Joe: “If it never happened, how can Cisco remember it?
Barry: “I don’t know. I don’t know. I think the important thing is, he does.”
Translation: We know this is kind of silly. Just go with it, okay.
That was the line drawn in the sand by The Flash in “The Trap.” Barry, Caitlin and Cisco built a lucid dream machine to help Cisco fully explore his recurring Harrison Wells death dreams, and the information they gained from that experience was used to spring a trap to try and capture the Reverse Flash. However, none of it made any sense. Barry traveled back in time and erased Cisco’s death from history. No one other than Barry should remember the events he erased, and he wasn’t so much around when Cisco was discovering Dr. Wells’ secret that day. Generally, in these kinds of stories the person who does the time travelling is the one who remembers the fact that time has been altered unless they tell someone else about it, but even then that person won’t be able to actually remember the lost time. The Flash is instead asking, “What if Lois Lane somehow remembered suffocating to death in Superman even though Superman turned back time?” or “What if Jean Grey remembers Wolverine mercy-killing her even though Wolverine completely erased that timeline in Days of Future Past?” Not that anyone else would remember, though. It only applies to characters who died. Caitlin, Eddie and Joe sure as heck aren’t having dreams of days erased. It’s just Cisco.
The show clearly knows this doesn’t actually make any sense. You can look to Cisco’s comic book history in which he is the superhero The Vibe to nerd up an explanation, but screw that. There is no real good explanation. There is simply the hope that we’ll just go with it. That is dangerously close to Arrow-level laziness. It’s especially egregious here since this is the device through which Team Flash finally learns so much about Dr. Wells, like his real name, confirmation of his part in the death of Nora Allen, etc. This feels like a complete cheat on the part of the writers, finally if only temporarily leveling the playing field between the good and bad guys through a serious bending of the time travel rules.
Yet I’m not nearly as upset over this as you might guess. Any episode which opens with Barry, Cisco and Caitlin receiving one bombshell (You’re going to disappear after some major fight in 9 years) after another (You’re going to marry Iris!) from Gideon in Dr. Wells’ time vault immediately wins you over to anything else it has up its sleeve. And it’s amazing how much easier it is to swallow stupendously stupid exposition when it is delivered with such charm, heart and humor by the likes of Grant Gustin and Carlos Valdes, particularly when the latter is filtering all of it through pop culture references like Back to the Future. For example, Cisco’s Inception comparisons added some fun to the lucid dream sequence, which also looked very, very cool with that fish-eye camera lens and unique lighting.
Plus, dangit, The Flash is just such a light, fun show, usually comfortable family viewing. To other shows, having the male lead learn that he will marry the girl of his dreams at some point in the future even though she is currently dating a close friend of his would be cause for much brooding and examinations of fate. Not on the Flash. This show drops Barry into a whirlwind sequence at work in which he is somewhat randomly told by a co-worker, “Never get married, Allen,” before he instantly turns around and bumps into Iris. Then Eddie interrupts them to pull Barry aside and reveal that he plans to propose to Iris. Why waste time with subtlety, right? Just sit back and watch Grant Gustin squirm.
That doesn’t mean the show is above any criticism, though. Maybe that whirlwind scene at the office for Barry was just a wee bit too on-the-nose. The same goes for the idea that Iris and Barry apparently have a literal spark when they touch. Not subtle and not something we’d ever even seen before, yet now here it is as the means by which Iris finally discovers Barry is The Flash, recognizing the spark she got off him as he promised to save Eddie from The Reverse Flash at the end.
Moreover, the manner in which Dr. Wells fools the team and defeats their ill-fated trap is one of those “Oh, that sneaky sonofabitch” moments which if given a second thought is instantly followed by “Hey, wait a minute – that doesn’t make any sense!” As HushComics put it in their review:
Harrison didn’t have much time to hatch is plan of bringing in Hannibal Bates as his likeness. He had from the time he found out Cisco was in the bunker to maybe 5 minutes later. It’s hard to believe that Hannibal was released from his cell, promised freedom, and had time to memorize Harrison’s life story in order to repeat it to Cisco. Unless he has a crazy good memory, this seems unlikely. I debated whether Harrison knew what was happening much earlier, but two things deterred me from this belief. Harrison only knew that they were creating a lucid dreaming device. He did not know how quickly they would figure out what was happening. Also, Cisco had a tracking device on him, so they knew he was at a lecture, not inside S.T.A.R. Labs.
I also wondered what exactly Hannibal Bates’ endgame was. He was holding up his hand threateningly, but we know he doesn’t actually take anyone’s powers when he shapeshifts into them. So, he couldn’t really reach into Cisco’s chest. Dr. Wells seemingly already knew Barry and Joe were hiding in there. Did Hannibal know that? The whole thing seemed like a man who was simply waiting to be shot before the Scooby Doo “Hey, that’s not Dr. Wells!” moment.
As per usual, the show’s flaws were mostly covered up by Tom Cavanagh’s amazing performance, absolutely killing it in going from one speech in which he appears to be giving Barry the best pep talk of all time and a flashback speech in which goes all time-traveling Bond villain over a comatose Barry, promising, “Nothing will be forgotten. There will be reckoning.” My one concern here is that in the sections of the episode in which Eobard Thawne no longer had to hide behind the guise of Dr. Harrison Wells Cavanagh’s performance showed signs of going bigger (hopefully not too big in the remaining episodes).
THE BOTTOM LINE
Any Flash/Arrow fan is far too familiar with the “just go with” logic bending episode, and “The Trap” was yet another example. However, The Flash manages to make such episodes more tolerable through its sheer charm offensive, and “The Trap” had all of that plus multiple massive plot advancements and possibly their largest collection of comic book easter eggs yet. Seriously, that time vault sequence was a comic book nerd’s dream come true, confirming so much stuff from the comics.
1. Is it bad that I never knew the main area at STAR Labs is officially known as the cortex?
2. Something about the editing surrounding Joe’s quick laugh in response to Cisco’s comment about his own T-shirt during the dream sequence made me picture the director and editor continually cutting the laugh down until it was barely even there.
3. Interesting the way Dr. Wells praised Caitlin while making the lucid dream device. Divide and conquer?
4. Is Iris really the first person – other than the reporter The Reverse Flash killed – to put it together that all the craziness in the city goes back to STAR Labs and the particle accelerator?
5. Iris had moved out and threatened to break up with Eddie as recently as last week, yet she gave Barry a “Why would you even ask that?” kind of response when he asked how things were going with Eddie. Then again, Barry was attempting to deflect her questions about STAR Labs.
6. What does Dr. Wells want from Barry? Hint: He’s told him multiple times already, like during “The Trap”’s pep talk in which he references wanting to help Barry become faster.
7. Good for Eddie, standing up to Joe.
8. Bad for Eddie, having, just in general, the worst timing in the world this week.
Hush Comics – Hush Comics gives “The Trap” an A- for zeroing in on the most important story of the season, clearing things up for audience and characters, lots of suspense, and so many Easter Eggs!