have been fibbing the whole time, Barry, Caitlin and Cisco stumbled upon some even more definitive proof…
This week’s episode, The Trap, picked up pretty much directly after the STAR Labs team’s discovery of Wells’ secret lair at the end of last episode. As far as openings go, this was an excellent one, with a combination of fun Easter Eggs on the future newspaper (indicating that Oliver Queen might decide to change the Arrow’s name in the future to a slightly greener moniker) and some tantalising hints towards the show’s far future. It’s unlikely that The Flash will ever actually show some of the events hinted at or outright revealed in this opening (such as Barry’s creation of the AI Gideon and a West-Allen wedding), but the slew of reveals and Easter Eggs that Barry’s short stay in the time vault saw was nonetheless an invigorating way to kick off the conveyor belt of madness that followed.
There was a lot going on in The Trap, but the spine of the episode focused around the attempt to finally incriminate Wells and get Barry’s father out of jail. This need for a confession brought Cisco’s previously introduced ‘dreams’ back into the equation, as he was forced to relive the events we saw five episodes back. The logic and reasoning behind these ‘dreams’ and how Cisco was having them in the first place is sketchy at best, but these scenes were surprisingly tense regardless – it’s impressive to see the amount of intrigue and tension The Flash wrings out of what was essentially a play-by-play of a scene we’ve seen already, with Cisco’s dream re-enactment of that fateful meeting in the containment room working as extremely compelling viewing, with enough light touches (such as Joe’s amazement at the idea that there is actually a way to stop Cisco from talking) to maintain The Flash’s fun tone throughout the scene.
What really elevated The Trap above being merely great was the frequently brilliant things the episode did with Harrison Wells/Eobard Thawne (it’s been five episodes and I still have no idea what to call him). Thawne, much like Ra’s al Ghul over on Arrow, has never really acted in an overtly villainous, moustache-twirling manner, with plenty of redeeming features that almost make him likeable at points. It would have been easy to completely drop this likeable side of the character now that all of the heroes regard him as their adversary, yet The Trap continued to lend incontrovertibly likeable tendencies to Wells’ character, showing his willingness to save lives (for pretty shady reasons, admittedly) while still making sure that he’s villainous enough for the audience to root against.
This was clear in the scene in the burning building and its aftermath – this would have been a fairly standard superhero-learns-the-ropes scene in an earlier episode, yet at this late point in the season these scenes felt dramatically different to the corresponding scenes in the first half of the season. It may have been a little on-the-nose to have Barry vocalise the confusion at Wells’ continuing kindness and desire for him to help people, but the way The Trap includes scenes that the early episodes were chock-full of such as the aforementioned burning building scene and a classic Wells reassuring pep talk cleverly served to highlight the major shift in attitude and the changes in perspective all the revelations about Wells’ true motivations have brought about since those early episodes.
Ultimately, however, the most memorable parts of The Trap were almost entirely situated in the final 20 minutes – aside from a couple of issues with Iris, the only real flaw in The Trap is that it was a little back-loaded, leaving the opening sections of the episode as perfectly entertaining but almost overshadowed by what came after. Nitpicks aside, the final 20 minutes was perhaps the most densely-packed, twisty-turny conclusion to an episode since the shock pile-up in Out of Time – yet unlike that episode, the revelations and status quo shifts here will actually stick, with no handy time travel to seemingly wipe the slate clean, and major ongoing repercussions for all involved virtually guaranteed. The Flash took a leisurely amount of time to reach the confrontation between STAR Labs and Wells, but the shocks it provided more than made up for the unusually slow-paced storytelling of the past two episodes.
The Flash has regularly brought back its villains of the week for an epilogue of sorts to their story in the following episode, and it’s even killed off one via some Wells trickery in a vaguely similar way, but the switcheroo pulled with Hannibal Bates, the shapeshifter from last week, was still a unprecedented twist of events that still managed to maintain the admirably downbeat parting note last episode ended on for Everyman. Most importantly, it allowed Thawne to finally reveal himself after 20 episodes of hiding, with a great monologue that saw the usually subdued Tom Cavanagh let loose with a classically hammy villainous monologue.
It seemed a little easy for Barry and co to get into Wells’ extremely incriminating secret room last week, and Wells was made to appear a little dense after swallowing yet another bogus excuse from Caitlin and Cisco this episode, so the revelation that Thawne really was one step ahead of Barry the whole time (it was him, Barry!) justified some of the shortcuts The Flash has seemingly taken in setting up this confrontation, paying off the niggling feeling throughout the episode that things were going just a little too well. Aside from last week’s strange plot hiccups, The Flash is usually a fairly tightly plotted show, so the revelation that some of these so-called plot holes were in fact part of Wells’ plan was reassuring in a way, as well as showing that Wells is a pretty incredibly well-prepared villain, even by modern supervillain standards (it’s quite hard to beat a universal surveillance network of all your enemies), only increasing his formidability.
Aside from Wells, The Trap also strayed into Arrow territory for a handful of flashbacks from the time of Barry’s coma. A couple more flashbacks, perhaps showing Caitlin and Cisco, would have been preferable, given the slender amount of time afforded to the flashbacks, but the flashbacks did help to exacerbate the drama of the events in the present day, complementing the ongoing narrative in a way Arrow has struggled to do this season. Joe’s tense first meeting with Wells was enjoyable enough, but surprisingly it was Iris’ flashback that was perhaps the most successful. The writing of Iris’ character has been weak, portraying the character as unpleasantly self-absorbed, but the flashback monologue as Iris recounted her day to the sleeping Barry was a heart-warming and impressive moment for Iris, fleshing out what Barry actually means to Iris and the impact Barry has had on the West family in a meaningful and engaging manner. And of course, there was the spark of static electricity when Iris tried to touch Barry’s hand – something which looked fairly innocuous at the time…
… Suffice to say, it was not innocuous. A lot has been said about the drawn-out nature of the secret-keeping surrounding Iris, and it’s certainly a relief to finally see her put two and two together and work out the identity of the Scarlet Speedster. The actual mechanics of the discovery were pretty flimsy, but it was at least notable that the revelation was carried out in a more original way than the traditional unmasking, with Iris actually deducing the Flash’s identity instead of just being shown.
Unfortunately, Iris’ discovery came at the expense of the Reverse Flash kidnapping Eddie – and the stinger of the week finally saw Eobard reveal his family connection to his ancestor. Back when Eddie was announced as a character, fans jumped upon the surname as an indication that Eddie would be the Reverse Flash; though it seems as if poor Eddie doesn’t have a villainous bone in his body at this point, the shared surname couldn’t be ignored forever. Eobard’s intentions with Eddie remain opaque at this point beyond a vague hint at Eddie being ‘insurance’, but it’s hard to see this ending well… Next week, it’s a bananas episode with full-on gorilla warfare and no monkey business as Barry tackles a foe that will leave his mouth ag-ape in fear – Grodd Lives…
With just three episodes left, The Flash shows no signs of slowing down – and The Trap saw the show returning to the peaks it reached several episodes previously, as the brewing conflict between Barry and Wells boil over, with shocking and thrilling results.
Scene of the Episode: Reverse Trap – As someone, somewhere, once said, ‘it’s a trap!’, but it wasn’t quite the trap Barry and co were expecting…