The Pied Piper draws a net around the Flash team, gunning in particular for Harrison Wells... who remains as mysterious as ever, and possibly even more confusing.
As today’s episode opens, it’s Wells leading the Flash team in a round-up of the Royal Flush Gang (which really seems to get around! They’ve been in almost every comic series I can think of, including Superman and the Justice League.) They kick butt as a team, and gratified high-speed selfies ensue. Wells seems subdued afterwards, however, and we follow him home to a serious McMansion.
It is at this point I realize he -has- to be evil. He has shiny floors and fancy alcohol flasks, and lots of black and white. These are signs. But in this scene, Wells looks very handsome and vulnerable for once. Maybe it’s taking off the glasses. While drinking from a glass held in a shaking hand (and standing, to remind us he’s an evil liar) he comes under attack, and his shiny home shatters. Good, I say. Better now than when he has Our Hero at his mercy with more shiny things. But I’m immediately tormented, because Wells uses Flash power to escape. And here’s the thing: he’s red, not yellow.
Hmm. Maybe it means nothing. Maybe it’s just the suit. But it kinda struck me. His clothes weren’t red. A police presence appears, though, and it seems Detective West is also extremely concerned.
Rathaway doesn’t hide for long. He draws the Flash out, wearing a costume that makes him look like a cross between Dr. Doom and an angry Ewok. He gives in way too easily, and gets captured. And we start learning some of the dirty laundry he shares with Wells, Caitlin and Cisco. Rathaway knew the particle accelerator would explode–and Wells silenced him. In the end, Cisco and Caitlin–and Barry–feel betrayed (Caitlin just looks sort of numb, which makes sense, since she knows Firestorm is still out there.)
But OMG. Carlos Valdes really… jumped up in my estimation in this episode over just a couple of scenes. His acting range expanded by a few… I want to say acres here. Yes, acres of range. From the moment when he admits the Pied Piper is a pretty good name–to the moment when they banter in Spanish–and throughout the episode, really–I saw awesome. Which is great for me, because I did have this weird nagging feeling about a show or movie once again stereotypically casting the gay guy as a villain (even if Rathaway is made somewhat sympathetic: in this show's history, he started going evil when he came out to, and was rejected by, his parents. He was disinherited from a large fortune.) Andy Mientus, who comes from a Broadway acting background, really pulls off Rathaway despite the stereotypes surrounding the character. His “daddy” issues are pronounced through the show–he gives Cisco serious side-eye, especially in the flashbacks, and he develops serious rivalry with Barry, or really, the Flash.
Anyway, the Pied Piper is imprisoned and all seems well. But then Cisco, studying the remains of the attack, studying the gloves, makes a realization. The Pied Piper wasn’t attacking. He was pretending to attack. Cisco runs, realizes… there’s been an escape. And the games begin, with Cisco getting seriously hurt in an explosion.
The Iris subplot was mildly interesting, although it seemed corny as heck, from the name of the newspaper–“Picture News”–until the stereotypical Jaded Reporter slams it to Iris. And rightly so: she knows very little about journalism (the “Press conference” line made me laugh so hard I got coffee up my nose.)
Wells wants to earn the trust of his team, so he does something which confuses me even more than the red streak: he goes on television during said press conference and confesses. Rathaway was right. Wells failed the city (thanks, Arrow!) During the conference, Iris steps up in a cheesy move which is supposed to convince us she can do journalistic stuff, Wells publicly declares he’ll never build a particle accelerator again, and we see Rathaway copying files from STAR, and looking perturbed.
This all builds up to a nice, heated final fight, complete with huge sound-propelled objects. In the end, the Pied Piper beats the Flash–it’s only Wells’ intervention that saves the day. This squares things between him and Barry, at least to Barry; Joe, and I, still remain skeptical.
Which leads to the final scenes of the episode, which are a one-two-three punch. The police decide to investigate Wells; the Pied Piper proves he has teeth even without his powers… and Wells reveals he’s trying to hold on to his speed, but can’t: but that we’re going to find out more soon. And that there's an endgame here. Which is sinister. Even if Wells wants to help and be a hero... something's off.
In the end I was sympathetic to the Pied Piper. He’s the quintessential example of unrealized potential, and as a teacher, I think there’s a serious lesson here. We need to grow up with people who love us. Barry realizes the lesson; he has a nice moment with Detective West. But here’s a bit of truth: Barry has three fathers, and one of them is evil. (And it's not Joe West.)
Bits and pieces
Cisco flying through the air after the explosion almost physically hurt; well done. It reminded me of some of those terrifying videos about driving accidents that are meant to make you seriously reconsider getting behind a wheel.
Barry saving the woman from the bridge - awesome, awesome special effects in that entire fight.
The evil hearing aid. They don’t usually do that, FYI. Pied Piper was deaf in the original series, cured by surgical intervention, and I was wondering if they’d include that in this. There were references made, but the actual character apparently isn’t; he's the opposite, extremely sensitive to sound, due to the particle accelerator.
They also dropped the flute, by the way. But they kept the tagline. "It's time to pay the piper!"
Caitlin: "First, let me put on some makeup?"
Cisco: “The future does not care about your makeup."
Joe: “Babe! Spaghetti a la me?"
Yes, Joe, I’ll stay for dinner. Who wouldn’t melt?
Hartley: “Being scooped up by a guy in head-to-toe leather is a long-time fantasy of mine, so thanks.”
Barry: “The people we admire aren’t always who we’d like them to be."
Wells: "I will make sure the only job you get in physics is teaching it to high school juniors.” Hey, they’re not that bad!
Reporter: “Spunk? Grit? Gumption? What is this, a chick-lit novel?"
Cisco: “Your evil hearing aids won’t help you escape this time.”
This episode was far better than last week and may cause me to revise my ratings. It felt like the show’s put enough string on the guitar to make music, if you get what I mean. I'm more and more sure, however, that Dr. Wells is actually Dr. Zoom.
Four out of four pairs of Dr. Doom Sound Gloves.