Home / Recaps & Reviews / The Flash #1.19 “Who Is Harrison Wells?” Recap & Review

The Flash #1.19 “Who Is Harrison Wells?” Recap & Review

FLA119a_0266bSummary: Another mini-crossover works wonders and everyone finally gets caught up on the main mystery in a solid return to form.

Recap

Joe  and Cisco head to Starling City to continue their investigation of Dr. Wells. While in town, the duo enlists the help of Captain Lance, and they track down the real Harrison Wells’s body buried near his original crash sit. Quentin and Joe discuss their relationships with their daughters, and how secrets can hurt them as they have the Lances. Joe, however, believes secrets are still worthwhile when they’re for the people you love. Cisco meets Laurel, who reveals herself as Black Canary , who asks him to improver Sara’s sonic device. He fashions it into a choker, and suggests calling it the Canary Cry. Meanwhile, back in Central City, Barry races to catch a meta-human named Hannibal Bates/Everyman who can transform himself into every person he touches. He turns into Eddie and shoots two police officers, so Barry and Iris work to prove him innocent. Wells creates a serum that blocks Everyman’s powers, which Barry uses to stop him. Eddie tells Iris “the truth” — that he has been working with The Flash. Caitlin is apprehensive about investigating Wells, but the body Joe and Cisco find gives them all enough evidence to be justified. The three then discover Wells’s secret room, the Reverse-Flash suit, and the newspaper reading 2024.

Review

It would be disingenuous to say “Who Is Harrison Wells?” isn’t stalling just a bit here. After all, what the team discovers — the body, the secret room, the time travel — is everything we already know. It’s a necessary evil of plotting out a mystery in such a long form, and it’s the only hiccup the Wells material has felt since very early on. It’s also what makes Barry, Caitlin, and Cisco’s discovery of the secret room and 2024 newspaper still work: even though it’s not a reveal to we in the audience, it marks a significant progression in the plot from here on out. There is absolutely no turning back now, and that’s where the episode’s final moments draws the “shocking” moments.

flash-season-1-episode-19-everyman-shapeshifterThe investigations of the titular question don’t actually take up much screentime this week, but they are constantly hovering over every aspect of the episode. The shapeshifter Everyman conveniently preps the team for the possibility of Wells being a literal different person like Tina McGhee suggested, and you could argue that just by having a shapeshifter, there are inherently themes about identity and perception. As per usual with The Flash, though, the show doesn’t delve too deeply and retains more of a fun superhero story. That pretty much means The Flash gets to fight hand-to-hand with Eddie, Caitlin, and Iris, and that’s really entertaining, if anything just because we get to see the actors out of their element and playing up the villainy. Grant Gustin stands out as he plays up the shifty (no pun intended) side, accompanied by a pleasantly awkward and chimey musical motif.

Everyman is portrayed well for the most part, the fast-paced quality of his shifting keeping the episode moving and upping some of the stakes. Suggesting that he could also copy powers is clever, even if it’s anticlimactically nixed as an idea. The biggest problem is that he’s too powerful for no good reason, besting The Flash in hand-to-hand combat for a while. And would Barry really have been unconscious for hours after getting knocked out considering he has super healing? The show has had problems recently with villains being formidable enough for The Flash — the fact that Barry couldn’t outrun the bees last week is still absurd, for example. It’s particularly noticeable because early season villains always seemed like a threat to Barry’s power directly, so it’s not for lack of trying. In the case of Everyman, he apparently gained Arrow-levels of martial arts abilities, despite no indication of training. The fight sequence is incredibly cool, don’t get me wrong, it just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. At least Smallville‘s first shapeshifter had superstrength thrown in with a pseudo-science-y explanation, so The Flash could have done something similar. That said, kudos for the make-up and prosthetics on Hannibal Bates’s true face, one of the creepiest things we’ve seen on the show yet.

FLA119a_0060bThe shapeshifting fun gives Rick Cosnett more to do. For one, the Eddie/Barry duo is a solid one, the two men displaying a lot of friendly chemistry even in spite of the love triangle awkwardness. As much of a slog as the triangle business has been in the back half of the season, it’s refreshing to see the two competing lovers get along very well. Lots of little things, like Barry’s attempt to get Eddie on the run, and especially the two awkwardly together on the tiny couch, have a pleasant buddy cop feel to them. This relationship may turn sour down the road as the Eobard Thawne/Eddie Thawne connection becomes exposed, but right now, Barry and Eddie are a joy to see together. Eddie gets a decent arc throughout the episode, too, with his near-imprisonment pushing him to reevaluate, eventually changing things with Iris. There are still issues with the Iris secret, but at least telling her part of the truth — that Eddie is working with The Flash — is heading in the right direction, albeit slowly. Iris proves her merit a bit more, too, gaining some vital information on catching Everyman at first. Her journalism material hasn’t yielded much of anything, disappointingly, but it’s good to actually see her able to provide to the main storyline.

