All other superhero shows on television at this very moment should be tuning in to watch The Flash each and every week on The CW. It’s hard to find a flaw in the show’s armor, but perhaps the only downside is that it’s burning through characters so quickly that it will be rather difficult to keep up this pace over future seasons. All shows eventually stumble, so we must enjoy the excellent run of episodes at present. And while “The Sound and the Fury” was one of the best hours so far, I offer up this interesting thought for your consideration: perhaps The Flash is just getting started.
(Oh hey, Barry’s back to being the fastest guy alive tonight! Take that, Reverse Flash!)
Tonight’s episode takes a page from Arrow in that it opens with a car/motorcycle chase; the difference here is that Barry can easily run the culprits down on foot. He’s so fast, in fact, that he’s able to redirect the criminals to a convenient pick-up spot for the police through a strategic placement of barricades, thanks to Wells’ direction. (Was that the Royal Flush gang?! Editor’s addition two minutes later: YUP!)
We get a peek at Wells’ home life as he walks … walks … through a swanky, cutting edge abode while ‘Nessun Dorma’ plays (though the glass walls aren’t exactly hiding his secret very well). He gets an unexpected call from someone calling himself “the Piper” and then, if any doubters remained, zips to safety quite speedily, accompanied by red streaks of lightning.
The next morning, the cops arrive at his home where Wells is wheelchair-bound once more. He seems to be taking the attempted attack pretty well. (And a flashback sequence shows Wells playing chess against a younger but nearly intellectual equal. Cisco arrives on the scene for the first time at S.T.A.R. Labs. Hartley Rathaway [Andy Mientus], Wells’ protege, feels threatened by Cisco’s arrival, but Wells assures the young man that he’s still the main guy.)
Barry uses his superspeed to amp up his forensics investigation, piecing the broken window back together and determining that there’s no point of impact. Wells soon reveals that Hartley Rathaway – the “prodigal son” who “has returned” – was responsible for the attack. Here’s as good a time as any to point those unfamiliar with this character in the comics to the Pied Piper’s Wiki page.
Wells, Cisco, and Caitlin educate Barry and Joe on the rough personality of Rathaway, who, according to Cisco, is “kind of a jerk, but sometimes a dick.” (In another flashback, Rathaway grudgingly gives Cisco a tour. When Cisco stands up to the intellectual bully, Caitlin immediately takes a liking to the new addition.) After viewers get some exposition on Rathaway’s background from the lab team, Barry shows Joe the science of frequencies and vibration. Physics 101 takes a back seat to some of Joe’s concerns over just how big a part of Barry’s life Wells has become. That conversation is also paused as Rathaway starts causing trouble downtown. It becomes quickly apparent that Rathaway’s sound tech is little match for Barry’s speed, but the Piper plays a wild card: he hints that Wells is not who he says he is, which gives Barry and the team pause.
Barry shepherds Rathaway back to the S.T.A.R. Labs’ makeshift prison – oh they’re repurposed anti-proton containment areas! After dropping a few origin-story tidbits (ie developing debilitating aural pains thanks to hitting his head during the particle accelerator explosion), Rathaway and Wells share a conversation in Latin. Rathaway also lets Barry know that Wells is more dangerous than he is. Wells sidesteps this dark secret by telling the team that Rathaway warned him about the potential explosion of the accelerator. While Caitlin and Cisco aren’t too happy with him, Barry reminds Wells that they stuck by him, but is disappointed in how he repaid their trust.
Soon, Cisco figures out that not only could Rathaway have taken down his father’s entire laboratory with his sonic powers, but that he wanted to be caught so that he could wreak havoc on S.T.A.R. Labs from within. During his escape, Wells seems to suffer some sort of paralyzing weakness while Cisco nearly gets blown away by one of Piper’s explosives. Rathaway, a real jerk who is not above suckerpunching women, hacks into S.T.A.R. Labs’ system, retrieves his sonic gauntlets, and disappears faster than Barry can arrive.
Cisco’s fine, aside from a concussion, and Wells takes the blame for Piper’s attacks. He scoots off into the sunset to earn back the team’s trust. (Another flashback reveals Rathaway warning Wells about the dangerous accelerator. Rathaway attempts to be a whistleblower but Wells terminates him and threatens to end his career if he breathes a word of dissension.) Wells isn’t exactly a superheroic presence in the public eye, so he takes to the podium to clear the air about the accelerator’s explosion and what he knew about it. Rathaway is listening intently. (Somewhere, Arrow is screaming, “You have failed this city!)
At the lab, Wells assures Cisco that he’s similar to Rathaway in intellect, but vastly superior in heart. In case that message needed to be clearly demonstrated, Rathaway challenges The Flash in what he sees as a final game of chess between teacher and student. Cisco tracks Piper by seismic activity caused by his blasts thanks to Wells’ suggestion. Piper passes the time by launching passenger-filled cars off a bridge over a dam. The Flash tries to save as many people as he can while also trying to disarm Piper. Turns out that Piper has all the S.T.A. R. Labs data on Barry’s molecular composition, ie The Flash’s unique frequency. The villain allows The Flash to “defeat him” so that he can use the hero’s own communication devices to vibrate at a killing frequency, shearing his organs apart. Wells gets in on the hero game and uses the nearby cars’ satellite radios to produce a frequency that disables Piper’s weapons. (This is why you should study science, kids!)
With Wells having restored trust with his team (shown by Barry gifting him their group photo and with an accompanying monologue near episode’s end), the S.T.A.R. Labs group is firing on all cylinders. Joe, however, is not convinced, and even though he and Barry share another delightful father/son moment, it’s revealed that Joe is having Thawne investigate Wells, by going through the scientist’s home for starters.
Back in the less heroic world, Barry and Joe celebrate briefly when Iris gets a job offer for a legitimate publication thanks to her popular blog. She shows up to her first staff meeting to find her coworkers cold and unwelcoming. It quickly becomes apparent that Iris’ own story ideas will be taking a backseat to stories on The Flash. Iris runs afoul of Pulitzer-winning writer, Mason Bridge, who is acting like a real troll (snicker). Iris predictably goes to Barry for comfort, which is easier for her than it is for Barry. At Wells’ press conference, in a nice play between this episode’s storylines, Bridge asks Wells if he plans to rebuild the accelerator, but Wells asks Iris for a question instead. She acts the professional and repeats her colleague’s question, to which Wells responds, “No.”
And now, the episode’s dual stingers:
Cisco attempts to gloat over the recaptured Rathaway, who says that Cisco will soon release him from his prison. Why would he do such a thing? Oh, because Rathaway knows what happened to Ronnie Raymond after the accelerator explosion, and how to help him. For more tidbits on this plot arc, check out Sheila’s recent interview with The Flash star, Robbie Amell.
Wells’ tachyon exposure is nearing its maximum, whatever that means. He’s talking to Gideon (his AI), wondering why he can’t hold onto his superspeed. Wells reveals that this device was only a temporary fix, and that “the real endgame is almost here.”
Wells alone is a compelling enough villain to carry this show through its first season, but we’ve had a host of excellent appearances from the DC canon. With the facts that Captain Cold and Heat Wave are once again in the wind, and that the Pied Piper may soon barter his way out of prison, the Rogues may unite on screen against the Flash sometime relatively soon. (This is, of course, hampered by Captain Boomerang’s incarceration and Weather Wizard’s apparent death.) How much better can this show realistically get?? (Confession: I want to give it five stars, but it’s somehow likely that this isn’t the best hour we’ve seen. Not yet.)
Rating: ★★★★ Very good — Damn fine television
(An explanation of our ratings system follows here.)
Wells: “Who knows, maybe people in the future will want to know how all this happened.” Cheeky.
Caitlin: “Does that count as a selfie?” Cisco: “Absolutely.”
Hartley Rathaway: “I don’t trust someone who shows up to work at a billion-dollar company wearing a ‘Keep Calm and Han Shot First’ shirt…”
Rathaway: “Caitlin Snow, Cisco Ramon, and Harrison Wells. Is that them listening? Are they gonna hear you die?” The Flash: “No, they’re gonna hear you get your ass kicked.”
Rathaway: “Caitlin, never did get that wedding invite.” Ouch. Best burn on the show so far.
Oh, and if it seemed like the writers were playing up the Pied Piper’s fabulous side, you’re not imagining things. The Rogue is one of DC Comics’ openly gay characters.
Rathaway: “One day this man will turn on you … in a flash.”
Iris: “Hi Chief! Is that what people call you?” Larkin: “No, not really.”
Do we think Cisco will somehow get his “Vibe” powers after his run-in with the sonic-suited Pied Pieper? Either in some sort of metahuman conversion or technological inspiration?
Barry: “Must be hard for you.” Joe: “What, to be this handsome?”
Shoutout to Richard Dawkins and Neil deGrasse Tyson!