After last week’s relatively weak episode, The Flash returned tonight with an outing that could barely contain the show’s level of amusement. Admittedly, this was mostly due to Mark Hamill’s scenery-chewing guest appearance as The Trickster, a role he also played in the 1990 series. “Tricksters” had all the characteristics of a great Flash episode: an outstanding rogue, Barry/Joe and Barry/Henry scenes that hit every emotional beat perfectly, gorgeous VFX, and answers to some of our many outstanding questions.
Villains of the Week: James Jesse and Axel Walker, a.k.a. The Trickster(s)
In the wake of his Harrison Wells-epiphany, Barry has done what all non-detectives working a case do: He’s done research and created a cork board of Harrison Wells miscellany. Sadly, the only conclusion reached is confirmation that Wells is very enigmatic. Barry and Joe remain just as baffled by Wells’ motivation as they were before.
Meanwhile, a copycat killer named The Trickster starts terrorizing the city with bombs. This isn’t the first time Central City has dealt with someone who goes by this name. Twenty years ago, James Jesse (Mark Hamill) menaced the city as The Trickster, but he was eventually caught and imprisoned in Iron Heights. Thus, Joe and Barry are forced to meet with the very much off-his-rocker criminal mastermind. And if there’s one thing television and film have taught us, it’s that seeking advice from a criminal on their copycat will definitely go well and no one will escape (jokes!).
Yes, Hamill’s portrayal of Jesse is very similar to his Joker on Batman: The Animated Series, but there’s also just enough to distinguish them. For one, his deliciously maniacal laugh is slightly lower. Also, who cares, because Hamill’s Joker was awesome and the world could use more of it.
At first Jesse isn’t willing to cooperate, but with some obvious ego stroking from Joe, he finally tells them that this copycat must have found his lair. Joe and Barry head over to his hideout, which looks very similar to The Trickster’s hideout from the 1990s series. Unfortunately, the new guy cleaned the entire lair out, including Jesse’s Mona Lisa: a bomb capable of destroying all of Central City. (Once he stopped killing the prison guards, they gave him cable.)
The Trickster sends out another vlog claiming to have hidden the bomb in Central City. Using his superspeed, Barry searches high and low, but can’t find it. Wells realizes it’s a trick and that there’s no bomb, but Barry, whose growing distrust of Wells has not gone unnoticed by the man himself, ignores him. This allows the copycat to not only break Jesse out of prison, but to also kidnap Henry as a hostage.
If you ignore the whole murder thing, Axel Walker (Devon Graye), the copycat Trickster, is basically a stand-in for fanboys everywhere as we see him gush over his newly freed idol. Jesse specifically chose Axel and mentored him to assume The Trickster mantle for one reason: Jesse is his father. That’s right: The Flash found a way to get Hamill to say, “I am your father.” Cheesy, yes, but, again, who cares because it’s Mark “Bloody” Hamill and he’s clearly having the time of his life reprising this role. His visible joy is infectious. We find out that there wasn’t a bomb and that Jesse has spent the last 20 years planning the Breaking Bad season 5 of pranks.
Naturally, Henry’s kidnapping combined with his suspicions about Wells gives Barry a case of the sulks. And there’s only one person with the cure: Joe West. I would complain about this scene lacking subtlety—The Tricksters attacking the city, Barry being tricked by Wells—but it overcomes that obstacle because it’s another great showcase for the chemistry between Grant Gustin and Jesse L. Martin. Barry can’t believe he let himself be fooled by Wells and has trouble leaving his father’s fate in the man who might have put him in jail. Ever the optimist, Joe puts a positive spin on it: “You always want to be the person who sees the best in people.” Having been a cop for so long, Joe can’t do that and he wishes he could be like Barry.
NEXT: Barry continues to fail at the whole secret identity thing.