Dr. Harrison Wells' former protégé, Hartley Rathaway, is out for revenge, and Iris gets a new job.

By Chancellor Agard
Updated January 28, 2015 at 04:54 AM EST
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Katie Yu/The CW

The Flash

S1 E11
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Tonight’s episode was a welcome change of pace. Yes, we got our usual villain of the week storyline. But, we also got an episode that shifted the spotlight, albeit slightly, away from Barry and placed it on some of the supporting cast—this week, Dr. Wells and Cisco. Compared to Arrow‘s first season, the development of The Flash‘s supporting characters has been slow as the show has been more concerned with Barry Allen—which isn’t a complaint, mind you. Introducing a villain like Hartley Rathaway (Smash‘s Andy Mientus) with a personal bone to pick with the S.T.A.R. Labs scientists allowed the show to expand its focus and to show Dr. Wells and Cisco some much-needed love.

Villain of the Week: Hartley Rathaway, a.k.a. Pied Piper

At the top of the hour, Barry, with Wells guidance, apprehends members of the Royal Flush Gang and then zooms back to S.T.A.R. Labs, where Cisco insists that they all take a group photo. Barry obviously points out that taking a picture with him in costume defeats the whole secret identity purpose, but Cisco believes they should because they’ll want to remember how it all started. “Maybe people in the future will want to know how this all happens,” Wells coyly says before they all take the picture. Like last week, Wells kicks off this episode feeling especially proud of himself, this time because of how he was able to help Barry catch the bad guys.

While Barry heads home to have dinner with his new roomie, Joe, Wells heads home to relax, stand-up from the chair he’s been confined to all day, and to enjoy “Nessun Dorma” as he walks around his very cool home. However, Well’s me-time is interrupted when his phone starts ringing. A voice on the other end tells him that it’s time to pay the piper right before the glass in his living room ceiling comes crashing down. Luckily, Wells speeds away in time. Yes, you read that right, we saw Wells use his superspeed tonight; we see he leaves a red streak ornamented with yellow lightning in his wake, except his streak isn’t as robust as Barry’s.

Barry, Joe, Caitlin, Cisco, and the rest of the CCPD show up at Wells home the next day. While Barry checks out the scene of the crime, Eddie takes Joe aside and points out that something’s not right with Wells’ story. If he were indeed standing under the ceiling when it came crashing down and is stuck in that wheelchair, why doesn’t he have a scratch on him? And, like that, Joe’s suspicions are renewed.

Back at the lab, Wells explains to Team Flash that he knows who was behind the attack: his former protégé Hartley Rathaway (whose parents we met last week). Caitlin and Cisco make their feelings about Rathaway pretty clear: He was an arrogant asshole. Through flashbacks to two years ago, we find out a bit more about Wells’ relationship with Rathaway and what went wrong. Rathaway and Wells were the best of buds, they played chess together and spoke to each other in Latin. However, the first speed bump in their friendship came when Wells hired Cisco, who he described to Rathaway as one of the finest engineers he’d ever seen. Like almost everyone else in his life, Wells has no problem manipulating Hartley and, observing that he feels threatened by Cisco, tells Hartley that he’ll always be his guy and nothing will change that.

In the present, Barry deduces that Rathaway used sonic technology to break the glass and is explaining this to Joe when Joe lets slip that he is not too fond of Wells. But, there’s no time for them to discuss this further because Barry is called away to stop Rathaway from attacking his parents’ company with his fancy gloves that give him his powers. Barry moves quickly to disarm and capture him.

(ASIDE: Really, an Amazon Phone? The writers missed a great moment for **synergy**—they should’ve shown him using some of Ray Palmer’s tech.)

Cisco takes immense pride in locking Rathaway in the pipeline. Likewise, Rathaway has so much fun teasing Cisco about his need for constant validation from Wells. Eventually, Wells comes in for a semi-private chat (the rest of the team is watching through the security cameras) and tries to apologize for the damage Hartley’s ears incurred during the particle accelerator explosion. It’s clear to us and Rathaway that Wells is only apologizing because he’s trying to stop Rathaway from revealing a secret he knows about Wells. Looking up at the camera in the pipeline, Rathaway tells Barry, who he knows is watching, that one day Wells will turn his back on him.

