The 100th episode of The Flash, “What’s Past is Prologue,” took viewers back to key moments in the lives of superhero Barry Allen (Grant Gustin), Iris West-Allen (Candice Patton), and the rest of Team Flash. Long-defeated villains had a chance to menace Barry once more, as the show indulged in one of its most delightfully self-referential hours. When Rotten Tomatoes caught up with executive producer Todd Helbing on the show’s Vancouver set recently, he said assembling the ambitious story was “tricky.”
Tom Cavanagh, who plays a number of characters on the show (Eobard Thawne, Harrison Wells, and many, many more), directed the episode as well — and told RT that he felt an obligation to pay tribute to both the series and its fans.
“As someone who’s been put in charge of the one hundredth, one of the principles for me was ‘Let’s honor that,’” he explained. “Let’s try and get a really good story so that it can be exemplary of what we try to do [every week.]”
The resulting episode includes plenty of amazing callbacks to its history that eagle-eyed fans no doubt appreciated. Here are some of our favorite Easter Eggs embedded in the episode.
As Cisco (Carlos Valdes) and Caitlin (Danielle Panabaker) debate the best days for Barry and Nora (Jessica Parker Kennedy) to visit on their trip through the past, the markerboard is filled with very specific dates. According to Helbing, each date on the board reflects the day the series’ episodes were originally aired, starting with Dec. 11, 2013 — the night of the particle accelerator explosion as it appeared in “Three Ghosts,” the second-season episode of Arrow that saw Barry struck by lightning.
May 23, 2017 was the night of the season 3 finale, featuring Barry’s victory over his angry time remnant self, Savitar. April 19, 2016 was the airdate of “Versus Zoom” and the day Zoom (Teddy Sears) stole Barry’s speed.
Although not part of their original plan, Barry and Nora flee from the time wraith to land on January 27, 2015. That was the airdate of “The Sound and the Fury,” a first-season episode now remarkable for the sheer number of times Barry’s gone back to it while seeking the counsel of Eobard Thawne (who was still masquerading as Harrison Wells). But more on that in a moment.
Curiously, not all of the series’ airdates made it to the full board, which was seen when Cisco circled the season 2 target. Episodes aired on April 26 and May 10 in 2016, but were absent from the team’s list.
Since the beginning of the show, Cisco has been charged with naming the metahuman criminals and devices Team Flash encounters. But the scene in “What’s Past Is Prologue” sees every member of the team debating what to call the counter-device to Cicada’s (Chris Klein) power-dampening dagger. The scene holds a special place in Valdes’s heart.
“The No. 1 challenge doing this show is trying to make those naming moments feel organic and special,” the actor told RT. “The challenge for me is making it feel spontaneous and unique every time.”
While we’re talking about Cisco, Barry and Nora’s trip back to the accelerator explosion also takes us back to a time when he habitually wore a hoodie — even to the dedication ceremony. While that article of clothing was a staple in the first season, it hasn’t really been seen since.
“We made a very specific decision at some point in the second season where we said ‘Cisco has officially graduated from hoodies, his wardrobe is changing,’” Valdes revealed. But in putting a hoodie on again to recreate the night of the explosion, the actor’s feelings on the wardrobe staple have changed. “I was just thinking today that maybe it’s time to bring the hoodie back.”
And since we’re back at the night of the accelerator explosion, the 100th episode features the most comprehensive version of that event with shots adding Professor Martin Stein (Victor Garber), Ronnie Raymond (Robbie Amell), Clifford DeVoe (Neil Sandilands), and his wife Marlize (Kim Englebrecht) to the sequence in a more naturalistic way. It also places the latter couple in a clear context during Wells’s dedication speech.
Going back to that night still leaves one question, though: what happened to Iris’ dissertation? When we asked Patton about it, she just laughed and said, “I don’t know.” Maybe it was Flashpointed out of existence.
The sequence places every subsequent character revealed to be at the explosion in context, but it could have been even more comprehensive.
“We wanted to go back to more Thinker and Marlize,” Helbing explained. “It’s funny — when Tom Cavanagh handed over his cut, it was only five minutes over, which isn’t a lot, but it was a whole act and there was a lot of stuff we had to cut out unfortunately.”
