THE FLASH Review 1.19 “Who Is Harrison Wells?”

A shapeshifter rocks the boat in a slight but fun episode. 

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"I'm getting faster, faster than I've ever been, and I wonder if it's because lately something's chasing me. I know what it is that's stalking me. It's my past. It's getting closer, and as fast as I am, I can't help but feel like my past has almost caught up with me."

In some ways, "Who Is Harrison Wells?" is a very slight episode, particularly considering its provocative title. It's a pretty straightforward metahuman-of-the-week episode, an unnecessary - though fun - crossover episode, and an episode that doesn't further our main season arc until the tag at the very end. 

But the introduction of Hannibal Bates' Everyman works thematically with that season arc, because a shapeshifter running amok among the STAR Labs crew means no one can be trusted, and old alliances are made dubious as Bates tries on the skin suits of several different important characters. The cost of deception is catching up with all of our characters this week: Caitlin is a wreck at being forced to lie to Wells, a man she can't believe could betray her until she's given irrefutable evidence. Joe and Eddie's lies to Iris are tearing them apart - and a few scenes with Arrow's Captain Lance, still struggling with the unspeakable betrayal he faced from his own daughter, have hopefully started to convince Joe that "sometimes we lie for love" isn't actually the best policy. 

I spent a lot of time last week complaining about the writers' treatment of Iris, so I should take a little time to commend them for a slight improvement this week. Iris is given something real to do in "Who Is Harrison Wells?", as Eddie's unfair incarceration spurs her into action and she aids Barry and Caitlin's investigation in tangible ways. How hard was that? She's a reporter - just have her report things, and the character will fulfill her potential. And we're doubly rewarded on the Iris front when Eddie comes at least halfway clean to her about his new mission with The Flash. It's a relief that someone is telling Iris the truth these days, or at least part of the truth. 

Eddie also has a terrific episode, crowned with a scene in which Barry panics and whooshes him out of custody, only to have Eddie give him a pep talk in light of Barry's issues with the people he cares about being wrongfully imprisoned. 

This isn't like your dad, Barry. When your dad was put away, you were a kid. There wasn't anything you could do. But you're not a kid anymore. You're a scientist. Hell, you're The Flash. You are going to find Bates, and you are going to clear me. So go do it. Get me out of here the right way.

It's a wonderful scene, a moment showing how truly good Eddie still is - and will hopefully remain. 

The best part of Everyman's appearance, aside from keeping all of our characters on their toes, is that it gave us a chance to see Grant Gustin act like a sleazebag. We were already treated to an enraged Barry thanks to Roy G. Bivolo, and this week's episode proves once again that Gustin can do more than affable and charming - though that will always be my favorite Gustin. It's pretty basic CW of The Flash to have Bates kiss Caitlin while looking like Barry, but it led to a little hilarity in her flustered reactions for the rest of the episode. The series is slowly, very slowly, building on some feelings between Caitlin and Barry (or at least Caitlin), and as long as the pace continues to move glacially, moments like this week's - in which Caitlin practically barks, "Like anyone would be dumb enough to fall for that!" - are entirely worth it.

Meanwhile, Cisco and Joe head to Starling City to investigate Wells' past, and there's very little substance to this subplot but plenty of entertainment. Katie Cassidy's Laurel is ten times more fun on The Flash than she's ever been on Arrow, and hopefully fans will heed that when they start to blame Cassidy for Laurel's dour nature. Everyone's more fun on The Flash! Her dynamic with Cisco was really appealing, and it's great that he helps her build her Canary Cry - though it's kind of surprising that such a major character moment takes place on a show that isn't hers. Mostly fluff here, but again, if Lance's words about deception do anything to convince Joe to confide in Iris, The Flash will be much, much better for it.

Finally, thanks to Everyman, the existence of meta-humans has been made known to the entirety of the Central City police force. This feels like a big change for the future, though not tonally: the DA and Captain Singh's open appreciation of The Flash's assistance fits right in line with this show's optimism, the thing that sets it apart from so many other superhero stories. 

"It's hard to believe we live in a world where this kind of impossible even exists."

"Luckily it's also a world where The Flash exists."

Can't argue with that.

Coolest moments this week:

Having a shapeshifter on board leads to the scene we've all been wanting to see: some heated Flash on Flash action! 

"No need for a hug or anything like that!" Danielle Panabaker's awkward comic timing is on point.

Though the metahuman prison continues to be a sticking point in this show's otherwise sunny point of view, Bates' imprisonment held some poignancy to it. "I can't...remember. I can't remember." 

And finally, Barry, Cisco and Caitlin discover Wells' secret room in the final moments of the episode. Though this reveals nothing new to the audience, it's going to lead to some serious repercussions in the coming weeks. 

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