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The Flash Recap “Who is Harrison Wells?”
April 24, 2015 By Trevor Richardson
“Who is Harrison Wells?” isn’t just the name of The Flash’s most recent episode, it is the overarching question that has tied this show together since its pilot. There were a lot of big reveals this week and the size and scope of the story was further enhanced by the Starling City crossover. There were some pretty fantastic moments, particularly using Cisco to upgrade Laurel’s “Canary Cry” to make her a more efficient Black Canary and his fanboy squeal when she outed herself in the interrogation room.
A lot was fit into the requisite forty-five minutes, but it didn’t felt too rushed or too heavy. It had an intensity and momentum that afforded just enough time on each plot point and no time to linger. This episode had zero fat, there was nothing to trim, nothing excessive or in the way. It really was just plain good.
As the investigation into Harrison Wells’ true identity deepens, Joe and Cisco take a field trip to Starling City to examine the crash site that led to the death of Wells’ fiancee, Tess. Last week, when Tina McGee explained the change in Wells after he lost Tess, she gave Barry a profound clue when she said he “became another person.” She was more right than anyone realized, until this week that is.
I think one of the smartest choices in the writing had to be using Caitlin as the voice of reason and the one person not on board with the Harrison Wells investigation. For one, it is always good to have a naysayer because it gives your characters a chance to talk out the details in an effort to convince them, which is a great way to get a lot of information out in a way that doesn’t seem contrived for our benefit. Moreover, it wouldn’t have been realistic to have everyone embrace the idea readily, it gave Caitlin a more active role in this story, and it was a chance to stir up some of her old demons by casting doubt on her life’s work with Harrison Wells as employer and mentor.
As usual, there were some decent laughs, despite the high stakes. A favorite has to be a pointlessly awesome moment that went down while Barry and Eddie were tracking this week’s meta, a shapeshifter named Hannibal Bates. They stop in on Bates’ grandmother and both attempt to fit side by side on the world’s smallest couch while questioning her about her grandson. It really was hilarious and I just get a big kick out of those touches that add nothing to the story except earning a little smile. It seemed pretty obvious that she was really Hannibal in disguise, but maybe that’s just because I watch entirely too much television and I can spot a trope a mile away. And, of course, a few short moments after the couch gag, the shifter has become Eddie and framed him for attempted murder.
The pursuit of Bates takes up most of Barry’s time this week and leads to a number of significant moments that are worth mentioning. This is a really good thing because my first reaction was to wonder if we really needed a meta on this episode, if maybe it might have been better to just focus on the issues with Wells, but it turns out I was dead wrong.
Meanwhile, back in Starling City, Captain Lance escorts Joe and Cisco to the accident site. Joe’s position as voice of reason and general solver of emotional problems remains intact. It looks like, not only did he head over to Starling City to solve the mystery of Harrison Wells, but also to drop some fatherly advice, dad to dad, on Lance. “Sometimes we lie for love,” was a bit of free insight in regard to Laurel lying to her dad about the death of Sarah for months and, while no immediate response is given, you can see the realization playing on Lance’s face. You need an objective person to tell you what everyone in your life has been saying all along sometimes, and I like the idea that this crossover might have been used to help mend some fences in addition to upgrading Sarah Lance’s sonic emitter tech via Cisco and, of course, find some evidence of Eobard Thawne’s time traveling shenanigans.
As the district attorney holds Eddie on attempted murder, Barry attempts to set him free. He talks about watching his father rot in prison for a crime he didn’t commit and says he can’t watch the same happen to Eddie. It was a heartfelt moment and maybe the most connection I’ve ever seen between the two characters. It felt like they suddenly get each other and aren’t just two guys forced together by circumstance. Eddie tells Barry that he was just a kid before and was helpless to do anything, but now he’s not. He says, “Now you’re The Flash,” and there is sincere reverence in his voice, like he is finally all the way on board with that fact. Next came what might be my favorite Eddie moment that wasn’t a sight gag or an awkward line to date. “You are going to find Bates and you are going to clear me.” Barry rushes him back to the interrogation room at the station before the escape is noticed and then Eddie adds, “Get me out of here the right way.”
Like so many things, it wasn’t simply what Eddie said, it was the way he said it. It just hits in the perfect way to seem powerful, putting him in a position to seem like he is in charge instead of pleading for help.
The body of Harrison Wells is discovered and brought back to STAR Labs. There can no longer be any doubt, not for Caitlin or for anyone else. The question now is what they plan to do next and the showdown between Flash and Reverse-Flash seems imminent, but whether it will play out in a time jump to Barry’s childhood remains to be seen.
Of course, just as we had begun to forget about any potential romance between Caitlin and Barry, this episode gives us a kiss between the two and brings it all back around again. The kiss was really from Bates in Barry’s shape, and despite the awkwardness in the moment and in the moments after, there was a line that is not to be overlooked. Caitlin says she knew it wasn’t Barry and, though I may be reaching, it occurred to me that she may have meant that it didn’t feel the way she thought it would feel if it was the real Barry. There have been hints of romance here and there throughout the show and this may be another.
Then comes the moment where Barry saves the day and everything gets all better. I thought the last fight with Bates was kind of just so-so. The action looked pretty cool, but why Barry pauses when Bates changes into the women in his life is beyond me. It’s not as if he didn’t know what he was going on, right? Barry injects the shapeshifter with a concoction that disrupts his powers and then we get a T-1000 meltdown as he quickly cycles through all of the characters he has posed as in the past months.
Bates’ defeat was conveniently caught on camera and is used to clear Eddie and the others that were affected by Bates’ crimes. This is significant in a way that goes far beyond this episode. The DA witnesses video proof of a metahuman while standing beside the captain of the CCPD. The law now knows that there are super-powered villains in the world, and not just a mysterious speedster hero.
Things begin to wind down as Joe returns home to a chilling exchange with Wells that is just riddled with intense pauses that seem to imply that both know the other is lying through their teeth. While that scene was good, it’s nothing compared to the final cliffhanger moment as Barry, Cisco, and Caitlin manage to find Wells’ hidden chamber at STAR Labs. That last minute of the show was nothing short of epic. Watching these characters explore Wells’ secrets, particularly Caitlin staring into that yellow mask, was a huge surprise. And seeing Barry literally stare into his future in a projected image of a newspaper from 2024 was simply cool.
This story has really come into its own. It’s come miles from the first few episodes with Barry just catching goofy bad guys a la Scooby Doo and has truly developed a mythology all its own. I don’t know what’s going to happen anymore, but I have my hopes and my suspicions, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I just can’t wait to find out.
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