Secret identities are so dumb. Made only dumber because it’s so clear how little The Flash even cares about Barry’s secret identity. It’s season one and about a dozen people know Barry’s secret identity, and no one bent over backwards to conceal Barry’s identity from Martin Stein’s wife, least of all Barry who thought superspeeding in front of her was a perfectly appropriate way to go about things. The Flash‘s behind the scenes crew is equally ambivalent when it comes to secret identities (this week’s Arrow had the title hero’s identity being broadcast to all of Starling City), and Oliver Queen has an entire world of people who know exactly who he is. But no matter how many people find out who’s who, the people these shows are adamant about never finding out the truth ever are female love interests.
Keeping Iris West in the dark for so long is just another representation of a cheap trope that keeps getting cheaper. It gives the show something to angst over, arguments about not being where they’re supposed to be, sensing dishonesty. But it applies immediate weakness to the character, who has to go through scripts fielding other people’s lies, having kitschy music played to emphasize the hijinks of being continually lied to, and generally earning an audience’s ire for taking a hero’s unusual behavior as being, you know, unusual instead of assuming that they’re a speedster superhero.
That’s not to say that The Flash is the worst in this regard. Arrow‘s entire first season was an exercise in how they could waste the talents and the time of Katie Cassidy by giving her the thankless role of an unknowing Laurel Lance, who despite having a wealth of reasons to find her ex-boyfriend to be a massive waste of space, still got fandom hate for not liking him and not knowing that he aspired to save Starling City. Iris West has a slightly better role written out for her, one that at least somewhat has her in the middle of things. Though Iris can go episodes without anything significant happening to her and for her, the show’s already determined that she’s going to (eventually, God willing) have a larger role not only in Barry’s superheroism but also in the future of the Flash mythos. She’s Iris West, Barry Allen’s future wife and the mother of their children, not to mention the aunt of another eventual Flash. She’s important, but the way the Flash treats her doesn’t make her seem to be these days.
Whatever good points could have been made earlier in the season about Iris being safer in the dark, only grow stupider as the season goes on. Barry cites Iris’ interest in finding out what happened to Mason, which leads her to Wells and STAR labs, as a prime reason for keeping her further distanced from the truth. But Wells knows about Barry’s affection for Iris already, and if he wanted to hurt Barry, going after Iris would be the way to do it. Something that’s surely occurred to Eobard Thawne, but that’s apparently on no one else’s radar. Not to mention that Iris has already found herself in the crosshairs of more than one bad guy in the first season and has emerged just fine, and even this episode ends up at a party nearly poisoned by the Tricksters. Though Eddie voices some discontent with the current arrangement of lying to Iris all the time, there’s no reason to think the situation is going to change or that anyone, least of all Joe and Barry are suddenly going to decide lying to her actually isn’t all that helpful. It’s part of the trope, too. Iris will find out after having a life or death run in with some other baddie, one who may reveal Barry’s identity. Or she’ll stumble upon the information on her own and then will begin the arc of Iris being rightfully angry at being lied to by all the important men in her life, who made the paternalistic decision to protect her by lying to her.
Logically it would be more beneficial to simply tell Iris the truth and therefore give her a valid and lasting warning about diving any deeper into STAR Labs and Wells.After all, people are more inclined to stay away from danger they actually know exists. And sooner or later everybody’s going to know that Wells can’t be trusted. Barry knows it, and he’s got Joe helping him prove it. While Barry’s unable to hide his anger and distrust of Wells
“Tricksters” is that homage to the old Flash that longtime fans will appreciate it, even those of the shortlived series where Mark Hamill first made his appearance as the Trickster. The episode imbues itself with a sense of cartoonish violence that works well with the show’s lighter atmosphere, the umbrella bombs floating to the ground at a playground being both disturbing and whimsical. And it manages to include Iris (if only a little bit) and have a moment between Barry and his father, who gets a break from prison after being abducted by the Tricksters. He embraces a suited up Barry, proud to see him as he always saw him, and Henry even has some friendly words for Harrison Wells, who he knows has been instrumental to helping Barry through this.
And “Tricksters” finally explains what the deal is with Wells and the future and Nora Allen’s murder. Though the finer details are left undiscovered for the main characters, it’s explained to us via flashbacks to fifteen years ago when Nora was murdered. The wild Flash/Reverse Flash fight is a demonstration in the show’s special effects abilities and a fun and intense way to see the episode open. We see the Reverse Flash speeding away, only to have the speed force abandon him on the way there, marooning him in the present day with no way of getting home. And it’s not Harrison Wells, it’s someone else, played by Matt Letscher. Eobard Thawne turns to Harrison Wells and his wife Tess (Bre Blair), whose particle accelerator will one day give countless people their gifts. To speed up the process, Thawne causes the car accident that kills Tess and, using a futuristic Fringe-esque device, takes on Wells’ appearance and transforms him something resembling a raisin, and now he’s Wells and this is how all our problems got started.
- I don’t know if I’m annoyed or not by every episode being a teaching moment for Barry and his superspeed.