The Flash star Brandon McKnight unpacks Chester's emotional breakthrough with [SPOILER]
Warning: This article contains spoilers for Tuesday's The Flash, "The One with the Nineties."
Chester P. Runk's future is looking even brighter on The Flash.
When Brandon McKnight's cheery scientist and Cisco (Carlos Valdes) got stuck in a time loop in the year 1998 in Tuesday's episode, Chester had to reckon with his difficult relationship with his father, Quincy (Milton Barnes), an inventor, because it was the key to their freedom. Growing up, Chester believed his dad didn't like him because he was always on the road, but this trip to the '90s helped Chester discover that wasn't the case and save the day.
After realizing Quincy had a computer part they needed to defeat the episode's villain, Chester approached his father, who revealed that he worked so hard for his son and even though he wasn't around much, he took every opportunity to teach him important lessons for the future. For example, Quincy bought and then threw out a part young Chester needed for a project so his son would eventually find it in the trash after his father left. "It's my way of teaching him how to be resourceful and a problem solver," Quincy said. "Chester is worth any sacrifice I have to make… When it comes to him, I don't believe in quitting."
"I remember reading the episode and calling [showrunner] Eric Wallace and thanking him for this episode," McKnight tells EW. "Not just because Chester is the focal point of the episode, but also for [depicting] that side of the father-son relationship between Black men, and being a Black father and how you have to [prepare] your son for a world that a lot of it looks down on you. He has to not just be smart, he has to be smart in a way that nobody else is smart. He has to learn how to take trash and make gold out of it. I thought this relationship was so [symbolic] of what that relationship is like and what preparing your son kind of has to be."
That said, McKnight appreciates how the story line also addressed the limits of that tough-love approach. "You can raise somebody with tough love, but there's always a gap left for the gentle love as well," he says. "How do you create a balance? That's something I don't think anybody really knows how to perfect. There's always going to be flaws in it, and there's always going to be issues. I think that specific scene where he meets his father touches all of those things."
Having that breakthrough with Quincy reinvigorated Chester and gave him confidence when it came time for him and Cisco to face Deon (Christian Magby), who became a conduit for the Still Force, the latest cosmic energy terrorizing the city, and used that power to create the time loop because he hated his future and wanted to relive his best day. Rather than defeating Di\eon with punches, Chester talked him down and made him see he had the power to change his future —— which, ultimately, may not be a good thing because Dion took that to mean he could control everyone's future before he disappeared. Nevertheless, Chester's '90s adventure will have a profound effect on him moving forward as he decides to finish one of his father's projects.
"It changes Chester immensely," McKnight says. "Chester grew up not really having a figure to aspire to, not really having a person to look up to other than the superheroes zipping around the city and all the stuff he loves. Now he actually realizes he has a real figure to look towards… So now Chester realizes, 'I am a product of my father, so I have that in myself as well,' which then translates to him confronting Dion. That only goes into other episodes where he really finds his confidence and realizes that 'I can do this stuff and I am capable of this stuff because I am a product of this man who did all these things.'"
Alas, the threat of Dion and the other cosmic forces — the Strength Force, a.k.a. Fuerza, and the Sage Force, a.k.a. Psych — still looms over Team Flash and the Speed Force (Michelle Harrison) as the episode ends. In fact, McKnight warns that we shouldn't necessarily trust the Speed Force either: "I would say be wary of everything and everyone."