The Flash celebrates a special 100th episode with, “What’s Past is Prologue,” which is not only a very eventual episode for the show, but leads into this year’s big crossover, Elseworlds. They are all over the place (and the time) this episode, which was directed by Tom Cavanagh, AKA the many different Harrison Wells and Eobard Thawne. A whole lot happened here, so there will be some spoilers below. Be warned.
The episode opens with Ralph and Sherloque running surveillance on Orlin Dwyer, AKA Cicada. After a subtle nod to the episode with “I must have shot a hundred,” referring to the pictures they are taking, the Detective Duo return to STAR and run down everything they’ve learned about the metahuman serial killer. When Barry learns Dwyer goes to the hospital to see Grace regularly, he’s all for going to get him then and there. Wells points out a few flaws with this idea.
The team gets bogged down in a really amusing debate over what to call a piece of equipment they don’t have when Nora interrupts and asks if they can just build what they’re lacking. The others look dubious, and Wells summarizes the problems in assembling this very specific list of items from their technical scavenger hunt. Nora comes up with an original idea, although it involves something Barry has sworn off: time travel. An idea slowly forms among the team about how to do this, although Wells is clearly getting suspicious.
Barry argues with Nora about her coming along on this dangerous time trip. Iris takes the somewhat surprising position that Nora should be allowed to go, and Barry eventually agrees. Cisco runs through what they need to do and when they need to do it, and the team goes to get ready. Wells shares a portion of his suspicions with Cisco, who doesn’t seem to be buying into it. Interestingly, Nora’s journal is written in a strange language that they’ve seen once before: when Barry came back from the Speed Force in that strange fugue state.
They get set to go, and Cisco tosses Barry the Flash ring. Cicso has figured out how the costume reduction bit works, but cautions the hero against using his future costume in the past. Barry gives several instructions to Nora about this trip, and she counters with a really excellent question. Ralph, getting into the spirit of the thing, fires up Huey Lewis’ “Back In Time,” which was part of the Back To The Future soundtrack. Ralph tries to get his mind around the concept of the time travelers returning to the moment they left.
Their first trip goes all right as they end up on the night of Savitar’s defeat. Considering how much time she spends in the Flash Museum in the future, I’m kind of surprised Nora didn’t recognize Savitar. Their plan hits the first snag when a Time Wraith pops up, causing the two to separate. For something so important, it’s weird Nora only grabs one small piece of Savitar’s armor. They elude the wraith for now, and are off to the next stop on their time tour: one of the climactic battles with Zoom/Jay Garrick. Barry bluffs his way through a conversation with the Wells of Earth 2, finally gets what he needs, and they take off again. Zoom tries to come after them, and the Time Wraith stops him, but the resultant chaos breaks the gadget they needed. Barry is desperate, and Nora comes up with the idea of going to their first Wells, Eobard Thawne from the future. Barry hates the idea, but is persuaded since they don’t have a lot of options at this point.
Nora and Barry phase into the time vault at STAR, and run across Thawne, holding the earlier Barry prisoner. Wells/Thawne tries to figure out when they are from, and name drops several other speedsters as he tries to place Nora. There’s a lot of tension and vitriol between Barry and Thawne, but the evil genius eventually agrees to help them. He also makes a lot of odd comments about Nora. After a few twists and turns, they have what they need, and Barry and Nora go the night it all began: the particle accelerator explosion at STAR.
The father and daughter heroes play a high stakes game of hide and seek with Thawne/Wells, and there’s a sort of revisit of one of Wells’ nastier stunts with Cisco. Finally, the accelerator goes off, and we see how many people it effects, including Barry himself, Martin Stein, Ronnie Raymond, the Mardon brothers, and Cliff DeVoe. They really do work a lot into the crowd scene, including younger Barry and Iris. There are a few amusing scenes of Thawne with the younger Caitlin and Cisco as well.
Barry and Nora are once again in the time vault, and Gideon almost manages to get out that Nora is a member of the Legion of Super Heroes in the future before being interrupted (although the time scale for that is all wrong). Barry gets what they needed from the explosion, and fills Nora in on the reason for the bad blood between Barry and Thawne. Nora is shocked to say the least. Thawne is brought to the hospital beside the comatose Barry Allen, and tended to by Dr. Ambers, who will later be Cicada’s ally. Barry and Nora hide their gadget where they will need it in a few years, and return to their “present,” startling Ralph, who wonders if they’ve even gone at all.
With all the pieces in place, the team takes off for their confrontation with Cicada. Flash dramatically stands in the street, calling Cicada out. The killer goes after the hero, and goes on a villain soliloquy about his motivations and his plans for himself when he concludes his quest. The rest of the team shows up, and Cisco gets the satisfaction of showing Cicada that the killer failed in his case. Cisco then does something really, really dumb that alters the course of the battle. Then it’s Cicada’s turn for a surprise as we see that the unique origin of one of the team greatly lessens Cicada’s ability to affect them. A staggered Cicada escapes, and the team isn’t really in any shape to stop him.
After a celebration/explanation back at STAR, Nora has a tense scene with Wells. He learns a few things, she offers some lame explanation, and then takes off. She goes back to see Henry and Nora before all the chaos overtook them. Barry joins her, watching them for a bit. Nora then pays a visit on her own, and we learn what’s up with her journal and the big surprise of who she’s apparently been reporting too all this time. I have to say, I didn’t see that coming.
What I liked: I thought this was a great episode all the way around. The group worked well together, and the “greatest hits’ moments of Barry and Nora’s trip were well done. The final confrontation with Cicada was well played for the most part, and I really liked the way the day was saved for the heroes. The multiple name drops of various DC characters were nice Easter Eggs. Cavanagh did a great job not just directing, but playing several different characters. He especially gave Thawne that air of coiled menace.
What I didn’t: As I said, Cisco made a dumb choice in the battle. I sort of get why, but he should know better. Then again, I don’t know that anyone expected Cicada’s powers to have that kind of range.
I’ll give this a high 4.5 out of 5. It was a great episode. The teaser for the crossover looks ugly, but it did establish, as was confirmed by the people behind the scenes, that the original Flash tv show was on the same Earth with Smallville, now dubbed Earth 90, since that’s when the shows were on the air.
I’m really looking forward to the crossover.