Well, that just happened.
The latest episode of The Flash, Tricksters, fully embraced the comic book’s campier roots at the expense of genuine drama and character. I’m a fan of silly superhero antics as much as the next guy, but there’s such a concept as ‘too much of a good thing’ and Tricksters crossed that line.
Things started out promisingly enough with a flashback that took us back 15 years to the night Barry’s mom was murdered. We got a really spectacular showdown between the Flash and Reverse Flash, in all its CG slow-mo glory. Gotta admit, I’m consistently impressed by the level of quality effects and action that this team manages to pull off, even with their limited budget. Back in the present day, Barry and Joe start to dig a bit deeper into the Dr. Wells mystery. What do they really know about him? Is it possible that he’s the Reverse Flash?
The quality of the episode takes a rapid plummet when the new Trickster is introduced in all his scene-chewing glory. Sadly, Devon Graye simply doesn’t have the acting chops to pull off anything remotely resembling sinister. He comes across as a Heath Ledger’s Joker wannabe, down to the self-recorded threat videos. Things don’t get any better when the original Trickster, Mark Hamill himself, is introduced into the fray. Hamill is clearly calling back to his work in the 90’s Flash series, but that doesn’t make it feel any less stupid or out of place. The modern Flash series may have its campy moments, but for the most part it’s played pretty straight. When you throw these poorly-written, absurd villains into the mix, it undermines whatever stakes you’re hoping to set up. If the writing had been stronger, maybe this episode would have worked, but the closest thing we get to ‘clever’ is a Star Wars reference a little more than halfway through the episode. Honestly, it feels like the whole episode was planned around that joke.
On the flipside of things, we learn more about the Reverse Flash’s true identity and his relationship with Dr. Wells. This subplot provided a shining beacon of hope in the otherwise mediocre proceedings. Tom Cavanagh continues to excel in his role as Dr. Wells, conveying both incredible humanity and a foreboding, sinister edge, frequently at the same time. The plot is thickening and we’re starting to see an end game on the horizon. I have faith the writers will be able to pull together in time for a strong finale. In the meantime, we’ll have to make do with these lesser episodes. Tricksters isn’t abysmal by any means, but it feels like a throwaway episode, which is a damn shame considering Hamill’s involvement and the squandered potential that provided. It’s arguably the weakest episode of the series thus far.