Thursday, April 30, 2015

(Mostly) Smart People In The Fight For The Truth: "The Trap!"

The Good: Good character development, Performances, Decent direction, Plot development
The Bad: Pacing, Iris issue
The Basics: "The Trap" exposes the truth about Harrison Wells and another character learns the identity of The Flash!

Tuesday night was the first time, apparently, that The Flash beat Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. in the ratings. The Flash aired the episode "The Trap" and, as far as I'm concerned, it was a dead heat for quality with "The Dirty Half Dozen" (reviewed here!). It is worth noting, that the moment my wife and I finished watching "The Trap," she sat up and excitedly yelled "Ten out of ten! Perfect episode!" I admire her enthusiasm, but with my critical lens, I could not rate it quite so high, as much as I enjoyed it.

"The Trap" opens seconds after "Who Is Harrison Wells?" (reviewed here!) and it answers a ton of lingering questions in The Flash. With most of the secrets that the first season of The Flash began with being answered (to viewers at least) already, "The Trap" progresses the characters so that most of the characters get the same answers the viewers already have. And it does so in a remarkably entertaining way.

Opening in the Time Vault at S.T.A.R. Labs, Cisco, Dr. Snow and Barry Allen marvel at the futuristic newspaper displayed and they encounter Gideon, the artificial intelligence Harrison Wells has been using. When Wells returns to S.T.A.R. Labs, the trio barely escapes the Time Vault before they are discovered. Regrouping at Barry and Joe's house, after Eddie asks Joe for his blessing with proposing to Iris, the group decides they need to set a trap for Wells. The first step is learning what they can from Cisco's memory of the alternate time line (from "Out Of Time," reviewed here!) which has been manifesting in Cisco's dreams. Creating a device to help Cisco experience lucid dreaming (ironically, with Wells's help), Cisco experiences the incident where Wells came clean with him before killing him!

After gleaning all they can from Cisco's dream, Dr. Wells calls on Barry to help put out a fire in Central City, which is menacing Captain Singh's fiance. Putting the fire out, the team regroups at S.T.A.R. Labs where they plan to trap Harrison Wells. Going back to the cortex, the team prepares for Cisco to get a confession from Harrison Wells (admitting that he killed Nora Allen) so that Barry can free his father from Iron Heights. When Wells returns from a lecture, the trap is sprung . . . but not in the way that the team expects.

"The Trap" takes time in building up the whole idea of entrapping Dr. Wells and that works well. The issues I have with the episode all require way too many assumptions from outside the episode to make it work. The fundamental issues - outside the pacing, which repeats a lot of information and is a slow build after the Time Vault scene - are with Iris and the nature of the trap. Iris approaches Barry near the middle of the episode with information she has collated about the rise of the metahumans and she has collated the data. In "The Trap," she explicitly realizes that the S.T.A.R. Labs disaster created the metahumans who have been plaguing Central City. What I failed to buy was that Iris, who is collating so much specific information surrounding people and time, does not make any sort of note or realization pertaining to Barry. Barry was affected by the S.T.A.R. Labs disaster - despite him denying it in "The Trap" - but only after he regained consciousness did The Flash start to appear. So, Iris is smart, but only so smart.

While an emotional blind spot might explain that, it is unsatisfying to see Iris not even question the surface correlation between Barry and The Flash. Even so, "The Trap" has a powerful flashback for Iris and the unconscious Barry Allen which sets up a decent conclusion to the episode.

The other issue in "The Trap" is with the trap itself. While there is a wonderful reversal that I will not spoil here, there is an irksome issue with the trap that in order to discuss, there is a minor spoiler for the episode's end. (That's my version of a spoiler alert) The trap basically recreates the end of "Out Of Time" and that is cool . . . except that from the lucid dream, Barry and the S.T.A.R. Labs team know that Cisco will be killed by Wells. Cisco's solution is to repolarize the field so that the Reverse Flash cannot get into the trap and he is protected. But that solution still puts Cisco at risk and for a bunch of smart people, they act with remarkable stupidity at times; Cisco is standing in front of a hologram generator. Why he didn't simply reprogram the hologram so that there was a hologram of him that he could control to get the confession from makes less sense than putting him at risk against an adversary with powers the team is unsure of.

As an additional twist, the trap hinges on Dr. Snow essentially baiting Dr. Wells to go down to the Cortex. Even rewatching "The Trap," one of the elements that made less sense to me was why Wells leaves Snow alive. Perhaps it was a more obvious "clever twist" to have the team down in the cortex while Wells confesses to Snow and kills her, leaving the team diminished, but "The Trap" did not go in that direction.

So, for what the episode is, "The Trap" does a remarkably good job (minutia aside) of moving all the characters around. Faced with the undeniable scientific evidence from "Who Is Harrison Wells?" even Dr. Snow is on board with trying to capture the Reverse Flash. The episode is peppered with flashbacks to the period Barry spent unconscious and that helps enrich the character aspects of the episode.

Near the climax of "The Trap" comes some of the best acting of the series. Grant Gustin, Danielle Panabaker and Tom Cavanaugh are all acting opposite nothing and they make it seem like they are interacting. Gustin plays angry beautifully opposite thin air and Cavanaugh makes some basic plot exposition sound like long-repressed character details.

"The Trap" is an example of how wonderful a part of a whole can be. The Flash, at its best, is highly-serialized television and the first season is (for the most part) telling one long story. In telling a long, complicated story, individual chapters do not always hold up so well as the overall work. But "The Trap" does; it is engaging and has some powerful character moments all on its own, even as it contributes to the larger story. That makes for television well worth watching, rewatching, and lauding.

For other works with Peter Bryant, check out my reviews of:
Sucker Punch
Fantastic Four
"Leonard Betts" - The X-Files

[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into The Flash - The Complete First Season on DVD or Blu-Ray, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the debut season here!


For other television episode and movie reviews, please visit my Movie Review Index Page!

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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