This week, Kevin and Bethany are looking at the bright side of life. Grab a coffee and make it a double, because it’s time to take a look at CW’s The Flash.
Everybody has secrets.
This isn’t necessarily malicious, of course. Secrets can range from “hasn’t come up in conversation yet” to “actively hiding”, and everything in between. There are extenuating circumstances, or sometimes omissions that simply happen because they may have just slipped your mind.
Part of this is because everyone has different sides of themselves that not everyone sees all at once. We act differently to different people, or sometimes we just wish we were someone else.
We all have a face, essentially, that we hide away forever, and we take them out and show ourselves when everyone has gone.1
In comics, of course, and the DCTV Arrowverse, it’s taken a bit more literally than that. Secret identities of heroes and villains are part and parcel of the experience, but even the civilians and bridge bunnies get in on the action now and again.
We all fall in love, after all, and we disregard the danger. And though we share so many secrets, there are some we never tell.2
Though this episode is older, spoiler warnings are in effect after the cut.
Harrison Wells is back.
Correction. A Harrison Wells is back, and not the one we know and loathe. This is the Harrison Wells from Earth-2, the one we see in cutaways and flashbacks to the alternate S.T.A.R. Labs. He’s angrier, he’s abrasive – and he has very good reason to be. At the end of this episode, we see his daughter in chains and locked in a cage.
There’s a lot going on with Harry back in our S.T.A.R. Labs, and it takes both us (the audience) and the Science Siblings a while to unpack it properly. Everyone has issues, and rightfully so – as Caitlin says, the last time they saw someone with his face, that person was trying to murder all of them.
Caitlin also says something that keeps getting ignored – they never actually knew their own Harrison Wells at all. Everyone on the show, with the exception of Dr. McGee, only interacted with Eobard Thawne pretending to be Harrison Wells. And regardless of which Harrison Wells was the one that murdered Nora Allen, this is a completely different person.
It’s easy to understand the frustrations on each side. Harry had nothing to do with the murders, and everyone else is reasonably rattled by the appearance of someone who A: was evil and B: was dead.
Joe’s reaction was the best, by the way. No word, no warning, just pulling out his gun and unloading the clip. It’s the appropriate reaction, even if he doesn’t have all the facts.
Harry and his world’s Flash have a history, too – we see in the opener that they had a public showdown during a press conference at S.T.A.R. Labs on Earth-2. They remain confrontational even now, actually coming to blows at one point. We can tell there’s more to their rivalry, a lot more than we’ve seen so far.
We’ll see more of it in the future.
Secret identities and false fronts are the name of the game here, and it’s especially apparent this episode. What with Cisco finally revealing his powers to the rest of Team Flash – or rather, having them revealed for him – and their subsequent reactions; the alternate Linda Park coming to town to fuck shit up, Barry hiding his identity from yet another person, and just everything about Harrison Wells altogether…it’s a big ball of lies and secrecy.
This week has been pretty busy, though. I only have a finite amount of focus, and it’s almost spent already, so let’s skip right to the Things To Note This Episode:
- I love the aesthetic of Earth-2. Remember the days when Art Deco meant futuristic? Because Team Berlanti does.
- I actually have a couple things to point out about Earth-2’s visuals.
- The blend of ’40s Art Deco and fashion with modern day and futuristic tech is really inspired, and kind of evokes the same kind of timeless quality that Gotham City in Batman: The Animated Series did.
- The soft yellow filter also gives it an old-timey feel. Almost a literal representation that Earth-2 is Golden Age Comics, while Earth-1 is a blend of Silver Age and modern day.
- Seriously, monorails and airships put together with smartphones and touchscreens. It’s an experience.
- Harry’s daughter is adorable.
- The S.T.A.R. Labs particle accelerator explosion happened at the same time, in the same place, in (at least) two different realities. One was absolutely intended (since the original was supposed to be sometime in the future), but the other one seems to be accidental.
- Caitlin’s point about how Harrison Wells is not Eobard Thawne is important and should not be ignored, but the way she says it all like that…it’s like “COMICS!”
- Calling Zoom an “infection” is interesting. Remind me to come back to this point near the end of the season, okay?
- Francisco Ramon don’t ask girls out while they’re working what is wrong with you
- Barry catching falling people with interior decorating is my favorite.
- “I’ll save you! With my super-speed and my doctorate in feng shui!”
- Dr. Light being the doppelgänger of Linda Park brings up another thing that will get used a lot this season: namely, doppelgängers of people we already know being in massively different roles than we are familiar with. Harry being head of S.T.A.R. Labs is a multiversal constant, it seems, but everything else? Up in the air.
