'The Flash' Episode 1.17 "Tricksters" (9 out of 10) Starring Grant Gustin, Candice Patton, Rick Cosnett, Danielle Panabaker, Carlos Valdes, Tom Kavanaugh, and Jesse L. Martin. Guest starring Mark Hamill, Devon Graye. First broadcast March 31, 2015.
When "The Flash" gets things right, it gets them very right. Yesterday's episode "Tricksters" got things right. A new villain, Axel Walker AKA the Trickster, parachutes dozens of adorably tiny bombs into Central City. These Jokey Smurf-style presents pack a punch, but the Flash is able to save everyone's lives. Even that stupid kid who, after seeing all the other bombs go off, still reaches a pudgy finger up to touch a gift-wrapped explosive. I think losing a hand would've been just the thing to teach him a lesson.
It turns out this isn't Central City's first Trickster; twenty years ago another one menaced the city. James Jesse killed citizens and cops in a prank-filled crime spree, and has been locked up in solitary confinement in Iron Heights ever since. When he hears about this new Trickster in town, he's outraged, and finds his way out of Iron Heights, taking Barry's dad Henry Allen as hostage.
Mark Hamill's performance as the Trickster was why I watched. I mean...I watch all of them, every week, no matter what. But watching him in this was a delight on every possible level. I'm old enough that I watched his original appearance as the Trickster on the 1990 Flash series, and at the time thought it was just...weird. I mean--this isn't the Luke Skywalker I grew up with:
Now, with decades of Hamill's Joker under his belt, and the way he was written for this particular story -- he knocked it out of the park. Every park. Everywhere. The brooding inmate in solitary confinement, only talking after he got his Twizzlers; the growing menace as he realizes that there's a new Trickster in town; the gleeful, unhinged abandon he shows when he's able to be back in his bizarre environment as a performing villain...I loved every minute. I was enjoying the episode for what it was, but at the same time my primordial geekbrain was saying "THAT'S LUKE SKYWALKER. THAT'S WHAT HE'S LIKE NOW. BUT LISTEN HE'S ALSO THE BEST JOKER EVER. AND ALSO HE'S THE TRICKSTER. AND IN DECEMBER YOU'LL SEE HIM AS LUKE SKYWALKER AGAIN. ZOMG I LOVE HIM." There was even a "Star Wars" shoutout between the Tricksters that was worth the (free, probably) price of admission. The writers did a great job with Hamill's Trickster, and the showrunners are already talking about bringing him back. Yes the hell please.
A Star Wars shoutout worth the price of admission
As with most "The Flash" episodes, this main plot is important, but there are other developments that are equally big to the ongoing story the series is telling. Barry Allen continues investigating his belief that ally and mentor Dr. Harrison Wells is the Reverse Flash; Detective Joe West advises him to be patient, so even though Barry continues to side-eye Wells, he doesn't push further. Iris enlists the Flash to help her locate Mason Bridge, and by the end of the episode, Barry has revealed his secret identity to Eddie Thawne. ...side note, is Iris now the only regular character on the series who doesn't know that Barry's the Flash? I like that he has a team of allies, but wow. Used to be only Alfred knew stuff. Although, in Flash comics, eventually Wally West ditched the secret identity and was known by everyone in Central City as the Flash. Maybe they're taking that route. But probably not.
The Flash accessed some new knowledge and abilities in this episode; in a moment of dire need, Dr. Wells almost meditatively guided Barry to faster speeds, explaining some principles of the "Speed Force." Not unlike the Force in "Star Wars," the Speed Force is something that's like a background energy in the universe, an energy that's the source of Barry's powers. Barry tapped into the Speed Force when he was running, and then again as he used his speed to vibrate through an object--the first time that he's manifested that particular ability. Waaaay back in October, I posted an article with my wishlist of things I'd like to see in the first season. One of those things was "going nuts" with the Flash's superpowers. Running on water, up walls, time travel, vibrating through walls...all of which they've done. I love it. Love it so much.
The other great thing we got in this episode was more backstory on Dr. Wells. We find out that there was indeed a Dr. Harrison Wells, who was a good guy, who loved his wife, who was working on a particle accelerator and S.T.A.R. Labs for Central City. He was a good guy. For reals. A time-traveling speedster, Eobard Thawne, killed Wells' wife and took his life and appearance, becoming the "Harrison Wells" that we've seen throughout this first season. This answered pretty much every question I've had about the Reverse Flash and Dr. Wells and Eobard Thawne, but opened up some new possibilties, and some new directions. Is there some kind of psychic remnant of the "good" Dr. Wells in there? Would there be a way to create a new "host body" for Thawne, and then split the two characters, Firestorm-style? That way we'd get to keep a Dr. Wells in S.T.A.R. Labs, but we could also incarcerate the Reverse Flash somehow. Or maybe time travel and split the two apart? It'll be interesting to see how things play out.
Pretty much answered every question, but opened up possibilities
The episode ended with a cliffhanger of sorts that will lead us into next week's episode, which promises to be jampacked with heroes and villains. And the reel of upcoming episodes show us an end of the season that opens up the Central City sandbox to...well...everything. This show gets better each week. You should be watching it.