The Flash is about to speed its way past an important mile marker for any TV show: making it to 100 episodes.
In Tuesday’s landmark installment “What’s Past is Prologue,” which was directed by star Tom Cavanagh, Barry/the Flash (Grant Gustin) and his future daughter Nora/XS (Jessica Parker Kennedy) travel back through the show’s timeline in order to collect items they need to defeat season 5’s big bad Cicada (Chris Klein), whose identity they discovered at the end of the last week’s episode.
“In traveling back to the past, they run into a number of what might amount to our greatest hits, if we’ve had any greatest hits at all,” Cavanagh tells EW, explaining that the setup allowed them focus on the season’s plot and celebrate this milestone. “one of the things that we wanted to do with the 100th is that we felt like it’s a benchmark we should honor, but at the same time we didn’t just want to go back through our catalog and say, ‘Hey, look at the cool things that we’ve done over the years.’ I think the challenge for the hundred was trying to figure out a way to hit some of those touch-tones in an organic way and still make the plot immediate and inherent to what we’re doing this season.”
Below, Cavanagh — who previously directed season 3’s “The Once and Future Flash” and season 4’s “Elongated Journey into Night” — previews what we can expect from the episode; from revisiting a heartbreaking moment between Barry and Iris (Candice Patton), to an important father-daughter moment.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Barry traveled to the future in the first episode you directed, and this time around you’re jumping through the timeline. What was it like having to juggle all of the time periods?
TOM CAVANAGH: First off, it’s fun. This is a comic book essentially and when you open up pages to the comic book, you kind of expect there to be spectacle and entertainment and it vibes away from sort of a procedural bent. I think the people that like the Flash enjoy that. For this one, it was revisiting some of the things that we’ve done, but with a different perspective. What that means practically is you have to recreate some things, you have to invent new things, you have to have new angles, and you have to find ways to incorporate some of the footage that we’ve already used in an organic way from different perspectives.
One of the things I attempted to do — we made a really solid effort at it — was we talked a lot less in this episode; we show a lot more. It’s enjoyable because I think the audience knows these characters very well, and to sit with them and lean into their feelings, as opposed to sit back and listen to what they’re saying, I think in many ways, can be very gratifying, and I think we certainly attempted that in this episode.
In the promo, we saw that you’ll be playing the Thawne version of Harrison Wells again. What was it like revisiting that version of Harrison Wells?
It feels very natural to me. That’s the reason I signed onto the show, so it’s never that far away. Every time I create a new character, the Eobard character is sort of a starting point, a hub of a wheel from which we generate the multitude of other characters. It’s almost as if you started doing one character and as the season progresses you keep jumping back into that suit. It’s just very, very familiar. It just feels very natural. Does that make sense? What I’m saying, there’s no trumpets blaring, there’s no gala music swelling as I step into the suit. It’s like, “Yeah, this is exactly right.”
The promo also includes Savitar and Zoom. Are there any other familiar faces we can expect to see in the episode?
There’s a number of people, and I don’t want to give it away because we tried to be inclusive without making it a list, if that makes sense. There’s certain statements that even if we don’t have an opportunity to meld them into the show itself, we’re referencing them. There’s one sequence that I put together that I think goes as far we can to honor the people that brought us the 100th episode and it’ll be readily apparent when we see it.
Is there anything else you want to add?
I think one of the nicer things about it is that we’re all kind of, I don’t know if gobsmacked is the right word, but I think everybody appreciates how rare it is. You can go one of two ways: You can feel a sense of entitlement when you’re on a show that doesn’t have the sword of Damocles hanging over and you’re not on the bubble, or you can be like, “Oh man, this is amazing we have this, that we have it with these people no less, that we genuinely like each other.” So much in life is fleeting and I think that you can either approach it as something that is always going to be there, or you can say, “I’m extremely fortunate to have this moment.” I think by and large when we approach our show The Flash, we proceed from gratitude, and getting to triple digits was something that was unexpected and we certainly don’t take for granted. When I’m talking to you because it’s 100, or we have that onslaught of media attention, in a pleasant way, it serves as a reminder of how fortunate we are.
The Flash airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on The CW.