As mentioned above, Barry and Nora visit January 27, 2015, the day Barry previously invaded in the first season to get Thawne’s help in defeating Zoom. Realizing they appeared on that specific day, Barry wasted no time phasing into the Time Vault to confront Thawne-as-Wells, who already had the previous Barry sedated.
Their discussion got heated, so it took a moment for Thawne to notice he did not recognize the speedster with Barry. He rattled off an interesting list of names: Jesse Chambers, someone with the last name of Lawrence, and Danica Williams before assuming Nora was Barry’s daughter Dawn Allen.
First appearing in 1968’s Adventure Comics #373, Dawn Allen and her twin brother Don were known as the Lightning Twins in the Legion of Superheroes’ 30th Century. The occasional speedsters were revealed to be the children of Barry and Iris thanks to some time-travel shenanigans that saw them settling in that era. And it seems the twins were destined to be Barry’s children prior to Flashpoint, as Thawne even tells Barry “at least you still have one” when he realizes Nora is a new version of Dawn.
Unless, of course, Thawne meant Barry still has one “Nora.”
Curiously enough, Gideon subsequently mentions Nora is the fifth recruit of the “rebooted” Legion of Superheroes — a nod to her comic-book counterpart XS, Barry’s granddaughter Jenni Ognats, who would appear as part of Legion of Superheroes‘ first continuity reboot in 1994.
Jesse Chambers and “Lawrence,” meanwhile, both refer to Liberty Belle, a legacy character in the early 2000s Justice Society of America comic book. As the daughter of the Golden Age Liberty Belle — aka Libby Lawrence — and Johnny Quick, Jesse had both speed and strength on her side. She also honored her parents by alternating between her mother’s Liberty Belle persona and helping the other speedsters as Jesse Quick — a name used on the show by Harry Wells’ daughter Jesse (Violett Beane).
Danica Williams is the Flash of the 2040s who first appeared in Batman Beyond Unlimited #13. While not a member of the West-Allen family, she does have a connection to the Speed Force that allows her the ability to contact speedsters like Wally West and Jay Garrick. But for Flash viewers, the most interesting aspect is her place in future history. The 2040s are an important time in the Arrowverse with A.R.G.U.S. hunting metahumans, Star City in shambles, and a certain supervillain locked up in Iron Heights Prison.
And speaking of Wells — or Thawne-as-Wells — Cavanagh told us the biggest logistical challenge of the episode was “playing four characters and also directing them.” In what might be a record for the show, Cavanagh appears as four takes on Wells: Sherloque Wells in the present day, Harry Wells in the season 2 sequence, Thawne-as-Wells in the season 1 moments, and an incarcerated Thawne-as-Wells in 2049.
Trying to make sense of the two versions of Thawne-as-Wells may split your brain open, but we think we know the order of events: The Thawne who Nora talks to in 2049 is most likely the one Barry let escape at the end of last year’s crossover event, “Crisis on Earth-X.” If that is the case, he is the most current version of Thawne, while the Thawne-as-Wells who Nora meets in the season 1 sequence is, essentially, his younger self. That suggests the one in Iron Heights has a memory of Barry and Nora’s visit to January 27, 2015, and their conversation in his past no doubt set up all the ways he’s manipulating her. At least, that’s our theory.
Yeah, all the variations of Eobard Thawne — including the time remnant from DC’s Legends of Tomorrow played by Matt Letscher — make us scratch our heads, too.
For those of you who think Sherloque may also be Thawne, know that Helbing denied it, saying Sherloque’s bow to Nora and the use of the phrase “clever girl” at the end of the episode does not mean as much as fans might be reading into it. Nonetheless, we’re still unsure about Sherloque. If he is another version of Thawne, what is his game?
As the newest member of the cast, Parker said the episode was “a way for me [as Nora], but also in my real life, to be a part of [the show’s past] for a second.” Reliving some key moments of Flash history, sometimes with new angles, made it “really, really special” (although she also admitted she “read that script so many times” to understand the various time periods).
And as for The Flash himself? “Grant remembered,” she said.
Gustin was more modest when asked about returning to the scenes featured in the 100th episode.
“I have the episodes as reference,” he said before adding, “I was pretty familiar with them.”
The Flash airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on The CW.