We get a bit of the opposite with Caitlin, indulging in some people’s yearning for a Barry/Caitlin hook-up while immediately shooting it down, too. There’s no reason to think things can’t change between the two down the line, but right now, their kiss is played as a joke — one that Caitlin openly says is a relief to be revealed as the shapeshifter. The real meat of Caitlin’s storyline, though, is that she presents the rational side of the Wells mystery. After all, everyone’s suspicions have been based on conjecture, not evidence. Gut feelings and alternate timeline-dreams do not make a good case for accusing your best and most valued friend in the world as an evil murderer and greatest nemesis, nor does investigating it all behind his back seem like a fair way to approach it. We know Caitlin is wrong about her suspicions, but her arguments are completely valid. It gives the team a big push to get firm evidence, finally, and they strike gold with what they find. Danielle Panabaker is wonderful as she describes just how devastating Wells as a villain would be, a speech that perfectly paints a picture of the terrible situation the Star Labs crew finds themselves in. The lightness of the show often masks just how dark its storylines are, and it’s worth remembering just how deep this betrayal truly cuts.

FLA119b_0321bLast week’s titular team-up turned out to be a lackluster and mostly pointless crossover, but this week seeks to make up for it a bit. Unlike the Atom and Felicity feeling mostly shoehorned into the show, Joe and Cisco’s venture to Starling City is productive both for the plot and for the characters involved. Including Quentin and Laurel provides a foil for Joe and Iris, especially given the rocky circumstances both are in. Laurel (spoilers for Flash fans not caught up on this season of Arrow) lying to Quentin about his own daughter being dead is a different kind of frakked-up, but it’s still the old “you lie to the ones you love” excuse. It’s hard to not understand how betrayed Quentin was upon finding it out, no matter how much Laurel did it out of “love.”

Iris might not be angry at her dad right now, but considering the grief she’s been given by every man in her life, Joe has a valid reason to be worried that Iris won’t take the news well when she inevitably finds out the whole story. It can’t be a coincidence that this episode has Iris passive-aggressively mentioning “The Burning Man” to Caitlin, implying the growing bitterness Iris is feeling as she realizes more and more how left out of the circle she is. Even though Barry’s identity is the big secret, it’s been Joe all along who has pressed everyone to keep his his dear little girl out of danger, despite how little it would change things (she’s been in danger because of the Flash once, but has been in danger just by being around her dad or Eddie, like, every other episode.) At times the show, despite its relative progressiveness in character diversity, has felt unusually old-fashioned in its treatment of the main love interest. Last week, for example, Joe said what boiled down to “her father makes her decisions for her, until her husband does,” which is a pretty terrible thing to say here in 2015. So it’s a relief to directly acknowledge what Joe might be doing to his relationship, and comparing it to the profoundly broken Lance family is a stroke of brilliance. Joe tries to brush it off by pulling that same “you lie to the ones you love” card, but by having him say that to Quentin of all people, it’s clear where the show stands now. And it’s not with Joe, no matter how charming and well-intentioned he is.

FLA119b_0075bLaurel doesn’t really play much of a role in the episode other than spark the conversation between Joe and Quentin, but her interactions with Cisco provide some of the best levity in the episode. Cisco hasn’t fanboyed out at any hero like he has Black Canary — it’s a blonde in sleek leather beating up dudes with sticks, who wouldn’t love that? — and it’s extra fun that the hero in question is one of the most new and untrained, meaning she’s going to be appropriately giddy from all the fanfare. It’s pleasant seeing Katie Cassidy get to play a happy Laurel for once, and she’s much more enjoyable on screen for it. There’s little to talk about, really, but it’s awesome that we now have a real Canary Cry in the form of a choker. It’s going to be fun seeing that in action on Arrow, and ought to be just the push Black Canary needs into being a fully effective solo hero.

But as for the folks in The Flash, “Who Is Harrison Wells?” feels like the last climb before reaching the apex. This isn’t a full tablesetting kind of episode, as enough episodic arcs conclude and progress on their own, but it is one that has to exist to set-up the final batch. Between the typical episodic shenanigans and crossovers, the pieces are steadily being moved into place. Everyone is now caught up and on the same page (except for the unfortunately ever-ignorant Iris, of course) in time to start throwing down the gauntlet, and judging from next week’s spoilerific preview, that’s certainly what’s happening.

Odds & Ends

  • True Detective Season 3: Joe West and Quentin Lance. Make it happen.
  • Quentin says he misses being a detective, but can’t be out in the field as much because of his heart condition. But, let’s be real here, has his job as Captain really been any less stressful or physically demanding?
  • Love Everyman’s ruse, turning into a screaming kidnapped girl when he’s with Iris and Caitlin.
  • At one point when Everyman is escaping, he knocks a guy with a giant backpack over and down the stairs. It’s brutal.
  • So Quentin’s floating coffee is supposed to show how weird and tachyon-infused the area of Wells’s corpse is, or something. I mean, okay.
  • I really dig the gold necklace Iris wears in this episode.
  • Anyone else get a flashback to the T-1000 melting in Terminator 2 when Everyman’s powers go haywire?
  • Appreciate that we specifically get a scene of Barry handing over paperwork of Everyman’s past cases to clear anyone he impersonated. There’s some wish-fulfillment going on there, but it’s definitely representative of the show’s optimism. Anytime people get possessed in Supernatural and do awful things under the control of an evil force, they usually end up rotting in prison for it.
  • “Is that possible?”
    “Are you seriously asking that question?” – The Flash in a nutshell.
  • “Is that what I think it is?”
    “That is definitely a hand.”
    “I thought it was a foot, but a hand is just as bad.”

About Derek B. Gayle

Derek B. Gayle is a Virginia native with a BS in English, Journalism and Film from Randolph-Macon College. In addition to being an avid Power Rangers and genre TV fanatic, he also currently co-produces, writes and performs in local theatre, and critically reviews old kids' cartoons. You can check out his portfolio here.

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