Just like last week’s Arrow, we start off with a motorcycle chase. Barry zooms around after three motorcycles and, with the help of Dr. Wells, corners them without their keys. Our thematic monologue of the week has to do with heroes. “Everyone has a hero. What’s hard is when our heroes stop believing in us.” There are two layers to this opener and it all has to do with Harrison Wells and his two different layers.
Back at the lab, Cisco is so pumped, he wants a picture of Barry in the suit. “Pretty sure rule number one of having a secret identity is not taking pictures of yourself in your super suit without a mask on.” (Let’s ignore the part where Caitlin is more worried about her make-up — it seemed a bit out of character to me.) Barry takes a Speed Selfie (a Flashie?) all before the phone falls to the floor. (Nobody had a tripod?) Harrison agrees so quickly, I feel like this photo will become important in the future.
Later, at Joe and Barry’s Super Bachelor Pad, Iris is rifling through some of her things. “You do realize that the point of moving out is not being at home, right?” Says you, Barry, who just moved back home and was there all the time before that. Joe comes home and they’re all a happy family again — Iris even gets a job offer. Central City Picture News wants Iris to start tomorrow!
In contrast to our happy, homey family, Harrison arrives at a large (and I mean LARGE) house — really, it seems like “estate” is more the term. It’s dark and empty, despite the fireplace and classical music. Here, Wells can be himself — no wheelchair, no glasses (I guess those are props like the wheelchair is). Before he can really settle in, he gets a mysterious phone call: “We both know what you did.” Wells has a gun at the ready. “It’s time to pay the piper.” The phone call was just a distraction, though. The large glass panels above Wells’ entire… estate… come crashing down upon him. He escapes harm by using the speed force — which we finally see him use in full in the present day — narrowly avoiding being sliced to death. the next morning, CCPD arrives at the scene, Caitlin and Cisco arriving a little later. While Team Flash admires the digs, Harrison thinks about the maker of the phone call.
The Piper was a protege of his, a fellow chess loving, Latin spouting scientist who worked for S.T.A.R. Labs two years prior. Chess in film and TV is always fraught with metaphors and here is no different. The younger Piper — who we learn is Hartley Rathaway, thinks he has Wells “checked” “Looks like you’re between a rock and a hard place,” but Harrison mates him the next move. Basically the outcome of the episode — but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We see Cisco’s first day of work “Keep calm and Han shot first,” and learn that Hartley was a massive Jerk. Yes, with a capital J. That J also stands for Jealousy, because he’s affronted when Wells says that Cisco has the same potential Hartley did. “Hartley, you’re still my guy. And nothing and no one is ever gonna change that.” LIES. His name starts with a B and he goes really, really fast.
Hartley was going to run his family’s company, until he came out and was rejected by his “old money, old values” family. Hartley helped Wells with the particle accelerator. Cisco and Caitlin aren’t shy when sharing their dislike for Hartley with Barry. “He was a jerk. But sometimes, he was a dick.”
Hartley left Star Labs before the accelerator blew, partially because Hartley warned Harrison about the dangers of the accelerator, which Harrison ignored.
“What a coincidence, we were planning on making ‘yo, this place is so dope’ our new slogan.”
In the present, Iris is also having a first day full of jerky co-workers. No one wants to hear her original ideas, the “mentor” she’s partnered with has little interest in her “gumption,” and they only want to hear about The Flash, who she no longer speaks to.
Joe and Barry do a science experiment in Barry’s lab where Joe expresses his concerns about Wells. Barry starts to get defensive, but before they can discuss it further, they have to head over to Rathaway Industries, where Hartley is making a mess of things. (He also looks like he’s hot in that black hood in the sunny city…)
“Are they gonna hear you die?” “No, they’re gonna hear you get your ass kicked.”
Rathaway claims to know Harrison’s secret — the question we’re wondering is WHICH ONE? HE HAS LIKE FIFTY OF THEM!
Barry brings Rathaway into the belly of the beast, where he’s promptly placed in one of the holding cells. Mostly because he continues to be a jerk. He takes it a step too far when he taunts Caitlin about Ronnie. Both Barry and Cisco push Hartley around for asking about “the wedding invite.” Which is sweet because AWW TEAM FLASH IS A FAMILY! I love Caitlin’s little proud look when Hartley thinks the containment cells were Wells’ idea, when in fact they were Cisco’s. Then, Barry has a similar moment to me, where he gets a little lost when Hartley, Cisco, and Harrison all start speaking at each other in other languages. I took French. I was terrible at it. Barry, apparently, didn’t take any at all. There’s taunting and sneering and it seems like Hartley’s tucked away for good, but we know better.
“One day, this man will turn on you. In a flash. And you won’t see it coming.”
Because it’s coming in REVERSE?!? Sorry. Had to.
