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The Flash S1.20 "The Trap" review

With this episode, Barry finally officially joins the League Of Cringably Terrible Liars, though he’ll have some way to go to threaten Caitlin as president. She’s on fine form here. As she burbles some bilge to Wells about psychoanalysing metahumans through lucid dreaming, she looks like Cisco has poured ice cubes down her knickers. Barry, meanwhile, morphs into Hugh Grant trying to explain where his trousers have gone when he tries to look happy about Eddie’s idea to propose to Iris.

Then again, really terrible lying is just another thing that should count as a mark against this show, that actually becomes part of its charm.

Hell, look at this episode: technobabble, time paradoxes, convenient dreams, a love triangle, silly-looking special effects (specifically Barry doing a super-fast butterfly stroke so someone can hit erase on the CG flames)… all usually red rags to the bull of telefantasy fandom. And yet, it’s a truly great episode.

Once again the show embraces its intrinsic silliness and turns it to its advantage. It’s turned suspension of disbelief into high art. So, hey, yeah, how come shapeshifter Hannibal Bates seemed to know so much about how Wells that he could do a perfect character impression as well as a visual one? A character impression that matched Wells’s actions and words in a reality that never happened? A character impression that mimicked Wells’s Speedster abilities even though last week we were told Bates couldn’t copy metapowers? The answers to all those is: it doesn’t really matter. It was a great ruse. It was exciting. It was thrilling. It was great telly.

Trivia Fest

One screen shot, so many bits of trivia. The byline to this future-news story has changed to Iris West-Allen (it was previously Evan Gibson). Arrow is (officially) referred to as Green Arrow for the first time in this TV continuity. Hawkgirl is mentioned for the first time. Cisco also makes reference to the fact that the Flash’s costume is slightly different (though we’ve seen it before – blurrily – in flashbacks to the night of Batty’s mum’s death).

Besides, with all the revelations about Wells, and Eddy, and the Crisis, and Gideon, you must have been reeling too much to notice details like that. You can feel there’s a season finale a-coming and this episode provided a perfect build-up. Eobard Thawne is now officially the Big Bad and the game has changed to an extent that no time travel shenanigans could reset.

The script does try to justify some of its dopier elements. It’s a relief to hear, for example, the characters admitting that there’s no logical reason for Cisco to have his dreams. Also, Cisco’s well aware of time paradoxes; we bet he complains on internet forums about closed loops in Steven Moffat Doctor Who scripts in his spare time. But the script never feels defensive about its sci-fi excesses; they just feel naturally like things the characters would say. And in Cisco the show has one of those rare TV geeks who actually makes the cultural references sound genuine and unforced (we’re still shuddering at the memory of the comic geek in No Ordinary Family who was played by an actress who glazed over every time she had to say “Jor-El” or “adamantium”).

Interestingly, there’s still a scene with Barry admitting that at times he still feels some grudging admiration for Wells/Thawne. Let’s hope this isn’t foreshadowing some future plot resolution in which Barry manages to appeal to Thawne’s better nature. It’s far more interesting that Thawne is a villain who still has a human side, as Thawne’s chilling monologue in the stinger scene reinforces.

One unexpectedly reassuring thing about the episode is that Iris and Barry have some genuinely sweet scenes and for the first time in ages actually look like a couple who could belong together. Considering how many times marriage is mentioned in the episode, this can only be a good thing.

Where that leaves Eddie though, is intriguingly unclear. Will he now just act as Eobard’s “insurance” (whatever that entails) until his plot usefulness is fulfilled and he’s “retired” from the show? Hopefully not, as he’s grown to become a very likeable character over the season.

This show’s main problem is going to be coming up with a finale that doesn’t disappoint (because it’s set the bar so high) and maintaining the momentum and quality through season two. The horror of what happened to Heroes still lingers. On the other hand, Arrow proved that a show can come out running, and carry on running. And that’s from the same producers.

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Best Line

Eddie: “Iris Thawne. Sounds pretty good, huh?” Barry: “I have a feeling she's gonna want to hyphenate.”

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The return of an old favourite with Channel 52 making a comeback (it’s been seen in Arrow too). This time, during Joe’s flashback, News 52 is reporting on Starling City's riots when Deathstroke mounted his attack at the end of Arrow season two.

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Has Joe suddenly developed speedster powers himself? How else could he have fired three bullets that are shown – in slow motion – flying so close together?

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Hidden Messages

Anybody know braille? We’re wondering if there are any hidden messages on the walls of the “time vault”.

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Obvious Metaphor

Oh look – there’s a spark between Iris and Barry.

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A Spectacle Vibe

The “lucid sleeping” glasses are clearly a nod to the face furniture Cisco Ramone wears in the comics as Vibe. Barry, meanwhile, appears to be channelling Frozone from The Incredibles.

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Cisco’s Cultural Reference Jamboree 1

Cisco often makes geeky references on The Flash but he went into overload this week. He kicked off less than a minute into the episode with this nod to Back To The Future. Then…

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Cisco’s Cultural Reference Jamboree 2

…mere moments later, he was riffing off 2001: A Space Odyssey. Next…

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Cisco’s Cultural Reference Jamboree 3

…he was using Magic The Gathering for inspiration, before…

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Cisco’s Cultural Reference Jamboree 4

…a double whammy combining a great film with a rubbish one. And for a finale…

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Cisco’s Cultural Reference Jamboree 5

Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom.

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What Comes Next?

Gideon says that Barry will be a “founding member of…” before being cut off. Presumably the Justice League and not the Eobard Thawne fan club.

The Flash airs on Sky 1 in the UK and the CW in the US on Tuesday nights.

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