Well played, Flash. After convincing me with your recent trailers that Eddie Thawne would come to honor his evil surname by going very bad very soon, you pulled a fast one and introduced a shapeshifting metahuman, who assumes not only Eddie’s form but those of most everyone else on the show — including Iris, Caitlin, and Barry himself. Hannibal Bates is The Flash‘s most recently minted baddie. (He first appeared in issue #21 of DC’s 52, credited to a veritable army of comic writers and artists, including Grant Morrison, Geoff Johns, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid, Keith Giffen, and Joe Bennett). Caitlin gets to come up with the character’s supervillain name this time around — Everyman. With Cisco accompanying Joe on a special mission to Starling City, she plays an especially big role in this week’s episode.
After recognizing that the unsubtly named Bates can take the shape of anyone with whom he comes into contact, Caitlin develops a chemical means of subduing him, but not before he’s disguised himself as Barry and locked lips with the lovely scientist. She’s confused by her colleague’s behavior but not entirely unwelcoming. Yet we don’t see how far she’ll reciprocate, since Iris interrupts them, Wells subdues the imposter, and the two women put him in their car — leading to the episode’s best scene, in which Bates transforms himself into a little girl and cries out that he’s been kidnapped, prompting some do-gooders to unintentionally set him free. The inventive use of superpowers — on the part of both heroes and villains — is one of the greatest joys of comic books, and The Flash gets it right time and again.
As for that mission to Starling… West and Cisco are investigating the accident in which Wells’ wife was killed, in an effort to find out what made a reportedly good man turn evil. They get more than they bargained for when they unexpectedly locate the STAR founder’s buried corpse. SCPD’s Detective Lance (guest star Paul Blackthorne), with whom they’ve partnered on the investigation, is at first determined to report the find, but Joe convinces him not to, explaining that it would endanger Iris. Lance’s relationship with his own daughter Laurel has been shaky of late on Arrow, due to her keeping her sister’s death a secret from him for fear that the shock would destroy his already weak heart. His Central City counterpart tells him that sometimes people lie for love. The contrast between the ever crusty, short-tempered Lance and the more easygoing Joe is a different one than that between Barry and Oliver Queen, but it’s one that’s no less welcome; offering a slice of indie drama to balance out the action-movie spectacle of other recent crossover episodes.
Cisco gets his own chance to interact with an Arrow regular, when Laurel (Arrow‘s Katie Cassidy also guests) requests his skills in refining the sonic weaponry her late sister wielded. He winds up taking his fanboy geekery to the next level by gifting her with a high-tech choker he dubs — to the delight of longtime DC Comics fans — the “Canary Cry,” in exchange for a photograph with his crush, the Black Canary.
The ongoing Barry-Eddie-Iris arc takes a step forward (or is it backward?) by having the detective tell her — after she spends most of the episode terrified he’ll be imprisoned when Bates takes his shape and shoots two cops — that he’s been working with the Flash. It’s enough, at least for the moment, to win her back. Despite his last name, Eddie has proven time and again to be on the side of the angels. Going so far in this episode as to insist Barry keep him in police custody when he’s accused.
“Who Is Harrison Wells?” best lives up to its title in its closing moments, in which Cisco, Caitlin, and Barry finally find Wells’ secret chamber hidden within STAR Labs, where he stores the Reverse-Flash’s suit and keeps a newspaper reporting future events. Barry not only learns that Wells hails from another time, but that he himself is one day lost in an ominously titled “Crisis”.
This week’s episode is an almost textbook example of TV storytelling efficiency. It doesn’t resolve or initiate any story arcs, and its villain isn’t a time-honored member of the Scarlet Speedster’s rogues gallery, but it doesn’t waste a single scene, beat, or line in propelling not just The Flash‘s narrative forward, but that of Arrow as well. Only four episodes remain in this season, but there’s no end in sight to the rush it’s given us.
— Grant Gustin proves he’s just as good at playing smarmy as he is heroic when Bates as Barry puts the moves on Caitlin. I almost want to see what the actor would do as a stalker in a Lifetime movie.
— So the Barry-Caitlin clinch in the show’s WonderCon trailer turned out to be as much of a red herring as that shot of Eddie shooting cops? Dare those of us who hashtag “Snowbarry” continue to hold hope for the real thing?
— When Cisco becomes Vibe, he needs to become the Black Canary’s sidekick for at least one adventure. He gives good puppy love.
Next week: Barry and his friends finally set “The Trap” for Wells. But will all of them survive it?
What did you think of this week’s episode? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter (@JMaCabre).