Given just how prevalent the super hero genre is at the moment, it’s worth remembering that this wasn’t always the case, and that outside of cartoons, Smallville largely held up the torch alone for a decade; during which time it was mining the comics for characters, and the Superman film and tv past for actors to play them.
In many ways, this episode is a love letter to fans of John Wesley Shipp’s Flash TV show a decade earlier. Whilst the 90s show only ran for a single season, limiting the pool of potential actors to call upon now, we’ve seen several make return appearances – JWS, Amanda Pays as Tina McGee, Vito D’Ambrosio as Mayor Bellows (a police officer originally); but the one who made the biggest impression has been Mark Hamill. Although the others are playing characters in ways different to their 90s selves, Hamill’s Trickster is essentially the same character he played quarter of a century ago, with minor adjustments to fit to the modern timeline.
Hamill plays the role to perfection – with all the mania of the original, but tempered with less maniacal physicality, and the shadow of his many years playing the Joker behind it all. There’s ample scenery-chewing, of course, and a delightful Star Wars nod.
After last week’s revelations, we now get to learn more of the Reverse Flash back-story. Following his accidental murder of Barry’s mother whilst trying to kill the future Barry, it appears that Eobard Thawne’s powers became reduced and unreliable, preventing him from returning to his own time without some technical assistance. Learning of Harrison Wells’ plans to build the particle accelerator, Thawne instigates a car accident that causes the death of Wells’ girlfriend. He subsequently takes over Wells’ life in a sequence that feels reminiscent of Fringe with a touch of Raiders of the Lost Ark; with the intent of speeding up its development. This seems to close the book on the option for redemption of Wells as a character post-S1, though any show with the time travel conceit can change the game.
In the present day, after Barry finally became suspicious of Wells and his connection to Simon Stagg’s disappearance, he’s now clear that there is something going on, and it takes Joe to push him to keep his opinions bottled up until they have some hard evidence – something Barry finds challenging, given how he tends to be fairly guileless normally, with secrets not coming naturally to him. Speaking of secrets, neither this show nor Arrow seem too fussed about maintaining secret identities as such. Two other characters learn his identity this week, though there were suggestions in a previous episode that one of them already knew (in the way that Commissioner Gordon ‘knew’ Batman’s identity, but chose to pretend he didn’t).
There’s a finale a-coming…