Title: The Flash: “What’s Past is Prologue” Review
Release Date: December 4th, 2018
Network: The CW
Genre: Superhero, Drama, Action
“What’s Past is Prologue” is the 100th episode of The Flash and probably the best episode of season five.
Over the past few days, I’ve written up a list of the Top 10 Best Episodes of The Flash (Here’s Part One and Part Two of said list). Just a gut feeling but if I had to rewrite it now, “What’s Past is Prologue” may take a spot on that list.
The trailers for the episode worried me quite a bit. It seemed that the reasoning behind the trip to the past was flimsy at best. Luckily, we were given strong motivation for this time-travel adventure in the form of creating a counter-measure for Cicada’s dagger. Nora and Barry had to travel to the events of Savitar’s “Ascension”, Zoom’s reign of terror, and the night of the Particle Accelerator explosion.
Barry’s reluctance to bring Nora along made sense from his perspective. There have been many tragedies throughout his life. Nora didn’t know about any of them and he wanted to protect her from those horrible events. Jessica Parker Kennedy’s Nora West-Allen could have thrown a wrench into this entire season. And there were moments leading up to this episode where I thought the character would fall into my most hated Arrowverse character list alongside Vandal Savage, the Hawks, and that one guy from The Flash season four who wouldn’t stop calling people “coppers”.
Yeah, that’s the guy. He was extremely annoying and way too over-the-top for me.
Anyway, even though The Flash has shown hints of dragging Nora down to those depths, it has always brought her back for a satisfying arc. For examples, see “All Doll’d Up” and “O Come, All Ye Thankful”. Jessica Parker Kennedy also deserves some high praise as well. She’s kept up with (and sometimes even outshined) Grant Gustin in many big-time scenes this season. That scene the two shared in the time-vault was just about the only slow spot in an otherwise jam-packed episode. Which isn’t a complaint as it gave Nora perspective on the dangers of being a vigilante hero.
Since it was such a jam-packed episode, it’s probably for the best to go through the timeline events as they happened on-screen.
The Savitar stuff lasted just as long as it needed to. The villain was mishandled at times during his run as the big bad but he was vastly important to the show’s story and Barry’s character development. By dealing with Savitar, Barry learned the hard way to stay away from time-travel. Wait, maybe he didn’t learn anything at all.
Before obtaining a part of Savitar’s suit, Nora got to witness Iris shoot Savitar in the back. I actually thought this would be a bigger deal as CW shows love to squeeze out drama wherever they can. Thankfully, I was wrong as it was just to set up a later scene where Iris comforts Barry after he loses his speed to Zoom. After a race against a time wraith (who have been mysteriously absent since the show’s second season finale), the two speedsters head off to get a part from Zoom.
Man, I missed Teddy Sears as Zoom (along with Tony Todd as the demonic voice). Although the character fizzled out a bit before his demise in season two, Sears’ performance as a crazed serial killer was on-par with the best Arrowverse villains we’ve seen (except for one, who’ll you will hear about later). What’s interesting here is the possibility of the timeline getting jumbled up, again. Zoom not only saw Barry with his speed but also saw Nora as well. As he grabbed onto Barry, a time wraith plucked Zoom out of the speed-force and that was the last we saw the demonic speedster. His goal in season two was to conquer and kill other speedsters, making him the true fastest man alive. Seeing Nora and being abducted by a time wraith might have set Zoom on a different path. Maybe he’ll even show up in the future as the main antagonist again.
Then we get to the real highlight of this episode. Remember how I said Sears’ Zoom is ranked up there with the best of the Arrowverse except for one. Well, that one is Tom Cavanagh’s Reverse-Flash. Every time he’s on-screen as the man in yellow it is just tense. You hang on to every word and wonder how he’s going to benefit from the new information he’s given. The short time spent between him and the West-Allen speedsters felt like a twisted family reunion.
The only downside for me is the conclusion to the Cicada plot. And it really hurts me to say this because this episode was so close to being absolutely perfect. Nothing noteworthy happened with him except for the “revelation” that Killer Frost is immune to his dagger (which pretty much everyone assumed anyway). Other than for our amusement and maybe Zoom’s survival, what was the purpose of the time-traveling?
As for our big cliffhanger. Not to brag but I’ve been predicting that the Reverse-Flash had orchestrated Nora’s mission to the past for weeks. Still, I absolutely loved the vindication when he showed up in the prison cell. Nora clearly didn’t know of Thawne’s hideous misdeeds before the trip through the speed-force. It’ll be interesting to see Team Flash’s reaction when they discover that Nora has been in contact with Thawne all along.
Here are just a few bullet points for some of my observations from the mid-season finale of The Flash that didn’t make it in this review:
- For those of you who didn’t know, Tom Cavanagh actually directed this episode. I hope he gets more opportunities to direct in the future because he’s earned it.
- I complimented Jessica Parker Kennedy in the review but Grant Gustin deserves some appreciation as well. Barry’s transition from the naive hero to a parental mentor has been so easy and you have to give some credit to Gustin for his portrayal.
- Didn’t get to catch all of the names Thawne blurted out in the time vault. Guess I’m going to have to rewatch the episode and Google who they are.
- Is it just me or is time-hacking going to be like the time-remnant reveal in season two? Because I have a feeling that this is how Team Flash will take down Cicada and/or Reverse-Flash.
- Fixing up the cowl has done wonders on my opinion of the new Flash suit. At most, just add the chin-strap back and it should look perfect.
- For the love of God Cisco, why did you tell the evil supervillain where you breached his overpowered weapon? And why didn’t you send it to another Earth?
- We got to see Reverse-Flash, Zoom, Savitar, The Thinker, and even Grodd in the 100th episode. The only villain I thought was missing from the historic milestone was Wentworth Miller’s Captain Cold.
Next week is the three-night “Elseworlds” crossover event. I’ll be reviewing all three episodes of this crossover, starting this Sunday night with The Flash (for some reason, The Flash starts the crossover this year).
Verdict: “What’s Past is Prologue” is a remarkable episode filled with nostalgic moments from the best of The Flash so far. Although the Cicada plot stalled a bit at the end, the 100th episode of The Flash succeeded in just about every other way. Judging from past history, the West-Allen family could have messed up time again and set up some shocking reveals down the line. What remains to be seen is how the Reverse-Flash fits into all of this and if he’ll play a role in Cicada’s plan.
- The trip to the past and motivation for revisiting those parts of time
- Possible changes to the timeline
- Tom Cavanagh's Reverse Flash
- Teddy Sears and Tony Todd return as Zoom
- Nora's secret is revealed
- Pretty much everything else other than my one "Con" below
- The conclusion to Cicada's plotline