NEXT: Well, that secret doesn’t take long to come out…

However, the secret Rathaway is talking about isn’t the one you think. Wells returns to the lab and preemptively confesses to Barry, Caitlin, and Cisco that Rathaway warned him there was a chance the particle accelerator would explode. But Wells decided that the scientific knowledge to be gained far outweighed the risks. However, we the audience know that Wells knew and wanted it to explode to keep create The Flash. Naturally, Cisco and Caitlin are hurt because of who and what they lost in the explosion; they’ve lost faith in their hero, and so has Barry to an extent. What’s amazing about the show’s writing and Tom Cavanaugh’s performance is that even though you know he’s closer to villain than hero—it’s still not clear how villainous—you, or at least I, still root for him. Tonight, we also see Wells sweat a little and I think it might be the first time; Rathaway’s return wasn’t something he expected.

While Cisco is examining Hartley’s fancy gloves, he realizes that Hartley had them set to their lowest setting and wanted to be captured. Cisco heads down to check on him and is hurt in the explosion caused by Hartley’s escape. Wells tries to use his superspeed again but is too weak and collapses. By the time Barry arrives, Hartley is gone, Wells is back in his wheelchair, and they aren’t sure what he stole. Accepting the blame for Rathaway’s actions, Wells decides to hold a press conference at the CCPD station—there he admits to the public that someone warned him about the risks of turning the accelerator on. “I failed this city,” Wells says in a welcome allusion to Arrow. Again, because Cavanaugh gives such a strong performance, he manages to get across that while this is definitely a calculated move, he may feel at least slightly guilty.

Following the press conference, Wells returns to S.T.A.R. Labs and takes Cisco aside to talk to him. He assures Cisco that he has nothing to prove and he hired Cisco because of his brilliance and his humanity. “There’s no chosen one,” says Wells. “It’s just us.” A subplot in last week’s episode I failed to mention was Cisco gaining confidence from making headway in regaining the CCPD’s trust. This plotline continues here as Wells, for probably less-pure motives, gives Cisco this pep talk to let him know he’s a valued member of the team.

Meanwhile, Rathaway starts attacking civilians driving across a Keystone dam to lure The Flash, Wells’ new chosen one, out of hiding. Turns out Rathaway broke into S.T.A.R. Labs to steal Barry’s body scans to figure out his internal frequency—that way he could attack Barry by forcing him to explode from the inside as if he were a piece of glass. In another heroic moment mirroring the episode’s opening, Wells uses every car on the dam’s satellite radio to transmit a counter frequency that disables Rathaway’s gloves.

After Barry lets Wells knows that he has regained his trust, he pays Joe a visit. Believing Joe was jealous of Wells, Barry reassures him that no one could ever replace him. It’s not that Joe is jealous—it’s that he’s a good detective and knows something isn’t up with Wells. Once he leaves, however, we find out that Joe had Eddie search Wells’ home, but didn’t find anything. Nevertheless, Joe is committed to investigating him.

As Cisco locks Rathaway in the pipeline, Rathaway tells Cisco that he knows what happened to Ronnie and how to fix him, but will only tell him if he lets him go, which puts Cisco in a precarious position. Does he ignore him because he’s probably lying? Or does he let him go to help out his friend?

In the episode ending tag, Wells is in his secret room complaining that he’s not retaining any of his speed or fully absorbing the Speed Force. Turns out the tachyon device was only meant to be temporary and he has something bigger in mind.

Wall of Weird:

— Tonight, Iris gets a job at a local newspaper after an editor read her blog on The Flash. However, she encounters two problems: The editor only wants her covering Flash-related news, and she’s saddled with a douchebag reporter with two Pulitzers who has no interest in mentoring her. She gets a brief confidence boost midway through the episode when Wells ignores her mentor’s question and calls on her during the press conference. Using that keen reporting sense she’s developed so quickly, she merely restates her mentor’s question: Does Wells plan on building another accelerator? He says no.

— The Amazon Phone product placement was ridiculous, but if it pays for like five more minutes of Grodd CGI, I’m all for it.

— Please let this be the last time The Flash dips into the good ol’ “villain gets caught on purpose” trope.

— Hartley Rathaway had this Riddler-vibe that I was definitely digging.

— Cisco scolding Rathaway for giving himself a nickname was great.

Are you as confused about Wells’ plan as I am? If so, share you theories down in the comments and/or reach out to me on Twitter: @chancelloragard.

Episode Recaps

The Flash

After the success of Arrow, Barry Allen (a.k.a. The Flash) gets his own CW treatment in this comic-themed spin-off.

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