My favorite thing about the Earth-2 Harrison Wells is summed up admirably by one Cisco Ramon:
“You know, our Doctor Wells may have been evil but ~you’re just a dick.~”
It was the singsong quality of the delivery at the end that really sold the line. And he is! This is a very different character, and even while the team struggles with it, Earth-2 Wells helps reinforce it by being himself. By which I mean: being a dick.
It’s kind of…delightful? I think we’re set up to hate him, but I’m having a hard time with it. Probably because it’s refreshing in comparison to the more affectionate-but-secretly-mustache-twirling from last season, but also I think Tom Cavanagh is just reveling in the role.
Now, it’s clear that the Earth-2 Flash and Wells have got a huge hate-off going on. The flashback to Earth-2 showcases this, and every time they’re around each other there’s angry tension so thick you could cut it with a knife. It goes so far as to come to blows at one point. (Barry – sensibly, I think – allows them both to get a few shots in before he separates them and tells them to go cool off.)
It’s interesting how easily Barry accepts this Wells, given that the appearance of Jay Garrick in the lab led to days of tests and open hostility from Barry towards the other speedster. I do think it’s at least partially about how much Barry used to like Wells. But I also think that the dickishness of Earth-2 Wells is also a contributing factor. The reason the other Wells was so warm was calculated. This open assholery indicates that this Wells is not here to curry favor or put plans into place, he’s here to take on Zoom and fuck all y’all if you’re not in.
To be clear about this: this is a weird perception of human behavior, that being a jerk is somehow more “honest” than being nice. Garrick goes out of his way to indicate that Wells has more secrets – though it seems a little odd he isn’t more direct than that, given that he accuses Wells of creating metahumans with dark energy in the middle of a press conference – and still nobody seems particularly fazed by it.
At the end of the episode, the team has traded Garrick for Wells – Garrick walks out when it’s clear they’re going to enact the (admittedly, somewhat batshit) plan that Wells has proposed.
(The plan actually gets way more batshit.)
One of the theme of Garrick’s character is bravery versus cowardice, and Wells accuses him several times of being unable to stop Zoom because he was too afraid to fight the Creepiest Speedster.
I don’t know if Barry is stepping into the plan because he’s afraid of being a coward, or if he’s simply eager to meet his newest nemesis. It’s possibly some combination thereof.
At the very end, we get a great glimpse of Zoom and holy shit, is he creepy.
And now… a list!
- I know it’s based on the older comics, I know it’s from a different period of comic book time (as it were) but there’s nothing that stops Jay Garrick’s helmet from looking extremely frigging dorky.
- I’m not sorry; it just looks corny. (To their credit, I think the costume designers are just Going With It instead of trying to make it look better and cooler.)
- Cisco is such a bro that he walks Barry through his date with Patty when Barry is blinded by Dr. Light.
- (Honestly, the “Barry is temporarily blind” storyline is clearly done just because it’s funny and I’m okay with that.)
- Also Patty totally calls him on being unable to see.
- I don’t understand why Dr. Light doesn’t continually flash her AOE when Barry keeps trying to use speed mirages on her. It worked the first time! Is there a cooldown? Spam the AOE!
- Harry outs Cisco as a metahuman (like a dick), but it does lead to Cisco apologizing, admitting he was wrong to keep it to himself, and everybody basically moves on. Which is kind of nice, honestly.
- (Harry is still a dick.)
- I like that Barry gives Cisco his superhero name: Vibe.
- Cisco digs it.
- (Cisco also admires the Dr. Light name when he hears it. I just love that he’s such a nerd about this particular thing.)
- Atlantis is above water on Earth-2 and is not lost at all and I honestly feel like Caitlin is not nerding out about that as much as it deserves.
- (She’s distracted by potential kissing opportunities which: fair. Still, though.)
- If they find out that the Library Of Alexandria never burnt down on Earth-2 I will never forgive them for not going over there and at least taking some damn pictures of the lost texts…
Kevin O’Shea is a writer and amateur multiverse enthusiast. You can find him on Twitter (@osheamobile), Tumblr (osheamobile), or trying to get this metahuman-detection app to work on his Android phone.
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- Some are satin, some are steel, some are silk, and some are leather. They’re the faces of a stranger and we love to try them on.
- Look, when you find an analogy that works as well, you can judge me for using so many song lyrics. Until then, let me have my fun, okay?3
- I don’t care what you say anymore, this is my life. Go ahead with your own life, leave me alone!