Wednesday, April 1, 2015

So Much That Is Obvious: Why "Tricksters" Disappoints!

The Good: Performances are generally good, Explanation of some key elements
The Bad: Obvious plot elements, Some super-predictable character moments, Erratic special effects
The Basics: Bolstered by hype, "Tricksters" dupes casual viewers of The Flash into believing the episode is actually good.

While there have been more anticipated episodes in the first season of The Flash, I cannot think of an episode that was more hyped than "Tricksters." Unfortunately, as with many things that are hyped up, "Tricksters" is given the daunting task of trying to live up to that hype and it falls dramatically shy of its potential. While the episode marks the return of Mark Hamill to television (in a live-action role, as opposed to doing voicework from behind-the-scenes) it creates a weird dynamic to have him reprising his role from the prior The Flash series. For all his talent, it is hard not to watch "Tricksters" and see that Hamill is just playing James Jesse as The Joker.

Picking up after “Rogue Time” (reviewed here!), with Barry Allen disillusioned about Harrison Wells, "Tricksters" has a decidedly weak a-plot and a b-plot that finally answers some key questions about the Reverse Flash. Unfortunately, to do that, the episode mortgages some of the momentum from "Rogue Time." In "Rogue Time," it made no real-world sense that the news was so quickly reporting the disappearance of Mason Bridge; in "Tricksters," it is similarly baffling how only Iris seems to care that he is missing.

After seeing the night Nora Allen was killed yet again, "Tricksters" returns to the present where Central City is attacked by bombs wrapped as gifts that parachute into a playground. While the Flash is able to prevent any loss of life, the attacker identifies himself as the Trickster and Joe recognizes him as a copycat for a serial killer that attacked Central City decades prior. After visiting James Jesse, the original Trickster, in Iron Heights, Joe and Barry visit his lair. After surviving a booby trap, Barry returns to S.T.A.R. Labs, where he is overtly hostile to Harrison Wells. The second Trickster threatens Central City with a massive bomb that S.T.A.R. Labs cannot seem to locate. Unfortunately, when The Flash finds it, it is a decoy.

The young Trickster's diversion plays as his opportunity to rescue James Jesse from Iron Heights. Jesse and the other Trickster abduct Henry Allen and set about preparing their most elaborate plan yet. They go to the mayor's fund raiser and hold the attendees hostage. Poisoning the potential donors and holding them hostage leads the Flash into another trap. That leads The Flash to exhibit a new skill; coached by Harrison Wells, he phases through solid matter. More suspicious than ever of Wells, The Flash has to stop the Tricksters and protect Iris from herself.

One of the redeeming elements of "Tricksters" is that it stops the teases. While it uses a concept that feels very familiar to anyone who watched the second season of Fringe (reviewed here!), the episode's key character elements surrounding Barry Allen and the Reverse Flash are given more payout than tease. As a result, viewers do not have to wait for it to click with Barry that the description Wells gives him could only come from experience. That is satisfying.

Equally satisfying is how Eddie actually becomes relevant again. Barry and Joe are not stupid and when they bring Eddie into the fold, Rick Cosnett gives his best performance of the season without saying a word. In fact, despite having a performance that is derivative from Mark Hamill, the acting in "Tricksters" is pretty good all around. Even Devon Graye, who is saddled with the worst lines of the episode to deliver, does the best he possibly can with the crap he was expected to say.

In the flashbacks to the night of Nora Allen's murder, there is a huge plot hole that is created (unless there is another bit of time travel, a third speedster, or Henry Allen actually murdered his wife). The problem is that we are treated to a view of the Reverse Flash losing his speed abilities. The Reverse Flash abducts the young Barry Allen, presumably, to draw off The Flash before he kills Nora Allen. In "Tricksters," after dropping the young Barry Allen outside the conflict zone, the Reverse Flash loses his speed. The Flash is seen, after that, running out of the Allen house. Without the Speed Force, the reverse flash could not get back to the Allen house to kill Nora Allen. Nora wasn't dead when young Barry Allen was abducted, future Barry Allen (The Flash) runs out after the Reverse Flash is gone and has lost his powers . . . how did Nora Allen even die?! And how did Barry Allen as The Flash not catch him?! (In "Tricksters," the Reverse Flash ran in a straight line after dropping the young Barry Allen!)

This issue is followed by a special effects issue in the transformation of the Reverse Flash in the flashback scenes. The morph is decidedly animated at parts and that is disappointing. Similarly disappointing is the episode's climax scene. Almost as obvious (but lacking the fun) as the scene wherein James Jesse reveals his relationship to the second Trickster, the final scene adds no new information and teases nothing special to bring viewers back.

Until "Tricksters," it is hard to imagine that viewers would need enticement to return to The Flash, but sadly, the episode is just that bad.

For other works with Mark Hamill, check out my reviews of:
I Know That Voice
Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back
The Little Mermaid
The Star Wars Trilogy

[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 reviews, please visit my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing!

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