In this episode of The Flash, “The Sound and the Fury,” the Pied Piper pops onto the scene to wreak destruction on the city and the crew at S.T.A.R. Labs. Meanwhile, Iris gets her own plotline that has nothing to do with the men in her life. Yeah!
Hey, an episode largely devoted to the nefarious Dr. Harrison “Future-Loving” Wells! Wells previously occupied the position of shady mentor for the show, but I can assume that with the revelation that he’s probably Reverse Flash (it’s still unclear), he’s a confirmed threatening presence. (And maybe a Big Bad of the season? Again, it’s unclear.) Regardless, this is an attempt to explain some of Wells’ strangeness, He’s an enigma wrapped in a time-traveling riddle, and in this episode we learn some stuff about him via his relationship with Hartley Rathaway — everyone’s least favorite, former S.T.A.R. Labs employee.
We may not learn much about Wells’ agenda — other than possibly assembling the team at S.T.A.R. Labs to have friends — but we do learn a great deal about how he possibly views these people as friends, and that Wells does in fact have superspeed!
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The Pied Piper
As lame of a superhero name as the Pied Piper is, Hartley Rathaway is kind of awesome as a character. Oh, he’s definitely an arrogant jerk with daddy issues, but he’s fun. Which is primarily what The Flash excels at. Hartley is a brilliant scientist who was shut out of his family’s company when he came out and has latched onto his mentorship with Harrison Wells.
Despite the matter-of-fact reveal that Hartley is gay and a villain, am I wrong to detect some sexual tension between the two in that chess scene? Maybe it’s not in the writing, but there is definitely other things happening in that scene performance-wise, intentional or not.
Regardless, Hartley was hated by Cisco and Caitlin — since Hartley’s a douche — but his brilliance was revered in Wells’ eye. Until, that is, Hartley warned Wells of the possible particle accelerator combustion and Wells needed that to happen to meet his one true mentee, Barry Allen. Wells promptly fired Hartley, but not before Hartley suffered from the explosion with chronic pain in his ears (which he has metal implants for).
So after a year of sulking and perfecting some sonic technology, Hartley comes back on the scene to scare Wells and his beautiful mansion by bursting a bunch of windows. Wells doesn’t mind walking around at home — he even runs with superspeed in a blur of red to get away. Then the police — and Barry — show up to investigate. It doesn’t matter, of course, because Wells knows it is Hartley, who is also damaging his other daddy’s building before the Flash shows up to cuff him. Of course, Hartley wanted to get captured by the Flash — for reasons other than a leather-clad chap like the Flash. He’s pulling one of those supervillain trends of late where the guy wants to get captured. Meanwhile…
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Iris and the Newsies
For those of you hating on Iris West for being a “love interest,” you can probably shut up now because Iris gets her first plotline that is unrelated to men (romantically, at least). Iris West gets her first job as a reporter at the Central City newspaper because of her blog on the Flash and she shows up ready to pitch stuff other than the Flash.
But the white men who run the paper are having none of that and want her to pitch Flash stuff. I wish the show would have lingered on this bit of information a bit more instead of dismissing it as generational. First of all, newsrooms appreciate digital talent these days. Second of all, it’s kind of ignoring problems that happen in the real world.
Comic books are often heightened realities that mirror our worlds, yet not very often do we see adaptations of them that deal with real-life conflicts. Sure, it can do crime and terrorism plots, but it can’t touch any kind of societal concerns like sexism and racism. Too often, television shows that are adaptations of comic books forget about these stories.
I’m glad Iris proves her worth by standing her ground as a journalist in that press conference, but I wish that The Flash writers were willing to push at things a little more. They may be writing a hyper-realized world, but they can at least acknowledge that just because superheroes aren’t going to fight the big -isms of the world, they exist.
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The Chess Match
Hartley’s in the illegal detainee program S.T.A.R. Labs is adding to its list of crimes. He manages to speak in three different languages to three different people — Cisco in Spanish, Caitlin in French and Wells in Latin — to impress everyone of his brilliance and he accuses Wells of withholding a big secret. It’s not that the man claiming to be disabled can walk — and is shady! — but that he knew of the implications of the particle accelerator.
The trio are floored, but we’ve known all along that Wells is a manipulator. This isn’t an exception. Wells arranges a press conference, coming clean to the public, and it cuts to Hartley working on his sonic device, which gives a sense that maybe Wells is trying to distract Hartley. However, past behavior shows it’s not about Hartley at all but about Barry. It’s always been about Barry, his protege and “favorite.” Even Hartley recognizes that any apology made to him is for Barry’s sake. Barry defends Wells for his faults because he sees him as a mentor and father figure, much like the Pied Piper, but Barry is often blinded by his love for his close ones. Wells is a manipulation master, manipulating and betraying Hartley and generally manipulating everyone Wells works with.
Anyway, it doesn’t take long for Hartley to break out of there and steal some pertinent information about the Flash, whose identity still remains a secret (even though they have a ridiculous photo of the four of them together, one in a costume). Hartley draws the Flash to a narrow bridge where it’s revealed that he wanted to study the Flash’s molecular schematics to paralyze him with sonic vibrations.
The final showdown isn’t Barry saving the day for once, but Wells protecting his speedster investment. There’s a possibility that Wells might break his secret to go run and save the Flash, but he uses his brain to hack into nearby cars’ satellite radio to counter Hartley’s sonic pulses. It works and incapacitates the Piper. Checkmate for Wells.
Hartley is back in lock-up, trying to leverage information he knows about Ronnie Raymond to get out. And Wells’ speed is unsustainable, even with his fancy device. Is he basically just DC Comics’ equivalent to a cryptic and cold Tony Stark?
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— Joe knows he’s fine. If anything ever happens to Joe West, the entire fandom would revolt. Don’t do it, writers. This isn’t Arrow.
— Speaking of, Eddie is in this episode and is thrilled to have a storyline. Erhm, I mean, thrilled to help Joe investigate Wells.
— The actor who plays Pied Piper — Andy Mientus — originally auditioned for Barry Allen/The Flash. I can see it physically (he sort of looks like Grant Gustin), but there will only be one true Barry Allen in my heart. Sorry, Ezra Miller.
— Cisco is relevant in this episode! It may not be a storyline, but Wells tells Cisco that he hired him because he’s brilliant and a really nice guy to be around. Awww.
— At the press conference, Wells admits to failing this city. Where’s Oliver Queen when you need him? (I just remembered — *sobs*)
— Promos show that Barry gets a love interest. Finally, the speedster’s gonna get laid!
What did you think of the debut of the Pied Piper? Love him, hate him? Were you glad that we got to see Wells’ Lex Luthorian palace? Are you convinced that Iris West is a less cynical Lois Lane? Is this show not basically Superman? Sound off below.
The Flash airs Tuesdays at 8pm on The CW.
(Image courtesy of The CW)