Wells decides to fess up — Hartley’s secret is that he KNEW about the risks of the particle accelerator before they turned it on, but he hid Hartley’s findings anyway. Caitlin and Cisco didn’t know this, they thought there was no chance for failure, and storm off. Barry drills into Harrison that he owes them more than an apology. Here is where Barry’s words from earlier make the most sense. Harrison is seen as a hero in the eyes of Team Flash and, formerly, Hartley. But he didn’t show his belief and faith in them. The road to being a hero is sometimes a two way street. The people must believe in you, but you must give them something back. Harrison is hoarding his secrets, he releases one but has so many stored up inside of him, but he doesn’t give anything to the people who believe in him so much. He doesn’t trust them back. Which makes the bonds of heroism a little weaker. But Barry doesn’t know that this more tenuous link between mentor and hero than he thinks. A thin string Hartley wants to snap.
“The people we admire aren’t always who we’d like them to be.”
Iris and Barry talk about their bad days — well, Iris talks and once she’s ready to hear about Barry’s, he’s gotta zoom. This really isn’t helping hide your secret identity from her, Barry!
Hartley’s escaped from his pod, attacking Cisco and Caitlin. Wells was doing some secret speed force tests(??) when the breach begins and we learn that the speed force might be what allows him to walk. It begins to fail him and he crumples to the ground. “Not now.” Though why was he so far from his chair to begin with? Another example of not being very good at your cover.
Harrison tries to appease Hartley and Team Flash by holding a press conference where he admits that he knew there was a chance for explosion. “As a new friend pointed out, I failed this city.” HE SAID IT, HE SAID THE THING! I don’t really get what this accomplishes though. As Hartley says later, the people of Central City already hated him.
Even though I can’t remember Harrison and Iris ever speaking (someone remind of when if they have), he kind of helps her out at the presser when he allows her a chance to speak. Was that just because he likes her as a person, because he wanted to give her a chance because of Barry, or does he know something about her future in journalism due to his insight into the future. Everything Wells does or says or agrees to is in question of whether he is molding things towards the future he wants.
Wells and Cisco share a nice scene.
”Do you know why I hired you?” “You saw something in me, I know.” “What I saw was humanity.”
Harrison proclaims what the audience does, Cisco’s warmth and humor adds to the experience of being at S.T.A.R. Labs, for us and for those who work their in the universe of the show. “There’s no chosen one, Cisco. No second or third favorite, there never was. There’s just us.”
AND THEN THE PIPER COMES CALLING. He draws the Flash to a freeway where he’s busting up cars. Barry swoops in and saves a woman from a car falling off the bridge! But the Piper took some notes on The Flash — literally stole them from S.T.A.R. Labs. He uses his sonic tech to make the electronic waves in Barry’s suit work against him. The Flash is down on the ground writhing in pain until Harrison thinks of all the Sirius XM players in the cars lined up on the road. He uses their transmitters to shut down Hartley’s tech.
Harrison and Barry reconnect, Barry gives Harrison a framed copy of their flashie (I know, stop trying to make “fetch” happen), which of course will appear later. Joe still isn’t convinced. He and Eddie are doing a little digging on Wells on their own.
As per every episode, Joe and Barry have a fantastic scene where Barry acknowledges how hard it must have been for Joe to raise him. As a hero, he’s trying to show the people that believe in him that he believes in them back, that he trusts them. Joe deserves this most of all, as there would be no Barry Allen to become the Flash. It’s as heartwarming as every scene between Barry and Joe has been since the show began. “None of them, no one could ever replace you. Not even Wells.” Give me a tissue guys!
Cisco goes to Hartley’s cell to gloat a little bit, but Hartley’s got an ace up his sleeve (is there a similar chess metaphor? Never mind, I am chessed out). He claims to know what happened to Ronnie, what fully happened, and where he is.
In a classic Wells Tag, we see Harrison with the tachyon device on his chest giving him access to the speed force and Gideon warning against increased exposure. But as we learned earlier in the episode, Harrison gives no figs about warnings or negative side effects, he only cares about the potential positive results. Harrison’s powers are in and out, he hasn’t stabilized, so he’s trying to find a way to make it permanent. He’s not worried that it’s not time yet, he’s assured that “the end game is almost here.” This is what he’s been studying Barry so intently for — to gain access to Barry’s powers and, in part, heal himself. This doesn’t seem to be the end of it though. What other secrets are you hiding Dr. Wells? I can tell we’ve only scratched the surface of your mysteries.
Eddie paints?! Did we know this and I forgot? Someone more well-versed than me: is this a comic character trait?DUH painting their APARTMENT. I didn’t think they’d repaint his apartment, but I suppose so.
- I don’t know enough chess for all the puns I probably could have used. Nor Latin.
- For those interested in Mientus’ portrayal of an openly gay villain, here are his thoughts in some of his own words.
- Wells calls Hartley “the prodigal son,” which doesn’t actually mean what everyone makes it mean. Its meaning has evolved over time, but the word “prodigal” strictly means: “spending money or resources freely and recklessly; wastefully extravagant,” none of which really applies here at all. I only recently realized this, since I’ve only ever used “prodigal” within the phrase as a son returning home — am I the only one who didn’t know it’s original meaning until recently?