[WARNING: This article contains spoilers for The Flash Season 1, Episode 20]
The time has finally come for The Flash to begin its sprint to the finish, appearing to be cashing in all the chips gathered to this point, and playing every card kept up the writers' sleeves to this point. As last week's episode supplied the first physical evidence that Dr. Harrison Wells was not who he seems, this week's episode has dropped any remaining mystery, setting Barry and Thawne on a collision course.
In "The Trap," written by Alison Schapker and Brooke Eikmeier, Barry (Grant Gustin) and Caitlin (Danielle Panabaker) devise a means of re-treading Cisco's (Carlos Valdes) 'dreams' of an alternate timeline, and set a trap to hopefully get the murder confession from Dr. Harrison Wells (Tom Cavanagh) needed to free Barry's father - but things don't exactly go according to plan.
A Look at the Future
Picking up where the previous episode left off, Barry, Cisco and Caitlin are given a glimpse into the future: in April 2024, the newspaper claims, The Flash and his nemesis Eobard Thawne engage in a battle that rains destruction upon Central City, turning the skies red, and ending only when the pair disappeared into a burst of light (presumably traveling back to the night of Nora Allen's murder). Again, the show's writers cast aside old suspense to place their stars and the audience on the same level (as it pertains to Thawne's activities).
An unexpected twist is offered when the A.I. Gideon reveals that it is Barry Allen who eventually creates 'her', and one sure to keeps fans speculating. Was Gideon constructed for help navigating the timestream, or did Barry create the A.I. for use in the unnamed group he apparently helped found (*cough*Justice League*cough*)?
The relationship between Barry and Iris (Candice Patton) has been... unsteady of late, to say the least, but few would have guessed that a futuristic newspaper would jumpstart their romance, revealing that Iris West-Allen faces her feelings for Barry sooner or later.
It could be argued that the episode in which the show's core cast risks their lives to take the offensive against the Reverse-Flash was likely not the perfect time to add a romantic subplot. But as surprising as the decision is just how well the writers manage to pull the odd challenge off. Some would have preferred the dynamic left out of this episode, but the ease with which it's threaded through the larger plot recalls earlier episodes that managed the task just as deftly.
Oh, also, Iris now knows Barry is The Flash.
Setting The Trap
Once Cisco's 'dreams' of an alternate sequence of events are deciphered - through an incredibly unnerving lucid dream experiment - the team's main objective becomes clear. Fans of no-nonsense science fiction and time travel may take issue with Barry's claim that how Cisco remembers a previous timeline isn't important - only that he remembers - or that they merely serve to set the team's trap in place.
Either way, the recreated scene of Cisco's murder carries the same sense of tension, and Barry's snap decision to put Cisco's life in jeopardy to maintain his father's chances of freedom led to one of the most stunning moments in the show to date. Even without the bullet-catching sequence, finally seeing Eobard Thawne to be a human being, not some omnipotent puppet master was a thrill in itself... until he is revealed to, in fact, be essentially an omnipotent puppet master.
Thawne's watchful eye over Barry's childhood, and the notion of a hero's villain having to help him reach adulthood is unsettling in too many ways to note. Hopefully that is the source of any twists or turns still coming, and not more surprising (and hard-to-believe) reveals of just how Thawne has manipulated Barry and co. to this point.
Only time will tell just how much of a magical hand-wave Thawne's set-up (of what appears to be the past several months, if not years) will prove to be, but it's Eddie Thawne (Rick Cosnett) who will be hearing most of the mad scientist's lectures for now. Since Eddie's death would mean Thawne was never born, his role as 'insurance' is presumably a safe one - but the introduction of Barry and Iris' eventual marriage is sure to place Eddie's character on a new path.
Be sure to share your own thoughts on the latest villain and twist, and where you think Eobard Thawne, Barry, and the series is headed in the next episodes!
The Flash returns next Tuesday @8pm with "Grodd Lives". Check out a preview of the episode below: