The Flash: 5.08 What's Past is Prologue
Well, they did it, The Flash made it to episode 100! Most shows that get to large milestones tend to air a clip-show, and frankly What’s Past is no exception, but with a refreshing twist. This instalment sends Barry and Nora back in time to revisit previous encounters with Savitar, Zoom and Reverse Flash, with countless other cameos along the way. Collecting items for a weapon capable of counteracting Cicada’s dagger’s dampening ability was the perfect excuse to look back on past storylines and see how the show has developed over five seasons. It also advances the current story while getting a bit cheeky with the time-hopping.
Honestly, Barry and Nora sneaking around the past shouldn’t work, it’s (for this show) become a cliché and it requires little thought, but wow, it does work, and really well. With both travelling through time, events feel different. While the timeline hasn’t changed, we look through Nora’s eyes, as her understanding and knowledge of her father grows, learning things that weren’t in the Flash museum in her time. Barry explaining his flaws to Nora while we watch flawed elements from past seasons was a nice way for the show to laugh at itself…and for us to laugh at it.
Directed by Tom Cavanagh, it’s no surprise that he plays a big part in this episode. Annoyingly though, his inclusion is both pleasing and frustrating. Seeing past iterations of Wells served as a reminder of how poor the current incarnation is. Sherloque, and the other caricatures fall flat in comparison. At the same time it was highly enjoyable to spend a little time with past, more serious versions of the character, with Barry accidentally bumping into past Harry, and having long conversations with Eobard Thawne/Reverse Flash.
Speaking of, his role in this episode was huge, and frankly, I loved it. It’s easy to forget just how fantastic this villain character was, especially when Cavanagh has played Harry in in a very comedic fashion over the past few seasons. Barry and Nora travelling back to get help from Thawne was one of the greatest scenes so far this season. With just a few lines of dialogue, teasing possible character and story ventures, and re-establishing Cicadas' prowess as “the one who got away”, cemented how ominous a villain he was, elevated by an outstanding performance. It gave me chills.
Teased throughout has been Nora’s reclusiveness whenever quizzed about why she is in this time. Finally revealed that she’s been working with future (2049) Thawne all along was a superb and unexpected twist. Jessica Parker Kennedy’s performance really amped up the effectiveness of this arc, with only eye contact and body language, you could see the regret now that she has learned so much more about her father’s arch rival. She is clearly being manipulated to play with the timeline which alone is interesting enough, but because it isn’t directly obvious, the anticipation is far greater. The prospect of Reverse Flash returning to the forefront of the series has me wondering what part Cicada will play. Out of choice, I know who I would rather see more of (Reverse Flash). Could we see a change of sides from Cicada? While no doubt the crossover event, beginning next week, will clear this up, for now I remain cautiously optimistic.
The Cicada arc didn’t work very well in comparison. Although we learned his overall plan to kill himself once all Meta’s have been eliminated, Team Flash’s attempt at stopping him, which has been the crux of the episode, was, for want of a better term, pathetic. All that effort just to see Cicada shake his fists and run to lick his wounds, it made the build up to it seem all the more pointless and contrived. Watching Cicada walk out of the hospital, in full gear, to Team Flash and nobody else was laughable and full of holes. Thankfully, it was a small sequence that didn’t affect the overall tone.
As engaging as this episode was, I can’t help but ponder how different it could’ve been if Barry and Nora interacted with other characters a bit more. The opportunity to bring back Tom Felton or Robbie Amell in cameos for example, rather than just play existing footage, wasn’t capitalised on. The trips to the past could’ve been more impactful, playing with the idea that maybe certain positive events occurred because of it. On a positive note, one of my questions got answered: Caitlin is not a Meta and not affected by Cicada’s blade. While it’s nice to have that confirmed, Killer Frost turned up so abruptly, there’s been no adjustment period.
What’s Past is Prologue serves as an excellent celebratory 100th episode. It may not be perfect but it was nice to be reminded of the show’s beginnings and progression over the past four years. Story-wise, much like this week’s Arrow episode, it brought about a new phase for the season. Re-introducing Reverse Flash and revealing Nora’s conspiracy boosted the excitement for what’s to come. Most of all, the final sequence had me utterly locked in. What happened? No idea, but I can’t wait to find out. Here’s to 100 more.